Denise Marie McCormick Stapley is the Sole Survivor of Survivor: Philippines.

Placed on the ill-fated Matsing tribe, Denise suffered the worst losing streak imaginable: losing every Immunity Challenge prior to the merge and visiting every single Tribal Council of her season. However, her brilliant social game allowed her to survive every one and reach the Final Tribal Council. Her ability to smoothly integrate herself into a series of disparate and often fraught social circles, as well as her role in sound strategic moves such as the eliminations of Jonathan Penner and Malcolm Freberg, ultimately won her the title of Sole Survivor in a 6-1-1 vote.


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Name (Age): Denise Stapley (41)
Tribe Designation: Matsing
Current Residence: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Occupation: Sex Therapist
Personal Claim to Fame: The decision to leave the safety and stability of my previous job to open my own business is without a doubt my proudest accomplishment. It took planning and preparation to make that transition smooth and successful. It also took some serious courage to risk the financial security I had.
Inspiration in Life: At this point in my life, I struggle to identify any one hero, but a hero in my eyes is someone who follows their passion.
Hobbies: Sprint triathlons, reading and playing dress up/goofing off with my kiddo.
Pet Peeves: My number one pet peeve is laziness and people who expect that change will happen without them having to put in any real level of effort. Life is what you make it folks... dig deep!
3 Words to Describe You: Determined, energetic and goofy.
If You Could Have 3 Things on The Island What Would They Be and Why?
1) A seriously sturdy jogging bra – no one needs to see my 40 year-old ta-ta's dangling out. This is for function, not fashion.
2) My baseball cap or pink dew rag – sheer comfort and a reflection of who I really am.
3) My favorite picture of my husband and daughter for motivation and connection with them.
Survivor Contestant You Are Most Like: I really like Stephenie from Survivor: Palau. If that wasn't "digging deep" I don't know what is. She has sheer will power and determination. That is what drives me.
Reason for Being on Survivor: Believe it or not, for the experience!
Why You Think You'll "Survive" Survivor: At work, I have to be able to engage and connect on some level with every person who walks through my door. I'm also a worker bee who will seek out ways to help camp life run smoothly.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: I have a job that requires the ability to engage people to share very personal information and gain their trust to know it will remain confidential. Survivor will require that same skill set and honestly, I'm good at it. My motto in business, life and now Survivor is "keep it simple, keep it smart."[1]


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Voting History

Denise's Voting History
Episode Denise's
Voted Against
1 Zane -
2 Roxy -
3 Angie -
4 Russell -
5 Dawson Dawson
6 Katie -
7 Jonathan1 Individual Immunity
8 Pete -
9 Artis -
10 Abi-Maria2 -
11 Jonathan Abi-Maria,
Carter, Jonathan
12 Carter -
13 Abi-Maria Abi-Maria
14 Malcolm Malcolm
Jury Votes
for Denise
Abi-Maria, Artis, Jeff,
Jonathan, Malcolm, Pete
Sole Survivor, Day 39

^1 In Not the Only Actor on This Island, Jonathan used a Hidden Immunity Idol, negating Denise's vote against him.
^2 In Whiners Are Wieners, Abi-Maria used a Hidden Immunity Idol, negating Denise's vote against her.


  • On March 30, 2013, Denise won an EVOLVE Award from American Atheists for representing agnostics and atheists on reality television shows.[2]


  • Denise is the only member of Matsing to not receive a vote before the tribe's dissolution.
  • Denise is the only contestant to reach an official merge without being immune at any point before it and without winning a re-entry challenge of some kind.
  • Denise is the only person to attend every Tribal Council as a contestant over the course of a season. She attended all 15 Tribal Councils of Survivor: Philippines, including the Final Tribal Council.
  • Denise successfully voted out all of her original Matsing tribemates during Philippines.
    • She is the second of three players to vote out every other player on their starting tribe, after John Cochran in South Pacific, and followed by Cydney Gillon in Kaôh Rōng.
    • Because one of Cochran's tribemates, Ozzy Lusth, returned to the game via Redemption Island, Denise is the first to contribute to the permanent elimination of all her original tribemates by voting them out, and second (following Stephenie in Palau) to contribute to the permanent elimination of all her original tribemates in some manner.
    • Unlike Cochran and Cydney, Denise did not need any revotes to accomplish this feat; Cochran switched his vote to Keith Tollefson after initially voting for Rick Nelson, and Cydney switched her vote to Darnell Hamilton after initially voting for Alecia Holden.
  • Denise is the third first-time player to win against a returning player, following Danni Boatwright and Sophie Clarke.
    • Coincidentally, all three of them are women and received six votes to win.
  • Denise is the second-oldest winner (behind Bob Crowley) and oldest female winner when crowned Sole Survivor, at 41 years, 11 months, and 15 days old.
  • Denise is the shortest Sole Survivor, at 5 feet tall.


Preceded by
One World
S24 kim t
Kim Spradlin
Sole Survivor Titleholder
S25 denise t
Denise Stapley
Succeeded by
S26 cochran t
John Cochran
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