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Washed Up Celebrities: Michael Skupin

Today on washed up celebrities I am covering a washed up celebrity unlike any other that has come before this. Michael Skupin is currently a convicted criminal best known for being a contestant on the reality competition show Survivor. Having been a fan of the show at one point in my life, I had absolutely no idea just what a train wreck this guy’s life was and what a sick f**k he really is. Skupin discovered some modest popularity on the show during the home run season that was Survivor: The Australian Outback back in 2001, managing to build on it in several different ways. Apparently however, Skupin was truly a horrible human being who had a long history of shady activity that he must

have believed would never catch up to him, as he now sits in prison on charges related to running a Ponzi scheme and possession of child pornography.


Skupin was born in Farmington Hills, Michigan on January 29, 1962. After his father died and his mother remarried, he took on his stepfather’s last name of “Landry” for several years, even though he was never officially adopted by him. Skupin was a natural athlete as a high schooler, but was allegedly expelled from school over a water balloon throwing incident. After transferring to a different school and graduating, he went on to get a B.B.A. from Western Michigan University in 1984.

Before his break on television, Skupin co-founded a software publishing and distribution company in 1992. In 2000 his company apparently had a hand in a small controversy with General Mills when CD-ROM versions of the Bible were distributed through various boxes of cereal as part of a promotion that General Mills claimed they weren’t aware of.

Back in 2000, the first season of Survivor (now known as Survivor: Borneo) was a hit on television with a record breaking season finale that was watched by 51.7 million viewers. Skupin was luckily chosen to be one of the 16 contestants to play in the second season, Survivor: The Australian Outback, a season of the show that is widely still considered to be the most popular season in it's now near twenty years of existence.

Survivor was a pretty interesting show back in the day: a number of people are stranded in the wilderness divided up into multiple tribes and later in the game a single merged tribe. Forced to compete in challenges and survive on their own, at the end of each episode someone gets voted off and at the end of the season, a jury made up of a certain number of eliminated castaways get to decide which remaining castaway gets to be named sole survivor and receive a $1,000,000 cash prize. It’s gotten more complicated as the years have gone on, but it certainly has had it’s days in the sun at multiple points over the years.

In the second season of Survivor, Skupin and fifteen others were stranded in the Australian Outback for 42 days. Skupin was placed on the Kucha tribe, and quickly emerged as the tribe’s somewhat self-appointed leader. From the beginning Skupin got on his fellow tribemates nerves, given the self-appointed leader role he put on himself and how he constantly tried to manage the tribe differently than how the rest of the tribe wanted to be managed. At one point, Skupin shocked viewers of the show when he fashioned a spear using the only knife Kucha had and managed to kill a wild pig using it. 

Mike at one point became so paranoid about being voted off that when Kucha won chickens through a reward, he wanted to immediately kill them so his status as a provider would remain intact and he wouldn’t have a reason to be voted off.

Despite Mike’s behavior somewhat annoying his tribemates, the Kucha tribe actually managed to flourish and dominate the game during the pre-merge part of the season. It seemed like they would head into the merge having a numbers advantage over their rival tribe Ogakor. However, tragedy struck in the last episode before the tribes merged into one that would be the downfall of Michael Skupin in the Australian Outback.

On day 17 of the castaways 42 day adventure, Mike was gravely injured while working at camp. He apparently was tending to the fire, and inhaled a big cloud of smoke after blowing on the fire. The smoke caused Mike to pass out and fall into the fire pit the tribe had built, severely burning his hands to the point that the skin was falling off of them. Immediately Survivor’s medical staff rushed in to evaluate the situation, and after realizing just how bad it was, Mike was pulled from the game. His departure marked him as the first contestant to ever be medically evacuated from the game.

Skupin’s departure changed the entire second season of Survivor. Kucha would go to the merge tied even with Ogakor in terms of members. Despite the remaining Kucha members vowing to “chew them (the Ogakor members) up and spit them out” and have one of their own win the game for Mike, Ogakor’s superior knowledge and strategy helped them take a numbers advantage after the first merged tribal council. From then on out the former Kucha members were decimated, being eliminated one after another by the dominant Ogakor alliance until the last one was voted out at the final four.

Survivor: The Australian Outback went on to become the most watched show of 2001, setting numerous records and becoming the home run season of the show. As host Jeff Probst once mentioned, this was the only season of the show that managed to crush Friends in the ratings week after week. The high ratings catapulted the contestants on the show into fame, transforming them practically into rockstars (for a brief period of time of course). Having been the contestant with the most shocking elimination, Skupin managed to garner his own fame. He was able to capitalize on his fame from the show in several different ways. Skupin saw new business opportunities come from it, was able to develop a career as a public speaker, and was even considering running for the United States Senate in 2001.

