The truth about life after Survivor
The shocking truth for Pia Miranda when she returned from Fiji after Australian Survivor was that it was tougher than she thought to adjust to everyday life.
Miranda, 46, has been the surprise packet in the Channel 10 series this year after very nearly going home in the first week.
Since then she has become a wily competitor and a playmaker, the Smiling Assassin alongside her good friend in Fiji, Boost Juice CEO Janine Allis, or the Godmother, as she is known.
"It takes a while to get back to normal life," she told news.com.au of returning from Fiji.
"Even looking out of a window is overwhelming. The first time I heard a song I burst into tears. So all those things that are normal become pretty full on."
Food-wise, all she wanted when she returned was one dish.
"Pasta, I wanted to eat pasta so much," she said.
"I also needed to get to a gelato bar and have a massive tub of gelato."
Looking back, Miranda, who had been a lifetime fan of Survivor, thought she was going to have a tough time from the very beginning of the show.
She was in the Champions tribe with some big-name athletes including Brisbane premiership AFL player Simon Black, Winter Olympic gold medallist Steven Bradbury, Olympic hockey champion Nova Peris and popular and physically intimidating former player Luke Toki.
"The minute I got dropped on the beach I knew I was in trouble," she said.
"I knew I was always going to have to really fight to get to the merge when I got dropped on the beach and I looked around me and saw all those athletes."
She said what she perceived as a potential weakness in her physical strength only inspired her to work harder to keep herself in, particularly after she came close to being voted out in week one.
"That day of the first tribal council when I was about to go home I've never scrambled so much in my life," she said.
After that, Miranda did what an actor does best and played the social game, building a strong connection not only with Allis but women's footy player Abbey Holmes.
She revealed her unlikely friendship with Allis was built during the many hours we don't see on camera - the sometimes freezing sleepless nights on the beach in Fiji.
"Finding someone like Janine to play with on the show was like a godsend," Miranda said.
"You're in this extreme situation, and after you've been sleeping in each other's arms for a week you pretty quickly become best friends.
"They don't show a lot of this stuff, they can't because it's boring TV, but the nights we don't get any sleep we're just sitting on the beach for three hours talking about our lives and all that sort of stuff.
"I was just lucky that I met someone who I really, really trusted. I didn't expect that."
Miranda went on to explain how the friendship she built with Allis kept her going throughout the competition.
"I think without that friendship my journey on Survivor would have been a lot harder because at times I really struggled with missing my family and having that close friend there really helped."
Miranda put the wheels in motion last week for the biggest blindside in this series of the show, getting rid of charismatic male model David Genat.
It was clever play, something impressive for the jury if she makes it to the final three, a clear resume winner.
Genat left with an immunity idol in his pocket and had no idea.
Miranda buttering him up and laughing, playing the role of an actress, ultimately made him feel safe.
It was a genius move, the Smiling Assassin at her best.
"He had no idea," she said.
"We did a lot of work. We sat with him on the beach for two hours that afternoon and just talked, the three girls and him and Luke and really bonded. It was full on," Miranda said.
Watch Miranda's social game at work in the Instagram video below.
Despite getting rid of one of her alliance members, she has no regrets and says there are no hard feelings between her and Genat.
"David is an awesome guy," she said.
"You can see by the way he went out and how much humour he had on the show that he is an amazing guy."
When Miranda was asked to be part of Australian Survivor, even though she had always been a huge fan of the show, she was reluctant at first, she explains.
"The main issue for me was that I am pretty private, so it was pretty scary for me to put myself out there," she said.
"I knew that if I was going to go out and do the show, I really had to play. I knew I was going to open myself up for a lot of judgment."
She said leaving her children at home was another difficult aspect of signing up for the gruelling competition.
"That was really stressful thinking about leaving them and not having any contact.
"My husband was really super supportive, and we talked about it a lot and he encouraged me and said it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I think you've got to do it."
Her husband Luke Hannigan and children Lily, 9, and James, 5, are loving every minute watching their mum slay it on Australian Survivor.
In the end, despite describing herself as a private person who at times struggles to put herself out there, she says she's glad she did the show.
"It was amazing," she said.
"Meeting new friends I would never had met and learning so much about myself, challenging myself, definitely changed me forever.
"You think about it a lot out there, what kind of person you want to me, what kind of parent do you want to be.
"I realised that I had all that I needed. I just love my family and I don't kneed anything more than that."
It's been nearly 20 years since Miranda became a huge star in Australia thanks to the movie Looking For Alibrandi, released in 2000.
To this day, she's still approached by people gushing over how special the film was to them.
"People still stop me in the street and tell them how much it meant to them growing up, whether there are Lebanese or Greek or whatever.
"I think it is just a magical story with a great character," she mused of the iconic story.
"It was one of those stories that really embraced the multicultural element of Australia in a really truthful, lovely way."
She said she felt lucky to have been part of the film, particularly for the way it speaks to "anyone who grew up feeling a little bit like they didn't belong".
As soon as she returned to Australia after Australia Survivor, Miranda went straight back to work on the third series of the ABC Me series Mustangs FC, which follows the story of an all-girls soccer team.
"I came home and then went straight to work, so I haven't really had a break yet," she revealed.
But to her, it doesn't always feel like work.
"I'm always happy to work in the industry, I love it. I work with great people, so I'm happy to just keep flooding along and doing what I'm doing," she said.
With a whole new audience now exposed to the real Pia Miranda through Australian Survivor - likeable, fierce, and considerate - there might be many more roles in the future as audiences continue to fall in love with her.
Her journey isn't over yet, however, as Miranda is still very much in the competition, now reaching its concluding stages.