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Reilly, WCU alum and 'Big Brother' winner, returns to Cullowhee

By Caleb Gray
On November 24, 2011

Many people in the U.S. know Rachel Reilly from her time on two seasons of the hit television reality show "Big Brother", but locally she is still a Catamount.

Reilly, who won the $500,000 grand prize at the end of the 13th season of "Big Brother", returned to Cullowhee over Homecoming Weekend and tailgated dressed in purple and gold, just as she did when she attend Western Carolina University from 2002 to 2006.

While at WCU, she was involved in a number of organizations like Phi Mu, RSA, and SGA.

"I think being involved in your university helps you to grow into someone successful," Reilly said. "You have to go for it."

Reilly graduated from Western with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and moved to Las Vegas after graduation.

In Las Vegas, Reilly worked at a lab developing chemistry technology, but she said that it was not really for her. She eventually quit her lab job and started to work as a cocktail waitress. While there, Reilly was able to be around her passion of entertainment, and she met a few people from "Big Brother". She auditioned and was cast for Season 12.

Reilly said that season was difficult for her because she felt she was the girl people loved to hate. She continued by saying that did not discourage her however because it was a competition, and she was not on the show to make friends.

Season 12 ended without Reilly wining the competition, but she did find her fiancé on the show. She was also asked back for Season 13 where she won the grand prize.

She says even though it was tough, she fought through it to win.

"I think you should always pursue your dreams," Reilly said. "Nothing is out of your reach."

When asked what she was working on now, Reilly said she was working with a company on making a YouTube channel that taught science in an entertaining way. She says that they are working on combining education and entertainment in order to get kids excited about learning.

She also says she is working to get a hosting job with a network that would pick up her educational show. Reilly says this is her passion, and has advice for Western students desiring to pursue it.

 "I've always had a passion for entertainment and I've always had a passion for science. And if you can combine your two dreams and your two passions, then that is a really special thing," Reilly said. "You should go for whatever you're passionate about. And don't say it can't happen. And don't say you don't have the money. And don't say you can't do it.

"I mean if there is one thing we learn here at Western it is to be resourceful," she added. "So use everything you learn in college like your work ethic to fight for and pursue what you want. Because you have to fight for it, and anything good is worth fighting for."


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