‘Big Brother’ is finally embracing diversity

Melina Khan, Associate News Editor

The Cookout was the first all-Black alliance in 'Big Brother' history leading to its first Black winner. Screenshot from Instagram @juliechenmoonves
The Cookout was the first all-Black alliance in ‘Big Brother’ history leading to its first Black winner. Screenshot from Instagram @juliechenmoonves

It only took 21 years and 23 seasons for the American version of “Big Brother” to finally crown its first Black winner.

Not only did this winner make history, the whole cast did. Early on this season, the six Black cast members aligned and vowed to remain loyal to each other in an alliance. The successful move was an effort to ensure the season’s winner would finally be a Black person.

Xavier Prather, a 27-year-old attorney from Milwaukee, walked away with the $750,000 grand prize on Sep. 29, marking a new chapter for the iconic show.

The outcome follows the show’s executives’ pledge for more diversity. CBS announced in November 2020 that its reality shows, including “Big Brother,” “Survivor” and “Love Island,” would commit to casting at least 50% people of color for future seasons.

The move was long overdue. In “Big Brother’s” history, only three winners out of 22 have been non-white.

That’s why The Cookout, this season’s all-Black alliance, was so groundbreaking. In general, most “Big Brother” alliances combust mid-season, which made the task even more challenging. The fact that the six Black players this season were able to knock out all the other competitors was honestly shocking. Even though I was rooting for them to make it all season, I honestly didn’t think it would happen. But as host Julie Chen Moonves always says, “expect the unexpected.”

Not only did Prather make history as the winner, but another member of The Cookout was also crowned victorious. Tiffany Mitchell, the 40-year old phlebotomist from Detroit, was voted America’s Favorite Houseguest and walked away with a $50,000 prize. Mitchell is my favorite and was my choice to win it all because of her skilled gameplay. She was the one who created The Cookout in the first place and was the brains behind the alliance’s strategy to stay afloat until the end. 

Mitchell is, in my opinion, one of the best to ever play the game. She balanced the personal and game relationships by cultivating strong social connections which gained her other houseguests’ trust. She even came up with a plan that would ensure the safety of The Cookout by having each of its members partner up with a non-member of the alliance and build their trust. This helped their game by ensuring that no one would grow suspicious of the alliance, but also so that they had someone to divert a target off of themselves if needed. Even though I wanted Mitchell to win, I knew she was too big of a threat to not be taken out. 

I do think Prather’s win is well-deserved. He played the game very respectably, managing to remain a frontrunner while staying away from the chopping block when he needed to. This balance was what helped him make it to the end. 

The outcome of the season is one to be celebrated, but the circumstances around it are disappointing. To me, having a cast that is 50% people of color should not have been something that needed to be committed to, it should have already been the standard. In previous seasons, an alliance like The Cookout would have never been possible because there weren’t enough Black people in one season to form an alliance this powerful. This means that from here on out, people of color will have more leverage on the show, as much as their white counterparts have always had.

Moreover, all of the cast members this season should be commended for their efforts. Not only did the Black cast members ride it out until the end together, the rest of the cast was supportive when they learned of the alliance. They recognized the history being made in front of them, something not all fans of the show could do.

Allegations of “reverse racism” were spewed online throughout the season, with some viewers saying The Cookout was discriminating against the white players of the season. This argument is frankly ridiculous. Historically, “Big Brother” has not been a welcome place for houseguests of color. The 24/7 nature of the show means that no comment goes unnoticed, and unfortunately, past seasons have been plagued by racist houseguests. The fact that the show has progressed is something to be celebrated, not ridiculed with false allegations.

As an avid fan of the show, watching this season was a breath of fresh air. Not only was it unpredictable unlike most recent seasons, but it showed how the pop culture we consume has the potential to make the necessary room for people of color. Seeing the Black competitors running the game this season sets an example for other reality shows and media outlets overall that embracing diversity is not only important but beneficial.