I sat in a trailer parked on the lot at Studio City before I actually entered the “set” of the Big Brother house, my season. I remember sitting in the small but clean space of the trailer and staring at the mirror incessantly, and drinking a LOT of water. I took deep breaths knowing I was about to give up my freedom for a chance at half-a-million dollars. Before I was mic’d up to go in, Robyn Kass knocked on my door and came in to the trailer. We hugged and she got me hyped up all over again that I was about to finish what I started during the casting process. Robyn and I took a photo together, which we still each have a copy of and sincerely cherish, and then she was off. I figured she was doing the same thing with every HG and I wondered who I’d be sharing the BB house with.
I had no idea at the time that it would be with my ex-boyfriend Jee….
A few minutes later it was show time, and I was herded onto the set…to the “faux” exterior of the BB house, where I stood for this photo…
We stood for this photo…
We were instructed not to make eye contact or talk to each other while posing, which was incredibly awkward. Facing in front of us were bright lights and cameras and microphones, and lots of producers. Organized chaos.
I didn’t know their names yet, but I recognized Jack and Nathan from my week at finals casting in LA. Finalists were always broken up into groups by sex, and the groups traveled in packs for meals and gym time, etc., under supervision of a “handler.” I knew Jack and Nathan had been in the same group because I’d seen them marching by single file quite a few times when my group of five ladies were lounging by the pool or eating lunch, etc… Nathan seemed cold but Jack seemed very warm, and from behind my sunglasses I watched them walk around the hotel.
We were never ever allowed to talk to each other or even make eye contact with any of the other finalists, whether they were in your group or not, but it’s not like I was going to gouge my eyes out if I happened to turn my head and see someone.
I remembered Scott too because even at finals in the dry LA heat, he wore his knit hats. It was always odd seeing “the skinny dude” before I knew his name, sitting on the terrace in the blazing sun with a wool or whatever mini-cardigan he wore as a hat. So when I saw Scott on the steps of the house with me, about to enter the house, I laughed inside because I knew the hats would make me crazy. I’d also remembered and liked Dana right away when I accidentally met eyes with her once during finals. I say accidentally because some dude talking loudly on his brand-new bluetooth ear thing was sitting by us, and Dana and I happened to look up when the douchebag was shouting.
Both Dana and i looked sharply away. All the finalists were watched by hawks with different sets of eyes at all times, and we were warned we would go home if we were caught violating the rules of the casting process. I was all about following the rules. Of course I’m dramatic but it did all feel like a mini-drama to me, and I hated having to deliberately avoid four other grown women who were vying for my key into the Big Brother house in the final rounds..
My douchebag story has a point because bluetooth guy was sitting between me and Dana, and there were plenty of other “regular” hotel guests there with the BB crew. Most people were there with their kids to check out Universal City just a walk away, or film whatever local porn they were on location for…whatever. It’s not like CBS shut down the Sheraton for BB finals casting, so it really was odd sharing the elevator with people who had no idea there was anything going on.
So Dana and I shared a douchebag experience and without words it created a bond between us, and then when we learned we were both from New York it was an instant connection. It wasn’t our fault how we’d been seated at breakfast during finals. So as Julie told us to check each other out I looked most forward to meeting Jack and Dana.
Erika just rubbed me the wrong way immediately and I can only chalk it up to mismatched menstrual moon cycles, but of course I envied her emaciated tummy. She never ate much from what I saw at the hotel…I also hated her for her perfect but so fake breasts. I was so judgmental, and I still am. I’m working on it.
I thought Alison was so cute but vanilla, and I loved her short short skirt even though Dana thought it was too short. I didn’t sense at all the menacing terror Ali would turn out be, on that first day. She fooled me. David was attractive but very hard to read standing there on the steps but he was a joker, unlike Nathan who turned out to be as slow as I thought his eyes looked…in those first minutes standing around awkwardly.
The vibes from Scott and Erika threatened me most that day. My gut said no to Scott and Erika, but there I was about to enter the house…as a fan of the show who applied the old fashioned way I was ready.
I knew there had to be more than eight people in the house, but I decided to worry about that later and focus on the very seven people Julie Chen just told me to “take a good look around at.”
In my mind the start of the season right then was nothing and everything I thought it would be, and in the moment you’re waiting for Julie Chen to address you for the first time it’s…magic and rainbows and Ashley’s dreamboard unicorns. You can’t see Chenbot but you can hear her Chenbot voice. Then you’re jarred back to the reality that holy shit the game’s already started and the battery pack on the microphone felt damn heavy clipped to the back of my skirt. I’d shoved the pack between my skin and skirt, so my skirt felt extra tight and I felt like a sausage.
No matter how much you’re prepared for Big Brother, everything flies out the window when you get there and it’s up to you to close the damn window. You realize you have to be locked up with most probably and certifiably crazy people around you, and you have to watch your back because everyone wants your $500,000. Plus, you have to pee and poop on film.
Even at my coolest and most relaxed state I usually have a dozen things running through my head, but when I was standing on those steps my mind and heart were racing. No joke. So what do you do?
I chose to listen closely to the instructions I was given by production and hoped I wouldn’t be the first HG to faint on those stupid fake steps.
So as the first eight of us HGs stood on the stairs leading to the BB4 house, not knowing each other’s names, I felt like I was high. I wondered if they were thinking what I was thinking. Where were the rest of us?! Why only eight?
I’d looked around trying to get a read from Robyn or Kate or Shawn’s faces, anyone from production, but they gave me nothing. Little did I know they were trying not to laugh in our faces as they anticipated drama to the highest degree, because the remaining five HGs yet to arrive were ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends of most of us standing on those steps.
I don’t blame CBS for putting my messy break-up on blast, and making me share a house with Jee. It was a game-changer and better than any twist we’e seen in recent seasons because the producers just let things play out more, but maintained humane conditions.
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I’m getting asked often now about the fact that I’m the only non-white HG to ever have won Big Brother…but 10 years ago standing on those steps it didn’t matter to me what color my fellow HGs were at the end of the day because the only color that mattered to me was green, in the form of a cash prize at the end. I wasn’t poor in 2003 by any means, but I was greedy and pretty ruthless and I wanted to win. The money was great, but I wanted to win.
End of Entering the Big Brother House.