I Won ‘Big Brother’ — Interesting Things About the Show

  • I played “Big Brother” twice and won season 13 in 2011.
  • The auditing process is lengthy and thorough and the house is actually a set.
  • You aren’t allowed to have books, cards, or a pen and paper in the “Big Brother” house.

As far as competition game shows “Big Brother” is one of the toughest.

You live in a house with about 13 to 16 strangers and you’re constantly being filmed. It’s a game show and social experiment where you’re competing for power, rewards, and half a million dollars (recently, $750,000).

I competed in two back-to-back summers of the CBS show — season 12 (2010) and season 13 (2011). I met my now-husband on my first season and won my second.

Here are a few interesting things about being on the show that I usually don’t talk about in interviews.

The casting and interview process for ‘Big Brother’ takes a long time

I met with casting teams, producers, and the network before making it onto the show. I also went through numerous interviews, psych evaluations, and medical tests.

At one point, interviewers asked why I’d want to give up my profitable Las Vegas cocktail-waitressing job for the summer to possibly make less money. I said I wanted a one in 13 chance of winning $500,000 and was ready for a new adventure.

Maybe that answer helped me get on the show. Or maybe producers thought a fiery redheaded cocktail waitress with a background in chemistry would be a great character.

Before filming, we would spend about a week sequestered alone in a hotel room

On my first season, I was sequestered in a hotel room for seven days before I could enter the “Big Brother” house. After being alone for that long, I was so excited for the first day of filming.

Before going into the hotel, we gave up our laptops, phones, iPods, and any device that had internet access. The room didn’t have a phone, alcohol, or TV, and we did not have access to the gym, spa, and pool.

We were told to bring a few books and we received puzzles, games, cards, crossword puzzles, and a portable DVD player with a few seasons of “Big Brother” on it.

I was glad I brought my yoga mat, handheld weights, and some good books.

I still don’t know if showrunners have us do this to gauge our ability to handle the seclusion from the real world, but I think it worked. I even remember someone quitting during this period because they couldn’t handle it.

The 2016

“Big Brother” is famously filmed live — there’s no stopping and starting.

Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty Images


‘Big Brother’ is filmed on a set in a studio with a huge crew

The “Big Brother” house is actually a set with pretty thin walls and dozens of cameras all over.

The crew is constantly working to watch multiple cameras, listen to our conversations, and come up with ways to tell and follow the stories. Camera operators have the slightest tear and move to catch what each player’s next will be. Other members of the crew spend hours making sets for the competitions.

Many of them are fully immersed in this experience with us, working all night in case we wake up at 4 am planning to sabotage another player or participate in juicy “showmantic” activities.

Honestly, the crew and production team are the real heroes of the show and “Big Brother” wouldn’t be what it was without them.

The house is pretty much devoid of anything that could distract you from interacting with other people

We don’t get pens to write with, books to read, or cards to play games with — those things might encourage independent activities. The house usually has a chessboard, though, probably designed to remind us that “Big Brother” is like a game of chess.

The amenities we do get, like an outdoor pool table and shared exercise equipment, encourage us to gather and interact.

Big Brother 13 cast posing around a chess board.  From left in background, Kalia Booker, Brendon Villegas (chin resting on fist), Keith Henderson, Shelly Moore, Jordan Lloyd, Daniele Donato and Dominic Briones.  From left in foreground, Jeff Schroeder, Porsche Briggs, Lawon Exum, Adam Poch and Rachel Reilly.

I was on season 13 of “Big Brother.”

CBS via Getty Images


The competitions are spaced out, so there is a lot of down time

When I was on the show, we’d have Head of Household (HOH) competitions on Thursday, the Power of Veto competition on Saturday, Veto meetings Monday, and the HOH’s nomination ceremony on Friday.

Otherwise, every other hour is just about surviving in the house and filling time. We have nothing else to do but talk to people.

This is why social relationships are so key in this game and why fights can be so much more intense. The game is immersive and it becomes your real life — it can really feel as if your best friend is backstabbing you.

That’s also probably why “Big Brother” has so many showmances that become real-life relationships. Getting to know someone over many conversations while going through an unusual experience can really bond people together.

I’ve made some of my strongest friendships through “Big Brother” — and it’s where I met Brendon Villegas, my husband of 10 years.

Rachel Reilly and Brandon Villegas on

My husband Brendon Villegas and I on “Big Brother.”

CBS via Getty Images


You don’t get to keep the HOH robe

When you win Head of Household, you receive the coveted robe, room, and privileges that come with the title.

But at the end of the week, all of that — even the robe — goes to the next HOH. Luckily, I was later able to receive a robe from my friends on the show.

Representatives for CBS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Rachel was on “Big Brother” two times. If you were on or worked on a reality TV show and would be interested in being paid to write about your experience, email pdifiore [at] insider.com.

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