By Julissa McKinnon, STAFF WRITERhttp://www.trivalleyherald.com/Stories/0,1413,86~10669~1187307,00.html
HAYWARD -- Before Vecepia "Vee" Towery, 37, conquered the nationally televised "Survivor: Marquesas" challenge last May, her goals were set. Like countless middle-class professionals, she talked about remodeling her home, starting a family and investing in her unborn children's future.
So when her former "Survivor" competitors voted her alpha female of the island, Towery, known offstage as Mrs. Robinson, took her starry gains in stride. Even as she was whisked by private jet to New York and Los Angeles for interviews and photo ops, she reminded herself that "15 minutes of fame is just that."
As soon as Towery landed back in Hayward, she started tackling her "to do" list. The wiry Towery helped her husband, Leander Robinson -- an electrician -- finish remodeling their one-story, three-bedroom Hayward home. The couple also tended to family matters, and Towery, now seven months pregnant, is putting the final touches on her baby boy's bright-yellow room.
Towery said the best part of her dream home, which now features vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, and an entertainment center with seven remote controls, is that it's paid off.
It turns out her $1 million prize -- well, $530,000 after taxes -- was just enough to fulfill her goals, and send a little something to her closest family members, she said.
But Towery is still cashing in on her win. She writes columns for online journals commenting on the latest "Survivor" drama, hedging her bets on who will get kicked off next. She also hosts a show called "Survivor Chasers," popping in to fire stations and car dealerships to gossip about the latest and greatest "Survivor" scandal. The aspiring celebrity also plans to participate in a "baby story' reality show on the TLC network, in which a camera crew will follow her through her final weeks of pregnancy and ultimately into labor.
Towery said she plans to ride the "Survivor" comet as long as she can.
During one of her motivational speaking gigs, Towery told students at Brenkwitz High School in Hayward that a million dollars doesn't last forever, especially in Northern California, tossing out that she has only $50,000 left.
She said she planned on returning to work as office manager at Think Business, a Union City software company.
Last week, her boss informed Towery that the company was folding. But unlike many of her former co-workers, Towery isn't worried about finding work.
"Survivor" is helping her thrive.
Besides contemplating a career in broadcasting, she also ponders returning to school to get a master's degree in sociology and becoming a school counselor.
Towery, who spent ten years in the Air Force, adds that her wilderness exploits aren't over. A distant day might see her trudging through the Amazon or Africa, braving pythons and spiders the size of dinner plates. If there is an All-Star Survivor, where all the champs match up for an alpha-only competition, she'll definitely be there, she said.
In the meantime, she's embarking on her biggest adventure yet. Towery loves showing off the ultrasound pictures of her baby -- Jordan Levon Robinson -- who is due on May 6.
"I just cry -- I get so touched, every time I look at (the pictures)," Towery said, adding Jordan Levon is a kicker and she thinks he'll want out early.