The 25 Greatest Female Players in Challenge History
For whatever reason, the conversation about the greatest female competitors in Challenge history tends to take a backseat to the debates about the males. Maybe it’s because there’s not many girls in the discussion for female GOAT, but there are still great debates to be had, especially once you get out of the super-elite tier.
Ranking the women of the show are harder to me than ranking the men, because the variance in gameplays are so different. There’s girls who were solid competitors but relied more on excellent politics like Susie Meister and Jenn Grijalva. There’s girls like Cara Maria Sorbello who has racked up impressive accomplishments in part because she’s been on so many season, while Jodi Weatherton only appeared on four seasons but is no doubt one of the best female competitors the show has ever seen. And how the fuck do you assess the career of Ashley Mitchell?
Rankings are of course an arbitrary exercise, but we’re going to do it anyway. So let’s set the ground rules of what the criteria in my rankings are:
Competition: I believe competition and politics are roughly equal in importance, but if I had to choose one or the other I think competition is more important. You can politic all you want, but every now and then you’re going to have to go into an elimination to prove yourself.
Daily challenges, eliminations and finals performances will all be judged. In most seasons, you have to perform well in daily challenges to stay out of eliminations, you have to win eliminations to stay in the game, and you have to perform well in finals to win the damn game.
Politics: This is a bit harder to judge because politics weren’t as vital in some of the older seasons where there were big team challenges. Still, it’s always been an important part of the game to varying degrees.
Longevity Matters: Cara Maria might not be a better player at her peak than Jodi was at hers, but she has put together a body of work that Jodi can’t match because she only did four seasons. The people who did more seasons are going to get the benefit of the doubt. These rankings are about who has had the best career, not who was the best at their apex.
Also, I’m going to only be ranking competitors who did three or more seasons. That means no one-hit wonders like Svetlana Shusterman, Heather Cooke, Sarah Greyson or Ellen Cho, or two-time beasts like Jenny West and Ninja Natalie Duran.
Era Matters: It was objectively much easier to win some of the earlier seasons than the newer seasons. There were some seasons that had eight or nine winners, compared to the seasons now that almost always have just one male winner.
The competition of the seasons will also be taken into consideration. Winning The Gauntlet was a hell of a lot easier than winning Dirty 30.
Julie Stoffer: A mainstay in the early days most known for being a low-key psycho and attempting to murder Veronica on The Inferno, Julie was a strong competitor, picking up a victory on Extreme Challenge (a season with no eliminations) and making The Gauntlet 2 final. She was arguably the best female on her Inferno II Good Guys team, but she fell in elimination to Tonya and was 0–2 in her career, with her other loss coming in the grueling walking on treadmills/jump roping elimination against Katie on The Inferno.
Robin Hibbard: Robin is almost the definition of a good-but-not-great player in the middle era of the show. She had a strong rookie season on Sexes 2, made three finals (Gauntlet 2, Gauntlet III and The Island) and could have made it to the end on Battle of the Exes had Mark not thrown the final elimination.
Politically, Robin was a borderline trainwreck in the second half of her career, crying more often than Gus on Floribama Shore. Robin could have (and should have) won a final, but she had just a 1–6 elimination record which keeps her out of my top 25.
Roni Martin: The Real World/Road Rules and Gauntlet winner was one of the best female competitors in the early days of the show. She returned on All Stars 3, making it deep into the season despite not making any Authorities, eventually losing to Jonna in elimination.
If you’re going to put Roni in the top 25, it’s pretty much only based on her Gauntlet season, and even then she was by my account the third-best woman on her team behind Rachel and Veronica.
Holly Shand: The Challenge 2000 and Inferno champion was one of the top women on her three seasons, but she didn’t do enough seasons to establish herself as an all-time great and she competed in a weak era.
Ruthie Alcaide: She had an all-time performance on Battle of the Sexes, but was fairly disappointing in her next three seasons, failing to make another final. She returned on All Stars and reached the final, but she wasn’t in the same caliber as women like KellyAnne, Kendal and Jonna.
Ruthie is a true pioneer of the show, but she just misses the cut of top 25.
Jillian Zobroski: The Gauntlet III winner and Fresh Meat II finalist might be the most underrated woman in Challenge history, amassing a 5–1 elimination record in her three seasons.
However, I think Jill’s résumé is slightly more impressive than she was as a player, and her win is tainted by Big Easy’s collapse, despite the fact that she was one of the few Rookies who was deserving of winning.
Aneesa Ferreira: Nobody has been on more seasons without a win than Aneesa. In 18 total seasons, Aneesa has made just three finals (and only two on the flagship franchise).
While she earned a reputation as an elimination queen in the Duel series where she went 5–1, she currently has a losing record of 11–12.
Aneesa has been a great fixture on the show for over a decade and a half, but she’s been bad in daily challenges for most of her career, she’s atrocious in finals and she’s one of the worst political players in Challenge history.
Tonya Cooley: After years of bad luck and mistreatment, Tonya was able to put it all together on Inferno 3 and had an excellent season, earning her first victory. Although she has some other solid seasons, like the other season where she made a final, Inferno II, and her deep run on Battle of the Sexes 2, Tonya’s inconsistency leaves her off the top 25.
Kailah Casillas: With finals appearances on Vendettas and All Stars 3, Kailah has a strong case to be in the top 25.
Kailah is a decent competitor and political player, and has a nice résumé with a 6–3 elimination record over six seasons. I’m just going to need to see one more good season from her before she makes the cut.
25. Nicole Zanatta (Real World: Skeletons)
3 Seasons: Invasion of the Champions (3rd place), Vendettas (Final), Double Agents
1–0 Elimination Record
10 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8/10
A terrific athlete with a less-than-stellar mind, Nicole’s career has been plagued with bad luck.
She started out on Invasion and immediately established herself as the best female athlete of the non-champions, winning the opening challenge, The Over Under.
Although she was on the wrong side of the numbers on the Underdogs, she was able to skate all the way to the Bloodbath without seeing an elimination.
Ashley and Amanda worked together against Nicole in the first round, leading to Ashley winning. But when it was one-on-one against Amanda, Nicole took care of business and sent Amanda packing.
In the final, Nicole and Cory had one of the most memorably bad performances ever in the puzzle, putting Nicole behind the eight ball right off the bat. She could never recover, and finished third behind Ashley and Camila.
On Vendettas, Nicole once again skated to the final without seeing an elimination. She really didn’t have many notable performances during the season (unless you count her spitting game on Melissa), other than winning the Help Me Rhonda purge challenge, which was basically just a long distance run.
She made just one troika, and that came from a win in a 10 vs. 10 challenge. She didn’t get to compete long in the final, as an ankle injury caused her to bow out.
Another injury sent Nicole packing early on Double Agents, as she hurt her shoulder in the Road Kill challenge and was sent home.
In terms of the best female athletes in Challenge history, Nicole is near the top. However, she lacks in other areas, most notably puzzles.
She’s also not a great political player, even though her politics have never really burned her.
With only two full seasons to sample from, I think it’s hard to make too many judgments about Nicole as a player.
I’m not sure if she can ever win the show because of her aforementioned flaws, but she’ll be a strong contender to make the final every season she’s on.
24. Theresa Gonzalez (Fresh Meat II)
7 Seasons: Fresh Meat II, Cutthroat, Rivals, Rivals II, Free Agents, Battle of the Exes II (2nd place), Double Agents
2–7 Elimination Record
10 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8/10
Theresa is one of the hardest players ever to analyze.
She went her first four seasons without making a final, racking up a putrid 0–4 elimination record. She had just one daily challenge win in the first three partner seasons she competed on, and the win was handed to her and Jasmine in the Frog Smash mission on Rivals II when nobody tried to knock them off the platform.
But Theresa had some bad luck early in her career. She got weak partners like Ryan on Fresh Meat II (where she was the fourth female drafted after Cara, Laurel and Mandi) and Jasmine on Rivals II. She had Tina throw her elimination to Tori on Cutthroat, and had to face Laurel/Cara in the second female jungle with Camila on Rivals.
Theresa finally came into her own on Free Agents, shocking many when she defeated Camila in the Looper elimination. But Free Agents also exposed Theresa’s biggest flaw — her bad political game. She rallied the house to get Laurel thrown into the fifth elimination, but chickened out and burned her vote on Jasmine, causing mistrust in her own alliance. It came back to bite her the very next episode, when she was voted in by one of her biggest allies Devyn.
Theresa managed to stay out of elimination until the end, winning three daily challenges throughout the season, including the Dug Out mission with Nany. But she fell short of making the finals, losing to her chief rival Laurel in Puzzle Pyramid.
After a strong Free Agents season, Theresa had undoubtedly her best season on Exes II. Being partnered with Wes took the responsibility of playing the political game out of her hands, although she did make the best political move of her career in the first episode of the season, convincing Wes to throw in Dustin/Jessica instead of Bananas/Nany, delaying the inevitable war between Johnny and Wes.
Competitively, Theresa and Wes were one of the best two teams throughout the season, earning the Power Couple three times, but their game was undone by Bananas/Nany coming back into the game.
After they lost their elimination to Leroy/Nia, Theresa got one of the luckiest breaks in Challenge history, getting to replace Nia for the final elimination, where she took out her rival Nany and advanced to her first final. But she and Leroy fell short in the final to Sarah and Jordan.
After a long layoff, Theresa returned on Double Agents. It was a season that couldn’t be more representative of her as a player.
While she was strong physically — winning the mini-final with Jay and coming close to winning the Aerial Takedown mission — she had one of the worst executed political moves in Challenge history.
When she and Jay were the Double Agents, they orchestrated Kam and Ashley going against each other in elimination. In theory the move made sense to get out one of the best female competitors, but it ended up pissing off half the house and turning Theresa into “Toxic T”. She was thrown into the next girls elimination and lost to Kaycee in Snapping Point.
While Theresa was a great competitor, she had one of the worst political games in Challenge history. She didn’t come away from the show with many tight friends, and the few that she did make while she was on the show (like Devyn and Nany) she ended up burning.
She had what it took to win a final, but she was only able to get to the end once, and even that was lucky because she came in as a replacement for Nia.
When it came to competition, Theresa was one of the best girls in the history of the show.
But there’s much more to The Challenge than the physical side, and that’s where Theresa consistently came up short.
23. KellyAnne Judd (Real World: Sydney)
6 Seasons: The Island, The Ruins (Final), Battle of the Bloodlines, Rivals III, All Stars (3rd place), All Stars 3 (4th place)
5–4 Elimination Record
5 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8/10
KellyAnne burst onto the scene and immediately established herself as one of the top female competitors in her first two seasons.
On The Island, she had an impressive Face-Off victory against Rachel and Robin in The Rack. Unfortunately, she was on the bad side of Kenny and Bananas, and they convinced Ryan to steal her key before the final.
KellyAnne was feared by the Champion women on The Ruins, as they wanted no part of her in elimination. She defeated Evelyn (who threw her elimination) and Veronica to reach her first final.
KellyAnne and Sarah almost pulled off a massive upset in the final, but they were passed on the final puzzle.
KellyAnne took a long break from The Challenge before coming back on Bloodlines. Paired with her cousin Anthony and saddled on the terrible Blue team, she had an uphill battle. She was able to take out Nany in elimination before falling to Jenna.
