Sorority sister becomes ‘Big Brother’ contestant


HouseGuest Rachel Reilly ’07 moves into the “Big Brother”
house in a scene from the first episode of the latest season of
the reality TV show. Photo courtesy of CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Although Rachel Reilly ’07 gained a sorority of sisters while earning her chemistry degree at Western Carolina University, she may not have predicted her current situation as a contestant on “Big Brother,” a reality television show in its 12th season.

Victoria Burleson ’10 remembers Reilly as not only a friend but a Phi Mu sorority sister. “She is so much fun and there’s never a dull moment with her,” said Burleson. Whether Reilly’s in Western North Carolina, in Las Vegas or on “Big Brother,” “Rachel is a wonderful, loving, free-spirited and fun person,” she said. “Rachel is a rock star.”

One fellow WCU alumna discovered on Facebook that Rachel was going to be on “Big Brother.” “I used to watch ‘Big Brother’ during the first and second seasons and actually enjoyed the show to an extent,” Bethany Rae Saindon ’07 said. “I then decided I would begin watching again because I knew Rachel.”

Reilly became sequestered from the outside world to contend in the competitive show, which is based on a group of strangers, known as HouseGuests, who live together 24 hours a day with no privacy for three months. The participants compete for the chance to win a $500,000 grand prize by avoiding weekly eviction, until the season’s final guest claims the prize.

Cynthia Atterholt, department head of chemistry and physics, recalls Reilly’s traits while a student at WCU, many of which may help Reilly during her time in front of the camera. “Rachel is a very personable young woman, and she worked hard as a WCU student,” Atterholt said. “She had determination and perseverance.”

To win the prize, Reilly believes she must play a game of strategy and deception. During a preshow interview, Reilly said she would “hustle the ‘Big Brother’ guests” into thinking she’s simply an attractive Las Vegas cocktail waitress. “Actually I’m a chemist, so I think I’m going to surprise everyone in the ‘Big Brother’ house with how smart I am,” she said.

Those who know Reilly agree. “On the show, Rachel definitely plays up her defined character as VIP cocktail waitress to the fullest,” Saindon said. “I think she is a very smart girl but is playing up a party girl image right now. I think people are underestimating her.”

Burleson, who considers herself one of Reilly’s biggest fans, loves watching her friend on television. “She seems to be the same person in a lot of ways,” Burleson said, “But the thing that stands out is that I know she is a strong woman and that she can hold her own.”

Editor’s note: Reilly’s housemates voted unanimously for her eviction in Episode 16.