Jeff Probst has been the host of Survivor since the reality show first hit the airwaves back in 2000. He’s earned four Primetime Emmy Awards for his job as emcee and also serves as the show’s executive producer. In terms of his personal life, the 59-year-old reality TV frontman has the show to thank for connecting him with two romantic partners, including his current love, Lisa Ann Russell. Here’s the inside scoop on Jeff Probst’s wife and the wild way they met.
Probst Used To Date A Former Contestant From ‘Survivor’
When Jeff Probst landed his gig as Survivor host, he had been married to his first wife, psychotherapist Shelley Wright, since 1996. But the couple divorced in 2001, and by 2004, he had fallen in love with Julie Berry, a contestant on Survivor: Vanuatu.
Hailing from Maine, Berry was 24 years old when she appeared on the show —19 years Probst’s junior. The host admits he was instantly smitten when he met Berry during her audition. “Honestly, I was so struck by her beauty when she walked in,” Probst told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I threw the paper down. I was like, ‘I know I’m voting for you to be on the show.’”
Despite their instant attraction, Probst maintains that he and Berry didn’t get together until after filming wrapped. “The funny thing was there was this perception we were flirting on the show,” Probst told People in 2004. “And that was actually just fun stuff on the show. I didn’t really talk to Julie until long after the show was over.”
The Tribal Council leader also says that he never expected to get involved with a contestant on the show. “Nobody is more surprised than me that I could find my love affair on a show that I host,” he explained. “But the truth is when something like this gets dropped in your lap, you don’t look at how it’s wrapped, you don’t look at how it’s being delivered. You just put your arms around it and you hold on because this is my love affair and there’s no question in my mind about it.”
Berry and Probst appeared on many red carpets together and remained a couple until 2008. The reason for their breakup is unknown, and not long after their split, the Survivor host met his future wife. Berry went on to serve as a producer on other reality shows such as Dancing With the Stars and also works as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Who Is Lisa Ann Russell?
Lisa Ann Russell was born in Sterling, Illinois, on March 21st, 1972. She worked as a model for the cosmetics brand Revlon and also pursued a career in acting, appearing in movies such as Kounterfeit and Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights. From 1996 until 2011, she was married to actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Saved By the Bell and NYPD Blue fame. The couple had two children together—a son named Michael Charles and a daughter named Ava Lorenn.
Probst and Russell married in December of 2011 in a private ceremony in Los Angeles. While the couple doesn’t have children together, the Survivor host says he’s close with his stepkids, who are now 16 and 14. He and Russell also get along well with Gosselaar and his current wife, Catriona McGinn.
“They [Gosselaar and Russell ] were together almost 20 years,” Probst said in 2012. “They had a long marriage and they raised these two young kids. They raised them with the kind of love that—the kids they see me, and he’s now remarried, his wife—they just see us as two more parents.”
Probst also says he considers himself to be a dad even if the kids are not biologically his. “We’re a blended family, so they are technically—not technically, they are my stepkids—I think of them as mine, which is crazy, but then they have this other family…but I always have to remember they have a dad,” he said.
Jeff Probst Met His Wife At A Christmas Party Hosted By Mark Burnett
Probst has Survivor creator Mark Burnett to thank for introducing him to Lisa Ann Russell. The pair met at Burnett’s Christmas party, which Probst said was filled with colorful characters. “[It’s] the craziest Christmas party I’ve ever been to because of the eclectic group of people there,” he said on Larry King Now in 2012.
“You have Gary Busey on one end doing these pressure points on your arm trying to bring you down. … I’m trying to get away from him ’cause he’s doing, ‘I got you, Probst, I got you.’ Meanwhile, there’s Barbra Streisand talking to Paris Hilton on the other couch and there’s Arsenio Hall and then there’s David, the composer, David Foster!”
As for the moment he met his future wife, Probst said he spotted Russell at the wild party, who was there “with two other friends just to see the spectacle.”
Lisa Ann Russell Was Rumored To Have Wanted Probst To Quit ‘Survivor’
According to a 2017 report, Russell began to grow weary of her husband’s reality show hosting duties, which require him to travel to exotic locations for extended periods of time. A source claimed Russell felt the Survivor frontman was spending too much time away from home and should be helping her raise her teenage stepkids.
Clearly, this report was false, which is not much of a surprise considering it came from RadarOnline.com. It’s now almost four years later and Probst is still going strong as Survivor’s emcee. The show’s 41st season, which was postponed due to COVID-19, is currently in production. And while the show does require Probst to be away from home for a few months out of the year, he says he’s still able to achieve and healthy work-life balance.
“The biggest misconception is that I’m gone all the time,” Probst told GQ in 2018. “And that’s because Survivor is on almost all year round but we shoot the show in very concentrated periods. Each season shoots for 39 days. If you’re there a week early, it’s like 7-8 weeks for each shoot. So over the summer, I’m gone almost four months. But that’s it. Then I’m home.”