She got paired with the defending champion Jamie on Rivals III, but the duo struggled together. They defeated Nelson/Amanda in elimination, but were defeated by Wes/Nany.
KellyAnne came back on All Stars and was one of the top women on the season. She won the difficult Rib Cage Pass mission and tied for third in the final. If there would have been a female winner, it likely would have been KellyAnne, as she won three stages and beat Jonna (who she tied in points with) on the final mountain climb.
On All Stars 3, she and Kendal were targeted by the Treehouse. However, she was somehow able to avoid elimination all season (having her elimination with Kailah canceled). She made two Authorities during the season (including an individual win in Stacked), but had a rough performance in the final, getting eliminated by Kailah.
Physically, KellyAnne has always been near the top of the pack. However, she is a bad political player and almost always finds herself out of the numbers.
If she hadn’t taken such a long break after The Ruins, KellyAnne could very well have been a top-10 all-time player.
But with three finals appearances in her six seasons, she finally cracks the top 25.
22. Jenna Compono (Real World: Ex-Plosion)
9 Seasons: Battle of the Exes II (3rd place), Battle of the Bloodlines (3rd place), Rivals III (2nd place), Invasion of the Champions, Dirty 30, Champs vs. Stars, Final Reckoning, War of the Worlds, Total Madness
6–3 Elimination Record
10 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7/10
After a hot start to her career, Jenna has cooled off considerably.
She and Jay made the final in their rookie season on Exes II, mainly because they were kept around as a layup (although they did shockingly win the trivia mission). They both had a terrible performance in the final, and ultimately quit when Jay couldn’t put down the fishy drink.
Jenna had her best season on Bloodlines, winning eliminations against Christina, Larissa and KellyAnne, carrying her cousin Brianna to a third-place finish.
On Rivals III, Jenna and Vince were one of the best teams throughout the season, although they benefited tremendously from Bananas and Sarah’s dominance and never having to see an elimination the entire season.
Despite not making the final since Rivals III, Jenna’s next two seasons were still impressive. She was able to take out Anika and Sylvia on Invasion before getting purged out at the end.
After losing to Kailah early on Dirty 30, she won her way back into the game from the Redemption House. Her alliance with Kailah, Tori, Cara and Camila got her to the very end without having to see another elimination, until she was once again purged out.
Jenna didn’t even get a chance to get in the main house on Final Reckoning, as she and Jemmye were purged on the opening mission.
Jenna and Gus were a decent team on War of the Worlds, making it to the tribunal once, but they were taken out by Bear and Da’Vonne in Push & Pole.
Just when it seemed like her days of being a strong competitor were over, she shocked everyone on Total Madness by taking out Tori in Dust to Dust. But her streak of missing the final was extended to five seasons in a row, as she was sent home by Aneesa in Bombs Out.
While Jenna clearly isn’t a strategic mastermind, she’s generally liked by most of the cast (other than her feuds with Amanda), and is rarely targeted early.
She’s basically the female version of Leroy, in that they have both had solid careers but will likely never get a victory. She’s in the good-but-not-elite category, and she’ll likely remain there for the rest of her career.
21. Diem Brown (Fresh Meat)
8 Seasons: Fresh Meat, The Duel, Gauntlet III (Final), Duel II, The Ruins, Battle of the Exes (2nd place), Rivals II, Battle of the Exes II
1–5 Elimination Record
19 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
The series’ most inspirational character is also one of its most underrated players. Though she was never an elite competitor, Diem was always above-average and advanced to at least the final four in all but one of her seasons (not counting Exes II when she tragically had to leave due to illness).
Diem established herself as a strong competitor from her rookie season, as she and Derrick won three consecutive dailies toward the end of Fresh Meat. But they were voted into the final exile by Tina/Kenny against Darrell/Aviv, and they had no chance of winning with their huge weight disadvantage of 75 pounds.
On The Duel, Diem aligned herself with the veteran females of Kina, Robin and Jodi, helping her reach the final four. Diem never had to worry about getting voted into the Duel, but she also proved herself as a competitor, winning three daily challenges — second only to Jodi.
But she was called into the second-to-last elimination by Aneesa, losing in one of the most heartbreaking fashions in Challenge history in the I Can elimination.
Diem reached her first final on Gauntlet III, as she was seen as one of the top females on the veterans team and never went into elimination. Of course, Diem was robbed of her first (and only) victory by Big Easy’s collapse in the final.
Diem had another strong season on Duel II, again aligning with the top guys and girls on the season (Evan/Brad/Mark/Landon and Rachel/Brittini/Tori). She showed she could get physical in her Push Over elimination win against Jenn, before losing in the final elimination to Brittini in Push Over.
The biggest blemish of Diem’s career was on The Ruins, where she lost the first Shoots and Ladders elimination to Tonya. It’s alleged that she threw the elimination, but even if she didn’t losing to a strong competitor like Tonya is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Diem had her best season on Battle of the Exes, as she was partnered with her old flame CT (I think I deserve an award for going this long into a Diem article without mentioning CT).
Although it took most of the season for the duo to gain trust in each other, they finally pulled it together and won the final two missions to reach the final. The problem was that Diem made two horrendous political decisions when she was in power.
First, she threw in Dunbar/Paula into elimination against Ty/Emily instead of the obvious biggest threat Johnny/Camila, a decision that TJ declared as the worst move he had ever seen.
Then in the final elimination, she decided to spare Ty/Emily from going into their fourth elimination to try to take out Johnny/Camila, and instead threw in Mark/Robin. Those decisions resulted in a second-place finish in the final for Diem, as despite her absolutely crushing the final, CT collapsed at the end and Johnny/Camila passed them on the final mountain climb.
Getting partnered with Aneesa on Rivals II, Diem didn’t have much of a chance to win (they did win the Blind Leading the Blind mission), but the duo still advanced to the final elimination. But for the third time in her career, Diem was eliminated right before the final, this time in Hanging by a Thread by Jemmye/Camila.
It would have been very interesting to see how CT and Diem competed together for a second time on Battle of the Exes II, but unfortunately Diem only made it through two missions before having to go home due to illness. A few months later, Diem lost her battle with ovarian cancer.
Diem was an all-around solid player — good in daily challenges (she’s tied with Laurel for the third-most individual/partner mission wins, behind only Paula and Cara), always aligned with the strongest players and excellent in finals with her combination of cardio and smarts. Her weaknesses were making strategic decisions and elimination rounds. Despite her ugly record, she really wasn’t the favorite to win any of her eliminations other than maybe against Tonya.
If there was a Mount Rushmore for the most important females in Challenge history, Diem’s face would certainly be on it. And while that’s mostly for the impact she made as a character and in the resolve she displayed in her fight against cancer, Diem also goes down as one of the greatest players to never win the show.
20. Dee Nguyen (Geordie Shore)
3 Seasons: War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2 (Win), Total Madness
3–2 Elimination Record
12 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8/10
With her career now finished, assessing the short but solid career of Dee is a challenge.
Dee and Wes were an excellent duo on War of the Worlds, making four tribunals in the partner portion — tied for most of any team with Cara/Theo — and beating Zach/Zahida in elimination.
When the game shifted to individual play, Dee made the tribunal in the Highway to Hell mission, but lost before the final to Da’Vonne in Tug O’ War. She finished the season with five tribunal appearances, tied with Cara Maria for most out of any girl on the season.
War of the Worlds 2 might have been Dee’s least impressive season, but she was able to ride her alliance all the way to the final without ever seeing an elimination. In one of the best moments of the season, Dee proved the doubters wrong with a strong showing in the Puzzling Swim purge, as Joss/Kayleigh got sent home.
Dee performed well in the final, taking two turns on the gurney and solving the puzzle before everyone besides Ninja and CT. Dee’s victory made her the first new female champion since Ashley on Invasion.
Dee had another strong showing competitively on Total Madness, making four tribunals and earning elimination wins against Ashley and Mattie, before getting eliminated in Hall Brawl by Jenny. Dee gunning for Jenny early in the season sunk her game, as she was the only person who had to go into three eliminations other than Jay.
There weren’t many holes in Dee’s game. She was excellent at puzzles, was well-liked (at least in her first two seasons), and had more heart than any female since Camila.
She likely would have been a fixture on the show for many more years, but mistakes made outside of the show turned her into a Challenge “what if”.
19. Jenn Grijalva (Real World: Denver)
6 Seasons: Inferno 3, The Island (Final), Duel II, Fresh Meat II (4th place) Cutthroat (3rd place), Rivals (3rd place)
5–3 Elimination Record
10 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
There’s a strong argument to be made that Jenn is one of the greatest political players in Challenge history. Despite never being anything more than an above-average competitor, Jenn is tied for fourth-most finals appearances by a female competitor, behind only Cara Maria, Paula and Sarah and tied with the likes of Evelyn, Laurel, Camila and Coral (technically Susie and Veronica also have four finals appearances, but their first seasons didn’t have eliminations).
Jenn was much more similar to players like Coral and Veronica than she was to Laurel and Evelyn, as she was a solid competitor who usually made it as far as she did based on her relationships.
On The Island, Jenn basically guaranteed herself a key by going into the Face-off against Paula and a hobbled Ashli, ensuring that as long as Ashli didn’t win she would either earn the key through the Face-off or by beating Ashli in the vote.
In what I think is her best political game, Fresh Meat II, she and Ryan perfectly played the middle between the Wes/Evelyn and Kenny feud, ultimately joining up with Kenny when the numbers shifted to his side.
Jenn made it through both Cutthroat and Rivals without ever having to see an elimination. On Cutthroat, she used her veteran status to stay out of the Gulag while Emily went in twice. Her relationships with players like Paula and JEK helped her never get thrown into the Jungle on Rivals.
But as much as Jenn deserves credit as a political player, I don’t think she gets the respect she should as a competitor.
She won multiple eliminations on two different seasons, taking out Rachel M and Colie on Inferno 3 and defeating Katie and Kim on Duel II in Push Me.
She and Noor also won the final exile of Fresh Meat II, knocking out Ryan/Theresa. Meanwhile, her only losses came to solid competitors in Susie and Diem.
Jenn was arguably the best female competitor on the blue team of Cutthroat. Yes, debatably better than the great Emily Schromm, who wasn’t as much of a physical specimen until her last two seasons.
(Because I knew some people would protest this, I went back and watched all the missions from Cutthroat. It’s hard to judge them against each other in most of the dailies, but in the Surf’s Up challenge Jenn and Emily were partnered together and Jenn finished ahead of Emily by a wide margin. Also in the Riot Act mission, Emily was pushed off before Jenn. The point is, she was on par with one of the greatest female competitors in Challenge history, albeit before she hit her prime.)
On Rivals, her and Mandi were the only female team in the final to not have finished last and have to go into an elimination, and they won the Against the Current challenge on a female elimination day.
I think Jenn mostly gets her bad rap from her finals performances. And while she and Mandi were embarrassing in the Rivals final (to be fair, it was one of the hardest finals of all time and Jenn was very sick for it), she never had a real chance to win any of them.
She was saddled with a clearly inferior boat on The Island with Paula, Robin and Ryan; she and Noor were clearly the worst team in the Fresh Meat II final; she and Emily had no chance competing against teams with four and five players on Cutthroat; and she and Mandi were never going to beat Evelyn/Paula and Laurel/Cara Maria.
