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Before we begin, I want to give a massive congratulations to the first black winner of Big Brother, Xavier Prather. Now... I have to come clean, I have never watched a single season of the popular television show Big Brother. I am a lover of all reality television shows, but I just cannot watch it. Let’s just say… my plate is full. However, after the most recent season of Big Brother, I might have to make some room on my plate. This historic season of Big Brother created an alliance for people of color to do the impossible. And they called it the “cookout”. Ya’ll, they had me at “cookout” with an unprecedented act that, like it’s name, is equally funny and fulfilling.
Prior to the cookout, my knowledge of the show was similar to that of The Bachelor (prior to joining the franchise). I knew one thing about Big Brother…Black people don’t win. So, in essence, I knew the show was not for us and I did not watch it. The first Big Brother aired in 2000. Since that airing, there have been 22 seasons with 22 winners. Of those 22 folks, you guessed it, almost all of them have been white.
Sadly, there is a common denominator on these types of reality television shows, a “white” through line if you will, that ends in elimination for people of color and success for white folks. I remember laughing about this little known fact prior to my own journey; but it is actually a big issue and it is disturbing. We all know about it but turn a blind-eye to how problematic it truly is. We just accept that it is the way things are, but really it is complicity…the inaction is an action.
When black contestants do take action and participate on these shows, they are confronted with uphill battles from other contestants that include, but are certainly not limited to: microaggressions, isolation, misunderstandings, racially motivated stereotypes and racism. If you are reading this you are most likely well-versed in my struggles on reality television and thereafter; but I am not alone. On Big Brother, contestant Da’Vonne Rogers passionately expressed her desire to achieve the impossible against 22 seasons of odds, stating:
I felt this in the deepest parts of my soul. And Da’Vonne is just one example. There are countless more from some of your favorite reality shows, Bachelor, Bachelorette, Big Brother, Survivor, etc.
Which is why what Derek Frazier, Tiffany Mitchell, Hannah Chaddha, Azah Awasum, Xavier Prather, and Kyland Young did is so impactful and groundbreaking. Yes, the result of having an inclusive cast with half the contestants being of color was something mandated by CBS after America’s “racial awakening” in 2020; but these six individuals did not stop and rely just on making the cut to join the cast. They realized the power they held and acted on it to determine their own success using the support of others who looked like them. They seized the opportunity and depended on themselves.
And this got me thinking, what if the contestants from the Bachelor franchise did the same? What if they came together to write their own success story rather than waiting on production to do something they have never done before or after my season? Would it shock you if I told you it almost happened?
Shortly after the fallout from the Chris Harrison interview, we saw the contestants of color publicly unite to put out a statement, all in one accord, to condemn the acts of the franchise and production. Then we saw interviews from contestants stating they would not go on to Bachelor in Paradise if changes were not implemented. We all saw the fight and it was a beautiful thing to witness. I was personally moved. What you did not see were the private conversations, Zooms, and countless messages where people of color from the franchise (not all of them) were discussing how they could join together to demand the change they wanted to see within the franchise. It was the cookout before the cookout. The only difference…they never cooked a single meal for anyone to feel invited to have a seat at the table. There were no collard greens, no potato salad, no BBQ chicken, no macaroni, no dinner rolls, no watermelon…nothing. So what happened?
Nothing! They got scared. They didn’t realize the power they possessed. In actuality, the production was scared. They needed people of color on their show, especially during these times. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if no people of color were on the beaches of Paradise? Now to the Bachelor Klan this would be their ideal world, but to everyone else and for a franchise that was under a microscope, it would have been the end of it. They needed us more than we needed them. We possessed the upper hand. And I wished as a whole, the “Bachelor cookout” could have seen and then utilized their power. But the show, the damn well-oiled machine that it is, played a little game of divide and conquer. And slowly began to pick off each contestant of color with empty promises of future bachelor/bachelorette possibilities, an increase of followers, and podcasts. And let’s be honest, they are colored out between Tayshia, Matt, and Michelle…so a black lead is not happening anytime soon. Oh and to that point…Welcome to the franchise, Clayton Echard and welcome back Jessie Palmer.
I wish Bachelor contestants of color, equipped with so much influence at that time, could have created an alliance like the Big Brother cookout. I wish they could have leaned on one another and come together to accomplish what they desired. I wish they would have had their own awakening. But at the end of the day most did not, and thankfully some did. And because they took control of their destiny to create an alliance, they are establishing a historic precedent that hopefully other contestants of color on reality television will follow, including those on the Bachelor.