After 23 seasons Big Brother finally has a Black winner

Big Brother
(l-r: Derek Frazier, Tiffany Mitchell, Xavier Prather)

You read that correctly. For the past 23 years, the TV show Big Brother has fulfilled our voyeuristic needs on CBS. The show follows a group of contestants, known as “HouseGuests”, who live together in a specially constructed house that is isolated from the outside world for a cash prize.

This season’s cash prize was a whopping $750,000, the largest prize in the show’s history. Previous Big Brother winners received a $500,000 grand prize.

Almost 2 months into the 23rd season, six houseguests held a clandestine meeting in the bathroom and created the secret alliance known as “The Cookout,” which was historic in itself. While secret alliances are nothing new in this kind of “reality” show, this one was different because it was the first one ever composed solely of Black contestants.

Time almost stood still when the following words were uttered during the season finale, “Congratulations, Xavier. You are the winner of Big Brother,” host Julie Chen-Moonves said as she pulled out the decisive key.  Xavier Prather, a 27-year-old attorney who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin received all nine votes in a unanimous decision.

Prather was up for the top prize against his fellow member of “The Cookout,” Derek Frazier, legendary boxer Joe Frazier’s 29-year-old son from Philadelphia, who received zero votes from the jury.

After his historic win, Prather explained to Chen-Moonves exactly how he was feeling:

“It’s surreal. I wouldn’t have been here without all the members of The Cookout, and every single member of the jury, and those members not in the jury who were part of the season. I can’t thank you enough,” Prather said. “I’m so blessed to have met every one of you. We all made history this season, so I think we should all be proud.”

The secret alliance known as “The Cookout” included Tiffany, Kyland, Xavier, Derek F., Azah, and Hannah and their goal was to ensure that a Black person not only won Big Brother, but that the final six contestants were all people of color. In a show that has long struggled with racism in its casting, production and interpersonal relationships, this move was historic. 

The alliance was one that Big Brother host Julie Chen Moonves not only supported, but also defended from critics who called the alliance racist.

“I think it’s hard for some people who are not of color to understand the importance of the Cookout making it this far,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I have heard some call the formation of the Cookout a form of racism. In my humble opinion, it is not. As a fan of the show, it’s impressive to see an alliance this big make it this far. That rarely happens.”

The show’s casting has long relied on familiar archetypes including the surfer dude, the jock, the Southern belle, etc all within whitewashed patterns. Prior to this year, Big Brother had consistently cast only a handful of minorities each season.

Over 20 years and across 22 seasons, there had never been a Black winner, and only one of its last 11 seasons included even a single Black person among its final six contestants. Prior to Prather’s win on Wednesday, Big Brother had just three non-white winners since it premiered in July 2000, none of whom were Black.

The 23rd season of Big Brother was the most diverse in its history, following CBS’ 2020 pledge to feature at least 50% Black and Indigenous people of color on all seasons of its unscripted programs, including Big Brother and Survivor.

Tiffany Mitchell was crowned “America’s Favorite House Guest,” who this year went home with $50,000, instead of the usual $25,000 given out in past seasons.

“Thank you, America!” Mitchell said. “Hey, America! I love you guys. Thank you for giving me something!”

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Viewers on Twitter were excited for Prather and shared plenty of congratulatory messages to him:

The long-running CBS show will return in February 2022 for the third iteration of the US edition of Celebrity Big Brother.