Jenn is by no means an elite competitor in Challenge history, but she was solid. Coupled with her excellent political game, she was able to make four finals in just six seasons, putting her in elite company with only Coral and Laurel.
18. Tori Hall (Road Rules: Viewer’s Revenge)
3 Seasons: Gauntlet 3 (Win), Duel II, Cutthroat (Win)
2–1 Elimination Record
7 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
Yet another female on this list with a résumé of just three seasons, Tori proved herself as a strong competitor and political player in her short time on the show.
The former Miss Teen Virginia met her future husband Brad on Gauntlet 3, and her relationship with him served her well in the game, as she was never sent into elimination by the dominating Veterans team.
Her alliance on the rookies team with the Austin cast also helped her advance in the game, only getting voted in to take out Melinda in Beach Brawl. Tori and Frank R were at each other’s throats the entire season, but in the end they were able to come together to win the final (thanks to Big Easy’s collapse).
Tori returned engaged to Brad on Duel II, and was in the dominant female alliance with Rachel, Brittini and Diem.
It helped keep her out of elimination until the second-to-last duel, where she was taken out by Aneesa in The Elevator.
On Cutthroat, Tori lived up to title of the season more than any other player. On the red team filled with mostly vets, she and Brad used their relationships to continuously throw in rookies Brandon and Camila, keeping themselves out of elimination for the entire game.
Once their whipping boy and girl were eliminated, Tori stepped up to go into the gulag to face Theresa, but got a lucky break when Tina came in as a mercenary. Tina threw the Back Up Off Me elimination to let Tori win, and Tori was able to skate to the final when the red team threw in Paula against Emily in the final elimination.
Not only did Tori keep herself out of elimination for most of the season, but she also protected Brad, getting Dunbar on their side to throw in Tyler to the final two eliminations.
Despite being one of the villains of the season, it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness Tori’s gameplay, as it got her and her husband to the final together, where the red team won convincingly.
Although Tori’s two wins were more a product of other teams collapsing in the final (the Vets on Gauntlet III and Abe and Sarah going down for the gray team on Cutthroat), Tori was always in the upper echelon of female competitors in all three of her seasons, and she was always in the most dominant alliances.
She got to ride off into the sunset with Brad, and the two lived happily ever after.
Don’t fact-check that last part.
17. Jonna Mannion (Real World: Cancun)
8 Seasons: Rivals, Battle of the Seasons, Rivals II, Free Agents, Battle of the Exes II, All Stars (3rd place), All Stars 2 (Win), All Stars 3 (Win)
4–5 Elimination Record
12 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
Nobody’s legacy (and bank account) has benefitted more from the spinoff seasons than Jonna’s.
Jonna’s time on the flagship show can best be described as mediocre. Her best season was probably her first on Rivals, where she pulled the upset over the cocky self-proclaimed puzzle master Sarah. Her and Jasmine reached the final female elimination before losing to Laurel/Cara Maria.
Her Cancun team looked to be one of the favorites on Battle of the Seasons, as they won two of the first four missions. But they took a big blow when Jonna refused to step up and let Jasmine go into Hall Brawl, resulting in her and CJ getting eliminated.
Jonna again made it to the final elimination, where her and Derek lost in Knot So Fast to Frank and Ashley.
On Rivals II, she was paired with Nany. The duo didn’t do much to impress, going 0/8 in missions and losing to Cooke and Cara in the Snapper elimination.
Jonna was able to take out her Real World: Cancun roommate Emilee in the second elimination of Free Agents, but she lost that same elimination game (Wrecking Wall) to Aneesa midway through the season.
Jonna spent Battle of the Exes II getting berated by Zach despite performing solidly (with the exception of her horrible performance in the Don’t Forget About Me mini-final). Ultimately, her and Zach lost the Hammer it Home elimination to Jordan/Sarah, then were sent home for good after losing the final exile to Bananas/Nany.
Jonna was a fairly surprising pick to return on All Stars, but she came back as a different person and competitor. She didn’t do much throughout the season on All Stars, laying low and skating to the final without seeing an elimination. But she had an impressive final, winning the first two stages and tying for third with KellyAnne for most points overall.
She picked up right where she left on All Stars 2. With more of a focus on the political game, she was once again able to skate all the way to the final without seeing an elimination, winning the most difficult mission of the season (Dive & Conquer) along the way.
In the final, her and MJ had a lackluster start in the first stage, finishing third behind Nehemiah/Melinda and Darrell/Janelle.
But they were able to win the condensed final stage, earning Jonna the first victory of her career.
She had a much more difficult time on All Stars 3, but it resulted in the best season of her career. She was in the Authority four times (including wins in the final two missions), won eliminations against Beth and Roni, and was able to defeat KellyAnne, Nia and Kailah in the final.
Jonna is incredibly hard to rank because she was a fairly irrelevant player on the flagship franchise, but she’s clearly the queen of All Stars. It was almost impossible for me to rate her attributes because it’s almost like rating two different players. Jonna in daily challenges on the flagship franchise was maybe a 6/10, but on All Stars she’s an 8.5 or 9.
Winning a season of All Stars isn’t as impressive as most modern-era championships on the flagship franchise, but winning two seasons in a row is an incredible achievement on any show. The only other women in Challenge history to pull off the feat are Roni, Veronica and Jodi (and Emily Schromm counting her Rivals II and Champs vs. Stars wins).
Jonna has the most remarkable career renaissance in Challenge history, and it’s propelled her into the conversation as one of the greatest female players to ever be on the show.
16. Tori Deal (Are You the One? Season 4)
8 Seasons: Dirty 30 (3rd place), Champs vs. Stars, Champs vs. Stars 2, Final Reckoning, War of the Worlds 2 (Final), Total Madness, Double Agents, Spies, Lies & Allies (2nd place)
5–3 Elimination Record
24 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8.5/10
Reaching finals in two of her first three seasons, Tori quickly made a name for herself as one of the best female competitors on the show.
She integrated herself with the top females on Dirty 30, forming an alliance with Kailah, Jenna, Cara and Camila, which helped her only go into one elimination the entire season, where she took out Marie in Striptease.
Tori won four missions throughout the season, including the final X Marks the Spot challenge to earn her way into the final, where she got third behind Camila and Cara Maria.
In her two Champs vs. series seasons, she came in as a replacement on Champs vs. Stars, beating Shawn Johnson in elimination and making it to the end before getting purged. Then she got purged again with Lil Mama on Champs vs. Stars 2. These seasons don’t really factor her into placement whatsoever.
She had a forgettable run on Final Reckoning where she and Derrick lost to Joss/Sylvia, but that can be forgiven due to being partnered with one of the worst guys in Challenge history.
Tori’s coming out party came on War of the Worlds 2.
Finding herself on the wrong side of the numbers, Tori was thrown in against strong competitors in Georgia and Jenny and was able to come out on top, beating Georgia in Blockbuster and steamrolling Jenny in Hall Brawl.
It looked like Tori and Jordan were destined to win the season, but Tori came up short in the final puzzle and missed out on her first victory.
On Total Madness, Tori made it her mission to go into elimination early to get a red skull. She thought she had the perfect opportunity to take out a checked out Jenna, but the Barbie Beast pulled the upset in the Dust to Dust elimination.
Tori pissed off a lot of the rookies on Double Agents by making it known that she wanted to get her skull against one of them. Her perceived arrogance blew up in her face, as she was pitted against her number one ally Aneesa in elimination. Tori had another disappointing elimination performance, losing in Asset Destruction.
She bounced back on Spies, Lies & Allies, beating Amanda in elimination and having the best performance of any woman in the final, but ultimately losing to CT and Kaycee in the last stage.
Tori is one of the biggest and fittest girls on the show, and her background playing collegiate soccer makes her one of the most well-rounded athletes.
She’s certainly had an up-and-down career, but she’s come close to winning three times, and there’s no reason to think she can’t be a champion at some point.
15. Ashley Mitchell (Real World: Ex-Plosion)
12 Seasons: Rivals III, Invasion of the Champions (Win), Champs vs. Pros, Dirty 30, Champs vs. Stars, Champs vs. Stars 2, Final Reckoning (Win), War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2 (Final), Total Madness, Double Agents, Spies, Lies & Allies
6–7 Elimination Record
29 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
I mean what the fuck. That’s my assessment of Ashley’s career. What the fuck.
How else can you describe the most up-and-down career in Challenge history?
How the girl who was voted out of the house in episode three of her Real World season has the second-most Challenge earnings is simultaneously the craziest and dumbest thing ever.
I don’t want to knock Ashley too much because she’s a solid competitor and a good political player who has stuck with her alliance to skate to the end three times, but it just doesn’t feel right that she has the same number of wins as girls like Rachel, Cara Maria, Camila and Sarah, and more wins than Laurel and Emily.
Still, what she’s accomplished in her crazy ass career has to put her this high.
Ashley and Cory were a solid team on Rivals III, winning the Out On a Limb challenge and aligning themselves with Bananas and Vince, which looked like a sure way to make the finals. But Cory got caught playing both sides of the house, and they were thrown into elimination where they shockingly lost to Nate/Christina.
On Invasion, Ashley earned her way into the Oasis by winning the Shell Shocked challenge with Hunter, who she was in a “showmance” with at the time. That relationship quickly devolved, but Ashley was able to stick with her Lavender Ladies alliance with Shane, Amanda, Sylvia, plus Hunter and Nelson. Ashley reached the final by winning the purge elimination against Nicole and Amanda, then shockingly defeated Camila and Nicole in the final to capture her first championship.
On Dirty 30, Ashley for once followed through on her perpetual claims to quit, leaving before the purge challenge.
She was kept off of Vendettas (other than coming in as a mercenary, where she lost to Kam), but returned on Final Reckoning as a mercenary with Hunter. The pair narrowly beat Faith/Angela to get into the game, entering the house in an extremely cushy position. With loyal allies in Amanda, Shane, Sylvia and Nelson, Ashley/Hunter never had to worry about getting voted into elimination. They won one daily challenge and skated to the final.
Ashley/Hunter trailed Joss/Sylvia going into the last part of the final, but Paulie/Natalie threw their grenade at the leaders, helping Ashley/Hunter earn the victory. Ashley ended up with more points in the head-to-head competition with Hunter, and infamously stole his half of the money, making her the biggest winner in Challenge history with the $1 million prize.
Hunter got his revenge in the first elimination of War of the Worlds, calling out Ashley/Chase and defeating them with Georgia.
Ashley proved she wouldn’t be a pariah for taking Hunter’s money on War of the Worlds 2, again finding a solid alliance with Cara and Paulie. She rode her alliance all the way until the final elimination, where she took out Nany and made her third final.
But her up-and-down career continued the next two seasons, as she was taken out just four episodes into Total Madness by Dee, and lost eliminations to Natalie and Kam on Double Agents.
She was looking like she could be heading to her fourth final on Spies, Lies, & Allies, having beaten Priscilla in elimination, but she was kicked off for an unaired fight with Josh.
The Champs vs. series doesn’t help or hurt her résumé for me, as she beat Veronica and Ashley K before losing to Lolo Jones on Champs vs. Pros, left Champs vs. Stars due to the death of her father, and lost to Kailah midway through the season on Champs vs. Stars 2.
While Ashley is by no means an elite competitor, I just don’t see an argument for her to be much lower than this.
