December 9, 1965 |
Vecepia Towery Robinson (born December 9, 1965 in Portland, Oregon) won $1,000,000 on the Marquesas edition of Survivor. She is the first African American contestant to win Survivor's top prize.
Survivor: Marquesas 
Originally part of the Maraamu tribe, Vecepia was not a target at the beginning of the game. When her tribe lost the first immunity challenge, she did not join the rest of her tribe to vote out Peter Harkey, but – together with Sean Rector – voted for Sarah Jones, believing that she was not pulling her weight. When Maraamu lost immunity once again in Episode 2, she joined Sean, Rob Mariano and Sarah to vote out the tribe's motherly figure, Patricia Jackson, due to her bossy attitude. When the tribe lost immunity once again in Episode 3, the new alliance of 4 targeted the tribe's strongest member Hunter Ellis and he was voted out.
In Episode 4, a tribal shuffle resulted in Vecepia moving from the Maraamu tribe to the Rotu tribe, along with Rob and Sean. But Sarah was left on Maraamu alone and was voted out shortly after. In Episode 5, a newly created alliance of Rotu tribe members John Carroll, Robert DeCanio, Zoe Zanidakis and Tammy Leitner threatened Vecepia's stay on the island, as well as Rob and Sean's. However, they were granted a reprieve when the alliance targeted Gabriel Cade due to his indecisiveness about his vote at tribal council. An immunity win in Episode 6 saw Rob, Sean and Vecepia safely into the merge.
When the two tribes, Maraamu and Rotu, merged into one, Soliantu, the old-Rotu members targeted the alliance of Vecepia, Sean and Rob. Seemingly doomed, Rob was the first targeted due to his excessive scheming; even Vecepia voted for him at tribal council as a way to distance herself from her old alliance. At the Final 9, Vecepia and Sean were able to convince Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien to side with them against the alliance of 4, but they also needed the votes of Paschal English and Neleh Dennis to ensure a majority. Both Paschal and Neleh were against the idea, but an immunity challenge which revealed the pecking order of the game and which showed the arrogance of the Rotu alliance allowed them to see they were playing for 5th or 6th place. As a result, Neleh and Paschal sided with Vecepia, Sean and Kathy and voted out the alliance leader John.
With the new 5-way alliance controlling the power, they systematically voted out the members of the broken alliance one after the other, starting with Zoe, then Tammy and finally Robert. At the Final 5, Vecepia and Sean let Kathy know that she was clearly a swing vote as the bond between Neleh and Paschal was way too strong to be broken. Despite denying a two-way alliance between themselves, Sean and Vecepia stayed together and voted against Neleh. But Kathy sided with Neleh and Paschal and Sean was voted out, leaving Vecepia without any allies.
Obviously the next target, Vecepia knew she needed to win immunity and did exactly that, guaranteeing herself a spot in the final 3. Immediately Kathy, realizing she could be voted out, made a final two alliance with Vecepia. When Kathy and Vecepia voted for Neleh and Neleh and Paschal voted for Kathy, there was a very tight deadlocked tie. Having two minutes to decide, the 4 could not reach a decision and a tie-breaker was put in place. Because Vecepia had immunity, the remaining three castaways drew rocks in order to determine who was voted out. Paschal, even though he received no votes, drew the purple rock and was "voted out". This was a very controversial move by the Survivor producers and was even admitted as a mistake. From that point on, the drawing of rocks has never been used in a Final 4 situation, with the producers opting to use a fire-building challenge instead.
Once in the Final 3, Kathy and Vecepia's alliance seemed sure to hold out, but when Kathy fell in the endurance immunity challenge, Vecepia made a deal with Neleh to give her immunity in order for Neleh to take her to the Final 2. Neleh agreed and Kathy was voted out. Once in the Final 2, both Vecepia and Neleh faced accusations of hypocrisy by the jury, and Vecepia explained that she was playing a very strategic game.
In the end, Vecepia Towery beat out Neleh Dennis in a 4-3 vote to become the Sole Survivor, gaining the votes of John Carroll, Tammy Leitner, Robert DeCanio and Sean Rector.
Personal life 
While Survivor: Marquesas was still airing, Vecepia married longtime boyfriend and fiancé Leander Robinson. Robinson had made a brief appearance on the episode where loved ones of the remaining Survivors came to visit. The birth of their child was later the subject of a TLC documentary, which also featured appearances by other Marquesas contestants, including Neleh (then married herself) and Sean.
She is a US Air Force veteran of the Gulf War.
- Lee, Henry K. (May 21, 2002). "Hayward woman 'sole Survivor': First African American to win TV show's $1 million prize". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
- "Vecepia Towery, 1st Black to win $1 million on CBS' 'Survivor'". JET. June 3, 2002. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
- Tucker, Ken (May 20, 2002). "Vee is for Victory". EW.com. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
|Title of Sole Survivor