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Facing Temptation and Becoming a Hero: An Interview with TNT's The Hero Winner Patty O'Neil

Facing Temptation and Becoming a Hero: An Interview with TNT's The Hero Winner Patty O'Neil

$180,000.

That is how much Patty O’Neil, a wife and mother of three, could have taken home over the course of The Hero. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson offered her a cash payout five times over the course of the season’s episodes, more so than any other contestant, and each time she refused, allowing the group pot to grow to $610,000.

“I just have to play this the honest way,” she has said throughout the season. That honesty paid off Thursday night when The Rock announced Patty as the winner and Hero of The Hero’s inaugural season.

“I’ve never dreamt about $610,000 so I can’t even imagine that it’s going to really come to me,” Patty told me immediately following the announcement, her voice still in a state of shock. “There are no words. I don’t dream like that, so I don’t even believe that this is real. I can’t believe that this is real.”

What started out as nine contestants soon dwindled down to the top five, where then America would vote on who was the most deserving of the prize money and title of Hero. Patty was the overwhelming victor, having received more votes than all the other contestants combined. She conquered her fears, subjected herself to teargas, and walked a 500-foot high tightroop to get to this point, but none of those were even the most difficult aspect of the show.

For her, it was not being able to see her family. “Difficult is different than hard. Difficult was not talking to them,” Patty said as she motioned over to her husband and children nearby. “Because when you can’t have your support system behind you and you have to go it alone, you have to figure out where it’s going to come from. I didn’t know where to get that.”

As it so happens, that support system came from The Rock himself. He was there with her every step of the way through every challenge, pushing Patty to conquer her fears.

First of all, letting me know, taking step by step at that very first episode and not being embarrassed of the fact that I was acting like The Little Engine That Could,” Patty recalls. “I kept saying, “I will not fail, I will not fail.” Next mission is a helicopter mission. He knows I don’t do heights and he’s like, “You’re going in.” You don’t tell him no so you go in and next thing you know I’m hanging out because I don’t even care about the heights and it just took off from there. Every mission he called me out on it, and I loved that. At the time I didn’t, but I love it now.”

Patty’s family has always been first and foremost on her mind when competing. She has no regrets when it comes to not taking the temptations The Rock enticed her with, after all, what kind of hero would she be if she had?

“I was raised by an honest Joe, and this is just the way I was brought up,” she said in regards to if she would do anything differently given another chance.  “I wouldn’t do anything to affect raising money for the American Red Cross, and I also wanted my children to know it wasn’t always about the money. Sometimes it’s about doing the right thing, whether you got to get a second job or not, stop making excuses, and do the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is what made Patty the hero that she is today. “This is my life,” she said pointing to her smiling family again. “This is the reason why.”

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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