October 8, 2021
For the first time ever, the latest season of Big Brother, which finds 16 houseguests competing in physical and mental challenges to obtain power and using their social skills to avoid eviction from the house, had 50% Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) contestants — thanks to a diversity policy CBS implemented last fall after years of complaints from fans and former players about the lack of diversity in reality show casts, including those of Big Brother and Survivor.
To win a show like Big Brother, contestants need to form alliances with other players to move forward in the game. Over the years, white players have dominated alliances to evict the outnumbered people of color early on. It happens every year — on Season 21, the first four players out the door were David Alexander, a Black man; Kemi Fakunle, a Black woman; Ovi Kabir, a Bangladeshi American man; and Isabella Wang, a Chinese American player. Meanwhile, white players have consistently made racist and homophobic remarks during live feeds available online that show what’s happening in the house 24/7.
Reality show contestants aren’t generally thought of as selfless. “I’m not here to make friends” is a common refrain on shows where the chance to win a life-changing cash prize is at stake. But Hannah Chaddha was one of six people who put their personal games on the backburner to play season 23 of CBS’s Big Brother as members of the Cookout, a secret all-Black alliance formed early on with the goal of getting all six to the end of the game. The strategy led to a Black contestant finally winning the reality competition series after more than 20 years.