TV | September 30, 2021 12:20 pm

“Big Brother” Crowns Its First Black Winner After 23 Seasons

Xavier Prather's historic win marks a significant step forward for a franchise that has been plagued by racism

Xavier Prather on "Big Brother"
Xavier Prather is the first Black winner of "Big Brother."

For the first time in its 23-season history, Big Brother has a Black winner. On Wednesday night’s finale, host Julie Chen Moonves announced that Xavier Prather beat out fellow contestant Derek Frazier by a unanimous vote to take home the show’s $750,000 prize.

Prather’s victory was the work of a historic all-Black, six-person alliance on the show called The Cookout (which consisted of Prather, Frazier, Azah Awazum, Hannah Chaddha, Tiffany Mitchell and Kyland Young). Determined to give the show its first ever Black winner, the contestants banded together to carry each other to the final six, thus guaranteeing a Black champion.

“It’s surreal,” Prather, 27said after his win. “I wouldn’t have been here without all the members of The Cookout and every single member of the jury. And those members not in jury, who were part of the season, can’t thank you guys enough. I’m so blessed to have met every single one of you and we all made history this season, so I think we should all be proud.”

It’s a hugely significant moment for a reality TV show that has historically had a problem with race. Big Brother‘s 23rd season boasted the most racially diverse cast in its history, with only seven white competitors out of the 16-person cast. The more diverse cast was announced after CBS pledged back in November 2020 that 50 percent of people cast on its unscripted shows would be non-white — a move that many saw as being long overdue. Since it debuted back in 2000, Big Brother has only had a non-white winner three times.

Prior to this season, the show’s lack of diversity extended far beyond simply having mostly white winners. Most of the show’s casts were overwhelmingly white, with one or two token Black contestants who were often eliminated early by one of many all-white alliances. Big Brother also has a long, problematic history of casting overtly racist people, like season 15’s Aaryn Gries, who sparked controversy by referring to Asian people as “squinty-eyed,” telling an Asian castmate to “go make some rice,” as well as calling a Black castmate “Aunt Jemima,” flipping over her bed and mocking her with a stereotypical accent.

There’s still a long way to go before reality shows like Big Brother are able to fully move past their ugly, racist pasts, but season 23’s historic win is certainly a great start to what’s hopefully a new chapter.