MONTGOMERY COUNTY, N.C. -- On a 134-acre piece of land in rural Montgomery County, Jane Bright is doing what she was born to do: train show dogs - and their owners - to be champions.
"I just want to teach them how to do what I know how to do because it's natural to me because I've done it for so long," said Bright. She lives out on this sprawling property alone, if you don't count the nearly two-dozen dogs waiting to be prize-winning pooches like the ones that came before them.
On the other side of her acreage she has a sheep farm, a hay farm and free-range chickens. But don't let this solitary lifestyle fool you into thinking she's a private person.
"Most of the phone calls that I got were fans just dying to talk to me and dying to meet me," admitted Bright.
It's been 7 years since Jane was a fan favorite on Survivor: Nicaragua. She made it pretty far. Just five people lasted longer than she did.
Jane says she won't ever forget what life was like shortly after her season finished airing in December 2010. "Oh you couldn't go anywhere especially at Christmas time."
She was a celebrity everywhere she went. "You'd have a gaggle of people going 'that's her, that's her, I'm pretty sure that's her. Is that you, Jane, Jane!’"
And it hasn't stopped. Even now when she goes to a dog show, or really any other show, Jane is the center of attention.
"If I show up at an event and somebody realizes that it's me and they go tell somebody, they'll get me up on stage or something," said Bright.
Just a couple months ago, we met up with Jane at a Triad watch party for the season premiere of Survivor. An opportunity to also meet up with other former castaways.
"My whole world evolves around Survivor now in addition to what I do in my regular life," Bright said at the time.
It hasn't all been positive attention, though. "I actually ended up with hate mail,” admitted Bright. “Not lots of hate mail and not like some people from our season got hate mail."
That wasn't the worst of it.
People with a bone to pick would even call her at home. "I would listen to them for about 2 minutes and I'd say 'listen, you know what, I can be nice and talk to you on the phone but you're not being really nice to me so I see no reason for us to continue this conversation.’"
At her home, Jane still has plenty of conversation pieces like the clothes she wore on the show, even a cross she made there.
More Survivor mementos hang on her walls, including some things given to her by fans. Her followers liked her so much, they voted her fan favorite after her season. "America rallied behind me and gave me $100,000 so I used that money to build a building and help out with the farm."
The show also helped build a stronger relationship with her daughter. "It helped us bond, really,” said Bright. “When I got back from Survivor, there was no more arguing, no more nothing. It was like she grew up because I left her in charge of all this when I left."
After seven years, Jane insists the fame hasn't changed her. "I just take it in stride, I'm the same person. It didn't go to my head. I get up every day and take care of dogs and if I'm having to cut hay, I cut hay. If I have to cut a tree down, I cut a tree down."
It’s an attitude that likely helped her get on the show in the first place and one that she hopes will give her another shot at being the sole survivor.
Does Jane think she’ll get a second chance?
"If they don't wait too long,” she laughed. “You never know when your clock is going to quit ticking."
Jane has come close to that second chance. She said she's been asked twice to come back but missed the final selection both times.
Whether or not she gets that second chance, Jane will always have the life lessons she learned the first time around. "You don't let little bitty things bother you. That's not the big picture. The big picture is family first, you second, friends third."
And maybe her small, quiet corner of Montgomery County would come in a close fourth.
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