COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A Columbus barbershop owner made his TV debut Wednesday from the sandy shores of Fiji, competing for the $1 million prize on a reality show he considers his Super Bowl: Survivor.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle, 43, is a father, husband and co-owner of Goodfellow’s Tonsorial Parlor in German Village. He’s also a contestant on the latest season of Survivor, where a group of 18 strangers seek to outwit, outlast and outplay each other in a series of physically and mentally-demanding challenges – all while fending for themselves on a remote island for up to 26 days.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle from SURVIVOR Season 44. (Courtesy photo)

“I don’t care about sports at all, not in a bit,” Grinstead-Mayle said in an interview with NBC4. “But Survivor is that for me, that is my Super Bowl twice a year and I love it. I was so excited to finally get to put my name in the hat and say, ‘Yes, I want to do this; I think I’ve got what it takes.’”

Pre-Fiji preparation

A Survivor fan since Day 1, the Pickerington High School and Ohio State University alumnus said his decades-long exposure to the outdoors – where he learned to swim, climb trees and start fires from a young age – prepared him well for the show, which wrapped up filming last June. Growing up with a YMCA camp director for a mother was an added bonus, he said.

But Grinstead-Mayle could not say the same about a few of his fellow castaways. The biggest shock of the game, he said, was witnessing other contestants’ woeful unpreparedness for camping out in the unpredictable elements of Fiji’s wilderness.

Grinstead-Mayle said he took the opposite approach, practicing his fire-making skills and building makeshift shelters to prepare himself for life on the island, even from the comfort of his own Columbus home.

“Through all my own creativity and ingenuity, if I couldn’t find it in my surrounding area, I made it in my backyard,” he said. “No spoilers, but there are things out there that, you know, I showed that I came prepared.”

Despite his background in horticulture, landscape and design, Grinstead-Mayle said life on the island wasn’t all fun and games. “Survivor is 1000% real; there is no food,” he said.

Although Grinstead-Mayle said his family backed his decision to apply for the show, he had to make sacrifices to join his fellow castaways in Fiji, including missing his 4-year-old son’s birthday.

“I made a little cake in the sand and drew four candles on it and wished him a happy birthday and went back to the game,” Grinstead-Mayle said. “You got to compartmentalize and you got to say, ‘Okay, this is a job. I’m gonna do this job.’”

The ‘merry prankster’

It’s not the first time Grinstead-Mayle applied to be on the show. He was originally slated as a castaway a few years ago, but the pandemic hit and he was recast in the latest season, which he said gave him more time to hone in on some of the less-familiar Survivor skills – socializing, strategizing and saving himself from the chopping block.

As for strategy, Grinstead-Mayle said he adopted his “merry prankster” personality on the island. 

He and his husband Dale Grinstead-Mayle even touted his thrill for trickery in the name of their barbershop, whose namesake Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, was notorious for his mischievous deeds in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“If you’re familiar with that play, he’s the one that sets everything in motion; he’s the one that makes the Queen fall in love with the donkey-headed man, and so he’s the merry prankster,” Grinstead-Mayle said. “That is embedded in who I am, and so that part of the game – the trickery, the sneaking behind – that excites me.”

Grinstead-Mayle said he can’t wait for the world to meet the “crazy diverse” cast of Survivor 44 and watch the competition unfold – including the three-minute window on Fiji’s shore when he’s first introduced to 17 strangers, an obstacle-filled challenge and the show’s host and executive producer Jeff Probst (who, according to Grinstead-Mayle, wears a new pair of shoes on the island everyday).

“The excitement level was a 99 out of 10,” he said, “and it just did not let up.”