Resiliency. That is the word that my fellow Michigander and former pageant queen, Taylor Hale, used to describe her season of Big Brother. I’ll use a few others to describe it: Epic. Moving. Powerful. Transcendent. Important. Historic.
Taylor Hale is the winner of Big Brother 24. Read that over and over again. Taylor did it. She won Big Brother! She actually did it.
There’s simply no question that Taylor‘s incredible journey this season in the Big Brother House was the best, most rewarding underdog story in Big Brother history. But I’d argue that it was more than that. Her season, culminating in her two-minute long final speech to the jury, will go down as an important moment in American Television history.
Before I dive in, here are some facts for you:
- Taylor Hale becomes the first Black female winner of Big Brother in the US…Tamar Braxton won Celebrity Big Brother, but not the regular edition of the show. The closest Black woman to have come close to the top prize was Danielle Reyes, who finished 2nd waaaaaay back in 2002, during Big Brother 3. To put that in perspective, that was the first season that Power of Veto competitions were introduced. Danielle lost in an 8-1 vote on Sept. 25, 2002…20 years to the day where Taylor won 8-1.
- Taylor is the first person to win both the game and “America’s Favorite Houseguest.” This means she also has won the most money ever on the show, with those prizes combining for $800,000.
- Taylor‘s six times on the block is a record for the most-ever by an eventual winner of the game.
- Taylor is the third straight Black woman to win America’s Favorite Houseguest,” following Da’Vonne (BB22) and Tiffany (BB23).
- Taylor is the first person to ever make me cry watching Big Brother.
Hey, that last fact is an important one. Big Brother is known for its cheesy-ness, heck, it’s the foundation of the show and quite often it leans into the eye-rolls quite heavily. The cheese is of course part of the charm. We put up with zing-slingin’ robots, ridiculous costum-itards, dorky mental comps (does any other Reality Show expect their contestants to remember exactly what happened on what day over the course of the show?) and outrageously corny physical comps (“hold on to your wiener!” was the main goal of one of tonight’s “all-important” final competitions). We put up with people arguing over stolen muffins, show-mance after show-mance, and production feeding lines like to the contestants like, “Girl, you’re glimmering like a lemon pound cake!”
All too often, Big Brother is also known for how the outside world and all of its problems leak into the Big Brother House. Racism, for example, continues to find its way in despite the physical isolation.
But when the reflection of real world issues does occur – and it occurred as recently as a few weeks ago with Kyle and his “Cookout 2.o” comments and paranoia – it usually displays the ugliest that America has to offer. Heck, this ugliness and the resulting conflicts that it brings are pretty much the basis for nearly all of Reality Television.
Taylor flipped this script. And this is why the story of Taylor Hale on Big Brother is so vital, and so different. Taylor’s response to the ugliness she was shown, her grace and her poise when others tried to keep her down, her positivity and her – yes – resilience, led to a beautiful life lesson for us all. We all finally received something we can use from Reality TV, something we didn’t know we could find in such an unexpected place. I guess Julie Chen-Moonves has been telling us all along, to “expect the unexpected,” but this was unexpected indeed, to be brought to tears by a woman who was simply not going to be denied her moment…a moment that she didn’t ask for necessarily, one that was thrust upon her, but one that she was ready to overcome with dignity and power. It’s not that Reality TV has never offered up such moments, it’s just that these moments are few and far between. Her final speech transcended the game of Big Brother, it delivered something that nobody could have quite possibly seen coming. Taylor persevered, but more than this, she stayed true to herself through it all. She didn’t bend, she didn’t falter, she didn’t fold. “I an not a shield, I’m a sword. I am not a victim I’m a victor.” Her story was every underdog story. And it spoke to female empowerment in a time where such ideals are being challenged in frightening new ways.
It was Maya Angelou who said: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” That was Taylor Hale.
