If someone told me a year ago, I would be a houseguest on CBS’s summer hit television show, Big Brother, I would have guffawed in their face. Repeatedly. For about an hour. Yet, true to form, I moved to Hollywood, was “discovered” at a bar, and a few months (and many casting interviews later), I received my key to the Big Brother house.
Big Brother, for those living under a large boulder with the Geico cave man, is a nationally televised show where 14 houseguests move into a large house and compete in random competitions for the shot at winning $500,000.
I knew walking into the house, that’d I’d most likely be the only cast mate of color as Big Brother has certain “types” they cast each year including the gay, the jock, the bimbo, the old guy/gal, and of course, the black person. I’ve spent most of my life as one of a few, if not the only, as I grew up in a predominately Caucasian neighborhood. It was normal for me to get questions about my curly hair or my small nose or lack of an ass. People question what they don’t understand and no matter how ridiculous the question, I was the smiling black girl ready with the answer, an “oh, sure you can touch my hair,” or a “nope, I’m not biracial, we just come in different shapes and sizes.” Pardon me if I spent my whole life answering these questions that by the time I got on Big Brother, I was a bit fatigued.
Yet, sure enough, I was the one fielding all the questions again. I wasn’t all that surprised to hear certain houseguests make comments about how well I spoke, how I must’ve been trained in something to speak so well. The guy who always called me “Sister Act” didn’t faze me. I barely flinched when a certain girl spent the entire season asking me endless facts about my hair. This was normal in my world–being labeled the diva in the house despite the flamboyant gay guy who had a different pair of sunglasses for everyday of the week or the girl who had more cosmetics and skin cleansers than the make up counters of Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Nordstrom combined. Yup, I was the high maintenance one somehow. But again, I expected all of this. It’s par for the course in our modern, “post-racism” society. What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened after the show wrapped.
Cast mates are warned not to read the blogs, not to check the fan sites as there are crazily obsessed fans who have nothing but negativity to spout, hidden safely behind their computer screens. I didn’t bother checking. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn what they had to say, but the day after the finale, I signed back into life and there it all was: Facebook pages dedicated to how much America hated me, how much I (supposedly) ate, how fat I was (I wear a solid 8 or 10 and get no complaints from those who, ahem, matter), how arrogant I was as one person scrawled on my Facebook page, “I hate black people who think they’re better than everyone.” Apparently, all you need to do is spend your summer on a reality show to find out how ignorant much of the country still is. I was labeled Kalia Kong and Cowlia. I was called Uncle Tom and n*gger left and right on my twitter account. My anonymous blog was leaked and I was called all kinds of terrible names in the comments section. While this may all sound like the usual for a foray into the wacky reality world, it is not.
Comparatively, I sat and watched as some of my closest friends from the show (not black), got nothing but love mail, fan sites dedicated to how awesome they were, presents, comments about how great they played the game (even if they barely batted an eyelash all summer). While I was getting lashed for making decisions and standing up for myself, they were being coddled for dealing with arrogant old me all summer. I won’t lie either, it got to me briefly. I cried on the phone to my mother continually saying, “I am a good person! I don’t deserve this just because I went on a TV show! They have no idea how hard it was!” And they don’t. They have no idea what a pressure cooker it was, how tears squirt from your eyes at the slightest infraction because of the stress, how everyone who matters to you is scratched from your existence as if they were never there, how you can’t trust anyone, not even yourself, how you have cameras on you 24/7-while you sleep, eat, talk, drink, pick your nose, shower and while you did sign up for this, you did not sign up for the ridicule and pure ignorance that comes from being the lone black key on a grand piano full of ivory white ones.
Many decided they hated me as soon as they saw my little brown face popped up on the opening credits. It’s pretty normal for minorities to have to work even harder to jump over a bar that’s placed too high anyway.
Make no mistake, though, that moment lasted as briefly as my time in the “Big Brother” house did in the grand scheme of life. What many of those haters failed to remember about strong black women is that we may trip, we may fall, but we never stay down. From years of carrying a nation, we know a thing or two about dusting ourselves off, pushing our shoulders back, holding our heads high and walking back into the fire.
So, I’m sorry America, sorry I was raised by strong parents in a happy home who told me on a regular basis I could do or be anything I wanted. Sorry, I was educated in the best schools and I wasn’t the first generation of my family to earn a college degree. Sorry, I don’t fit your stereotype of how a black person is supposed to act on national television, that I didn’t just “Yessuh, Massuh” my way right out the house, shuckin’ and jivin’ my way to Julie Chen. I learned early on that you should worry when people aren’t talking about you, even when they’re hating, so keep it coming and be forewarned, if I’m asked back for All-Stars, you’ll get the gift of having to deal with me all over again.