Amber Borzotra talks ‘The Challenge: World Championship,’ autism diagnosis, and more

Amber Borzotra talks ‘The Challenge: World Championship,’ autism diagnosis, and more

But now that Borzotra, 35, is learning more about her diagnosis, she reveals that it’s actually helping her become a better competitor — just in time for The Challenge: World Championship (premiering Wednesday on Paramount ).

“It made me realize that there’s nothing wrong with me when everyone around me made me feel like there’s something wrong with me,” she tells EW. “I’m just misunderstood, and that’s okay, because I’m still trying to understand myself as well. But I had a great season and I enjoyed every second of it. I finally feel like I’ve connected to people that I can call friends now in the game and outside of the game. And they love me for me, diagnosis and all. It makes me feel really good about continuing to play the game, if I ever go back.”

Below, Borzotra talks about returning for The Challenge: World Championship, how her diagnosis made the experience better than ever, her future in the franchise, and more.

Amber Borzotra on ‘The Challenge: World Championship’

Amber Borzotra on ‘The Challenge: World Championship’

| Credit: Paramount

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, congratulations to you and Chauncey on your pregnancy.

AMBER BORZOTRA: Thank you! I’m so excited. I’m so ready to be a mommy.

When did you find out you were pregnant? Was it before or after you filmed The Challenge: World Championship?

It was after. I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about all that yet.

Did that affect your experience this season at all?

Not at all, no. I had a great experience. It was probably one of my best experiences, actually, that I’ve had so far on any season that I’ve been on. I felt like I finally had friends, and I had clarity on and understanding going in with my new diagnosis and being more aware of myself. Going into it, I was happy that I was going to be connected with new people. I was ready for that experience because I’ve been playing the past few seasons with the same people and it was the same storyline for me — I never had friends, I never had anyone in an alliance. It was just very refreshing, a new start to this whole game.

Speaking of your diagnosis, why did you decide to announce it during the Ride or Dies reunion?

It was very hard, something that I didn’t even know if I wanted to do, especially in front of a bunch of castmates that I felt judged by all the time. But I was doing it for myself. I wanted to be very honest with who I actually am because I’m now just learning myself all over again and understanding me. Having that late diagnosis was very hard because, I mean, I was struggling with my identity and I didn’t realize what it was my entire thirtysomething years of living. And then whoever else out there that I could in some way be a good influence to, or have people in my corner and have a community, people that understood me for once, it was one of those things where I feel like I needed to just get it off my shoulders. Because that was who I am and it’s always been me, and I’m just finding that out for the first time.

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What was that journey like after you finished filming Ride or Dies and you decided to seek out help and ultimately get this diagnosis?

I’ve been to a doctor, I’ve spoken to people about my depression, anxiety, all that, and in the past I’ve taken medication to help with it. But I’ve always seen that there’s other things that I can’t help in myself, and it was deeper than just anxiety and depression, so I wanted to seek help. It took months to get a diagnosis because it’s not easy — you don’t just go to a doctor and they just tell you, “This is what it is.” It’s intense, it’s a lot. It took myself being in social settings and surroundings, not just in the game, but outside of the game too, to realize that it was something deeper than a misdiagnosis.

I’ve always noticed a lot of things within myself, so does my family and close friends, but it took living in a social setting where I can’t go anywhere — because I love being by myself at home, I don’t leave; it’s me, Chauncey, our three cats. I’m very introverted. I don’t go out a lot, and when I do, I notice there’s things that I do when I’m triggered by things, and when I watch the show I see things that I do that has led to my diagnosis. There is a list of things that I’m doing that I never understood why, and it doesn’t go away, but now me knowing what masking is or feeling very, very exhausted after being around people for so long… I honestly didn’t know what it was.

Finally getting a diagnosis and understanding myself and being more aware of me actually helped me on this new season. It made it easier for me to connect with people instead of just isolating myself. Because when I get overwhelmed, I can’t control my emotions. I have to be by myself. I can’t stand loud noises sometimes. There’s a lot of things that made me look some type of way to my castmates that I didn’t realize. Getting the diagnosis helped me understand myself better. I couldn’t be more thankful knowing that this is who I am, and I’m very proud of the person I am. I just feel relieved and free.

