Mariah Vitoria doesn’t consider herself lucky.
Even though the 19-year-old Hilmar resident estimates she has won the cash equivalent of $400,000 to $500,000 in numerous prizes and trips over the years, she attributes her good fortune more to diligence than an extended winning streak.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” Vitoria said. “It also helps to stay super positive, even though the odds are against you.”
Vitoria is a sweepstaker, meaning she approaches sweepstakes and contests like she would a job. She estimates she spends an average of eight to 10 hours a day working on entries for the numerous contests she enters. Through that commitment she has amassed a surplus of prizes, from cash to free food to trips to one-of-a-kind items.
“I’m never just sitting on the couch watching TV,” Vitoria said. “I’m always multitasking and looking for new contests.”
Her latest victory was a $10,000 cash prize from TransUnion for creating the best video in the company’s “Season for Saving Facebook Video Contest.” The contest centered on the importance of budgeting and money management during the holiday season.
Whether it is a check for $10,000 or free taquitos for the next 10 years, the thrill of victory never fades for Vitoria.
“Winning never gets old,” Vitoria said. “It’s the best feeling ever. I jump out of bed and am so excited for my day.”
Vitoria, a business major at California State University, Stanislaus, got her first taste at the sweepstakes life when she was a sophomore at Hilmar High School.
It was a contest sponsored by radio station KHOP, in which the person who sent in the most texts would win a $1,000 shopping spree at Vintage Faire Mall.
“I had sent in a few texts, but then didn’t think about it for a while,” Vitoria said. “Then in the last week I got a burst of energy and really committed to the contest. On the morning they were calling the top 10 winners with the first place being called last, and they called me and said I had won the grand prize. I was so excited. In one week I had sent 143,000 texts."
Luckily, she has unlimited texting.
Her next victory was another radio contest and this time her texting netted her a trip to the Grammy’s.
From there she has gone on to win Prada sunglasses, a Juicy Couture purse, concert tickets, a signed Taylor Swift guitar, signed jerseys and footballs, a trip to New York, a stack of various gift cards and $22,500 from Kawasaki for and essay she wrote about her family.
Vitoria prefers the contests that feature a creative aspect, like making a video, taking a picture or writing an essay.
“I really enjoy it and I am good at it,” Vitoria said. “You could throw your name in a hat all day and not win anything. I like the ones that let me show my creative side.”
Vitoria’s diligence has landed her a spot on the new television show “Sweepstakers,” premiering at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the OWN network. Vitoria is one of three women the show follows as they attempt to win their coveted prizes. Vitoria’s storyline focuses on her attempts to win a car, baby items for a pregnant friend and what role school will play in her future.
“It was nothing like what I was expecting,” Vitoria said of the show’s filming. “It was both nerve-racking and exhausting, because everything has to be kept to a really tight schedule. But it was also really enjoyable.”
Wednesday is the pilot episode of the show and if it gets picked up, Vitoria will be one of the featured regulars.
In the meantime Vitoria will be turning her attention to HGTV’s dream home sweepstakes.
“Winning a home really would be a dream come true.”