Her victories have some small asterisks to them — on Invasion the Underdogs didn’t have to face the Champions in eliminations, and on Final Reckoning she won a relatively easy final when she got to come into the game late.
But the bottom line is this — she has won an individual season and a partner season in one of the toughest eras in Challenge history. Every girl ranked below her only has victories in team formats (besides Jonna’s All Stars wins), which are inherently easier to win.
Ashley has established herself as one of the smartest and best political players on the show today.
Even if she doesn’t win another season, no one can take away the $1.12 million she has won on the show, or the fact that she is one of just 13 women with multiple championships.
14. Veronica Portillo (Road Rules: Semester at Sea)
13 Seasons: Challenge 2000 (Win), Battle of the Seasons, Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet (Win), The Inferno (Win), Battle of the Sexes 2, Inferno II (Final), The Ruins, Champs vs. Pros, Dirty 30, Vendettas, Final Reckoning, All Stars 3
2–3 Elimination Record
51 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8.5/10
The original queen of The Challenge (or at least co-queen with Coral), Veronica was one of the show’s first real mainstays, appearing on seven of the first 10 seasons.
Veronica was an above-average competitor in her prime, but she is more known for being one of the best political players of all time. However, she wasn’t always in control in her first few seasons.
After picking up a victory on Challenge 2000 with Road Rules, she was voted out on her next two seasons.
On Battle of the Seasons, the married couple of Chadwick and Holly B made a move to take out a strong team early to help them stay in the Inner Circle, voting out fourth-place Veronica and Yes in the first elimination.
On Battle of the Sexes, Emily Bailey, who also was involved in voting Veronica out on Seasons, targeted Veronica the entire season for hooking up with her boyfriend James. Veronica was in the Inner Circle twice during the season, but was voted out in 9th place despite having a higher point total than Anne, Ayanna and Genesis, as Emily convinced Ruthie and Ellen that Veronica was a cancer to the women’s team. Jamie’s attempt to save Veronica with the Live Saver was in vain, as he didn’t tell Jonny Mosely he wanted to use it on her before the vote.
Veronica really started coming into her own on The Gauntlet, avoiding even being nominated for elimination the entire season winning two Eyesavers on the Turntable and the final Dukes of Hazard mission.
Road Rules beat Real World in the final challenge, as Veronica picked up another victory.
She (and Darrell) went back-to-back on The Inferno. Once again she was able to stay out of elimination for the entire season, this time getting her team to throw challenges to help save her.
Veronica convinced her team to let her get the Life Saver in the Balcony Swing mission and put Katie in to face Julie. In the next round, she rallied most of Road Rules to try to get Timmy the lifesaver and put in Katie again, but it was thwarted when Kendal wasn’t made aware of the plan and won the Life Saver.
In the final mission, Veronica won the Life Saver on her own volition, again sending Katie in. Her ultimate goal of getting Katie out never came to fruition, but it didn’t matter, as Road Rules again beat Real World in the final.
The Inferno was really Veronica’s season. She won four life savers, controlled the politics on Road Rules, and had two iconic moments in her topless fight with Katie and in Julie’s attempt to murder her on Grope the Rope.
For my money, Veronica’s victory on The Inferno is the best victory by a female in the pre-Fresh Meat seasons (along with Sarah Greyson on The Gauntlet), as she completely controlled the game politically and she was one of the best female competitors on the season.
On Sexes 2, Veronica had a massive target on her back being aligned with Coral and Rachel. Just like in the first incarnation of Sexes, she was voted out in 9th place by the Inner Circle of Tina, Sophia and Arissa, but this time it was more for performance reasons.
The last of Veronica’s Queen V seasons came on Inferno II. With her Mean Girls alliance of Rachel and Tina, she again ran things politically on the Bad Asses team (although it was much harder to stay out of elimination with the other team getting to choose who went in), as Beth and Tonya were on the outs of the team.
Veronica earned her first elimination win on the season, beating Jodi in That’s a Wrap. But the bickering Bad Asses fell to the Good Guys, even though Veronica and Rachel were the only girls who could hold their own in the final.
After a long layoff, Veronica made her return on The Ruins. She wisely polidicked her way into kingpin Evan’s good graces, and the strategy paid off when Evan changed his vote to get Veronica a more favorable matchup in the Ruins against Kim instead of KellyAnne.
Evan tying the vote set off a chain of events where the entire Champions team came in to vote, resulting in Ibis having to go into elimination instead of Veronica.
Veronica was only able to stave off elimination for that round, however, losing to KellyAnne in Hog Tie.
Veronica took an even longer break after The Ruins, taking off 11 seasons before coming back on Dirty 30. She had a very solid (and underrated) season in her return, winning four missions, defeating Aneesa in the Web of Lies elimination, and pulling one of the biggest political moves of the season by sending Leroy into the Presidio.
Veronica was only eliminated due to a purge challenge where she was picked to go to the Redemption House by Jenna, and she was unable to get back into the game in the final redemption challenge.
Her next two appearances were lackluster, not being able to finish her elimination with Aneesa on Vendettas due to a broken finger, then getting purged out of Final Reckoning with CT after the second mission.
She returned on All Stars 3 and had a solid season, joining the Treehouse alliance and making three Authorities but having to leave due to injury right before the final.
There’s no denying Veronica is an absolute legend of the show. As one of the best female political players of all time and one of the best competitors in the early day of the show, Veronica is clearly a borderline top-10 player of all time.
She gets downgraded slightly for me because of the era she competed in, and because she had a lot of early exits throughout her career.
The only seasons that I would say were good campaigns for Veronica were The Gauntlet, The Inferno, Inferno II, Dirty 30 and All Stars 3 (not counting Challenge 2000 because I don’t give much credit for winning a season with no eliminations).
There’s some seasons where she got bad breaks, like getting voted off on Battle of the Seasons and Battle of the Sexes when she was one of the top performers, and having to leave Vendettas due to an injury. But since she’s only made it deep past the halfway point in five out of 12 seasons (again, not counting Challenge 2000), it keeps her out of my top 10.
13. Paula Meronek (Real World: Key West)
10 Seasons: The Duel, Inferno 3 (Final), Gauntlet III (Final), The Island (Final), Duel II, Fresh Meat II, Cutthroat, Rivals (Win), Battle of the Exes, Rivals II (Win)
5–5 Elimination Record
30 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
Arguably the biggest female character through the middle ages of the show, Paula Walnuts also was a strong competitor for the entirety of her career, making the second-most amount of finals for a female in Challenge history with five.
Paula showed fight in her Pole Wrestle elimination loss to Aneesa on The Duel, but emerged on Inferno 3 as arguably the best female competitor on the Good Guys.
She won the Life Shield in the Giraffic Park mission to force Susie to finally go into the Inferno, then she once again faced Aneesa in elimination, this time taking her out in Shimmy to reach the finals.
Paula earned her way to the finals on Gauntlet III by beating Katie in Sliders, but she was robbed of her first victory when Eric collapsed in the final.
On The Island, Paula teamed with Kenny, Johnny, Derrick, Dunbar and Johanna, as their alliance dominated the entire game. She won her key in the Ball Buster face-off with Dunbar as her partner, and reached her third consecutive final.
But she was infamously left off the final boat with Kenny, Johnny and Derrick, as Evelyn took the fourth spot and Paula was left with Ryan, Jenn and Robin.
The Island kind of broke Paula mentally for awhile.
She made a horrendous political decision on Duel II, choosing Dunbar when she was supposed to pick MJ in the second vote, causing Evan to cut her out of his alliance.
She was living on borrowed time for most of the rest of the game, finally running into (you guessed it) Aneesa in elimination, where Paula lost in Back Off.
Paula was one of the first casualties in the Kenny vs. Wes war on Fresh Meat II, as she and her legendary partner Jeff Barr were sent in by the house to face Evelyn/Luke. Evelyn beat Paula in exile, but her continued rivalry with Evelyn would serve Paula well in the future.
Drafted onto the red team on Cutthroat, Paula was set up well on a team of veterans, including her longtime frenemy Dunbar and Key West castmate Tyler. She made it all the way until the final elimination before having to go in, where Emily took her out in Pole Me Over.
After seven seasons, Paula was finally given her best chance to win on Rivals.
Paired with the best female of all time (at the time at least) in Evelyn, and in a house where both of them were surrounded by friends, Paula/Evelyn would have basically had a free ride to the finals — except they screwed up the first mission and had to go into the Jungle. They of course faced Aneesa (and Robin), defeating them in Hands On.
They went on to win four missions (including two on female elimination days) and defeated Laurel/Cara and Jenn/Mandi in the final, as Paula finally secured her first victory.
Paula not only competed well on the season and was the clear best “number two partner” ahead of Cara Maria, but she also made the best political move of her career, pushing to send Camila/Theresa in against Laurel/Cara Maria at the second elimination. The move ensured that one of the two biggest threats in the game would go home, as Camila/Theresa were sent packing.
On Battle of the Exes, Paula and Dunbar were quietly a strong team, winning the Power Couple once and defeating Rachel/Aneesa in elimination, as Paula pushed her all-time record against Aneesa to 3–2.
Paula/Dunbar were so threatening that Diem decided to throw them into elimination against the powerhouses Ty/Emily instead of Johnny/Camila or Mark/Robin, as Diem believed that Paula/Dunbar was the team most built for a final.
Ty/Emily defeated Paula/Dunbar in Hall Pass, but it helped set up a rivalry for Paula with another Challenge legend.
When Paula was partnered with Emily on Rivals II, it was basically a foregone conclusion that they would be winning the season, as they were head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. And though they got some resistance from Cara/Cooke at the end, Paula/Emily had arguably the most dominant season in Challenge history, winning 6/10 missions and never seeing an elimination. Paula retired with her second victory.
Paula’s legacy is certainly bolstered by the amount of seasons she did (only Cara, Aneesa, Veronica and Nany have been on more regular Challenges), and her victories came when she was partnered with two of the greatest female competitors in Challenge history.
But Paula was one of the best long distance runners in the history of the show, one of the best eaters, was above-average in missions and was almost always in dominant alliances.
Her prolonged run as one of the top female players earns her a spot right outside my top 10.
12. Susie Meister (Road Rules: Down Under)
4 Seasons: Extreme Challenge (Final), Gauntlet 2 (Win), Inferno 3 (Final), The Ruins (Win)
4–0 Elimination Record
25 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8/10
There’s never been a more cunning female player than Susie Meister. One of just three women in these rankings with an unblemished record, Susie reached the end of the game in all four of her seasons.
Although her first appearance on Extreme Challenge had no eliminations, Susie stayed out of the elimination ring for all of Gauntlet 2.
Her and Cara were accused of cutting a deal with the Veteran guys, causing the Rookie team to mistrust them, but Susie was a good enough competitor that she was never called out by Kina. The Rookies were able to win the dumbest final of all time, as they won the eating challenge and made the rest of the final irrelevant.
Susie’s political mastery took off on Inferno 3, as she recruited Cara and Colie to throw missions to help her win the first two Life Shields to stay out of elimination. She finally had to face Jenn in the third female elimination (they were both nominated for the first three eliminations), as Susie took her out in Zero Gravity.
Susie again won the Life Shield for the last girls elimination, winning the difficult Nothin’ But Net mission (her and Evelyn were the only females to complete the mission). Her efforts to make the final didn’t pay off in the end, as the Bad Asses defeated the Good Guys.
