The latest season of long-running competition show Big Brother—in which a group of strangers are locked away in a house, filmed 24/7, and left to jostle for power and vote each other out until one winner is left—was a historic one. After 21 years, the show crowned its first Black winner: Xavier Prather swept in a 9-0 jury vote, taking home $750,000. But in another first, its final six players were Black, thanks to an all-Black alliance called “the Cookout.” One of them was Takoma Park’s Azah Awasum, 30, who ended up placing third—she is just the fourth Black woman to ever place in the top three in a US regular season.
We caught up with Awasum (who noted she’s a Washingtonian reader!) to see how she is holding up after the finale—and what she’s looking forward to getting back to in Takoma Park.
We’re almost 24 hours out from yesterday’s live finale—how are you feeling?
“The shock is over, the disappointment is over, and now, I definitely have feelings of gratitude. I am a fan of the show, so to be part of this season is pretty darn dope. And to make it to top three on such an epic season is even doper, to say the least.”
What are your thoughts on the theme of this season and how everything transpired?What was it like to be a part of such a historical season?
“I live my life outside this house by: ‘you haven’t started living until you start living for others.’ I thought I would throw that away completely when I got into the Big Brother house. Little did I know, I was gonna meet five individuals who had the same goal as me: wanting an African American [player] to win. At the time, we all wanted it to be us, but when we saw each other, we realized we had to work together and really focus on unity to make that goal actually happen. So, on that level, to take something like the jungle of Big Brother where it’s all about yourself and greed and doing what you need to do in order to get to win—and instead six people have to work together to make a mission accomplished—is pretty amazing…And I’m just full of so much gratitude that God picked a Maryland, Takoma Park girl and put her in this Big Brother house. I’m just so happy.”
Q: What impact do you think that this season—and specifically the accomplishments of your alliance—will have on future seasons of Big Brother?
“I think it will definitely have an impact. I would be very curious to see what will happen next season. What’s the shift that’s going to happen in the gameplay? Will people be working in duos now? Will there still be a mega-alliance started? Will people now have to look at more covert strategies and ways to be able to get ahead, being that all the Cookout members did not meet together in one room until day 53? I’d be very interested to see that.
But one thing that I love that CBS is committed to since last fall, is the diversity [the network is aiming for at least half of the casts of its unscripted shows to be BIPOC]—and this just goes to show you what happens when you open that pool.”
Q: What advice would you give to future players on Big Brother?
“The advice I would give would be: go for it. My father wrote me a letter [during the competition] that really helped me a lot. He said: ‘The race is not for the swift, and the battle is not for the strong, but time and chance happens to all.’ I was able to get to the final three, and I wasn’t a competitive threat. I wasn’t the social butterfly of the house. Not only did I get to the final three, I got in the house. I was a huge fan of the show, and I wanted to go for it and do it, and I did and I somehow got in. If anyone has that desire just go for it, do it.”
Q: Is there anywhere in Takoma Park area that you’ve been missing?
“Oh, man, I love biking on the Sligo Creek Parkway. The Sligo Creek Trail is my favorite trail to go up and down on, and I have not ridden a bike all summer. I’m really looking forward to getting back on my bike and getting back on that trail. It gives me such peace, going up and down.”