Growing up, Cher was the most pampered princess ever, mainly because she was the youngest child and the only girl. Two years ago, she threw the sickest My Super Sweet 16 party that Tampa, Fla., had ever seen, proving that the world was her oyster....... Read Full Episode Summary »
Cher is being sent off to live with the Embera Tribe in the deep jungles of Panama. Cher will have to undergo a work ethic transformation in order to achieve the respect of the villagers and to be deemed an "Embera woman."
Is Cher still relying on her Mom for everything? Find out in this exclusive interview with the former Sweet 16er.
Growing up, Cher was the most pampered princess ever, mainly because she was the youngest child and the only girl. Two years ago, she threw the sickest My Super Sweet 16 party that Tampa, Fla., had ever seen, proving that the world was her oyster.
Now, Cher is 18 but her parents still baby her. Every morning, her mother wakes her up and makes her breakfast, catering to her every need. But since Cher is heading to college in the fall, her parents think she needs to be more independent. Of course, Cher doesn't see why anything has to change.
Cher is best friends with her mom, and when they're separated they constantly talk on the phone. So, when her parents break the news that she's being Exiled to the jungles of Panama for an entire week, she's shocked to learn they are not going and she will have no cell phone. Yes, it's time for this little girl to grow up and become an independent young woman. Still, mom helps her pack for the big trip.
At the airport, Cher shares a teary-eyed goodbye with her parents before heading to Panama City. When she arrives, she takes a canoe down a river. When she arrives at the Embera Puru village, she is greeted by men banging drums and beautifully dressed women covered in tattoos. She meets Lisette, a girl her age, and does her best to speak Spanish to the villagers, but she's met with stony silence.
When Cher is shown the hut she will be sharing with Lisette, she learns that she'll be sleeping on the floor. Then, Cher, a vegetarian, learns that the Emberas consume a lot chicken, fish and even monkeys. When Cher spots an empty turtle shell in the hut, she reminisces about her pet turtle ... until Lisette explains that in Panama people eat the hard-shelled reptiles. Panicking, Cher explains what a vegetarian is and wonders what she can eat. Looks like it's going to be plantains and rice for a week!
With food on the brain, Lisette tells Cher to start a fire so they can cook. But even with matches, Cher struggles to get things going. Once the fire is blazing, Lisette explains that they will be preparing plantains and fish, and Cher is less than thrilled to have anything to do with grilling up the scaly creature. When the meal is ready, Cher refuses to eat the fish, so she helps herself to a big scoop of plantains.
That night, Cher makes her bed on the floor of the hut. When Lisette covers her with a mosquito net, she freaks out when she learns that catching deadly Dengue fever is a possibility.
The next day, Lisette wakes Cher up bright and early to gather food. They meet up with some of the other young women in the village and head into the jungle looking for plantains. As they make the hike, Cher complains about the walk and wading through the river.
When the group finally reaches their destination, Cher watches in surprise as the girls chop down trees with machetes. She thinks it's terrible that they are cutting down whole trees for a few plantains. When it's her turn, she decides to climb the tree instead of hacking away, but when she spots a bunch of spiders she changes her mind. Cher saws away at a tree as the other girls raise their eyebrows at her unusual technique. After kicking the tree down, she accidentally uproots two other trees. Tired, she claims she doesn't have the strength to carry a big basket of plantains back to the village. However, Lisette makes her.
On day three, Cher and Lisette must squeeze juice out of some sugarcane. Cher almost immediately says she's tired, but Lisette doesn't think she's trying hard enough. Lisette explains that Embera women are strong, so clearly Cher is not a woman yet. Soon, though, Cher gets into the spirit of things and is able to fill a bowl with juice.
While making lunch, Cher explains that in her Jewish culture girls become a woman at their bat mitzvah. To this, Lisette reveals that Embera girls become women by being separated from the rest of the villagers for a whole week. Then, on the last day, they are tattooed all over their bodies.
While cooking, Cher spots a dead ant in the food and accidentally knocks over the simmering meal. With lunch ruined, she goes through her suitcase, pulls out some snacks she brought and shares them with her new friends.
Later, Cher and Lisette hike through the Panama jungle to a place where the other villagers are making a canoe out of a tree. The canoe is important to the tribe because it is used to fish and take kids to school. When they arrive, Cher shows off a mini motorized fan she brought with her to keep cool. Unimpressed, Lisette makes her use an ax to chop bark off the tree. After a few minutes of hacking away, Cher realizes that her chores back home aren't so bad. As the sun goes down, Cher and Lisette must run through the jungle to avoid the poisonous snakes that come out at night. Yikes!
The following day, Cher and the villagers head back into the jungle to carry the canoe to the river. Basically, they need to haul a huge tree trunk two miles by using a series of ropes and pulleys. With her fan in tow, Cher annoys Lisette when she takes a break to cool off. As she slips and giggles while trying to help, Lisette barks that work is no laughing matter.
Pulling the ropes gives Cher blisters, but Lisette is constantly yelling at her to work harder. To prove how hard she's trying, Cher shows off her blisters but Lisette is unimpressed. Near tears, Cher wants to call it quits until Lisette gives her a pep talk about how important it is for the canoe to make it to the river. Cher realizes that it's not about getting a pat on the back but getting the job done.
When the villagers run into a problem moving the canoe, Lisette gives Cher a pop quiz about what they should do next -- and Cher's idea works! After six hours of hard labor, everyone celebrates when they finally make it to the river. Cher feels a sense of accomplishment and Lisette thanks her for her help as they take a victory lap in their new mode of transportation.
For all her hard work, Cher is given some traditional garb to wear and Lisette covers her with temporary tattoos. Sporting her new look, everyone knows Cher is a strong woman. After she presents one of the tribesmen with her fan, the villagers teach her a dance. Later, she shows off a picture of her family and gives Lisette a bracelet she made as a going away gift.
On her last day in Panama, Cher sadly says goodbye to Lisette and the other villagers before heading home. When she lands on familiar ground, she proudly shows her parents her tattoos. As she tells stories, she starts to cry because she really feels as though the experience changed her. Still, she'll always be the baby of the family.
Two months after being Exiled, Cher starts college. She remembers her experience fondly, keeping a picture of Lisette on her desk and cooking plantains for her friends. She has even started selling handmade bracelets so that she can give back to the Embera tribe.