Despite not coming out with a win, Susie’s performance on Inferno 3 has to be considered among the greatest showings by a female in a team challenge. She won three out four life shields, took out Jenn in elimination and played one of the best political games by a female in Challenge history.
Placed on the Champions team on The Ruins, Susie worked herself into the good graces of JEK (more so Evan and Kenny), as she and Johanna were their top girls.
Susie was chosen by the Challengers to face Brianna in the third elimination, where she won in Burnout.
She didn’t go into elimination again until the Champions ran out of females. Fearing having to go in against a beast like KellyAnne, Susie threatened her teammates that she would sit down in the final challenge and cause the Champions to lose if they pitted her against her. The strategy worked, as she got to face Kimberly in one of the best female eliminations of all time, and beat Casey in the final elimination (Susie got to choose her opponent for the final elimination).
The Challengers surprisingly gave the Champions a run for their money in the finals, but Susie and Evan were able to solve the final puzzle to win in the end.
Susie wasn’t an elite competitor, but she was always above-average (it’s harder to judge her since she only did team challenges). But she ranks this high for being one of the best political players — man or woman — of all time.
11. Coral Smith (Real World: Back to New York)
6 Seasons: Battle of the Seasons (Win), The Gauntlet (Final), The Inferno (Final), Battle of the Sexes 2 (Final), Fresh Meat, Gauntlet 3
2–0 Elimination Record
32 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7.5/10
The queen of classic one-liners, Coral is not just one of the greatest characters in Challenge history, she’s also one of the show’s best players.
Partnered with her pal Mike the Miz on Battle of the Seasons, the duo stayed in the Inner Circle the entire game, winning the Sidekick Showdown mission and finishing second in points for Real World as it defeated Road Rules in the final.
On The Gauntlet she was voted into elimination early, beating Tina in Dead Man’s Drop, but was surprisingly able to keep herself out for the rest of the game, most notably when Theo G was sent into the final elimination instead of her. Coral once again reached the final, where her infamous spider bite ended up costing Real World the victory.
In her classic Inferno season, where she was challenged to a wrestling match by Julie and uttered two of the greatest lines in Challenge history (“I don’t wrestle, I fucking beat bitches up” and “I wear a 32DD bra, one boob alone could kick her ass”), Coral was able to stay out of the Inferno the entire season, only getting nominated twice.
Coral made the final by winning the final LifeSaver in the Window Washing mission, sending in David to take her place.
In the lopsided Battle of the Sexes 2 season where the men dominated the women, Coral was seen as one of the leaders on the women’s team, and was never voted out despite being a team captain in four losing missions. She came into the season with a huge target on her back being aligned with veterans like Veronica and Rachel, but somehow she was able to make it to the end with Sophia and Arissa.
Coral was never known for being a great competitor, but she had her best showing on Fresh Meat when she was partnered with Evan. They absolutely dominated the beginning of the game, winning five of the first six missions. But injuries to both Coral and Evan took them out of the game, ending what could have been the greatest season by a pair in Challenge history.
One of the elder statesmen on Gauntlet III, Coral found herself on a season with an entirely new crop of competitors that she couldn’t control like the previous generation. She was one of the females the veterans wanted to purge in their “trim the fat” strategy, and they pitted Coral vs. Beth in the “Matchup of the Century” (Coral was thrown in by the rookies). Although Coral took out Beth in Ball Brawl, when she was thrown into the second-to-last female elimination against Evelyn she decided to quit, ending her Challenge career.
Competitively, Coral was above-average but she’s arguably the worst in my top 25.
But she ranks this high because she had such a command of the political game. She intimidated her own teammates from throwing her into eliminations, as nobody wanted to face her wrath.
She also finished her career with a nearly perfect record in six seasons, although she almost certainly would have lost in elimination to Evelyn on Gauntlet III (not that it would have been anything to be embarrassed about).
Coral wasn’t the best competitor, but she knew how to play the game better than nearly anyone in Challenge history.
10. Rachel Robinson (Road Rules: Campus Crawl)
7 Seasons: Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet (Win), Battle of the Sexes 2, Inferno II (Final), The Island, Duel II (Win), Battle of the Exes
1–2 Elimination Record
23 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 9/10
For someone who is universally considered one of the greatest female competitors in Challenge history, Rachel has a pretty bizarre career.
A true OG and one of the first real “fit chicks” who made her debut in season six, Rachel’s career is filled with highs and lows.
Despite being above Aneesa, Tonya and Christina on the leaderboard on Battle of the Sexes, Rachel was voted off in her rookie season by the Inner Circle for…reasons.
Emily, Ruthie and Ellen said that they were voting out Rachel because she wasn’t a team player, leading Rachel to give probably her most iconic moment, saying, “This game is ugly, the Inner Circle is ugly, and I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
Rachel returned on The Gauntlet and was arguably the best female competitor on the season (at least 1 and 1A with Roni Martin), staying out of elimination the entire season and winning her first championship with Road Rules.
On Sexes 2 Rachel had another early exit, hurting herself with a bad political move. She was going to be a captain with Sophia and Katie, but when she implied that Katie was going to be voted out if the girls lost, Katie dropped out of being a captain and Tonya took her place. When the girls lost, Rachel was eliminated in a close vote spearheaded by Katie.
Appropriately placed on the Bad Asses on Inferno II, Rachel proved to be the best female on the season. She was never nominated for the Inferno, once again skating to the final. But the Bad Asses were held back by Tonya and Tina’s lack of cardio in the final.
After a long layoff, Rachel returned on The Island as one of the few true veterans on the season. When Abram asked to be voted out after the second faceoff, Rachel tried to rally the votes against Bananas instead. She fell a couple of votes short, and the move backfired when she lost the next faceoff to KellyAnne and was voted off over Robin.
Rachel came on the next season, Duel II, and proved that she thrives when she actually gets a chance to compete.
Partnered with Mark for most of the season, Rachel won four missions, never saw an elimination and won the final, becoming the second female individual winner in the show’s history.
Rachel came back for Battle of the Exes and was at a significant disadvantage being partnered with Aneesa, as they were the only female-female team on the season. Still, they were able to take out Tyrie/Jasmine in X Knocks the Spot.
But her previous feud with Bananas on The Island continued to haunt her, as she and Aneesa were thrown in twice by Johnny/Camila. They were eventually eliminated by Dunbar/Paula in Banded Together.
When the season is based just on competition, Rachel always does well, as The Gauntlet, Inferno II and Duel II showed. But I can’t think of many females in Challenge history that have gotten themselves into more bad situations politically than Rachel.
Tonya, Veronica and she are the only players in Challenge history to be voted out of three seasons (there have only been four seasons with vote outs), but Rachel was clearly a better competitor than those two. Other than the seasons she made it to the end on, she always found herself in some type of political dispute.
It’s weird that one of the best female competitors of all time only has three good seasons to her name, but some of her lackluster seasons keep her out of the top six.
9. Kam Williams (Are You the One? Season 5)
6 Seasons: Vendettas (7th place), Champs vs. Stars 2, Final Reckoning, War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2 (Final), Double Agents (2nd place)
8–3 Elimination Record
17 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 7/10
Just six seasons into her career, Kam has established herself as one of the elite females on The Challenge.
She had an excellent debut on her rookie season, Vendettas, as she took out mercenaries Tori D and Ashley M, and also defeated Natalie. Kam had a legitimate chance to win the season, as she was in second place among women, but she was screwed when she chose wrong in the high/low game and was punished by Melissa.
She shouldn’t have been dumb enough to guess higher on a 10 card, but it was a bullshit twist by production to allow eliminated competitors to give arbitrary punishments, and it cost her from being in the top four and having a chance to win on the final puzzle.
Kam had a brief stint on Champs vs. Stars 2, losing in episode two to Brooke Hogan.
Kam started Final Reckoning paired with Melissa, but was immediately partnered with Kayleigh after Melissa and Kailah fought. Kayleigh was a downgrade in athleticism compared to Melissa, but her and Kam were able to work together well.
They won a daily challenge, took out Paulie/Natalie and Jozea/Da’Vonne in elimination and earned their way back from the Redemption House by beating Brad/Kyle. Kam/Kayleigh never lost a true elimination on Final Reckoning (although they did lose to Cara/Marie to get back into the house), but were purged out twice.
Although they fell short of the final, Kam/Kayleigh were arguably the most impressive team on Final Reckoning given their expectations going into the season. Nobody expected much of them, but they won three “eliminations” (I’m still not sure how to count the Apocalypse eliminations, but I’m including them as wins and losses here) and were the best female/female team of the season (even though Cara/Marie made the finals).
When Kam got partnered with Ashley C on War of the Worlds, they immediately became the most fearsome male/female team in Challenge history from a purely physical standpoint.
Unfortunately for them, they were pretty mediocre in daily challenges, only reaching the tribunal once. They also never got a headbanger elimination, which would have been tailor-made for them. Although they beat Josh/Amanda in the Uphill Battle elimination (when they should have been disqualified for having their backs against each other), Kam/Ashley were eliminated by Paulie/Ninja in Wheel of Death.
Kam returned on War of the Worlds 2 and rode her alliance all the way to the final without ever seeing an elimination. She performed well in the first day of the final carrying the gurney, but she fell short on the puzzle and didn’t make it to the second phase.
Kam had her best season on Double Agents, controlling the house politically and having a strong showing physically, winning two challenges, beating Ashley in elimination and placing second with Cory in the final.
Politically, Kam has to be considered the best woman on the show today. On Vendettas she established her Dolphins alliance with Kailah, Marie and Sylvia. She was forced to betray Marie and send her into elimination, but it was a savvy move by Kam because she probably would have been thrown in by the troika if she didn’t make the move.
Final Reckoning saw Kam pull off one of the greatest strategic moves of all time in tricking the house into getting the matchup she wanted in Armageddon. It was a bit lackluster because her ultimate plan was to get a pair of weak teams in Angela/Faith and Da’Vonne/Jozea into elimination, and it became somewhat meaningless when Hunter/Ashley were brought in as mercenaries to face Angela/Faith, but it still proved that Kam has an aptitude for the game that most players don’t.
She and Paulie were the main people controlling the politics on the US team on War of the Worlds 2, and she, Leroy and the Big Brother alliance ran the game on Double Agents.
Physically, Kam is one of the most imposing females to ever be on the show.
And although she’s one of the biggest girls in the house, she has proven she has pretty solid endurance, including finishing third among girls in the opening Rock of Gribraltr challenge on Vendettas, winning the long Escape the Volcano challenge on Double Agents and also placing second in the Smuggle Run mini-final that season.
She hasn’t proven herself to be anything special in daily challenges yet, but she still has to be considered one of the top women on the show.
Kam has the brains and the brawn, and while she is still searching for her first victory, she’s already established herself in my eyes to be one of the greatest females in Challenge history.
8. Jodi Weatherton (Road Rules: X-Treme)
4 Seasons: Inferno 2, Gauntlet 2 (Win), The Duel (Win), All Stars 2
1–2 Elimination Record
23 Challenge Wins
If these rankings were about who was the best competitor at their peak, you could argue that Jodi should be in the top five. The first female individual winner and one of just seven females to win an individual flagship season along with Rachel, Laurel, Ashley, Camila, Cara Maria and Jenny, Jodi was the total package as a competitor.
