‘Like a million dollars’
Tonganoxie woman wins Survivor reality TV show
A million dollars definitely trumps a crown and a bouquet of flowers any day.
Tonganoxie's Danni Boatwright was voted the sole survivor on "Survivor: Guatemala" Sunday on CBS, a title that gave her $1 million and a new Pontiac Torrent.
In 1996, Boatwright also was vying for a title on national television. At the Miss USA pageant, representing Kansas, Boatwright was down to the final two contestants.
On that night, however, she was named first runner-up.
But Sunday, Boatwright took the big prize.
She also finished as runner-up in the Miss Teen USA pageant, but preferred the Survivor title to either of the pageants.
"The title of sole survivor any day," Boat-wright said Monday. "It also says you're a tough chick. I love pageants, but it's a whole other ball game."
During Sunday's season finale, fellow castaways voted the 30-year-old Boatwright as the Sole Survivor against Stephenie LaGrossa.
Boatwright was awarded $1 million for winning the competition, which amounts to about $600,000 after taxes, according to her mother, Vicki Cackler.
"Third time's a charm there on national television," Boatwright said. "We got it done."
Deciding to compete
Boatwright and her family always have been big Survivor fans.
That pushed Boatwright to put together an audition tape and send it to CBS.
With roughly 50,000 tapes sent to producers for consideration, Boatwright was one of 18 people picked for "Survivor: Guatemala."
"My whole family, we're crazy," Boatwright said. "We're passionate about the Jayhawks and the Chiefs.
"That's how we are about Survivor. I don't think there are bigger fans than my mom and stepfather."
In the past, the family has hosted Survivor watch parties during the final episode.
Of course, this season the family took center-stage for the season finale.
How she prepared
The Tonganoxie resident did her homework after learning she would be a castaway for this season of Survivor.
Boatwright visited Cabela's to learn more about fishing techniques and other survival techniques.
She also read up on Guatemala and trained, much of the time at Unlimited Fitness in Tonganoxie.
One of Boatwright's friends, Jacquie Aziere, of Raytown, Mo., trained occasionally with Boatwright.
Aziere said Boatwright always wanted to do one more set of a lift, sometimes for biceps.
But Aziere said she would decline.
"Danni, I'm done," Aziere would tell her friend. "I don't want my biceps bulging."
In addition, Boatwright watched previous seasons of Survivor to get an idea of what likely was in store for her.
Despite all the preparations, Boatwright was worried she hadn't prepared hard enough.
That turned out not to be the case.
"I got down there and realized no one prepared that hard," Boatwright said.
Looking to adopt
During her appearance on CBS' "The Early Show" on Monday, Boatwright fielded questions about Survivor and what she planned to do with her money.
In the process, she talked about wanting to be a mother and using some of her money to adopt a child, adding, "I love kids so much."
During an interview Monday with The Mirror, she said originally pondered adopting a girl from China because she said orphanages there are overpopulated with girls who need homes. But after her stay in Guatemala, she's thinking about adopting a child from that country.
"Because of my age now, I really want to be a mom," the 30-year-old said.
Boatwright isn't married, but is seeing someone.
"I am dating somebody and he's absolutely wonderful and it's very new, so we'll have to see what happens," Boatwright said.
She said she would like to start looking into adoption next summer.
Here, there and everywhere
During her appearance on "The Early Show," Boatwright was presented with an over-sized $1 million check.
When asked the usual television interview question -- how does it feel -- Boatwright answered, "Like a million dollars. It's awesome. It's Christmas. I'm going to have to do Christmas for my nieces and nephews."
Along with her appearance on "The Early Show," Boatwright also appeared on "Live with Regis and Kelly" on Monday, which is customary for Survivor winners. She also appeared on "The Tony Danza Show" on Tuesday and will be featured in "People" magazine. She was expected to return home Tuesday night
Boatwright has been interning with the sports department at Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 and would like to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. She also has worked as a sports-talk radio show host on 610 AM in Kansas City, Mo.
In the past, Boatwright did some modeling worldwide, but said she didn't try out for Survivor to further any of her careers.
"I hate modeling," Boatwright said. "It's fine for some people -- it just never was my passion. I like the fact that I got to travel around the world. That's always what I wanted to do."
She also wanted to win Survivor because she was such a competitor.
"Some people use reality TV as an avenue to become an actor or actress," Boatwright said. "That's a plus of it, but I just wanted to compete."
Pros and cons
Along with winning $1 million, Boatwright said forming new friendships and actually playing the game of Survivor were definite positives she brought back from Guatemala.
Of course, there were some drawbacks as well.
Contestants weren't able to brush their teeth or take showers -- unless they won a challenge that included those as perks.
Their clothes never were washed, Boatwright said, and they didn't have many items of clothing to wear.
Although the castaways built a shelter, they basically slept on the ground while on the show.
"Sometimes it's better to sleep by the fire to stay away from the mosquitoes and spiders and stuff," Boatwright said.
On one occasion, a scorpion stung Boatwright, while a hornet stung LaGrossa near her eye. The scorpion sting didn't affect Boatwright, but LaGrossa had a slight reaction to the hornet. Doctors, though, were on hand during the castaways' 40-day stay in Guatemala.
As for bathroom facilities, Boatwright said there were none -- aside from an area away from the campsite that cast members used "as a bathroom area."
That marked about the only times when cameras weren't rolling, Boatwright said.
Boatwright said the No. 1 negative about the Survivor experience was the lack of food.
"As soon as we got out of the game, I ate a whole bag of Cheetos and chocolate," Boatwright said.
Boatwright said she lost about 20 pounds while she was in Guatemala.
While competing on Survivor, she mainly ate corn, nuts and bugs. Toward the end of filming, maggots infested their corn -- so they ate corn with maggots.
Getting used to the new diet bothered her stomach during the first few days, Boatwright said.
When she was able to eat normal food again, her stomach again needed time to adjust.
"It took a while for my stomach to get used to all of that food because I wasn't pacing myself," Boatwright said about returning home. "My body kind of freaked out when I got back."
While in Guatemala, Boatwright said she usually went three days between eating "real" food, if she received food during a reward challenge.
Of course, when she got back to Tonganoxie, she ordered plenty of food when she ate out.
"At Pammy Sue's and Fourth Street Cafe, they couldn't believe how much I ate," Boatwright said.
Keeping in touch
Boatwright has remained friends with tribal members from "Survivor: Guatemala."
Brandon Bellinger, who also was on the show, hails from Manhattan, Kan.
"Brandon and I, we talk all the time," Boatwright said. "He's like a little brother to me. "Rafe (Judkins) and I are really tight. Stephenie (LaGrossa) and I talk all the time."
Boatwright said she has taken Bellinger to two Chiefs games in Kansas City. She said he never had been to a professional football game before.
She also said Bobby Jon Drinkard would be attending a Chiefs game with her. And next summer, she plans to meet Jamie Newton for a Royals baseball game. Newton, who lives in Georgia, attended college at Central Missouri State University.
Boatwright has found several new friends and become much richer, all because she sent in an audition tape for a reality show.
It took 39 grueling days, but in the end, she was the Sole Survivor.
"There wasn't anything cheesy about it," Boatwright said. "It was hard-core."