Vecepia Towery – Winner of Survivor: Marquesas
Vecepia won the fourth season of Survivor, which aired in 2002, and was the first African American woman to win a reality show and to this day is the only African American woman to win Survivor. She’s been getting a lot more respect amongst Survivor diehards recently, but for the most part, people have her at or near the bottom of their winner rankings.
Here’s why Vecepia should get more props than that. She started off on one of the worst tribes in Survivor history and THE worst at the time, Maraamu, who didn’t win a single challenge prior to the Day 10 swap. After Peter was sent home first, Vecepia wisely joined a four-person alliance that took out two more people before the swap occurred.
After the tribe switch, Vecepia was outnumbered 5-3 and she laid low while Rob and Sean ruffled feathers and became bigger targets. When new Rotu finally did have to go to tribal council, Gabe, who was one of the original Rotu members, was taken out because he was just there for the adventure and not to play the game.
Vecepia made the merge down in numbers 7-3 and when Rob was immediately taken out, she only had Sean on her side. Things changed at the reward challenge when the Rotu 4 revealed the pecking order and from there, Vecepia and Sean convinced the three old Rotu members who were on the bottom to flip and change the game.
This moment is still one of the biggest moments in Survivor history because we hadn’t seen anything like this before. In fact, Marquesas is a very important season as far as Survivor strategy goes, so the fact that Vecepia won the season is very telling as to how impressive of a win it was.
Vecepia was down in numbers once again when Kathy chose to vote with Neleh and Paschal, eliminating Sean and here we come to a VERY important part of her game and why she was a smart player. Back in the olden days of Survivor, contestants were allowed to bring a luxury item with them. Vecepia brought a journal and in that journal, she wrote things about her fellow contestants, as her goal was to get to know everyone as best she could.
This came in handy because again, in the olden days of the show, the Final Four immunity challenge was called “Fallen Comrades” and this was where Jeff Probst would ask questions about the other 12 people they played with and they had to guess who he was talking about.
Vecepia went into the season knowing this was the Final Four challenge, so her bringing the journal as her luxury item was strategic. There’s even a scene where the others are bouncing topics off of each other and Vecepia plays dumb, but tells us that she knew exactly what they were talking about, but she needed to win immunity.
She smoked her fellow competitors, winning immunity and getting to the Final Three. Vecepia and Neleh both knew that Kathy was the biggest threat to win the game, so when Kathy stepped off of the perch, Vecepia voluntarily gave immunity to Neleh if she’d promise to take her to the end. Vecepia knew Neleh would because, again, Kathy was the biggest threat to win it all.
Vecepia won Survivor: Marquesas in a 4-3 vote and for a long time, was forgotten about when discussing past winners. She wasn’t even asked to appear on Winners at War, which is a huge sign of disrespect. It’s nice to see that the show’s fourth ever winner is finally getting the props she deserves amongst the diehards.