Although she had a disappointing rookie season on Inferno II, getting flustered and falling to Veronica in the That’s a Wrap elimination, she was still one of the top competitors on the Good Guys team.
On Gauntlet 2 she was again one of the best girls on the Rookie team, helping them win nine out of 15 missions and never going into elimination.
Jodi’s best season was clearly her dominant run on The Duel.
Head and shoulders above the rest of the cast (to be fair it was a very weak field — her biggest competition was Diem, Svetlana and Kina), Jodi won seven missions throughout the season, including five on girls elimination days to guarantee herself safety. No other girl won more than three missions. In the final, she was able to defeat Svetlana to earn her second championship.
After nearly 15 years away from the show, Jodi returned on All Stars 2 and didn’t miss a beat. She won four missions (all in individual/partner formats) and beat Sophia in elimination. But her and Brad were pitted against Darrell/Janelle right before the final, ruining an otherwise excellent season.
Politically, Jodi didn’t really have to do anything on her first two seasons. The opposing team selected nominations on Inferno II (although Jodi was lambasted by the Bad Asses for switching the nomination to Veronica when she was selected), and on Gauntlet 2 she wasn’t called out by her Road Rules: X-Treme castmate Kina.
On The Duel she was in a strong alliance with Kina/Robin/Diem and Derrick/Brad/CT/Evan, but she stayed out of elimination by winning the missions and being too fearsome of a competitor to be called out.
On All Stars 3 she initially was working with Derrick, but after he left she joined up with Brad, Darrell, Janelle, Jonna and MJ to work against The Palace.
Jodi is a really tough one to judge. Her first two seasons she showed flashes of excellence, but it wasn’t until The Duel and All Stars 3 where she started proving herself as a dominant force.
And even those seasons can be quibbled with because the competition level wasn’t that great.
It’s a shame we didn’t see Jodi on more seasons to see if she squarely solidified herself in the GOAT tier of competitors, but there’s no doubt she’s one of the best the show has ever seen.
7. Kaycee Clark (Big Brother 20)
3 Seasons: Total Madness (Final), Double Agents (4th place), Spies, Lies & Allies (Win)
3–0 Elimination Record
14 Daily Wins
Daily Challenges: 8.5/10
With her combination of excellent strength and under-the-radar politics, Kaycee has quickly rocketed her way up the all-time rankings.
She’s one of just six women to start her career with three consecutive finals appearances, joining Coral Smith, Susie Meister, Laurel Stucky, Emily Schromm and Jenna Compono.
The Big Brother 20 winner had a solid start to her career on Total Madness, making the tribunal three times (including an individual win in the final mission, Crash Course), beating Kailah in elimination and placing second in the final among the women behind Jenny.
Kaycee’s best season so far came on Double Agents. She and Leroy combined to win five missions, and she took out Theresa in the Snapping Point elimination. But her season came to a sad end in the final when an injury caused her and Fessy to get purged.
Finally playing in a season without skulls, Kaycee was able to skate her way to the final on Spies, Lies & Allies without seeing an elimination. She and Emanuel won the Turning Points mission, and she was a key cog of the Emerald Cell that won five missions.
Kaycee wasn’t all that impressive in the final, getting stuck on the Orange team where she was forced to take out her girlfriend, Nany, in elimination.
But she got to choose CT to be her partner for the last leg, and they were able to put in their code before Tori/Kyle to win the season.
Kaycee is one of the best physical female competitors to ever be on the show, and she’s one of the best political players. But I think she still has something to prove, particularly in finals.
She got smoked by Jenny in the Total Madness final and Tori ran a better race than her in the SLA final. Her cardio and mental game is questionable, which doesn’t make it a lock that she will win another final.
But if I have to bet on one woman on the show right now to make a final, it’s easily Kaycee. She knows how to not make waves, be friendly with everyone and slip under the radar better than arguably anyone to ever be on the show.
And if she does have to go into elimination, she’s most likely coming back.
Kaycee might not be a fan favorite, but she’s already established herself as one of the greatest female challengers of all time.
6. Emily Schromm (Real World: DC)
4 Seasons: Cutthroat (3rd place), Battle of the Exes (3rd place), Rivals II (Win), Champs vs. Stars (Win)
5–0 Elimination Record
15 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 9.5/10
Most Challenge fans would likely say the top three female competitors in the show’s history are in some order Evelyn, Laurel and Emily.
Emily usually falls in the number three spot, and it’s mainly just for one reason — her lack of longevity.
And that lack of longevity is why she stands at number four in my rankings.
With just four seasons under her belt (compared to Laurel’s six and Evelyn’s seven), it speaks to how excellent Emily was in her short time on the show that she’s still on my Mount Rushmore of Challenge women.
Although it’s not long, Emily’s resume speaks for itself.
Emily was clearly not in as good of shape in her rookie season as she would be later in her career (when she got into CrossFit and became arguably the most physically fit female in the history of the show), but she was still one of the best females on Cutthroat. She took out Melinda in Handcuffs and Paula in Pole Me Over to reach the final.
But it was just her and Jenn on the blue team in the finals, and they had no chance of winning.
Partnered with her ex-flame Ty on Exes, the pair found themselves on the wrong side of the numbers in a veteran-stacked cast. They were thrown into elimination twice and went in once for losing a mission, but came out on top all three times.
Against Leroy/Naomi in Banded Together, Emily and Ty finished the elimination before Naomi even got to the pole.
Then Emily manhandled Cara in X-Battle, winning the second round in literally two seconds and prompting Mark to say, “Emily competes almost like a dude.”
And in the second-to-last elimination Hall Pass, Emily defeated her future partner Paula.
Emily was a beast in the final but was held back by Ty’s lack of cardio, causing them to finish third.
There was no doubt who was the favorite on the girls’ side of Rivals II when Emily was paired with Paula. And the duo lived up to expectations, winning six out of 10 missions and never seeing an elimination. Emily capped off her career with a victory, cementing her place as one of the best female competitors in Challenge history.
She came back on Champs vs. Stars after a long layoff and was by far the best female on the show, outperforming world-class athletes like Kim Glass, Michelle Waterson and Shawn Johnson. She won two MVPs, including winning the Sink or Swim mission to reach the final.
Politically, Emily isn’t really known for being a strategist, but she hasn’t been actively bad either.
On Cutthroat she went into elimination twice before Jenn went in once, but she felt as a rookie it was her place to go in rather than the established vet. There wasn’t anything she could do on Exes to crack the vet alliance of Johnny/Camila, Mark/Robin, CT/Diem and Dunbar/Paula.
On Rivals II her and Paula were in strong alliances with Diem/Aneesa and Camila/Jemmye, along with most of the veteran guys. Emily’s relationship with Jordan also helped them pick up the rookie team of him and Marlon.
If Emily returns to the show and puts together one or two more excellent seasons, she will be in consideration for the greatest of all time. But for her now, her only having done four seasons keeps her from cracking the top three.
5. Sarah Rice (Real World: Brooklyn)
9 Seasons: The Ruins (Final), Fresh Meat II, Cutthroat (2nd place) Rivals, Battle of the Exes, Battle of the Seasons (3rd place), Rivals II, Battle of the Exes II (Win), Rivals III (Win)
Elimination Record: 6–2
16 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 9/10
There might not be a better all-around female in Challenge history than Sarah.
I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the emo chick from Real World: Brooklyn would become one of the best competitors ever, but she proved from her rookie season that she would be a force to be reckoned with.
Placed on the comically overmatched Challengers team on The Ruins, Sarah took out a pair of Champions in Katie and Johanna in eliminations and was the last player standing on her team along with KellyAnne. They came shockingly close to knocking off the Champions in the final, but couldn’t complete the final puzzle in time to pull off the upset.
On Fresh Meat II, Sarah found herself on the wrong side of the Kenny vs. Wes battle, pledging allegiance to Mr. Beautiful. Sarah/Vinny were pitted against Kenny/Laurel in the second elimination, where Sarah lost in exile.
Sarah fit in perfectly on the grey team on Cutthroat, undoubtedly the weirdest group of personalities on a team in Challenge history. She was the second-best female on the team behind Laurel and the only female on her team to never go into elimination.
But she couldn’t complete the final due to dehydration, and her and Abram’s collapse led to the grey team losing to the red team in the final.
Sarah’s string of bad partners began on Rivals when she was matched with Katelynn, one of the worst competitors in Challenge history. They went into the third jungle after losing the Against the Current mission. Sarah’s cockiness came back to bite her in the jungle, as she lost the puzzle to Jonna/Jasmine.
Her bad luck continued on Battle of the Exes. She was never going to have a great chance to win the season with Vinny (although they did win the second mission), but any chances came to an end when Vinny was disqualified for pulling down Mandi’s top.
Team Brooklyn started Battle of the Seasons on the wrong side of the numbers, as the veterans on the season were outmanned. Despite Sarah’s relationship with Alton, Brooklyn was thrown into the third elimination against Fresh Meat, where Sarah/Chet beat Cara/Brandon in Knot So Fast.
Sarah and Chet went in again two missions later, this time taking out Preston/McKenzie in Balls Out.
After Brooklyn was targeted for most of the first half of the game, they shifted more into power, winning two daily challenges and never going into elimination again.
But Sarah’s fatal flaw on the season was not cutting bait with Devyn/JD. If it were just Sarah and Chet running the final, there’s a good chance they would have beat San Diego, but instead they placed third due to Devyn holding them back.
Sarah’s bad partner luck continued on Rivals II, when she was paired with Trishelle. After an ugly fight with Aneesa, Trishelle quit, sending Sarah home with her.
Finally Sarah was given a worthy partner when she was paired with Jordan on Exes II. The self-proclaimed Wonder Twins (a bit of a strange nickname given that they made out on Rivals II), her and Jordan were the best team of the season, winning the Power Couple three times and defeating Zach/Jonna in the Hammer it Home elimination.
Sarah also played an excellent political game on Exes II. She perfectly played both sides between Wes and Bananas in the first half of the game, jumped ship from Wes when Bananas came back into the game, then made the smart, cutthroat move of sending Bananas/Nany into the final elimination.
The move paid off as they were sent home by Leroy/Theresa, and Sarah picked up her first victory in the final.
Sarah’s final season was also her most dominant. Sarah and Bananas were head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, winning four of the eight missions and beating Dario/Nicole in the final elimination.
We all know what happened next — Bananas/Sarah won the final, and Johnny stole Sarah’s share of $275,000.
In a twisted way, it was a fitting end to Sarah’s career. One of the most unlucky competitors in the history of the show who had experienced so much heartbreak over the years was dealt one final blow, causing her to swear off The Challenge for good.
I don’t really think there’s much of an argument against Sarah not being in the top six females of all time. She has the second-most finals appearances of any female with five, and in nine seasons her only real losses (not counting when her partners were disqualified) were to the powerhouse team of Kenny/Laurel on Fresh Meat II and the puzzle to Jonna/Jasmine on Rivals.
While she was merely above-average physically (although she’s one of the greatest swimmers in the history of the show), mentally she was excellent.
She’s a self-titled puzzle queen, and she lived up to the reputation (yes, she lost the puzzle to Jonna/Jasmine, but she came through in so many missions and finals that she more than redeemed herself).
