There is no better underdog story in Big Brother’s 24 seasons than Taylor Hale.
After enduring months of bullying, backstabbing, name calling and racism, the 27-year-old personal stylist from Detroit became the first Black woman in the history of the series to win the reality competition’s grand prize of $750,000. During the season finale, she was also named America’s Favorite Player, winning the fan vote.
In a post-show interview with Entertainment Weekly, Taylor explained how important this moment was and the inspiration she got from previous Black women houseguests like Danielle Reyes, Da’Vonne Rogers and Kemi Fakunle.
“I thought about them all the time. When it was hard, I thought about them, and I thought about Da’Vonne in her first season. She was evicted, like, week three because people were talking about her the first week when she was counting things in the house,” Hale said. “Why is it that people who look like me playing this game are immediately villainized, immediately looked at with shadows of doubt when there are so many other players who have played more mischievous and malicious games?”
“Even Kemi was really bullied her season. Even though she was talking about, ‘I was a high school bully’—she still got it,” she continued. “So I just want there to be freedom for us to exist. And if I had to be the one that bared a lot of the burden so we could prove the point, then so be it. It paid off, and now there should be freedom for the rest of the future.”
After the two-hour finale began with a combination of physical and intellectual challenges, Hale delivered a moving, spectacular speech to the jury of former houseguests. She recounted how she had been up for elimination six times, described the multitude of bullshit she’s put up with this season and proudly bragged about how she took care of herself as a woman—because that’s what we, as women, do. It was a beautiful moment and the only thing missing was heroic music playing in the background.
“I am not a shield, I am a sword,” Hale proudly proclaimed. “I am not a victim, I am a victor.”
“Jury members, I am challenging you to make the hard decision and change the course of this game and choose progress for the course of this game,” she added. “I can be the winner of this season and I promise you will not do it in vain if you do it tonight.”
Tiffany Mitchell, who previously competed as a member of the historic The Cookout alliance last season, was particularly excited about Taylor’s jury speech, tweeting, “My baby sis is leading an entire SERMON.”
I love reality competition shows, they’re my guilty pleasure. But some time ago, I became disconnected and uninterested in Big Brother. Primarily because Black women are always eliminated first and are never treated well within the house. As the attacks on Taylor became the story of this season’s early episodes, I was drawn back into the drama just to show support for her. Her fight was so recognizable to ones that I and other Black women have battled countless times. She became our hero. She was us and we were her.
When Daniel Durston humiliated Taylor in front of the whole house by accusing her of using Paloma Aguilar’s mental health against her in the game, we felt her embarrassment and pain, because we’ve been there. When none of the Black men in the house stepped up to defend her against the constant bullying, we felt her despair and loneliness. When she was forced to constantly prove that she was actually the victim and not her accusers, we felt her anger and frustration. And when Julie Chen Moonves announced her as the winner of Big Brother Season 24, we felt her joy and elation, because we know how hard it was for her to stay the course and not give up in the face of non-stop negativity.
And because we were with her every step of the way, we celebrated with her.
One Twitter user wrote, “Taylor’s Big Brother experience is literally the metaphor for what dark skinned Black Women experience in America. Literally everyone against you for no reason. White women, White men, Black Men AND other lighter skinned/biracial Black Women. So proud of her!”
Another person reminded everyone that they likely have a Taylor in their lives, writing, “My wish today is that people understand that there is a Taylor Hale in your office, she’s in your class, your neighborhood- everywhere. She is labeled as soon as she walks in the room. She isn’t given grace and has to fight for EVERYTHING!”
If you can’t understand why this means so much to Black women, one user summed it up, writing, “AND US [TAYLORS], YEAH, WE WERE ALWAYS THE TRUE WINNERS OF THE WAR.”
To those who aren’t in the trenches fighting these battles every single day, Taylor’s win may not seem like a big step, but there are plenty of Black women and girls who went to work and school today with an extra strut because they feel like if she can persevere and come out the other side as a winner, so can they.