The first Black woman to win ‘Big Brother’ was perfect, but she shouldn’t have had to be

OPINION: Taylor Hale was targeted week after week for no reason other than the mere fact that she existed, yet she always held her head high and moved forward. Her resiliency was stunning.

Taylor Hale winner of "Big Brother" season 24. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Taylor Hale was every Black girl in last night’s finale of “Big Brother.” 

She was Tiffany. 
And Danielle Reyes, who were among the many Black women who’ve appeared in the previous 23 seasons of the show.

Taylor—who became the first Black woman to win the non-celebrity edition of the game—was the tears of every Black girl who feels and stands alone yet finds a way to repurpose those tears to wash the blood from her wounds. Her smile in the face of unjust ridicule is every Black girl who has ever had to grin and bear unwarranted attacks while still moving forward in the most excellent of excellence (because regular excellence is never enough). Her warm embrace and ability to reach for grace were steeped in the nurturing spirit of Black grandmothers and great-grandmothers who smiled and gave grace in the face of oppression because they had no other option. 

Taylor was every Black girl on Sunday night—past and present. 

Taylor was the perfect winner, emerging from the unfortunate perfect storm of bullying, racism, colorism, misogyny and groupthink that occurred this season, the show’s 24th. Yet, she was flawless throughout this entire game. A stunning masterpiece of Black Girl Magic. Not only was she visually stunning but her morality and character were also stunning. Her resiliency was stunning. Her willpower was stunning. She was targeted week after week for no reason other than the mere fact that she existed, yet she always held her head high and moved forward. She never gave up on herself. 

I’ve watched “Big Brother” faithfully for 22 years, and there has never been a player with a more triumphant win. Ever. As she said in her emotionally riveting finale night speech:

“Monte [Taylor, this season’s runner-up] may have more blood on his hands than me [meaning competition wins and strategic blindsides], but as someone who has sat on this eviction block six times on eviction night, I have bled out the most in this game. But I have bandaged myself together every single time and gotten up and continued to fight because like so many other women in the world that is what we have to do to get to the end. We have to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first while also looking out for the rest of the ones who are behind us.” 

No one, and especially not the runner-up, was prepared for this verbal lashing that Taylor unleashed. Taylor came with #bars for every single question thrown at her because she knew this final closing speech was necessary to win the hearts and minds of the jury. Hands down, this was the best finale speech in “Big Brother” history. (I challenge anyone to find one better.) Tears of joy have literally been with me and so many Black woman superfans of this show since her finale night. She moved us all in the graceful essence that she’s moved with all season. 

It cannot be understated…Taylor was the perfect winner. 

But she should not have had to be perfect. She, like other Back women, should not have to “bleed out” and walk the tightrope of perfection to win in life or this game. 

On a human level—game aside—these houseguests dragged Taylor through the mud in a way that hit us all in the very pit of our stomachs. For Black women especially, seeing her cry at the hands of her mistreatment was a special kind of torment. We saw ourselves in her struggle to simply be seen and respected. We saw our own experiences in the ways in which we are often not given the benefit of the doubt in the same ways as our white counterparts. We saw ourselves in the ways that our innocent actions can easily be twisted and misinterpreted because they are being seen through the eyes of unconscious bias. We recognized the ways that we have to bite our tongues and keep walking with grace so that our lives don’t explode around us. Under the weight of all of this, Taylor responded with love and empathy at every turn—even during times when she could have clapped all the way back on these houseguests. 

Twenty years ago, to the day of Taylor’s win, the first and only other Black woman (not including “Celebrity Big Brother”) to make it to finale night in “Big Brother’s” history, Danielle Reyes, sat in Taylor’s very position. Except Danielle was unapologetic about her game, her strategic blindsides and the mere fact that she did what she needed to do to get to the final two seats. She played a stellar game, and superfans of “Big Brother” often quote her loss as among the more tragic of the series. 

Danielle was not perfect. She was simply herself. She was calculating. She was daring. She was cunning. She was brave. She was a “Big Brother” strategic mastermind. That type of Black woman deserves her flowers, too. Black women should not have to contort themselves into palatable versions of perfection before the world recognizes our gifts. A strategic badass Black woman deserves the respect of others who were able to see the brilliance of her game and award her the top prize. But in Danielle’s season, the jury voted against her more than they actually voted for the actual winner in a 9-1 vote. Despite the fact that just the season prior, the most notoriously cunning and beloved strategist, Dr. Will, played and won using a similar cutthroat strategy. 

In the 24 years of the show, “Big Brother” juries have put aside their hurt feelings to see the brilliance of other white, male “Big Brother” strategists like Dr. Will, Mike Boogie, Evel Dick and Dan Gheesling. These men lied, manipulated and strategically willed themselves to the end of “Big Brother” games, making for great TV, and they were applauded for their brilliance. They are literally the most famous legends of the game. Black women have not been afforded the same space to do that. That needs to change. It’s time for our society to stop requiring that Black women suffer humbly in grace in order to earn their just due. This requires us as a society to address our unconscious bias and racism. Black women should be able to show up boldly in whatever form and still garner respect. 

Taylor played a perfect game given the cards she was dealt, but we shouldn’t be required to be perfect. Black women should not have to be the warm smile in the face of mistreatment in order to gain the world’s respect. Taylor has over-earned this victory. She is overqualified. As she stated in her speech “I have overcome so much in this game and I’ve come to understand that I am not a shield, I am a sword, I am not a victim, I am a victor.” #bars

Taylor was the perfect winner. This game did not deserve her.

Kamaria Fayola,

Kamaria is an attorney, poet, writer, and lover of all things created #ForTheCulture. She runs a blog, ‘Words of My Mother,’ has lived all over the DMV (heavy on the V), and enjoys skating, debating, and car karaoke. (Because, why not?!) She can be reached on Twitter at @like_tha_moon.

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