Years later in 2012, Skupin returned to Survivor to compete in yet another season of the show. Survivor: Philippines decided to bring back three players that had been medically evacuated during a previous season of the show, placing them with fifteen new contestants. Being the first contestant to have ever been medically evacuated from the show, Skupin was offered a second chance and took it.

I didn’t fully watch Survivor: Philippines so I don’t know the exact storylines that went down that season. It seems like the annoying and egotistical behavior that Skupin showcased before falling into the fire his first time out was on full display this time around. It seems like after he was medically evacuated, viewers really did build up this image of Mike being a noble person and apparently had forgotten how much his fellow tribemates were annoyed by his behavior.

Unlike last time, Skupin managed to fight his way to the Final Tribal Council of the season without once receiving a vote against him. Unfortunately it seemed like the Jury that Mike had a hand in voting out were not at all thrilled with his performance, as he only managed to receive one jury vote and lost the game to Denise Stapley in a 6-1-1 vote.

In a true sense of genuine funniness in a rather disgusting situation, Skupin's last words on Survivor: Philippines (his last words period in Survivor history) was uttering a motto that he lives by. And as a Survivor humor website called Funny 115 pointed out in an article about Skupin, that motto is pretty ironic given what we now know about him.

On Survivor, Skupin came across as a normal family man who might be a little too arrogant and have an ego about himself, but was generally well-meaning in his actions. It turns out however that the Mike Skupin outside of Survivor is a tremendous piece of sh*t with a lot of issues, and no one had any idea just how bad those issues were.

The first sign of Mike’s shadiness and upcoming downfall was when he appeared on a local news report that accused him of running a Ponzi scheme. While many people who watched the report criticized the reporter doing the piece as being rude and unprofessional, the report did do a good job of giving some real insight into Mike Skupin’s real life and genuine personality. He had long history of numerous legal problems, including lawsuits against him, mortgage problems, tax problems, vehicular violations and marital woes. 

On top of that, Mike seems to have a major ego (something that did shine through on the show but wasn't as bad as we see here). He was also reluctant to answer the reporter's questions, dodging them or just simply saying "do your research" in regards to certain questions. He also very stupidly tried to weasel out of the accusations made against him by saying that he had no idea what a Ponzi scheme even was. As the reporter correctly pointed out, that's complete crap given that Mike reportedly has a B.B.A. from Western Michigan.

Mike's scheme continued on for a few more years, but eventually Mike's illegal behavior came back to bite him in his a**. An investigation was launched for years into his Ponzi scheme that had been reported on back in 2013, and it uncovered far more than what was expected by law enforcement. Apparently not only was Mike conning people out of their money through a shady investment scam, but he was a disgusting pedophile who was found to be in possession of child pornography.

On February 5, 2016, Skupin was arrested by Michigan authorities for charges stemming from both the Ponzi scheme and the possession of child pornography. He posted bond to avoid spending time in jail, but in April he was officially jailed for breaking the bond agreement. He apparently violated terms set by the judge that were in relation to internet usage, as a result he was then permanently jailed until his trial.

In November of 2016, Skupin was officially sentenced for his crimes in two separate trials. He took a plea deal in the Ponzi scheme one, and was found guilty on four of the six counts in the child pornography case. He has to pay over $30,000 in restitution for the larceny charge and is currently serving time in prison for the other charges.

While Michael Skupin might not have been a television or movie star, he did find fame and managed to turn it into several different successful opportunities. Unfortunately, Mike is an egotistical and completely unrealistic monster who thinks he can do anything he wants and not have any repercussions come from it. He will likely never be accepted back into the Survivor community and his name will forever be smeared with the horrible crimes he's committed. All this makes Michael Skupin one serious and downright awful washed up celebrity!

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Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Aug 08, 2017 at 06:53 PM

@Superman Same here. I didn't know about his crimes until sometime in June when I saw a joke on the sub-reddit for Survivor that was about it. It was shocking to hear about, but at the end he's gotten what he deserved. His crimes are simply unforgivable.

Superman Posted on Aug 07, 2017 at 07:38 PM

I liked him back when his seasons were airing. Sure, he was pretty arrogant at times, but his survival skills/athletic abilities made him seem kind of cool to me at the time. I was pretty shocked to find out about his crimes when the news broke. It's too bad that a man who was part of some of the show's most memorable moments turned out to be such a terrible person.

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