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What a Big Brother fan learned watching BB18 with houseguests

What a Big Brother fan learned watching BB18 with houseguests
The author, Tyler Lyons, with Big Brother winner Derrick Levasseur. (Photo by Deborah Gaughran)

Photographer—and Big Brother fan—Tyler Lyons attended the Big Brother 18 premiere viewing party in New York City, presented by Big Brother Group’s Joe and MissyZ along with BB13 houseguest Adam Poch. In this episode of The Confessional, Tyler shares what he learned. 

As a super fan of both Big Brother US and Canada, I was geeking out over the opportunity to sit down with some of my favorite houseguests. On my way in to The Ainsworth bar, there was a huge line of fans outside waiting for 5 o’clock to roll around. I was shocked at the amount of people who were there early, considering I got there around 4:15 and the actual show didn’t start until 8 p.m. that night.

The event itself was spectacular—a red carpet and backdrop for the houseguests, a VIP section with an all-you-can-eat buffet, an open bar, and an incredibly organized staff (thanks Joe and Nick; you both were incredible) who guided me through the process.

The first person I got to talk to was Johnny Mac, who was there early and wearing a dress shirt and tie. I started talking to him, and realized that interviewing was going to be a unique challenge.

As a huge fan who hadn’t met any of these houseguests before, I was trying to balance being that person who freaks out and asks for selfies and using my time with them wisely to get a good feel for them as people, not as edited reality television characters.

To my joy, I found that there wasn’t much difference. I spent more time with certain houseguests than others, but it was clear to me why they were hand-picked by Kassting to be a part of this experience—each one of them had such a captivating and fun energy about them that brightened up the room.

Don’t worry, though: I got my fair share of selfies.

What Big Brother houseguests had to say

Someone who was running the event pullled houseguests over one by one to the couch I had claimed for myself, where I made sure to stay put there because the event was packed the moment it began.

Some of what I learned:

  • Every one of the Big Brother Canada houseguests were such a blast and spent a couple of extra minutes talking to me. Cassandra and Loveita in particular were really great about talking to all of their fans.
  • I spent a lot of time talking with Michelle Costa from Big Brother 10, who immediately greeted me with a huge hug. I asked her about her experience in the jury house, and she said it was so hostile that a particular fight resulted in the alcohol being removed by production. I also asked her about the trip Dan took her on during her time at jury, and she said she was disappointed with how it was edited—apparently she wasn’t as forgiving as the show made it seem.
  • GinaMarie Zimmerman was incredibly sweet. I believe she’s done a lot of growing since her time on Big Brother 15, and in a genuine way. She told me, “I love going to these events. If I can make a fan’s day by meeting them and getting to know them, then I’m truly the lucky one.”
  • The same can’t be said for Frankie Grande, though. He’s the only one I didn’t get a chance to speak to—which makes sense because he was only there for the first 30 minutes for photos, and then left before the TV show even began airing.
  • Adam Poch from BB13 walked in with a Donna/Tori Spelling tee. The dude really knows his brand, that’s for sure.
  • The twins were really excited to see some of their fellow BB17 houseguests returning to the game this summer. So much so, that they were getting oddly close to my face when talking passionately about it.
  • Everyone from the BB17 cast was really excited to see Da’Vonne Rogers return, and they’re hoping for a great redemption story. I reminded the twins that it was her who first figured out the twin twist, and that she’s got a really great intuition and a grasp on how the game should be played.
  • Other people from last summer, however, weren’t as keen on James being picked to play. It didn’t take Jason more than two minutes to tell me, a complete stranger with a press badge, that he’s just doing it to be on TV once again and that he shouldn’t have gotten another chance to play.
  • After a few glasses of wine, many houseguests also told me that production was really aiming to have this summer be a complete All-Star season. Due to different scheduling conflicts for houseguests they had in mind though, they scrapped that and came to the result we have now for the summer.

Watching Big Brother with fans and houseguests

When the show started, there was such an energy in the room. Fans, past BB houseguests, and press were all counting down the seconds as if this were the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve.

Even during the premier, the fans who weren’t in VIP were packed like sardines near the entrance of the section to try and slip their way in. To be frank, it was really fun to be on the other side of that for a change. How can you not?

On the couch with me to my left was Derrick Levasseur, listening carefully and making observations about the new houseguests. To my right, and Cassandra and Nikki from Big Brother Canada 4 were stuffing their faces with nachos (which were delicious).

Julie Chen’s usual opening for the season was filled with everyone in The Ainsworth cheering. I kept making sure to look over at Cody, and his hands were covering his face the entire time. He was so nervous about his brother making a good first impression. It was exciting to see that even Cody himself had no idea how Paulie was doing so far in the house. When he revealed to the houseguests that he’s Cody’s brother, Cody looked so nervous as to how the house would take it. Bad move, perhaps?

What’s different about BB fan and cast interaction

My big takeaway from the night was how passionate Big Brother fans in particular are. I wondered why that was. I looked around and my attendance at this event gave me my own answer- Big Brother has such a unique interaction with their fans.

I attended a meet and greet for survivor and Big Brother alumni back in January, and I got the same vibe that the fans really connected with their Big Brother favorites in particular. It makes sense, though: You get such a small sample in shows like Survivor or The Amazing Race of who these people really are.

A heavily-edited, 13- or 14-episode season can only give you so much of a sample as to who they really are. Compare this to Big Brother, where you get 40 episodes throughout the course of the season.

And, of course, we have the live feeds. I always tell my friends I feel like I know these people on a creepily personal level by the time the season ends, and I’m sure this is why other superfans jump at chances like this to meet them. When you finally meet them in person, it’s like meeting a friend for the very first time. It’s a really special connection, comparatively to the surface level I felt like I had to keep it at with the Survivor people I met at an event in January.

This personal connection can go in a different direction though, depending on the fan. A lot of the people at the event were trying really hard to get past security and sectioned off areas to get into VIP. I even had a guy grab my arm over the roped off section during my interview with Derrick. He didn’t seem phased by this happening, but I was surprised at how aggressive and forward this person was to getting an ounce of Derrick’s attention.

At the end of the night, Phillippe, Big Brother Canada 4‘s winner, eagerly opened up to me about this behavior from some fans. He gave Kelsey, the runner up, a lot of praise, saying she was an amazing player that didn’t get enough credit because her moves were never shown on TV. He said since they’ve finished their season, fans have been so cruel online to him and her—so much that his brother, who also played his season and won, decided not to come to avoid those type of fans.

That seemed to me like a necessary evil to the experience of playing Big Brother that he wasn’t aware of or ready for. I hope Big Brother alumni see the light and know that not all of us are crazy, but given all of the accessibility to learn everything about them, it creates such an opportunity to get messy.

There’s one thing in common we all had that evening, though: an absolute passion for the game.

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About the author

  • Tyler Lyons studied graphic design and photography at York College of Pennsylvania. His photographic work has been published in various men's fashion magazines. He is often hired for wedding and senior portraiture but also enjoys experimenting with editorial and conceptual projects. He's been a dedicated superfan to Big Brother and Survivor for over ten years, and can be found on Twitter or on Instagram at @TLyonzz.

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