One hot New York summer night I was home minding my own Black bizness on the couch channel-surfing (Yes, I still have cable and a TV) and I came across what appeared to be the middle of a Big Brother episode. I would later learn that it was the 2nd …or maybe 3rd ep of the 24th season. Note: I had never watched the previous 23 seasons.
My grandmother has been an avid viewer since she was 71 years old (check the math), and I always wondered why. It seemed silly. Then earlier this year I caught the celebrity version with Boss Grandma (that’s how they know her in these Innanet streets) for the first time. “It’s an interesting social experiment,” I thought, “but I ain’t really sold on committing to three or four months of it!”
In fact, I was committed to NOT committing…until I saw this perfectly melanated queen being bullied on national television. That stopped me dead.in.my.tracks!
I didn’t know her name yet. I just knew that everyone in the scene, led by the muscular brotha, was ganging up on her.
Maybe it was because she reminded me of my goddaughter ‑ whom I affectionally call “Bells” ‑ a tall, graceful, gorgeously chocolate girly girl (the chile loves her some pink and bling!).
Or maybe it was because I knew the history of the treatment of Black women in this country, particularly those of a darker hue.
Or maybe I just hate an unfair fight.
D – All of the above.
Whatever it was I wanted to protect this brown skin girl. I soon learned her name – Taylor – and I committed myself to watching Big Brother 24 so I could help guard my new TV Little Sister.
So, I stayed week after week praying that Taylor would survive being “put on the block.” Let’s park it there for a hot sec and ruminate on that very loaded phrasing. A phrase that eerily harkens back to what my ancestors experienced — being put on the slave auction block and sold like chattel. Now think about Taylor’s plight. Ugliness, right? But I digress…but do I really?
I had to watch each episode because that was my own way of supporting and protecting Taylor who, like me, was raised as an only child by a single Black mama in an urban Midwest city. I, Chicago. She, Detroit.
I wanted to safeguard my Lil’ Sis at all costs.
When Daniel (who is white-presenting) got in Taylor’s face on some straight STOOPID, made-up bulldoodoo — dude had obviously blacked out as he was spitting venom and blowing his hot fone-kay breath unnecessarily so in Taylor’s personal space — I wanted to call my people and pull up! I was gon’ summon up the power of Mike Tyson, Rocky, and Draymond Green, and homey was gon’ catch these hands. Fa real, fa real (for legal reasons I’m obligated to say Daniel was in no real danger).
I was furious. I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if melanated Terrance or Monte had face-checked non-melanated Alyssa or Brittany like Daniel did Taylor. Imagine the narrative. Imagine!
I was totally oblivious to #BigBrotherTwitter until after the season had ended, so I had no idea that there was a community of Taylor Stans out there protecting her, too. Like Taylor, I was completely in the dark (since breaking free from the house Taylor has repeatedly shared how lonely it felt). My sounding board — much to their annoyance — had to be my friends who were NOT BB watchers. My Girls patiently listened as I fumed and ranted on about what “they” were doing to my Lil’ Sis up in that toxic house.
I watched and prayed and watched and prayed some more as Taylor overcame each obstacle. Homegirl was dodging eviction votes like Turner dodged water (Inside joke; ain’t my fault you didn’t watch BB24). Soon instead of merely surviving, she seemed to be thriving. Taylor was all that and literally a bag of chips (again, not my fault that you didn’t watch the season).
When it came time to vote for America’s Favorite Player, I couldn’t get to my phone fast enough. If I could have voted for Taylor 800,000 times I would have (for the record I did NOT).
On finale night, Boss Grandma and I were 1000% LOCKED IN. I was griped with fear and anticipation. I was so nervous that all the ugly bullying Taylor experienced and sur-thrived would have been for naught. I was scared the bad guys would win.
But then Taylor rose from the seat formerly known as The Block in her gorgeous crystal-encrusted jumpsuit (I mean the girl is a real-life beauty queen) and delivered the most powerful speech I’d heard on any reality TV show and honestly one of the best “fight for your life” speeches ever. Fuh real, fuh real.
I leaped out of my chair. Boss Grandma yelped, “That was good.” We were beaming. And I knew in that exact moment that Taylor Mackenzie Dickens Hale was the winner of Big Brother 24. I knew she snatched the entire bag. I just knew it.
When the inevitable finally happened and Julie Chen Moonves officially declared Taylor the winner of BB24 and America’s Favorite Player, I called those friends who endured my rants and screamed, “SHE WON!” They knew who I was talking about. Toljah, I was committed.
A friend later told me that I had missed out on the “Cookout” season. I was sorry that I didn’t get a chance to witness that special Big Brother history. But honestly, watching for the first time this year was too poetic. It was meant for me to see the first Black woman win the original Big Brother during my first time watching the popular program.
“I am not a shield. I am a sword.”
Yes, Little Sis, you are!
Post Script: There is a Prince Charming in this fairytale, Joseph Abdin, a beautiful spirit with a kind heart who just happens to be super gorge with a TIGHT body. He’s now my TV Little Cousin (on the other side of the family; come on now, I ain’t about that incestuous life!). My Lil Cuz (who beautifully defied the Arab man trope often egregiously depicted on American TV) was ride or die and did what he could to protect Taylor in the House. While Joseph & Taylor’s story is still being written, I’m happy they’ve found each other. #TeamJaylor
To be continued…