Sarah also was a great political player, almost always finding herself in the most dominant alliances and playing one of the best political games of all time on Exes II.
Sarah was the total package, and despite her run of bad luck throughout her career she finished it as inarguably one of the greatest females in the history of the show.
4. Camila Nakagawa (Spring Break Challenge)
12 Seasons: Cutthroat, Rivals, Battle of the Exes (Win), Battle of the Seasons, Rivals II (3rd place), Free Agents, Battle of the Bloodlines, Rivals III, Invasion of the Champions (2nd place), Champs vs. Pros (3rd place), Dirty 30 (Win), Champs vs. Stars
9–4 Elimination Record
21 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 9.5/10
The fire-breathing Brazilian is far from the most popular player in Challenge history, but she’s clearly one of the greatest.
Although she didn’t make it to the end of either of her first two seasons, Camila showed early on that she would be a competitor to be feared.
Her elimination wins on Cutthroat taking out Emilee and Katie don’t look that impressive, but she was extremely close to taking out Laurel in the Die Hard elimination.
Camila was one of the best females (if not the best female on the red team), but she was the whipping girl for Tori and Brad and was repeatedly thrown in before the vets.
Camila and Theresa were probably the third-best team on Rivals, but they were thrown into the second elimination, where they fell to Laurel/Cara Maria.
Camila truly showed what she was made of on Battle of the Exes. Partnered with Johnny, the duo was the best team the entire season, winning the Power Couple three times.
They couldn’t stay out of elimination the entire season, however, getting last place in the final mission, forcing them to face Mark/Robin in X-Battle. Although Mark most likely threw his elimination to Johnny, Camila held up to her end of the bargain and defeated Robin.
In the final, Johnny/Camila trailed CT/Diem for most of the race, but finally passed them at the very end when CT collapsed.
Dubiously placed on the Fresh Meat team on Battle of the Seasons, Camila was doomed both politically and by having to be on a team with Big Easy. She and Eric took out Danny/Melinda in the second elimination, but there wasn’t much Camila could do to help prevent her team from going into the first four eliminations. Her season came to an end in a heartbreaking way, as Big Easy quit the elimination against Devyn/JD.
Although she was partnered with a lackluster partner in Jemmye on Rivals II, Camila overachieved, winning safety on the Swingers mission, beating Jasmine/Theresa and Diem/Aneesa in eliminations and finishing third in the final.
If Camila’s career has any real blemishes, it’s Free Agents. Although losing to Theresa in elimination (especially a physical one like Looper) is nothing to be embarrassed about, Camila didn’t display the normal fight she usually has and kind of gave up.
Camila was never going to have much of a chance on Bloodlines with Larissa as her partner, and the inevitable happened early when Larissa lost in the third elimination to Jenna, sending Camila home along with her.
On Rivals III she was in a toxic partnership with Tony. Although the duo competed fairly well, it ultimately ended in ugly fashion with a disturbing fight in the kitchen.
Camila really started moving up the all-time ranks in her final two seasons. Having to go through Ashley K, Cara Maria and Laurel to make the final on Invasion was a tall task, but Camila won the second Champions day mission to earn safety, then pulled one of the biggest upsets in Challenge history when she defeated Laurel in Knot So Fast. But in the final she fell short against Ashley M, finishing second.
Camila ended her career with her finest showing. Although it was her worst political season, Dirty 30 was probably her best physical season. Camila made her allies uneasy about her trustworthiness when she didn’t vote Cory into the first elimination, and she had a racial tirade against Leroy midway through the season.
She was in an alliance with the strongest females in the house — Cara, Tori, Kailah and Jenna — that helped her advance deep without having to go into elimination.
Toward the end of the game the latter three girls turned on the champions Camila and Cara, as Cara was sent to the Redemption House and Camila was sent into elimination twice. But she was able to take out Jemmye and Britni, then dominated the purge challenge against Kailah and Jenna. She defeated Cara and Tori in the final for her second championship.
Camila was by no means a stable political player, but she didn’t make many big mistakes other than on Dirty 30.
She was basically only targeted on Cutthroat for being a rookie (she did dumbly tell Tori she voted for Brad on Cutthroat, but that was just used as an excuse for Tori to continue targeting her when it was going to happen anyway). On Rivals she was thrown in for being a big threat, and on Bloodlines her cousin was thrown in by the blue team to get the strong Camila off the red team.
Physically she basically had no holes in her game, and if she hadn’t had her blowup on Champs vs. Stars she could have easily added more to her resume, as she would have remained one of top females on the show. But the show was clearly a toxic environment for her, and she hasn’t returned since the incident.
After Dirty 30 she was pretty clearly ahead of Cara Maria in all-time status, but Cara surpassed her in my eyes with her four consecutive finals appearances (and Vendettas victory) after Camila left.
Although Camila was the better competitor and her two victories on Exes and Dirty 30 were much better than Cara’s wins on Bloodlines and Vendettas, Cara has double the amount of finals appearances of Camila and has a much better efficiency of making finals (Camila’s 5/12 compared to Cara’s 10/15).
Still, the Camilanator goes down as not only one of the craziest women to be on The Challenge, but also one of the best players.
3. Cara Maria Sorbello (Fresh Meat II)
15 Seasons: Fresh Meat II, Cutthroat (2nd place), Rivals (2nd place), Battle of the Exes, Battle of the Seasons, Rivals II (2nd place), Free Agents, Battle of the Bloodines (Win), Invasion of the Champions, Champs vs. Pros (Win), Dirty 30 (2nd place), Vendettas (Win), Final Reckoning (4th place), War of the Worlds (5th place), War of the Worlds 2 (Final)
13–6 Elimination Record
46 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 8.5/10
Who would have ever thought that the girl who had a breakdown in her first (and only) episode on Fresh Meat II would become one of the greatest females in Challenge history?
At her peak, Cara Maria might not be a top-five female of all time. But nobody has a résumé as stacked as Cara.
She has the most finals appearances in Challenge history by a woman with 10. She has the most elimination wins for a female ever with 13. She’s the second player ever to make five consecutive finals (on the flagship), only behind Kenny with six. She was the first solo winner of a season on Vendettas.
Cara Maria is not only the female face of the franchise, she has become one of the best competitors in the history of the show.
But Cara wasn’t always top dog. She started her run on the show as the underdog, constantly battling both with the house and with her own self-confidence. She was bullied by Laurel on Cutthroat, and by Wes, Paula, Jenn and CT on Rivals.
I think there’s two halves of Cara’s career, and there’s a pretty clear dividing line.
From Fresh Meat II to Rivals II, Cara was an above-average competitor, but by no means was she elite.
I think sometimes people exaggerate how bad of a competitor Cara was in her earlier seasons. You don’t make three finals by accident, and she was usually in the upper-middle class of female competitors.
Still, she was clearly behind Laurel and Sarah on the gray team on Cutthroat and was more or less carried to the finals by Abram. She wasn’t as good of a “number two” partner for Laurel as Paula was for Evelyn on Rivals. On Rivals II she held back Cooke in several daily challenges, although she came through in eliminations and in the last mission.
But Cara clearly started coming into her own on Free Agents. She drew the kill card three times, impressively taking out Nia in Looper, beating LaToya in Oppenheimer and defeating Jessica in Balls In.
She injured her hand against Jessica, then had to face perpetual frenemy Laurel in Wrecking Wall, where she was sent home.
After Free Agents, Cara reeled off one of the greatest runs by a female in Challenge history, making six of seven finals and earning two victories.
On Bloodlines, she and Jamie were in the rookie alliance with Thomas/Stephen, Dario/Raphy and Cory/Mitch, but that fell apart when Abram entered the game.
Jamie and Cara were forced to go into the final three eliminations. Cara solved the puzzle to take out her longtime rival Bananas in Through Thick and Thin, then she defeated Aneesa in Mine Not Yours to reach the final. She and Jamie were able to beat Cory/Mitch and Jenna/Brianna, as Cara captured her first championship in her eighth season.
She returned on Invasion of the Champions and lost to Laurel in Balls In, then went on one of the most epic runs in Challenge history.
It started with her Champs vs. Pros victory with Darrell, as the former Fresh Meat II partners were able to avenge their early exit by defeating Kamerion/Lindsey and Wes/Camila.
After losing to Laurel in Balls In on Invasion, she finished second in Dirty 30, winning six daily challenges and beating Veronica, Aneesa, Jemmye and Britni to get out of the Redemption House.
Despite only making one troika, Cara cruised to the final of Vendettas without seeing an elimination. She was the top finishing girl in the first part of the final, then became the first individual winner in Challenge history by completing the final puzzle first.
Paired with Marie on Final Reckoning, Cara didn’t have much of a chance to win her third championship. Still, the duo made it most of the game without seeing an elimination before losing to Shane/Nelson in Meet Me Halfway.
But they were able to get out of the Redemption House by beating Kam/Kayleigh in That’s the Ticket, then made it to the final.
Cara had one of her best seasons from a physical standpoint on War of the Worlds. Partnered with Theo, the duo made four tribunals.
She reached the final by winning the Crash Landing mission, allowing her to skip the final mission. Cara just missed out on making the top four, as she was unable to complete the math portion of the final before Theo.
Still, Cara made the most tribunals of any girl on War of the Worlds despite competing against one of the top female casts in Challenge history.
Her excellent political game continued on War of the Worlds 2, as her and Paulie completely controlled not just their own team, but also the UK team. Once again she skipped into the final without having to see an elimination, and was one of the final four players from Team US after the purge after the first day of the final.
Cara Maria is extremely difficult for me to rank, because you could easily argue that she should either be higher or lower. As a competitor, she’s clearly not in the top-five all time, and she’s never been considered a great political player.
However, in terms of what she’s accomplished, she could debatably be number one. But there are a couple of factors that keep her out of my top two.
First, Cara has been extremely lucky with partners. With Darrell, Laurel, Abe, Cooke, Jamie and Theo, she has probably the best partner luck in Challenge history outside of Johnny Bananas.
Cara also benefited tremendously from most of the top girls of her era leaving the show. She has seen girls like Evelyn, Laurel, Emily, Sarah, Camila and Paula come and go, leaving her as the top female competitor (at least before the influx of new castmembers on War of the Worlds).
And while she has done an impressive job staying out of eliminations in four out of five seasons in a row, Cara hasn’t always been the best political player.
There’s a reason she’s been in 19 eliminations (although to be fair, she has only been in five since Bloodlines).
She was unpopular with the rest of the cast early in her career (and still kind of is), and has often relied on others like Abe, Laurel and Paulie to make strategic decisions for her.
I honestly think you could argue for Cara to be anywhere in the top five.
Of the girls in my top-seven rankings (Rachel, Sarah, Camila, Emily, Laurel and Evelyn), I would rank Cara as the worst competitor.
But in terms of what she’s accomplished in her career, she’s arguably done more than any girl in the history of the show.
I think Cara earns her spot at three because her resume is borderline impeccable. She has made finals in 10/15 seasons, the highest percentage of any woman who has done more than six seasons.
The only times she has been eliminated, it’s been at the hands of Jill/Pete, Ty/Emily, Sarah/Chet, Shane/Nelson and Laurel (twice), all very strong teams/competitors. The only times someone beat Cara and didn’t go on to make the final was Shane/Nelson on Final Reckoning and Laurel on Invasion.
