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'Big Brother' crowns 1st Black winner after 21 years

After 23 seasons, the CBS reality competition series has a Black winner: Xavier Prather.
/ Source: TODAY

For the first time in "Big Brother" history, a Black person has been crowned winner of a non-celebrity season in the United States.

Xavier Prather, a 27-year-old attorney from Milwaukee, won a unanimous 9-0 vote from his housemates on Wednesday night's episode, making him the first Black person to claim victory after 21 years and 23 seasons.

"Xavier won by knowing when to lose and winning when he had to, and was liked and admired by all in the house," host Julie Chen Moonves told Entertainment Weekly after the finale. "How many times have we ever seen that? In addition to winning all nine votes, not a single negative comment was made from any juror when it came time to insert the keys! If that's not proof of God and miracles, then what is?"

"It's kind of surreal," Prather told EW after his win. "I wanted to make a difference. I wanted this season to be different from past seasons and luckily I had five other like-minded individuals in the house to help me with that goal and we accomplished it. And then I was fortunate enough to be crowned the winner. So it's incredible."

Prather is referring to the Cookout, an all-Black alliance between him and five other contestants: Azah Awasum, Derek Frazier, Kyland Young, Hannah Chaddha and Tiffany Mitchell. The sextet succeeded and made it to the end, ensuring that a Black person would snag the top prize of $750,000, the largest pot of gold in "Big Brother" U.S. history.

Xavier Prather from "Big Brother"
Xavier Prather from "Big Brother" season 23Cliff Lipson / CBS

"Being the first Black winner in 'BB' U.S. history is an honor," Prather also told EW. "And it's something that the individuals of the Cookout came together to make happen because we felt it was something bigger than this game. Representation is important. And now we want little Black boys and little Black girls to see: Hey, there are ways to be successful. There are ways to make an impact without being an amazing entertainer or being a professional athlete. You can still be successful in other ways. We wanted to show that with this season, and we accomplished that."

"Big Brother" has had a complicated history with racism in past seasons, especially during season 15 in 2013. That year, houseguests Aaryn Gries and GinaMarie Zimmerman outraged fans with their controversial behavior, which included mocking housemates of Korean American and African American descent.

“'Big Brother' is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives," CBS said in a statement at the time, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "At times, the houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a houseguest appearing on 'Big Brother,' either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”

After Prather's win on Wednesday, fans of the series took to social media to express sentiments about the importance of his victory.

"They all won," one person wrote. "Every black big brother fan that had to watch all white alliances target poc first, won. thank you cookout."

"The first person ever voted off of Big Brother US was a black man," another person wrote. "Tonight we crown our first black winner. Congrats Cookout! #BB23."

One fan put Prather's win into an especially heartfelt context, writing a short note to Cassandra Waldon, the first Black woman to ever appear on "Big Brother." In 2019, Waldon died at age 56.

"Dear Cassandra, you along with others paved the way for the events that will unfold tonight as we crown the first black winner of Big Brother," @moe67 wrote. "You were loved and admired by many. Thank you, and may you rest in power."