On September 25th, 2002, a black woman named Danielle Reyes was the first female player to not only outsmart, but dominate the game of Big Brother was robbed of her win due to the bitterness and unconscious biases of her housemates. These housemates eventually made up a nine-person jury, who voted in favor of the person sitting next to her, resulting in an 8-1 vote and Danielle’s loss.
Exactly 20 years later, on September 25th, 2022, Taylor Mackenzie Dickens-Hale won the game of Big Brother in a vote of 8-1 in her favor. This event made Taylor the first-ever black female winner of Big Brother US, changing the trajectory and meaning of the game forever.
For those unaware of Big Brother and what the reality gameshow entails, here’s a quick rundown:
At first, Big Brother was created to be more like a social experiment in the year 2000, based on the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell and the concepts of a Dutch production company called Endemol. (There is so much more to this history that I will be revisiting in a later article.)
After realizing that the concept wasn’t very entertaining for an audience, the producers went back to the drawing board to formulate more of a game-centered approach. The overall premise of the show is to outlast 15-20 other adults, depending on the season’s theme, in a small studio-built house for over 80 days. To survive each week, one must avoid being evicted from the house by either winning ‘Head of Household’ competitions, the ‘Power of Veto’ to be automatically safe from eviction, or being a great social player. Once it has come down to the finale, the people in the final two must face a jury of nine former houseguests who will vote for who wins the prize money. In recent years, it has been raised to $750k.
You may be wondering why it is so impressive that Taylor Hale was able to win Big Brother and how her specific journey is so special. The answer, unfortunately, has to do with the same kind of unconscious — sometimes conscious — biases Danielle Reyes had to face in her season twenty years ago.
For the first few weeks of the season, also known as pre-jury, Taylor was verbally harassed, ostracized, and pushed to her breaking point multiple times. Most of the houseguests displayed such prejudice towards Taylor that it was uncomfortable to watch, despite the fact that production had made a diversity initiative two years ago. This initiative was made for the sole purpose of making 50% of the cast consist of POC, in order to prevent that same kind of blatant racism and prejudice from being displayed towards the few people of color that had been cast in seasons prior. What made it worse was that she was the only darker-skinned black woman, and it might not have occurred to the producers that colorism can also take place, which is what the audience witnessed firsthand.
Regardless of what Taylor had to endure from such an unfortunate cast, she had only one goal in mind, a goal that didn’t have to do with money. No matter who or what got in her way, even when her closest ally was made out to betray her and was evicted during a game twist, she persevered for that goal. She was going to be the first black woman to win Big Brother US and she was going to do it with grace. Once she made it to the final three, Taylor was underestimated in her jury management, taken to those final two chairs, and was victorious with an almost unanimous win. It’s been a couple of weeks and her final speech still gives me chills, in which she displayed the utmost courage and emphasized that she is not ‘a shield, but a sword and not victim, but a victor.’
Not only is it impressive that Taylor managed to make it to the end AND win the grand prize, but she also won ‘America’s Favorite Player’, which granted her a cruise trip for two and another $25k. This was another historic win, considering that no one had ever won both until now.
All in all, this was one of the biggest events in reality TV and so many people are moved by it, myself being one of those people. I cannot say much about the movement that she was able to carry on because it is not my place, but I can say that Taylor Hale showed anyone watching that you can do anything you set your mind to, even in the face of adversity.