How did your diagnosis impact the way you approached playing The Challenge: World Championship?

When I was there, I would talk to myself in my head. When things were going on, I was more aware of what I was doing. I was more aware of my stimming, if I was putting myself in my room to isolate for too long. I was more aware of the things going on without feeling too emotional or overwhelmed. And I’m still learning about it, honestly. I’m educating myself and also working with others to educate me on my diagnosis because it’s still so new. But going in and knowing that this is me and there’s nothing wrong with me made me more confident in the game and as a person. It made me more confident having conversations, building friendships.

There was nothing that was changing. I was just going to be me, and whoever accepts me, accepts me, and whoever didn’t, didn’t. I didn’t really talk about it in the game, it wasn’t something I brought up a lot. I probably said it once in an interview. I just wanted to feel it out and see how it was going to be on another season with this me that I now am finally trying to understand.

‘The Challenge: World Championship’

‘The Challenge: World Championship’

| Credit: Jonne Roriz / Paramount

Did you notice any cast members treating you differently this time around as a result of you coming forward about your diagnosis?

No, because I didn’t really speak on my diagnosis until the reunion, which was filmed after. I loved having Darrell there, of course, he’s always a No. 1 in this game for me. If anything, I did feel like Kaycee and I went into the game trying to build trust and hopefully be on a better page, so that made me feel good. We spoke, and this time around it was nice having her in the game. We have gotten a lot closer since the past three seasons, where we were never really on the same page and were more rivals than an alliance. Being able to talk to her and open up to her and play this game with her, it was the start of building our trust again.

I didn’t see anything different other than hearing things once I left the game. I did hear things that Tori was saying about me in the game while I was there but I didn’t know about till after the game — it was brought to my attention by some castmates, and also I’ve seen spoilers about not trusting me and all this other stuff. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe I’ll find out how they all really felt once I watch this season.

You’ve always struggled with people saying they don’t trust you and calling you fake, when there hasn’t been anything that you’ve done to earn that reputation. Do you think that not knowing your diagnosis in past seasons had anything to do with why a lot of cast members put out that narrative about you?

Possibly. I can’t really speak on that. Even if that is the case, that’s still just who I am. There’s nothing fake about it. I think their thing is, “Why is she nice? Why is she emotional?” I see it as them just not understanding someone that’s kind. Outside in their everyday lives, I’m like, “Do you not get treated decent? You don’t know kindness.” I just try being as positive as I can. I know it’s not always going to be sunshine, rainbows, butterflies, all of that, but I like to keep myself in the best headspace mentally, because I do struggle sometimes. And I also don’t want to make it harder for anyone else in the game because I already know how hard it is on myself. I think they question me because I’m a light, and for whatever reason they just have a hard time with it. They can think whatever they want to think about me, they can question whatever. It used to really, really bother me, and sometimes it still does, but I’m tired of me continuing to be the same person and they still question who I am.

I’m this same person outside of the game. But a lot of these people only play the game with me and then I don’t speak to them until we do another season together. When you look back at when I did Big Brother, there’s 24-hour live feeds, and you can see I was the same person. I’ve done nothing but continue to be myself. It just makes me question them more than people are questioning me, because no one can justify anything. No one can give me a reason why they have an issue or why they think these things. They say it just to say it. So until they can come to me with some facts or something I’ve done wrong or whatever, I just laugh about it. Now it’s just funny to me, because people really do judge for no reason. I just think it’s sad, because I honestly try to see the good in everyone, even if they are flat-out mean. I just try not to get on their level, stay in my lane, continue to shine my light, and move forward.

What does this mean for your future on The Challenge?

I want to be on the show and be myself. I love the show. I have fun competing. It’s just hard being in that environment sometimes. But I think that all of that will change moving forward. I’m not going to let it bother me anymore. I’m going to just take it for what it is and try winning that money. I’m ready to pop this baby out and go back. I’m of course not going on [season] 39, I’m going to give myself some time off and then hopefully you’ll see me in the near future. I’m hoping that me and Chauncey can continue to do this together, and we can now do it for our child. I now have a bigger purpose than myself to compete and try winning that million dollars. I’ll be back — I just don’t know when, but you’ll see me in the future.

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