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Andy Herren Says Diversity on Big Brother ''Has Always Been Atrocious''

Andy Herren is speaking out about the issue of "minority representation" on Big Brother. As fans may recall, he was the first openly gay winner when he won in 2013
By Pamela Avila Jun 27, 2020 10:01 PMTags
Andy Herren, Big BrotherSonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Andy Herren is speaking out about the issue of "minority representation" on Big Brother.

On Friday, June 26, former winner of the fifteenth season of the reality TV show spoke out about his experience on Big Brother. "I was the first gay winner in Big Brother history and after my win I wasn't invited back once," he began on Twitter. "Not even to host a competition. But men who have demeaned gay people and trans people have repeatedly been asked back not only to Big Brother but to other CBS shows. This sucks."

In a previously shared tweet, the 33-year-old responded to news that a Survivor alumni had launched a petition demanding more diversity on the hit reality series, adding, "Do Big Brother next please!!!!!!!!! Diversity on Big Brother has always been ATROCIOUS. The reason straight white men do so well is because there are so many of them!!!!!" 

"I'm essentially arguing 2 things in my tweets," Herren added in another tweet. "CBS can no longer selectively pick and choose who outrages them. It's bullshit. Minority representation IS a huge problem. Gay houseguests being made side characters/lack of black houseguests/etc. This need to be addressed." 

In a statement given exclusively to E! News, the former Big Brother winner elaborated on what he meant about the lack of diversity and inclusion on the reality TV show and why he's speaking up now.

"It is important to speak up because Big Brother has always had a problem with minority representation," he told E! News. "There are usually at most two Black house guests and one gay house guest and Latino and Asian representation is even worse."

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Herren explained to E! News that "straight white males compromise 12 of the 21 winners of the show, which is so crazy when you really break it down." He added that "straight white males" have an "advantage because there are always so many of them." 

However, when it comes to "gay house guests, for example, [they] are never afforded this luxury. There is always just one. They are simply a side character—an obstacle for the straight people to overcome on their way to the finish line." 

"The minority house guests have to work harder for connections from the start because they are almost always cast to fit a token role," Herren explained to E! News. "Think about it: We've had numerous all white male alliances but no all black male or female alliances because there are never enough black house guests to even make that happen. It's so frustrating and wrong."

The former Big Brother contestant further explained how he felt he was portrayed differently on reality TV show compared to the white straight men on the show. 

For example, he shared that he was "never asked about my strategy in the early days even though I was running everything. I knew this, too, and it was so frustrating."

"So, when a straight male is strategic, he's afforded every luxury in the world and put on a pedestal yet when a gay man is doing it, he's ignored and made a side character," he added. "The show ignored me every chance it got. Thus, fans hated me, It sucks to play as good if not better than the greats and be ignored by the show and told by fans what a bad winner you are. I got insurmountable hate after my season because of the way I was edited." 

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He explained that he's "used to" fans being "awful" to him about speaking up. 

"These past few weeks I've been told to shut up more than I can count," he said. "These fans are playing into exactly what I'm saying, though. They don't like a minority voice speaking up and exposing the many problems with diversity on a show they love. I'm told that the only reason I'm speaking up is because I'm upset I haven't been asked back, which is so wrong. I'm speaking up because we are in a time when people are actually listening to minority voices, and I hope CBS listens and makes some changes."

In late 2019, CBS programming chiefs came under fire by the Television Critics Association for "mismanaging inclusivity on the network's reality programs like Big Brother and Survivor," reported Deadline at the time. 

At the time, a press member called out an incident having to do with Kemi, a Black woman on Big Brother, who in the wake of being eliminated from the show claimed that the series producers "tried to goad her into playing the part of a sassy black woman" along with Survivor contestant Julia Carter's 4,6000-word essay that detailed her experience during Season 38, which entailed a racial slur being used on the first day. 

Of the incidents aforementioned, CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl said, "A producer, we learned, in an attempt to get a soundbite, overstepped. That producer was reprimanded and received unconscious bias training, as well as other producers on the show [did]. We don't want that to happen again."

Additionally, Senior Executive Vice President of Programming at CBS entertainment, Thom Sherman, said, "all of our producers receive unconscious bias training [...] We can't show everything that happens on the show, and producers strive to show a good representation of what happens."

Herren concluded his statement to E! News, "I'm told that I haven't been asked back because I'm boring, which precisely fits in with what I'm saying. The show didn't know what to do with a strategic gay man who was running everything, so they buried me in the edit and made me invisible. It isn't my fault that I came across as boring. It was a calculated choice by production." 

E! News has reached out to CBS and Big Brother for comment and has not yet heard back. 

—Additional reporting by Spencer Lubitz