Cara is probably at the lower end of the top-10 females of all time at her peak, but her laundry list of accomplishments in the game speaks for itself.
2. Evelyn Smith (Fresh Meat)
7 Seasons: Fresh Meat, Inferno 3 (Win), Gauntlet III (Final), The Island (Win), The Ruins, Fresh Meat II, Rivals (Win)
6–3 Elimination Record
26 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 10/10
How is it that the two girls eliminated first on the Fresh Meat seasons went on to become two of the greatest female competitors in Challenge history?
Before there was Cara Maria, Evelyn went from first one out to female face of the franchise.
She was dealt a bad hand on her first season. Getting picked by Danny was a double whammy — not only was he one of the worst competitors in Challenge history, but he was also a part of the Real World: Austin cast that was immediately targeted by the vets. Ev/Danny were pitted against Wes/Casey in the first exile, where they lost (they had 37 more pounds of weight to carry than Wes/Casey).
Every Challenge fan wishes Evelyn would have been on The Duel to give Jodi some competition, but she wasn’t able to be on the season due to illness and didn’t return until the Inferno 3.
She was considered the best female on the Bad Asses and was never nominated for an Inferno, as none of the Good Guys wanted to face her in elimination. She won the final life shield by winning the Nothin’ But Net mission, absolutely destroying the competition and beating most of the guys. The Bad Asses beat the Good Guys in the final, as Ev captured her first title.
Evelyn was again the top girl on Gauntlet III, getting thrown in by the Rookies to try to have the Veterans lose their strongest player. The Vets were going to vote in Coral against Ev, but Coral quit rather than take an inevitable defeat. Instead Casey was voted in, where Evelyn didn’t break a sweat beating her in Ball Brawl. Ev was robbed of her second victory when Big Easy collapsed in the finals.
Evelyn cemented her status as a legend on The Island. Her season-long feud with Johnny culminated in her beating Dan and Tyrie in the Bridge It Face-off to earn a key. She then delivered one of the greatest speeches in the show’s history, calling out the group of Johnny, Kenny, Dunbar, Johanna and Paula by saying, “Fuck you and fuck your alliance” and stealing Bananas’ key.
Johnny won the next Face-off and took his key back from Evelyn, and it looked like she wouldn’t get another chance to get a key. But the last Face-off had all the remaining competitors without keys compete, and Evelyn outlasted Dan, KellyAnne and Johanna in the brutal Water Bound mission to win the final key.
Despite her constant bickering with Johnny throughout the season, she cut a deal with him and Kenny to steal Dunbar’s key in return for a spot on their boat. The boat of Ev, Johnny, Kenny and Derrick was completely stacked, and Ev picked up her second victory.
Any ideas that the issues between Kenny/Johnny and Evelyn were settled went out the window early on The Ruins. In the second elimination, Evelyn agreed to go into elimination, but only if it was to face Casey. However, the Champions wanted to keep the Challengers’ worst player on their team, and pitted Evelyn against her best friend KellyAnne.
Rather than have to deal with another season of being constantly targeted, Ev threw the elimination to KellyAnne.
Evelyn came in as a late replacement on Fresh Meat II after Jonna couldn’t get into Canada due to an issue with her passport, and she was partnered with the unpicked stoner Luke.
Evelyn and Wes quickly rallied the house against Kenny, as no one wanted to see Mr. Beautiful win his fourth season.
Despite having the entire house other than Kenny/Laurel and Jill/Pete on their side (Ryan/Theresa and Jenn/Noor were floaters), their alliance slowly crumbled, in part due to Kenny/Laurel’s dominance and in part because of strategic errors by Evelyn and Wes, namely throwing Brandon/Katelynn in against CJ/Sydney, sending in Danny/Sandy against Jill/Pete and in general trusting Ryan and Jenn too much.
Ev/Luke were sent into the third exile by Kenny/Laurel, where they defeated Paula/Jeff. By the seventh exile, Wes and Evelyn’s alliance had completely crumbled and they were pitted against each other, and Evelyn won her second exile of the season.
But she was thrown into the next exile against Landon/Carley, where her decision to not solve the puzzle gave them a five-minute penalty and resulted in her elimination (and subsequently resulted in her throwing a huge temper tantrum against Luke).
Getting paired with Paula on Rivals, the duo was the odds-on-favorite to win and didn’t disappoint. Although they got last in the first mission, they took out Aneesa/Robin in Hands On, then went on to win four missions and the final.
Evelyn became the second female in Challenge history with three wins, joining Veronica in the exclusive club.
There’s never been a more intense competitor — male or female — in Challenge history than Evelyn.
While she wasn’t a great political player — finding herself on the wrong side of the numbers on The Island and The Ruins and having one of the worst political breakdowns of all time on Fresh Meat II, she also had an aptitude for the game.
One of her most underrated moves was on Fresh Meat II, where she concocted a decoy plan to fool Kenny that the house would be voting in Ryan/Theresa. Since Kenny had loyalty to Ryan he agreed to give Ryan the matchup he wanted, but then the house changed the vote to put in Jill/Pete.
I thought long and hard about Evelyn versus Laurel for the number one spot. This was my rationale for giving Ev the silver medal.
I think when it comes to competition, there’s no clear answer to who’s better. I’d give Laurel an advantage when it comes to eliminations — she is 9–2 compared to Ev’s 4–3 record, and nobody can compare to Laurel when it comes to physicality.
In finals I’d give a pretty clear advantage to Evelyn, as she has better cardio than Laurel. When it comes to daily challenges, I think it’s pretty even between them, with maybe a slight edge to Laurel since Evelyn never quite dominated the dailies in a season like Laurel did on Fresh Meat II.
I wouldn’t call either of them great political players, as they each had one atrocious season — Evelyn on Fresh Meat II and Laurel on War of the Worlds 2. But I think Evelyn has a more strategic and analytical mind for the game, where Laurel has played more emotionally.
This was so close, I even went through all of their seasons and ranked them against each other. Here’s what I came up with:
- Laurel Free Agents
- Ev Rivals
- Laurel Fresh Meat II
- Laurel Cutthroat
- Ev Inferno 3
- Ev The Island
- Laurel Rivals
- Ev Gauntlet 3
- Laurel Invasion
- Ev Fresh Meat II
- Laurel War of the Worlds 2
- Ev The Ruins
- Ev Fresh Meat
Some of these seasons are close calls and can be debated, but Laurel’s average placement of 5.6 was better than Evelyn’s 8.
For me it ultimately comes down to Evelyn having two dud seasons on Fresh Meat and The Ruins where she was out first and second, while Laurel only has blemishes against elite competitors in Camila and Ninja.
Unfortunately for the fans, Evelyn retired after Rivals to pursue a career in law.
During her reign, it was almost unfair for Evelyn to compete against the other girls — it was like Lebron James competing against a bunch of high schoolers. If she had kept coming on the show, I have no doubt she would have continued to dominate and would have the most victories in Challenge history.
Although it’s now been almost a decade since she’s appeared on the show, Evelyn’s legacy as one of the fiercest, strongest, and greatest females in Challenge history remains intact.
1. Laurel Stucky (Fresh Meat II)
6 Seasons: Fresh Meat II (2nd place), Cutthroat (2nd place), Rivals (2nd place), Free Agents (Win), Invasion of the Champions, War of the Worlds 2
Elimination Record: 9–2
20 Challenge Wins
Daily Challenges: 10/10
There’s never been a more intimidating female competitor than Laurel. From her rookie season, she put herself squarely in the discussion of the female GOAT.
The second female picked in the Fresh Meat II draft after Cara Maria, Laurel and Kenny quickly found themselves facing one of the biggest uphill battles in Challenge history. After they won the first mission and threw in Darrell/Cara, Wes and Evelyn got most of the house to turn on Kenny/Laurel. Wes/Ev convinced Landon to vote Kenny/Laurel into the second exile, where they took out one of their biggest allies in Sarah/Vinny.
The only way Laurel and Kenny were going to stay out of exile was to win. And that’s exactly what they did, over and over again. They reeled off the next three victories, slowly re-gaining the numbers as Wes and Evelyn’s alliance began to implode, culminating with the two facing each other in exile.
Laurel and Kenny turned in one of the greatest seasons in Challenge history, winning five missions plus an exile. But while they looked unstoppable going into the final, they were upset by Landon/Carley.
Laurel’s reputation earned her the honor of being the second woman selected on Cutthroat by Shauvon on the grey team. Laurel was clearly the best female on the team, helping grey win five missions, including Laurel and Abram basically single-handedly winning the High Ball mission, and destroying everyone in Riot Act after originally trying to throw it.
In an incredibly dumb move by the grey team (specifically Abe), Laurel was sent into the Gulag to face Camila in Die Hard. Laurel narrowly took out Camila, avoiding a catastrophe for the grey team.
The greys were the favorites going into the final, but Abe and Sarah couldn’t complete it and held their teammates back, resulting in Laurel finishing second once again.
When Laurel was partnered with her enemy (although they had made up and were friends) Cara Maria on Rivals, it was always going to be a two-horse race between them and Ev/Paula for first place. And frankly, Laurel/Cara didn’t live up to expectations, winning just one mission and coming in last twice.
They were able to beat one of the best teams, Camila/Theresa, in Door Jam, and they completely dominated Jasmine/Jonna in Blast Off. But Laurel came up short again in the end, as Ev/Paula won in the final.
Laurel was long overdue for a victory when she came on Free Agents, but she had arguably her toughest war to get the win. Everyone knew Laurel was the heavy favorite going into the season, and that planted a heavy target on her back. Still, she exceeded expectations, winning four missions (including an individual and a partner mission). She had to go into four eliminations to make the final, taking out Jasmine, Aneesa, Cara Maria and Theresa.
In the final, despite being held back by Zach on the mountain climb in stage three, Laurel won the other four stages and defeated Nany by eight minutes to capture her first victory.
The only real blemish on Laurel’s resume came on Invasion, as she shockingly lost the Knot So Fast elimination against Camila (it’s been alleged that Laurel threw it, but personally I don’t buy it). However it’s not like it was a dud season for her, as she won the Roll With the Punches mission to earn safety from the first elimination, then took out Cara Maria in the Balls In elimination.
There’s no denying how great of a competitor Laurel is. Her political game is less impressive, as she has averaged going into two eliminations per season. But that’s more a product of bad circumstances than poor gameplay.
Fresh Meat II she was targeted just for being partnered with Kenny, Cutthroat she was sent in basically just because Cara was having sex with Abe, Rivals she only went in twice for getting last place in missions, Free Agents she was only voted in once while drawing the kill card three times, and Invasion she went in twice because she was the only option to go in both times.
She has successfully used intimidation in her political game, most notably turning Devyn against Theresa on Free Agents.
Laurel has a credible claim to being both the greatest female of all time in daily challenges and eliminations.
She has racked up nine individual/partner wins — behind only Paula with 11 and Cara with 10 (Paula is bolstered by 10 of her wins coming when she was partnered with Ev and Emily, while Cara is bolstered by doing a million seasons and having five of her wins come in troika/tribunal formats when there were three winners).
Laurel also has the highest winning percentage of any woman who has been in at least six eliminations.
To me there’s no definitive answer to who is the greatest female in Challenge history between Laurel and Evelyn, but by the slimmest of margins Laurel is my choice for female GOAT.