Advice to the Cast of Big Brother 16 (or Things I Wish I Knew before Walking into the BB12 House)

Number 1: Bring PUZZLE BOOKS and brainteasers with you to sequester. Use that time to get your mind ready for competitions. Practice memorization techniques. Think of sequester as an intensive training period. Make a list of past comps and strategize for them. If you’ve seen a BB competition in the past three years, you’ll likely compete in some variation of it.

Number 2: When Shawn tells you that you can’t wear shirts with art or logos, she’s not kidding. Go to American Apparel and buy as many solid shirts and shorts as you can afford, otherwise you’ll end up wearing the same tired V-neck all season long.

Number 3:You WILL be hated. Even the most popular BB contestants like Jeff and Jordan have a big chunk of viewers who loathe them. When you’re in the house, there’s an inverse relationship between how much you THINK America loves you and how much the audience ACTUALLY despises you. Every season, the houseguests who think they’re the “good guys” are the least liked players among viewers. Even if–scratch that–ESPECIALLY IF production intimates that America loves you, you’re probably not liked.  Notice how, on previous seasons, the villains are usually SHOCKED to learn America hated them.

Number 4: You have to play TWO games in the house. The first one is the actual Big Brother game, which includes competitions and manipulation of your fellow houseguests. The second game is the one you play with viewers and production. Be a big, memorable character and production will be invested in keeping you. Ever notice how game-changing plot twists tend to benefit beloved players like Rachel, Jeff, and Frank?

Number 5: Learn how to accept an apology and move forward. Do NOT hold grudges in the house. Your worst enemy one week could be your best and most unexpected ally the next. Imagine how season 12 would have ended if Brendon and I would have aligned after our blowout fights. (FTR, I tried to make it happen.)

Number 6: Avoid the following BB clichés:

  • Even though I encourage you to accept apologies and forge alliances with enemies, don’t tell them, “What makes this brilliant is that NOBODY WILL SEE THIS COMING.”
  • “Wait until you see the tapes!”
  • It’s fine to mention “back door” but NOT if it’s in reference to somebody who played in the veto. If the person played in veto, it’s not a back door. Period.
  • “Floater” is the most commonly misused cliché in the house. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about floaters. First, floaters avoid winning competitions. Second, a floater isn’t just a floater because he or she is not playing into YOUR hand. Finally, floating is a legitimate strategy that frequently wins the game. Floater is only a bad word when it’s used by somebody who doesn’t understand its definition.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other players. The most memorable characters carve out a niche for THEMSELVES, they don’t try to be the “next” Will or Britney.

Number 7: If you have a twisted sense of humor, squelch it in the house. Your haters have no sense of irony. They’ll capture video of you making a tasteless but hilarious joke, then they’ll send the footage to your boss. That joke you made about your competitor filming child porn will, in their eyes, mean YOU film kiddy porn. Your haters will be relentless, so they may get you fired. Don’t give them ammunition.

Number 8: Want to figure out the week’s storylines? The questions you’re asked in the diary room can help you figure out your cast’s villains and heroes. Important note: One week’s hero may be next week’s villain and vice versa.

Number 9: Prepare your boss for potential fallout of you doing the show. Chances are, fans WILL contact him or her. CBS offers NOTHING in terms of preparing your employer for backlash. You’re likely a casual viewer of the show, so you have no idea how crazy some of the live feeder viewers prove to be each year. And their animus gets exponentially worse with each new season. They’ll create FB pages dedicated to hating you. They’ll call your boss over and over and over again. Anything that can be taken out of context and used against you WILL BE USED TO SABOTAGE YOU IN THE REAL WORLD. If memory serves me, BB13’s Shelly Moore was fired (or nearly fired) for her “relentless bullying” of Rachel, as if my friend RACHEL could be bullied by ANYONE. The big piece of evidence used against Shelly: One time, she threw one of Rachel’s stuffed animals over a fence. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the offense, some of these fans are crazy and brutal, which is a dangerous combination. YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THEIR VITRIOL. Show your boss this blog. The more you can prepare him or her, the better off you’ll be.

Number 10: You also need to prepare your loved ones for hearing a lot of nasty things about you. They should not take the bait. The minute they start defending you or making statements in a public forum about the show, the audience considers them fair game. They’ll be as horrible to your friends and family as they are to you. The best thing they can do is keep a low profile and stay off fan forums.

Number 11: Your “fame” will last for a year. Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Once the new cast comes out, nobody cares about you. In two years, few people will even realize you were ever on TV. The more you invest in your fleeting fame, the rougher it’ll be for you to deal with the transition back to anonymity.

Number 12: After the show, don’t quit your day job. The houseguests who don’t go back to work after the show have lives that sadly revolve around BB. Big Brother is a fun divergence, like summer camp, it’s NOT a career. Nobody ever looked at a 35-year-old camp counselor and said, “You had so much fun at camp that you decided to turn it into a lifestyle. And I ADMIRE that.”

All that said, you’re about to have the time of your life. If you take my advice to heart, all the negative blowback will be worth it. Every time you step onto a competitive apparatus, remember that all of this is for YOU. Never doubt how lucky you are to play the game.