BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

Meet the 4 reality show winners making history on CBS

The best gameplay is an unassuming one.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Oct 1, 2022

2020 was a bad year for pretty much every person of color. I won’t give you the rundown of everything that happened, because chances are, you were there and don’t need to be reminded. The slew of performative activism that followed, the IG blackout, the “we’ll do better” statements? Oh, it was bad.


When the time came to show support for innocent lives, companies did the bare minimum or nothing at all. Or maybe initially these conglomerates vied for change, but about a year or so later.


Although CBS handles a lot of things incorrectly, in 2020, the media giant did something right. It announced that for its unscripted content (reality shows), 50% of the cast needed to be Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), and 25% of the producers, as well. This diversity quota, for some reason, was not already a given. But it meant that huge money makers, including Big Brother, Survivor, The Challenge, and RuPaul’s Drag Race instantly looked insanely different from 2020-onward. So have the winners’ circles.


Two years later, Big Brother has crowned its first two Black winners. Survivor, its second Black woman (out of over 40 seasons). So, who are these iconic winners? Glad you asked.


Xavier Prather

Xavier was the first Black contestant to win Big Brother after taking home the $750k prize in 2021. A member of the fan favorite “Cookout” alliance, Xavier and its other members chose this group over other loyalties, knowing its mission to crown the first Black winner was too important to let go of. He won a total of 6 comps, half of them being Head of Household (HOH), the most prestigious title. The person with this win gets to control the house from a swanky bedroom for the week.


His strategy of remaining low-key and unassuming worked well. Being good at competitions kept him safe. And when it came time for eliminated houseguests to choose their winner, Xavier easily took the prize over a contestant who, admittedly, didn’t do much.


xavier prather


Erika Casupanan

From season 41, Erika is the first Canadian to win Survivor. Her game-changing moves, such as choosing who would win immunity at a pivotal point in the season, and rallying others against a powerful alliance, set her apart from other cast members. With her strong social game, strategic execution, and knack of avoiding elimination, she was easily voted the winner by her cast. She’s tied with only two other cast mates for receiving the highest number of votes in the finals.


erika copy


Taylor Hale

Miss Michigan USA 2021, Taylor Hale, just became the first Black woman to win Big Brother. She also just became the first winner to take home the title of “America’s Favorite Player,” the fan-voted prize. Because of the combined victories, she has also won the biggest prize in the show’s history, a whopping $800,000.


Taylor had to fight a game of survival. From the first week, was the sole target of bullying and racism and consistently up for eviction. She fought her way into staying with a strong social game, an alliance, and eloquently describing her worth before the final vote. 20 years to the day after Danielle Reyes, the first Black woman to reach the final 2, was snubbed to oblivion, Taylor emerged victorious. (Danielle’s loss of BB 3 prompted the producers to change the entire game — now, houseguests who get to vote for the winner aren’t allowed to see how the season plays out on TV, as it might conflict with their vote for who deserves to win.)


taylor hale


Maryanne Oketch

The most recent season of Survivor saw Maryanne Oketch become the second Black woman to bring home the gold. She’s also the second Canadian in the show’s history to do so. Maryanne’s emotional and exuberant personality originally alienated her from her castmates. But she used this to her advantage, positioning herself as a weak link before bringing out the big guns when it really mattered.


By the final 6, she blindsided another player, showing that she had the ability to make big moves. Like Taylor, she eloquently described to her cast how her social game was a winning strategy, and the 24-year-old student bounced back from underdog to top dog.


maryanne oketch


These changes by CBS prove that when we take up space, we make history. This isn’t the first or last time we see more BIPOC contestants win reality shows, and hopefully other networks (ABC) take note and follow lead. It doesn’t start or end with casting. Decision makers and producers have to be in the room too.


Speaking of TV shows, here is what Marvel is doing about its diversity problem.


Photos via CBS