An article about Natalie from Salem Statemen-Journal
Bikini barista celebrates long run on reality TV series
Family, friends surprise Natalie Cunial, who starred in 'Big Brother'
By Jillian Daley • Statesman Journal
May 5, 2008
Former "Big Brother 9" contestant Natalie Cunial thought she was just visiting her aunt Sunday in West Salem.
But Cunial's family and friends had arranged a surprise party welcoming home Salem's nationally known bikini barista.
Her aunt and uncle own Julia's Tea Parlour, and when the 28-year-old stepped into the party room, she was greeted by shouts of "Surprise!" and "Welcome home!"
"You tricked me," she said to the group of supporters. "I should get used to this, especially after 'Big Brother.' They tricked me, too."
Cunial was referring to how she got on the show. After three months and more than 1,000 interview questions as a candidate for the reality TV show, CBS officials told her in January that she was a finalist.
She showed up at the set, expecting a few pictures and more grilling, only to learn she was more than a finalist. She had been chosen as one of 15 people to live in the "Big Brother" house for the show's ninth season.
She moved in Feb. 7.
Cameras follow the housemates every second of their stay, and each week contestants vote out one housemate. The winner is the last standing, taking home $500,000. The runner-up scores $50,000. Other contestants earn $750 per week.
Cunial didn't win, but she lasted until week 11, one week shy of the April 27 finale.
"She wasn't a backstabber," fan Cheryl Hemphill said. "You see that a lot on the reality shows. If she had been a little more conniving, maybe she would have made it to the end."
Hemphill, who is Cunial's aunt's neighbor, stopped watching the show when Cunial was kicked off. She couldn't stand to see a good girl done wrong.
"She's a down-to-earth person, very well-liked," said Cunial's aunt, Kathleen Sheehan. "She's a good-hearted person who will do anything for anyone."
"Honest, to the end," agreed Cheryl Hemphill's husband, Eric Hemphill.
The show has ended, but Cunial said her career is taking off.
The former Chemeketa Community College and Sprague High School student plans to continue working at Bikini Coffee Company, 2195 Mission St. SE, Salem, where servers brew lattes in swimsuit tops.
But after she's saved up enough money, Cunial plans to move to Los Angeles to check out some acting offers, including a possible horror film gig.
"And follow my dreams," she said.