As it relates to the game, it is only fitting that Taylor was underestimated all the way to the very end. She lost both HOH competitions and yet Monte thought his “big move” was taking out Turner, never expecting that the jury would ever vote for Taylor over him. Traditionally, Monte’s move to take out Turner was a big move. He just never once considered that Taylor was capable of what she would do next. You could tell that Taylor was ready for her moment in the spotlight, a former pageant queen who has a bit of experience putting herself out there for the world to see. Going in to the final round of questions and final speeches, I thought Taylor had a chance to win, but once she began knocking each question out of the park, and then delivering that historic final speech, it would have been a TRAVESTY for Monte to have won at that point. Monte didn’t just lose to Taylor, he got annihilated by her. You could see the shock in his eyes as it was happening, and how he reacted each time Taylor would sit back down. He was just shaking his head. All of his preparation, all of his time spent on what he would say to convince the final jury, didn’t even hold a candle to the magnificent star power illuminating from Taylor.
It wasn’t addressed at Finale, but the jury implied that Monte would have won the game had he chose to sit next to Turner. And while Turner used the word to describe his surprise at getting blindsided by Monte, it was Monte who was ultimately left bamboozled. He never saw Taylor coming. No one did, all season. And yet, she persevered.
In a speech that will go down as a top Reality TV moment of all-time, I also loved, loved, loved, loved how Taylor redefined a clichéd Big Brother phrase. Each and every season, we hear over and over the phrase “blood on my hands.” Most of the time, it’s “I don’t want to get any blood on my hands” or “so-and-so has the most blood on their hands,” used to describe someone who is responsible for getting someone else out of the game. Taylor gave this phrase perspective. “Monte may have had more blood on his hands than me,” Taylor told the jury. “But I have bled out the most in this game. I have bandaged myself up every single time and gotten up and continued to fight, because like so many other women in the world, that is what we have to continue to do to get to the end. We have to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first while also looking out for the ones that are behind us.”
There’s really nothing more that can be said that does justice to Taylor‘s final words, but I felt like I was watching history, and I also feel like I need to say “Thank You.” Thank you to Taylor, thanks for what you provided us with and the words you spoke tonight. As a massive Survivor fan, I remember the iconic “snake vs. rat” speech by Sue Hawk during Survivor’s first season, and I remember knowing as it was happening that it was something that would be a historic Reality TV moment. After tonight’s BB24 Finale, I find myself searching through my thoughts, my memories, for other “big” or “important” moments that I remember watching play out live on my TV as I watched a Reality TV show. I can think of a few others. But none hit me the way that Taylor’s speech did. I think because I’ve never been left to feel this GOOD. So positive. So hopeful.
One season removed from The Cookout alliance and the show’s first Black winner (Xavier Prather), Big Brother 24 produces its first Black female winner, Taylor Hale. For real, where can the show go from here? It’s impossible for it go up, right? Well, as they say: Expect the unexpected.
Thanks also to everyone for following along and reading this column this season. Your comments and your support is truly appreciated, and it was a pleasure to recap this amazing season these past few months! I urge you to consider jumping back into Survivor this season, as it just had a very promising start this past week (I’m recapping that as always for this site as well!).
To quote Julie Chen-Moonves, I’ll leave you all with this: Love one another.
BIG BROTHER FINALE RESULTS
HOH Part 1 Winner: Turner
HOH Part 2 Winner: Monte
FINAL HOH WINNER: Monte
Monte evicts Turner
FINAL JURY VOTE: 8-1 in favor of Taylor (Turner was the lone vote for Monte)
WINNER OF BIG BROTHER 24: Taylor Hale
AMERICA’S FAVORITE HOUSEGUEST WINNER: Taylor Hale
TELL US – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS SEASON AS A WHOLE? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF TAYLOR’S FINAL SPEECH? AND WHAT ARE SOME OTHER MEMORABLE REALITY TV MOMENTS THAT YOU THINK ARE HISTORIC?
[Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved]