The television show has all the over produced, cheesy, offensive (to some) trappings that come with all reality TV shows. And I eat that all up and love it. The video feeds are something different. You can watch a group of people fight, be bored, sleep, make out, make friends, eat, cry, laugh and take showers for three months, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like any fan describing their obsession to a non-fan I can't articulate how much I love Big Brother- it's heroin candy.
The premise is simple- the houseguests are locked in a house for three months. The show is on on three times a week every summer. Every week 2 houseguests are nominated for eviction. Every Thursday, during a live show the house votes to evict one of the nominated houseguests. The strategy for being the last houseguests standing (and winning $500,0000) varies- but always includes lying, deceit, physical endurance and social manipulation. On the last episode, alll of the other houseguests who have been evicted vote on who (out of the two remaining) they think should win the money. All the while everything is filmed and viewers have access to watch everything that goes down.
This summer Andy Herren of Chicago won Big Brother. Not only was he the first openly gay person to win Big Brother but he’s from Chicago and he’s delightful. I had a chance to speak with him and talk about his time on Big Brother.
You said you weren’t an insane fan of Big Brother but a pretty big one. How did you get into watching Big Brother?
I got into watching Big Brother by accident, actually. I was flipping through channels, and somehow landed on CBS. What was on? Big Brother 3! You know, the season where Marcellas used the Power of Veto on someone other than himself. I started watching, and the rest is history!
So...You won $500,000! Congratulations! Did your thoughts on what you would do with that amount of money change when you actually had the check in your hand?
I always knew I would be smart with the money. I'm investing it, for the most part. I want these winnings to turn into more and more winnings as the years progress. As for frivolous spending, I'm going to travel extensively! Europe, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii are on the agenda at the moment.
This season was hailed as the "Most Controversial" ever. One of the houseguests, Aaryn did say some ridiculously racist things and a handful of other houseguests said stupid things. Besides Aaryn- who I truly don't think realized that what she was saying and the way she was saying it was going to cause a lot of problems for her -- I just think the rest of it was just general jackassery like any group of young bored people. Did you have any idea that all of this would be so controversial when you were living in the house?
NOBODY had any idea this racist stuff would take off in the way it did. Granted, we all did notice Aaryn's comments, but I believe you are correct in assuming that she had no idea her words would cause such an uproar. She even started saying racist things just to say them, as we would all joke that she was the house racist. Do I condone her comments? Hell no. Do I think she is young and ignorant and not actually an evil racist bigot? Hell yes. I was very surprised by the attention this all got. I mean, any comment that makes others feel bad isn't right, but I really never felt like I was in a hateful environment. I very strongly believe that nobody in the house is actually racist, and I hope that we can all move on from this and remain close with one another. As for me...I am MUCH MORE offensive in real life as opposed to the house. I'll leave it at that.
You tweeted, "It's slightly discomforting that I was so hated while on BB. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because in real life I'M SO MUCH WORSE." Explain this tweet.
Basically, I say ridiculous things all the time. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm actually a very kind, loving person, BUT I have a filthy, vile, disgusting, awful sense of humor. Nothing offends me, because I am usually the one doing the offending. This is especially prevalent when I'm drunk. I wasn't drunk too often in the Big Brother house, but when I was, I said some gross things. Remember my "Elissa is a chronic masturbator" rant? Yeah, I was drunk during that, and it was not meant to be taken seriously. The problem? Many Americans do not sense sarcasm, and they took it seriously.
Do they even give you enough alcohol in the house to get drunk?
If everyone has a drink, they do not give us enough alcohol to get drunk. If people give up their share of alcohol, then others can drink the shares that have been given up and feasibly get drunk. For example, I gave up my alcohol 90 percent of the time, and then on the rare occasion that I wanted to get drunk, I would remind people that I had been giving up my shares, so they would give me theirs. I rarely drank because people would get super selfish about alcohol, and it put me in good graces if I gave it up. Looks like that strategy paid off.
One of the best moments of the season was after you were announced the winner- you came down and hugged your parents. They looked SO proud of you. Tell me about them. What did they say was their experience like when you were in the house?
THEY ARE AMAZING. They were so damn happy for me while I was on the show. My dad is a very quiet, stern guy for the most part, but after the show he gave me the biggest hug and said he had never been more proud of me. It was a lovely moment. My mom watched the feeds 24/7, and my dad would get updates from her. My mom was actually so scared about my possible eviction when I was up against Aaryn that she couldn't watch. She said she heard my dad screaming/cheering, and she knew all was well. They loved me being in the house, and, according to them, all they really experienced was positivity. They aren't on Twitter, and that is where most of the stupid assholes who hate me dwell.
How was your experience coming out to your parents? How did you tell them?
I was outed by a neighbor before actually telling my parents about me being gay, but they were both cool with it. There's nothing much more to tell! My mom was sad I didn't come out earlier.
Tell me about the transformation from relative anonymity to instant fame. What are the good things and bad things about it?
It's been pretty easy! I like people recognizing me. It is sweet. The only negative side is the INSANE hate I got once I left the house. I'm used to being well-liked, so it was odd to see so many people wishing me nothing but the worst. I played the game I needed to play, and I have no regrets. I get that I didn't play a very likable game, but anyone who respects the game should see what an amazing job I did. I played EVERYONE, and was rewarded for it. I also like the free stuff people give me! That's a neat perk of being "famous."
Rumor has it that you lost your job over your appearance on Big Brother. Did you lose your job and if so, what was the reason? What happened there?
I did not lose my job! :)
Who are you still in contact with outside of the house? Who do you think you won’t keep in touch with?
I have been in good contact with most of the cast. The only two people I haven't talked to are Elissa and Howard, who I have no ill will towards. In the house I hated Elissa, but outside of the game I would like to be on good terms with her. I talk to Amanda and McCrae every day, and I talk to Judd, Spencer, Helen, Kaitlin, GinaMarie, Candice, Aaryn, Jessie, and Jeremy relatively frequently as well. I also text back and forth with with David, who is a hoot. I don't like having negative relations with anyone, so hopefully we can all move forward and be pals, because we all shared such a unique experience.
Is Judd as adorable in real life as he was on Big Brother?
Judd is EVEN MORE ADORABLE IN PERSON. He is wonderful. I can't imagine anyone meeting Judd and not loving him. He does have a fiery side though (that temper!...fiery yet still ADORABLE).
What has been your best experience with a Big Brother fan and your worst experience with a Big Brother fan?
Best experience with a Big Brother fan: My roommate and I were running late to the movies a few weeks back, and a car pulled up beside us. It was a husband and wife, and they were big fans. I then asked them for a ride to the movies, and they obliged! Ha! I haven't really had any negative experiences with fans, except online, but most of the online fans are complete waste of space morons who don't actually understand the game, so they don't bug me too much.
What are some things, secret little behind the scenes things that you think most Big Brother fans would be shocked to know? Did your gaydar ever go off on any of the male houseguests?
We NEVER see any people while we are in the house. It is weird. Like, I didn't know what the producers looked like until the show wrapped. Another secret: They give us the same food week after week, which can get monotonous. I wanted a bit more variety! Although they fed me all summer for free, so I shouldn't complain.
Did your gaydar ever go off on any of the male houseguests?
My gaydar went off on Nick a little bit, because he would do odd things like always call me over to talk while he was in the shower. I'm 50/50, though. If he's gay, I wouldn't be shocked. If not, I would also not be shocked.
Do you think there could have been a possibility of a bromance- whether or not it would have just been used to get you or whoever else further in the game? Did any of the straight guys ever flirt with you?
I was in a bromance with Spencer!!! We were BFFs from the beginning, which you NEVER saw on the show. He kept me sane in the house. He is an intelligent and hilarious guy. SPANDY FOR LIFE!!! I do believe our bromance got him further, as I never wanted to sever ties with him. I wanted him at the end because I liked him and I knew I could beat him.
What is your dream “Celebrity Big Brother” cast? And who do you think would win?
Oh goodness, I have no idea who my dream Celebrity Big Brother cast would be. It would most certainly include Anderson Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and myself. I say this because I selfishly want to meet these people (and school them at Big Brother).
You said that you were rejecting friend requests on Facebook like it’s your job. Are a lot of people asking you for money?
I basically reject Facebook friendships because I like to keep Facebook personal. Like, only people I actually know or could see myself getting to know in real life are people I will be friends with on Facebook. Twitter/Instagram/etc are for people who I may not know to be able to interact with me. And nobody has asked me for money yet! I think people know I'm smart with my money and won't fall for any hair-brained schemes. I also think my friends and family know how hard I worked for the money, and they aren't the type of people who would see my winning as a way to better themselves financially. When I left the house I wanted to get back to Chicago to retain my strong personal relationships with friends and family, so relationships haven't been strained at all. I love the people I surround myself with!
Are you dating anyone?
I am casually dating, but nothing serious. I'm SUPER picky and tend to lose interest quickly, so I don't bother really dating anyone unless they seem very right and I see long-term potential. I'm also a hopeless romantic and retain the belief that one day I will meet the man of my dreams and it will happen exactly like it does in cutesy romantic comedies (I know, I know...BARF). And when I go on dates, I love it when guys don't know about Big Brother. It's nice to know that they like me for me and not for me being a television personality.
What are your plans for the holidays?
For Christmas I'll be going to my parents' house in the suburbs to spend time with friends and family who are at home.
Can you tell me what you have in your medicine cabinet? Please list all the contents, brand names, etc.
Flintstones Chewable Vitamins, Advil Liqui-Gels, Crest Whitening toothpaste, Edge shave gel, contact solution, a toothbrush, Old Spice Aqua Reef deodorant, cherry Chapstick.
Do you ever still feel like cameras are watching you?
When I first came back, I definitely woke up a few times thinking I was being watched (which was super weird), but, to be honest, the whole being filmed thing faded quite quickly. I was back to picking my nose and masturbating in no time!
What are you buying yourself for Christmas?
I have no idea what I'm buying myself for Christmas! I'm very low maintenance. Maybe a book or something?
Last question- If you were describing to a four year old how you won the money how would you say you won it?
I lied to lots of people, and then the people I lied to gave me tons of money.