'SURVIVOR' WINNER TINA TURNS BACK ON HER OWN FAMILY

Published on: May 9, 2001

"Survivor 2" winner Tina Wesson has coldly turned her back on her own family.

Tina's dirt-poor immediate family members have suffered beatings, rape, jail time, polio, and horrible deaths, but Tina has turned a blind eye to the needs of her own flesh and blood.

That's the shocking secret behind Tina's glitzy million-dollar Outback victory, says her brother, who's disabled by polio, flat broke and weeks from losing his home.

James Nicely, 50, who has undergone 14 operations on a polio-deformed leg, revealed trim and athletic Tina, 40, was separated from him, two other brothers and an older sister early in life.

"We are the family Tina doesn't want to know," Nicely told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview. "My brothers and sister are an embarrassment to her."

When Tina was 2, her parents J.R. and Roma Nicely divorced, plunging mom and kids into grinding poverty. Roma sent Tina, the baby of the family, to be raised by relatives Jim and Carolyn McClain, on the other side of their hometown, Knoxville, Tenn.

Tina hid her family past so well that a former high school datemate didn't have a clue they existed -- let alone lived in the same town. "She never, ever mentioned them to me," old flame Guy Henry told The ENQUIRER.

While Tina grew up in comfort, just miles away her brothers and sister were living in a poverty-stricken hell of beatings, deprivation and abuse. "We went days without food. When we did eat, it was mostly sugar on toast. I remember we even ate birds -- blue jays," said James.

Roma remarried and the man turned out to be a monster, "who beat my brothers in front of me and smiled -- he even let his friends beat us," said James.

The stepfather, now deceased, left after a few years but Roma never earned enough to support her children. She went on welfare and had to exchange sex for food. "She would have sex with this Shriner that took me back and forth to the hospital. He was an ugly man but we got canned goods," revealed James.

"A lot of bad things happened Tina doesn't know about -- my sister Vicky was going to marry a guy who wound up taking our mother out on an abandoned road where he beat and raped her."

Lucky Tina developed athletically and attended the University of Tennessee. Sadly, malnourished Vicky, who's 53 today, lost all her teeth by age 12 and has had to wear dentures ever since. Vicky also has emphysema and asthma and no health insurance to help with the bills.

"None of us got through high school -- most only got to the eighth grade," Vicky told The ENQUIRER.

Vicky claims she's only seen her baby sister a few times -- and says Tina's rejection of her and her brothers has been deeply hurtful.

Five years ago, their brother Robbie Nicely was killed in a car crash at age 37. "Tina knew, but she never even called," said Vicky.

Then, three years ago, Steven Nicely, 45, was convicted of rape and, "got 22 years in prison," divulged Vicky. "It's a horrible crime but Tina is supposed to be this forgiving Christian and she never visited Steve."

Tina's natural mother, Roma, died three years ago. Tina attended the funeral but remained distant from her siblings.

Ironically, Tina finally told the sad tale of her family's misfortunes -- to win sympathy from other "Survivor 2" contestants. Revealed a show insider: "Maralyn Hershey was particularly touched by her story about a brother with a crippling disease and decided to never vote her off. Then in typical Tina fashion, she voted Maralyn off."

Since winning, Tina has vowed to pay off a friend's mortgage and start a fund for needy families. Yet her needy brother James can't survive on $400-a-month disability and has received a foreclosure notice on his house. James desperately wants Tina's help to save his home but he does not want to beg. He's tried contacting Tina through other family members.

Said James: "When she won, I prayed she'd help, but she hasn't called."

-- DON GENTILE