- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Cliff Lipson/CBS (6)
History is in the making at Big Brother.
For the first time since its conception in 2000, the reality show will crown its first Black winner on Wednesday, Sept. 29. And it's all thanks to perhaps the most successful alliance in 21 years on the air.
Known as "The Cookout," the six-way partnership is comprised of all Black houseguests: Azah Awasum, Derek Frazier, Hannah Chaddha, Kyland Young, Tiffany Mitchell and Xavier Prather. For the last nine weeks, these contestants had one main mission in mind: Ensure that each of them reaches the final six.
That goal came to fruition on Thursday night when the final two non-Black houseguests — Claire Rehfuss and Alyssa Lopez — were evicted from the game. Now, one of "The Cookout" members is guaranteed to become Big Brother's first-ever Black champion.
"We did it," Prather said on Thursday's episode as he hugged Young and the group soaked in the historic moment following Lopez's eviction.
"For the first time ever!" an ecstatic Chaddha added.
The excitement is warranted considering Big Brother's history with diversity. Only three non-white winners (Jun Song in season 4, Josh Martinez in season 19 and Kaycee Clark in season 20) have ever been crowned in the show's first 22 seasons.
Both Big Brother and Survivor have been previously criticized for their lack of inclusivity while casting the popular reality programs. So in November 2020, CBS promised that 50 percent of individuals cast for the network's unscripted shows will be Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC).
The current cycle of Big Brother features the most racially diverse cast in the show's history. Only seven of the 16 individuals cast to compete on season 23 were white.
On the eve of the season premiere, host Julie Chen Moonves told Entertainment Weekly that she felt "excited" about the potential impact a more diverse cast could have on the game.
"In summers past, we've seen some people who are used to their bubble, where their world outside of the Big Brother house is not very diverse, and then they behave in a way that is unacceptable," Chen Moonves, 51, said at the time.
"Race has obviously been something we as a country have been struggling with for a VERY long time. And Big Brother, as a reflection of our society, has had its struggles over the years as well, like pretty much all reality shows have," she added.
Getting the six Black houseguests to the final six, however, was no simple task.
To start, each member of "The Cookout" vowed that they would not evict another alliance member should they sit next to a non-alliance member on eviction night. All six individuals also buddied up with one non-alliance member, whom they would ultimately sit next to on the block when "The Cookout" decided it was time for that non-alliance person's eviction.
As numbers dwindled and relationships blossomed, voting out contestants outside of "The Cookout" became increasingly difficult each week. The alliance's loyalty was tested several times throughout the season — especially during the latest week of competition.
On Wednesday's episode, Lopez threw a wrench into Mitchell's plan to send her packing when she won the power of veto to remove herself from the block. Mitchell then faced a winless decision as Head of Household: nominate close friend and non-alliance member Rehfuss, or a member of "The Cookout."
The pair shared an emotional moment when Mitchell informed Rehfuss that she had no option but to nominate her — though she stopped short of revealing "The Cookout"'s identity.
Rehfuss was admittedly heartbroken by Mitchell's decision but ultimately accepted that Mitchell didn't want to add to the show's history of people of color taking one another out. In an interview with EW following her eviction, the technical architect reiterated that it didn't take long to understand Mitchell's motive.
"So as she was explaining it to me, I started to realize what was kind of going on, and it turned into still feeling hurt, but also feeling very proud of Tiffany, of feeling proud that this is something that she said she was going to do, and she was going to stick with it. And I know that it was a hard decision for Tiffany because I was her tightest ally. And I was the one person that she really trusted in the house.
"But how can you not be proud of someone for sticking with what they believe in and what they said that they were going to do?" she continued. "Because morals are easy to lose in this game, and I'll never be mad at someone for sticking with what they believe in."
No other alliance of this size in Big Brother history has managed to remain fully intact this deep into a season. Yet despite their unprecedented success, there has been some backlash surrounding "The Cookout" and its mission.
Accusations of "reverse racism" were tossed around on social media throughout the season as the alliance voted out one non-Black individual after another.
Last week, Chen Moonves defended "The Cookout" in an interview with EW.
"I think it's hard for some people who are not of color to understand the importance of 'The Cookout' making it this far," she explained. "I have heard some call the formation of 'The Cookout' a form of racism. In my humble opinion, it is not. As a fan of the show, it's impressive to see an alliance this big make it this far. That rarely happens."
Season 23 of Big Brother concludes Wednesday, Sept. 29 on CBS.