A Gay Take on Big Brother
"Aren’t you...?" "Didn’t you go to school with my sister?" "Oh my God! Marquesas! From Survivor!" I’ve heard all these things since 2002. I’m Marcellas Reynolds, forever to be known as "Marcellas from Big Brother." Kinda like "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince", though not as cool. In some ways it’s like being a porn star. It only takes one movie to be a porn star and one show to be a reality star.
In 2002 a friend who worked for the shows’ producers asked if I’d do Big Brother. I was ending my model career and had begun fashion styling. I’d never watched Big Brother. In fact my agents warned me against doing the show. "It will ruin your career," they said. It wasn’t until I caught my boyfriend cheating on me with a guy from The Real World that I decided to do it. "If he wants a reality star, I’ll be the biggest in the World," I cried while filling out the 20 plus page application. 2 weeks later I was in L.A. for finals, a month later I was in the House completely unprepared for what was next.
It wasn’t until the door closed behind me that fear hit me. Fear of being gay on TV. I came out @ 22 after a rather disastrous engagement to a beautiful, young actress who dropped me to follow her dreams to Hollywood. And boy did I come out. I was a waiter in a hip Chicago restaurant where I was discovered as a model. It was hip to be gay as a waiter and even hipper as a model. Male models are anonymous, but walking onto the Big Brother set was...well it was public in a way that I’d never been exposed. Instantly I was hit with the weight of representing both the African American and homosexual communities. That weight made me cold and unfriendly. I didn’t want to open my mouth for fear a purse would fall out. I wouldn’t talk or interact because I didn’t want to be "too Black" or "too gay."
The 1st week of Big Brother 3 was hard. I felt I’d made a huge mistake. I wanted to go home. And the House Guests were more than happy to oblige; I was nominated for eviction. And then it happened; I opened up and became myself. I came out and discovered it was okay. Okay to be the "Black, gay guy." I managed to stay 10 weeks out of 12. 69 days! I’m the gay contestant that has gotten farthest in the game, who holds the record for the most HoH wins and (infamously) veto wins. And I made the biggest mistake in reality TV history. Yeah I’m pretty much reality royalty. A true Big Brother All-Star.
Big Brother has a great history of representing the gay and lesbian community. Starting with the histrionic Bunky Miller (season 2) who spent his season in tears to me, who blew my chance @ $500,000 by falling on my own sword to save another player and not using the Golden Veto, to Will Wikle, the nurse from NY (a neither here nor there player) to Ivette Cordero, the Cuban-American lesbian who had an amazing capacity for racist rhetoric, to our newest gay house guest Joshuah Welch. Joshuah was just evicted after spending 56 days in the Big Brother house. I must say I was getting worried! Was Joshuah the one? The one who would dethrone me as the ultimate gay player! Okay I may not be the ultimate, but I’m the gay who has gotten the farthest in the game. Wait a second, Ivette was runner-up on season 6. She may have won if not for her abrasiveness. Am I not the ultimate gay player? Hm mm... Well I was chosen for All-Stars and no other gay (or lesbian) was. I’m an All-Star dammit! Which only means I had 2 shots @ winning $500,000 and lost twice.
But back to Joshuah. Much has been said about Joshuah. He’s abrasive. Misogynist. He’s even a bully. It’s a strategy used successfully by many straight male house guests. In fact the past 2 seasons, two of the meanest players in Big Brother history have won; Mike Malin, won All-Stars and Dick Donato, who actually referred to a fellow female house guest by the "c word" won season 8. The straight males get to be mean. They get to be bullies and no one says a word and if they do it’s "them" behaving badly. The individual. But if the gay guy behaves badly, he’s making "us" look bad. We as the LGBT community must stop thinking of ourselves as monolithic. What one gay man does should not define or demean the entire community. I did Big Brother. My actions speak only of me. I’m not here to represent any community. And neither is Joshuah.
A lot has been written about the gays on Big Brother and on reality TV in general. Many feel that it’s only feminine men that are overly-dramatic. I find that particularly insulting since it’s been lobbed at me many times. Can there ever be one gay man that everyone embraces? No, because no man can encompass all the mythical qualities that make a perfect human being. Being human is about being flawed. About making mistakes and falling. It’s about learning from our mistakes and getting up, dusting ourselves off and trying to be better. It’s about growth.
Reality TV is at it’s best a great mirror into worlds we may otherwise not see. It can show us that we are all human no matter what our differences. Who doesn’t remember Pedro Zamora from The Real World and his poignant struggle with HIV? He put a face on a disease many knew so little about. Pedro’s triumph of spirit was his own. It was beautiful to watch and made amazing TV. At the end of the day that’s all we the viewer did, watch and as a performer that’s all he did, perform. The same can be said of anyone who does any reality show. One woman is not a representative of all women. Neither is any man, regardless of his race or sexuality.
I look forward to meeting Joshuah. I want to welcome him to the Big Brother family. 56 days in the Big Brother house, away from family, friends and real life, is no small feat. I want to congratulate him on a job well done. And besides, he’s hot.