Local woman wins grand prize on ‘Love Cruise’
By GERI NIKOLAI, Rockford Register Star
A year after she won a trip around the world and $100,000 on a "reality" TV show, Melissa Zolmierski still is learning things about herself.
Like she can keep a secret, no matter how hard it is.
Zolmierski, who grew up in Machesney Park and now lives in Chicago, couldn't tell anyone that she had won under threat of a $5 million lawsuit from producers of "Love Cruise," which concluded on Fox TV Tuesday night.
"That was the hardest part. That was tough," Zolmierski said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "But I was super-paranoid about getting sued."
Zolmierski has done plenty of rejoicing since the "Love Cruise" finale aired. She's talked with her mother, Sherry of Machesney Park, and friends, including five other "Cruise" contestants. The show featured 16 young singles scrapping and scheming to claim the grand prize.
Now the question is, when does she get her prizes.
"I don't think I'll be going anywhere for a while," said Zolmierski, "with the things going on in the world."
As for the cash prize, Zolmierski, a respiratory therapist, said she's made no spending plans.
"Not until I see it," she said. "I don't know what I'll do with it, maybe put it in the bank so I don't spend it."
Melissa had warned her mother that things got raw in the final episode, when she broke down in a discussion of her father's death four years ago.
"They finally pushed her buttons," said Sherry Zolmierski. "The death of her father was the only thing that would ever break her."
The incident was emotional for the whole family, Sherry said, who added that Fox aired only a small part of the conversation and outburst.
"I'm glad for her, that she won," Sherry said. "But I wish it had ended on a more positive note for her."
Melissa Zolmierski, 26, said she has no regrets.
"It was an adventure, the trip of a lifetime," she said of the 3 1/2-week sailing experience. "I made some friendships I'm sure will last a lifetime. It's a great way to really get to know people."
As for the scheming, silliness and sex encouraged by producers and promoted by Fox, Melissa tried not to get deeply involved.
"Some of it was kind of stupid," she said. "I think they made up half of this as we went along."