I walked the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003, and got interviewed live with a huge bodyguard standing behind me. I thought I was dramatic, but there were bodyguards and bulky security everywhere that day. What the hell was I doing there?
I remember everything about getting to feel like a celebrity for a day. What I remember most is how rushed I felt the entire time, during the whole experience. Winning Big Brother 4 that summer is still surreal to me, but winning HOH at the right time and getting to fly to my hometown of NYC and walk the red carpet with real stars is unreal.
With five of us still remaining in the Big Brother 4 house, I’d won HOH for the first time. I wanted to win it, and somehow I did because it was a memory-based competition. After celebrating hysterically about my win I was instructed to report to the Diary Room. Once in the DR, I was told by Chenbot that I’d also won a reward in addition to my HOH reign. My jaw dropped open when she told me it was a trip to the VMAs. Chenbot then told me to put on some blindfold sitting there next to me, but all I was thinking was that I was leaving the house. I was going back home!
I couldn’t see a thing, and I felt stupid wearing a blindfold. Then Chenbot’s voice came back and told me to “open the door.” What the fuck door was she talking about? The door I came in?!
I struggled and eventually found a knob and opened the “secret door” used by production to get in the DR when they need to. My point is, I made a complete fool of myself groping blindly in the diary room and I hope Julie Chen was laughing. I would have laughed.
I was then guided, still blindfolded, down a hall eventually out some heavy door. I knew I was outside and probably in the parking lot outside the BB house right where I’d stood the very first day I entered the house. I heard a few voices and one voice in particular I found comfort in. Shawn’s. Shawn was the backbone and rock of my Big Brother season and other seasons, and she was like the mama bear while Robyn Kass was cheering squad.
I was whisked into a limo, and then and only then could I remove my blindfold. Shawn was in the limo with me and I shrieked while I hugged her, and I was thrilled that she’d personally be making the trip to NYC with me. We got to the airport and I was rushed into a bathroom like a hostage, and I had to change out of my bright pink “live show” dress and into incognito mode. CBS wanted to be sure I wasn’t recognize by anyone at the gate, or in public in general.
Shawn had handed me an outfit to wear, including comfy flip-flops, sunglasses and a baseball cap that I had to wear asap. Thankfully all the clothes were a size bigger than my original size walking into the house, because I’d been stress-eating for nearly two months. We checked-in and sat in one of the plusher lounges at LAX and I had to keep my head down the whole time. I didn’t get to read a paper or magazine, and I was not allowed near a television as we waited to board. To my left and right in that lounge were real celebrities on their way to the VMAs, to be an actual part of the VMAs. I flew with Ryan Seacrest and André 3000, and Tara Reid too, and I was barfing every few minutes because Shawn had not packed any Dramamine for me. Air sickness may one day kill me, and I thought on that first class flight to NYC I would die from barfing and never make it to my red carpet interview.
We got to New York and checked-in into our Times Square hotel, and I realized it was just like when I was sequestered before the start of my season. I had no access to television or internet or telephone, and I couldn’t leave my hotel room and I was home. Home, but so far away. So dramatic, but I did get made-up and touched-up from top to bottom on CBS’s dime. From my Calvin Klein panties to my lovely Diane von Fürstenberg dress, I was happy and my hair and makeup were done just before I got escorted out of the hotel again. When we got outside we had to film my getting in the limo and riding in the limo and getting out of the limo, and it was ridiculously organized and planned. It was nothing like reality yet reality television.
While I stood and waited for my big red carpet interview, I watched Jessica Simpson in her white suit walk by me with Nick. I was in awe of Christina Aguilera just a few feet away from me, even if she was wearing only feathers. I loved the the adorable group of gay boys getting so much attention from reporters, but I had no idea who they were. They were the Fab 5 from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and their first season had started airing when I went into the BB house. I watched religiously for years after, and I loved most their earlier seasons.
There were Big Brother fans lined up on the streets around Rockefeller Center leading to Radio City Music Hall, scattered among every other fan of every other star walking the red carpet. Shawn and our bodyguards and small production crew made sure nobody talked to me or got close enough to me to tell me anything, most of all BB fans. It all felt like some spy movie. I was not to get any information from anyone, and I wasn’t even allowed to really acknowledge any BB fans in the vast audience because some of them were holding signs. God forbid I read a BB-related sign.
I had my big red carpet interview and I screamed my answers like a lunatic and it was over. The photos aren’t good quality because it was 10 years ago, but I have the original film footage and that’s enough for me. I was so loud.
It was odd. I felt like a “nobody” all of a sudden thrust into an MTV flesh arena, and I actually missed the BB house just a little bit. I’d never trade the experience though, because I stood in the pit when Dave Navarro performed that night. My hand was next to his ass when he opened his act. The whole thing was surreal. Madonna and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera kissed, and I was on sensory overload. I was also being pushed around by hundreds of teeny-boppers in the pit, crashing into me. My feet were pained and hating me.
At one point a young girl threw herself at me before Shawn could stop her.
“You’re Jun and you’re here! Oh my god Jun I love you!”
I thanked the sweet fangirl as she was pulled away from me, and that was it. Party was over for me because a BB fan had talked to me, even if it was just to say she loved me. I was pushed through the crowds and down back halls and stairs, and then we were outside on Fifth Avenue where our limo awaited. I was rushed into the limo as if rogue BB fans would attack me, and I was taken back to my hotel room.
I went back into the house after all the craze, and I was blindfolded for some part of it again. I hated that stupid blindfold and I kept it as a souvenir of my summer in the BB house. I’ve kept a lot of my Big Brother memorabilia from my season. I’m no hoarder, but I consider my red carpet passes and badges from the VMAs very special. That whole summer was special.
This summer is special for me too, and not because of Big Brother.
What a difference 10 years makes.