The new season of the CBS reality show Survivor premieres Wednesday night, with the 18 castaways divided into three tribes for a “Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty” theme.

Tasha Fox ’99 is one of those castaways, but good luck guessing which team she’s on. Fox is a former NFL cheerleader and college student-athlete who is also a certified public accountant in the finance division at Edwards Jones. In fact, in her audition video, Fox literally said she was a triple threat—brains, beauty, and brawn—before she even knew her season of Survivor: Cagayan would have that theme.

“That’s probably why they called me. It was meant to be,” Fox said.

For the record, the Illinois State University College of Business graduate will be in the “brains” tribe during Wednesday’s premiere. It’s a dream come true for Fox, a longtime fan of Survivor who auditioned three times before being given the chance to “outwit, outplay, and outlast” the other all-new castaways.

Fox spent seven weeks filming in the Cagayan province in the Philippines in July and August 2013. She can’t disclose how she did or if she won, but she can vouch for the show’s authenticity. No, the contestants aren’t taken back to a hotel for pizza after the cameras shut off each night, Fox said.

Tasha Fox poses

Illinois State grad Tasha Fox is a certified public accountant in the finance division at Edwards Jones. (CBS/Monty Brinton)

In fact, cameras are rolling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“You’ve got nothing but rice, a pot, and a machete. That is literally it,” Fox said.

But the secretive Survivor meant many of her colleagues at Edward Jones in St. Louis, where she leads the accounts payable team, couldn’t know the real reason for her two-month absence. She told them she was going on a mission trip with her church, though some co-workers were suspicious.

“I had to lie to the team,” Fox said. “In that sense, my Survivor experience started before I even left.”

But now her colleagues are excited for Wednesday’s premiere and are planning watch parties. Fox plans to go all out herself—hosting a big premiere party at a rented movie theater for “150 of my closest friends and family,” including some of her former St. Louis Rams cheerleading teammates.

Fox grew up in Alton, just outside St. Louis, and came to Illinois State on a track scholarship. She was also a Redbird cheerleader, which led to the position with the Rams squad after graduation.

Fox credits her Illinois State education in part for her early career success. While a student, internships helped Fox line up a job long before she even graduated, leading to a stress-free senior year.

“Thanks to ISU, I was well prepared for the real world,” Fox said.

The real world and, hopefully, the world of reality TV too.

Ryan Denham can be reached at