Neleh Dennis Nielson was a runner-up from the American television reality show Survivor: Marguesas (2002). At age 21, she lived for 39 days on Nuku Hiva, the largest island in the Marquesas. She made it to the final cut and lost by one vote. Second place gave her $100,000. She made famous the Utah phrase, “Oh my heck!” and the luxury item she selected to take with her was her LDS scriptures. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She was born on February 19, 1980, in Heber City, Utah, one of eight siblings. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Helen, spelled backward. The family moved to California, Idaho, and settled in northern Utah. She graduated from Layton High School in 1998.
Dennis had a varied high school experience—from singing in choir, teaching dance, participating in theater, and working with mentally challenged young adults. She devoted her spare time to the Special Olympics. She earned her Certified Nurse Assistance (CNA) certification before she graduated and worked full-time with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing facility. She earned her associate’s degree from Weber State University. She pursued a degree in psychology and worked part-time as a psych tech in an adult psychiatric ward at a local hospital. She also worked as a make-up artist for a cosmetic company and worked toward a degree in cosmetology.
After all the excitement of her participation in the show died down, she went back to cosmetology school and married Kris Nielson. When she was being interviewed during casting for the show, she told them she aspired one day to be at home with her children, which they found funny. That is what she is doing now—she stays home with her three children. She does hair part-time and refinishes furniture in her garage.