King George Mladenov Australian Survivor Shonee book manipulate people

King George From ‘Australian Survivor’ On His Big Reality TV “Failure”

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Australian Survivor legend George Mladenov is a reality TV star, professional poker player, lawyer, former Government worker… and now, he’s an author. 

Off the back of his success on Australian Survivor: Heroes v Villains earlier this year – where the “best tribal ever” was a result of his mind games – he’s sharing his secrets, tips and anecdotes in his new book. Titled How To Win Friends And Manipulate People: A Guidebook for Getting Your Way, it’s a satirical look at the techniques King George is best known for. 

The book is a light-hearted read, and Australian Survivor fans will appreciate hearing George’s thoughts about that particular tribal council, his failed reality TV audition, how he honed his manipulation skills from a young age, and more. I don’t want to spoil the entire book for you, but I sat down with George to get a few more juicy insights… including some top tips for those wanting to get their mug on TV.

King George Mladenov Australian Survivor Shonee book manipulate people

George Mladenov’s new book. Image credit: Supplied

All the burning questions we asked George Mladenov about his book.

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Punkee: Can you tell us about the title of the book and why you’ve focused on the manipulation angle?

George: I’ve packaged up my book in different parts. There’s how to win friends, keep them close, and how to positively manipulate a situation when you’re negotiating a deal. People get scared by the word manipulation, but it happens each and every day. At the smallest level, it’s kids trying to manipulate their parents to get what they want, or it could happen in a workplace, a sporting club or a community group. 

It’s not an academic book, it’s an entertaining book that has lots of interesting stories. If you can apply the lessons in real life after reading, I have no doubt that people will be able to get a more preferable outcome in the setting that they apply that lesson to. (Interviewer’s note – George is currently manipulating me into thinking I need to read the book, again, so he’s good at this.)

What are your top tips for getting cast on reality TV? 

First and foremost, it might sound generic, but you need to have a personality. That’s not something that gets manufactured on Instagram through highly edited reels and posts. When you go through the full audition process like I have, you really realise the full scope and breadth of casting producers. All you can be is yourself – but what you have to be is the 110% version of yourself. If people find your personality and your story interesting, you’ve got a pretty reasonable chance of going on the particular TV show that you’re applying for.

I firmly believe that people who are desperate to be on TV don’t make good TV. What people watching a TV show find interesting is someone they can cheer for or cheer against, or relate to their story and their circumstances. 

I help a lot of people with their casting applications without charging. Also, a lot of people book me on Cameo to give them generic casting advice, and I don’t think it hurts to help people. 

The Amazing Race Celebrity Edition Australia King George Mladenov Jana Pittman Harry Jowsey

George and Pam Mladenov on The Amazing Race. Image credit: Channel 10, The Amazing Race

What happened when you first applied for The Amazing Race?

When I was 21, my twin brother and I auditioned for The Amazing Race and it was a failure. We failed at the final audition because I think we were a bit too green, we were probably nervous as batshit and failed at the final hurdle. So when I fast-forwarded 10 years later, for my Australian Survivor audition, I told myself one thing: I might have butchered The Amazing Race 10 years ago, but I’m going to show them the 110% version of George from Bankstown.

Did The Amazing Race failure hit you hard? 

I had to reapply for my job as a public servant multiple times, and I used my failure with The Amazing Race to remind myself to have self-confidence. Self-belief is one of the most important traits that you can have in a job interview. I told myself if I don’t believe in myself, the people sitting across from me won’t either. 

When the media said your sexuality was ‘outed’ on Australian Survivor, what was your reaction?

I wore Pride socks into Samoa to make sure there was absolutely no ambiguity about the issue. I’ve been living my life for a very long time. It wasn’t a secret when I played Australian Survivor for the first time, and it wasn’t told in the storytelling part. It wasn’t a concern to me. In fact, that’s probably a sign of progress – because what was interesting about me was me, not the fact that I’m a gay man. I don’t think it’s a character trait to walk out there and talk about your sexual preference, but maybe that’s because I grew up in Western Sydney. We treat people on how they act and who they are as a person, we don’t judge them on their race, gender or skin colour. 

Did I think that people would interpret the conversation that I had with Shonee in Heroes V Villains as an “outing”? No, I didn’t. But it was an important part of the storyline out there in Samoa, so I’m glad that it was told in the way it was. 

Survivor The Amazing Race Australia Simon Mee King George Mladenov Shonee Bowtell Liz Parnov Hayley Leake

Liz Parnov, Shonee Bowtell and George Mladenov on Australian Survivor. Image credit: Channel 10, Australian Survivor

How do you become a ‘main character’ on a reality TV show?

I probably delivered producers more content than they’d ever seen on a Survivor season. I always took the bull by the horns and broke the confessional world record. It’s because I always worked. I was playing the game and I was very cognizant of the fact that I was filming a TV show, so my story was told. Because Australian Survivor was postponed due to COVID-19, I said, ‘I’m gonna go on there and find an advantage on day one’. I didn’t wait my whole life and an entire global pandemic to do nothing on the show and be sent home anyway. 

When you were almost medevaced in Samoa, what did that feel like?

I talk about my injury in detail in the book, because sometimes in life things go against you, but sometimes you have to just persevere through. I demanded to go back to the game. Once we had the final clearance that there was no fracture in my neck, I said, ‘I’m going back, and I’m going back now.’ 

Sometimes you can’t learn about resolve. You can learn about the method in the process to build resolve. Things in life can be tough, but you need that fortitude to get through the situation. 

Survivor The Amazing Race Australia Simon Mee King George Mladenov Shonee Bowtell Liz Parnov Hayley Leake

Simon Mees and George Mladenov on Australian Survivor. Image credit: Channel 10, Australian Survivor

How long did it take you to write the book?

I had eight weeks to write this book, I had a very small period of time. It all happened so quickly, so I got this job done by hook or by crook. I can’t wait for people to be entertained and skew the odds in their favour in their lives. 

Which reality TV contestant do you think should write a book next?

It should be Hayley Leake. She’s one of the most fascinating and learned people I’ve ever met in my life. If Hayley put together a book on how to manipulate people, then that would be an interesting read. I’m really good friends with Hayley, she’s a great person.

Image credits: Supplied, Channel 10, Australian Survivor, The Amazing Race