'Big Brother': The Cookout Alliance on Making History and Those Claims of ‘Reverse Racism’ (Exclusive)
By Zach Seemayer
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For the first time in Big BrotherUS history, the long-running reality competition series has crowned its first Black champion. The historic accomplishment is, in large part, due to an equally unprecedented and successful alliance known as The Cookout.
The Cookout was formed with the express intent of having the show see it's first-ever Black winner, and was comprised of the six Black houseguests who came together almost from the very start of the show, and worked in secret as a dominant and unified front to achieve their goal.
On Thursday, one day after Xavier Prather was declared the winner of Season 23 by a unanimous vote, ET's Kevin Frazier spoke about the accomplishment with the members of The Cookout -- including Xavier, Derek Frazier, Kyland Young, Azah Awasum, Hannah Chaddha and Tiffany Mitchell.
Looking back to the start of the season, Tiffany reflected on how The Cookout was something that happened almost spontaneously, and then was solidified through hard work and careful and mutual understanding.
"We all saw each other and knew," Tiffany recalled. "I definitely looked at everyone and was like, OK, well I cannot target these people. I'm not gonna be the one to do it.'"
However, she says it was Derek -- known in the house as Derek F, to distinguish him from of fellow houseguest Derek Xiao -- who started to set the stage "on day one."
"Derek did come around to each of us to say, 'Hey, you know we're working together, right?'" Tiffany recalled. "So, we all worked together. And I believe Xavier was the one that came up with the name The Cookout."
"I'll take that credit," Xavier chimed in.
"It was a mission that we all did feel in the bottom of our hearts when we came to the house," Azah shared. "[And] it was brought to fruition."
In the end, Xavier wound up with the $750,000 grand prize, while Derek walked away with the $75,000 runner-up prize. Additionally Tiffany earned $50,000 when she was voted America's Favorite Houseguest.
However, for the members of The Cookout, the victory came the moment they achieved their dreams of bringing their entire alliance into the final six, and thus guaranteeing that this season would see its first Black winner.
"On day 65, when we were all there and it was the six of us and our mission was accomplished, that was the win for all of us regardless of who won the grand prize," Tiffany shared.
While The Cookout seemed, to some, like an unstoppable juggernaut of momentum, there were many times throughout the season that members of the secret alliance had formed very close friendships with houseguests who were not part of it.
One of Tiffany's closest allies outside The Cookout was Claire Rehfuss, while Kyland had a close bond with Sarah Beth Steagall and Xavier was a season-long ally to Alyssa Lopez -- the last houseguest not a member of The Cookout to get evicted. However, when it came time to make their final choices, The Cookout stuck together, even when it hurt.
"I think for a lot of us, some of our closest personal relationships in the house were with members outside The Cookout," Xavier shared. "So, when you had to kind of realize that they these personal relationships can’t come before the group mission, even though it was tough to kind of lose some of those people that we care so much about, I think it also helped bring us together."
"Because every time we did, we knew someone was sacrificing someone they cared about for the vision," he added. "And no one ever wavered on that, no one ever lost sight of that, and I think that's why the season turned out the way it did."
While The Cookout -- as both a Big Brother alliance and as a concerted effort to make history -- was inarguably one of the most successful and powerful alliances in the show's run, the fact that it was comprised solely of the show's Black houseguests has drawn criticism from some on social media, accusing the alliance and its members of so-called "reverse racism."
"The first thing I'm gonna say is reverse racism does not exist it's literally impossible to have happen," Azah shared, in response to those critiques. "If people do feel that, I would like them to ask those questions to the jurors who met us with nothing but love when we all met them the final time [and] in jury."
For Xavier, The Cookout was no different than any alliance Big Brother has ever seen, in the way it was formed and the way it operated.
"To simplify it, you can simply say we were [just] an alliance. Now granted, the reason that we're all together transcends the game, but when you're in the alliance in the Big Brother house your goal is to get out every other person who's not in that alliance," Xavier said. "And that was what we did."
Ultimately, as the season's champion, Xavier says that achieving the goal "means everything" to him, and he's proud of what they accomplished.
"I came to this game wanting to do anything and everything I could to make sure that Big Brother season 23 would be remembered as crowing the first Black winner in US history," he said. "Fortunately, that was me. But if it was Tiffany, if it was Hannah, Ky, Big D, or Azah, I would've been just as happy."
"The season was about representation, and the season was also about a brotherhood that we started on day one and worked all the way through until day 85. And we played the game well," he added. "I wouldn't have won this game without everyone sitting beside me and I never want to lose sight of that. So I'm indebted to all of them."
Check out the video below for more on this historic season of Big Brother.