Villain Edit

Big Brother’s Taylor Hale Still Believes In The Lovable Villain

The Season 24 winner on flipping the narrative and making history.

Elite Daily; Courtesy of Taylor Hale; Shutterstock

In Villain Edit, reality stars share their thoughts about being misunderstood on their shows, set the record straight on controversies and misconceptions, and detail their redemption arcs. First up, Big Brother winner Taylor Hale on how she turned her negative narrative around and won the most money in the show’s history.

Taylor Hale didn’t expect to be anyone’s villain when she went on Big Brother in the summer of 2022. Fresh out of competing at Miss USA, Hale had just won the Miss Congeniality award in 2021. “That’s when all the women you competed against in the pageant vote for the person that they think is the friendliest,” she tells Elite Daily. “I’m literally credentialed as being someone nice and easy to get along with.” Her fellow houseguests didn’t see that side of Hale, though.

In the Big Brother house — where 16 contestants engage in physical and mental challenges, and strategic alliances and daring manipulations are key to winning the grand prize — Hale was seen as a capital-V Villain. Her list of alleged crimes included taking advantage of a fellow contestant’s mental health crisis and using a contestant’s mom’s stage three cancer diagnosis to encourage her to self-evict. The latter was especially difficult for Hale. “It was emotionally my lowest low,” the 28-year-old says. “I was so heartbroken because it was a direct charge at me and my impact on somebody when I was just trying to empathize.”

Although Hale hadn’t been opposed to villainy on her way into the house, the Michigan native had little time to indulge in any social manipulation while she was there — she was too busy defending her character. “I’m all for lying, cheating, and manipulating with the game, but there’s a line there,” she says. After hearing what her competitors thought of her, Hale wanted to “pump the brakes” on the villain narrative. She succeeded — eventually.

By the end of Season 24, Hale’s persistence had won over the jury, granting her the $750,000 prize. She was also voted America’s Favorite Player, marking the first time a contestant had ever won both of Big Brother’s highest honors. With the added $50,000 AFP prize, Hale is the top earner in the show’s history. The ground-breaking didn’t stop there. Hale was also the first Black woman to win the show. “I don't want to change anything that happened because it worked out pretty well for me in the end,” she says.

Postshow, Hale’s an influencer in her own right. For the fans who are following along, she’s working on brand deals, interviewing evicted houseguests on BB’s latest season, and even walking down the runway at fashion week. Here, she reflects on being cast as her season’s villain, while still being viewed as America’s sweetheart.

Elite Daily: Going on the show, you said to the cameras, “This is a unique experience where I get the opportunity to be bad, lie to people’s faces, be evil.” How does that quote speak to your mindset at the time?

Taylor Hale: Big Brother is a mindf*ck — it’s a game of mental endurance where you’re going to have to lie to people to get to the end. Everyone is going to manipulate somebody. We’re competing for $750,000.

It’s also this really unique reality where you can be the worst version of yourself if you want to be, as long as you own it. You can take on an alternate persona and identity. I was really excited about that. But I didn’t think being a “villain” was going to be my full identity in the house.

There was always a fear that people were going to subscribe to the villain narrative, but that’s what made me feel comfortable going on Big Brother in the first place.

ED: What was it like feeling misunderstood by your castmates while on the show?

TH: It was multifaceted. I was trying to process “Am I the person they say I am?” At the same time, I knew the world was watching. And as a Black woman, I’m keenly aware of how the world is receiving me. Like, am I even allowed to have the full range of emotions? If I react emotionally, how will that be interpreted? It was definitely a case of survival mode when the dogpiling started to get uglier and uglier.

ED: Did you have any moments while filming where you wished you could clarify things, so your fellow houseguests would see your point of view?

TH: There was one conversation I had with [Paloma Aguilar] very early. She told me, “I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I want to go to bed.” Afterward, she asked me, “Am I being rude right now?” I wanted to wake her up. “Yeah, you’re being f*cking rude. This is ridiculous.” So many of my negative experiences early in the season were because of her, and she wouldn’t even hear me out.

ED: You ended up winning America’s Favorite Player. During filming, did you have any idea that fans watching at home were on your side?

TH: There was always a fear that people were going to subscribe to the villain narrative, but that’s what made me feel comfortable going on Big Brother in the first place. I knew that the 24/7 live feeds were a safety net. There were times when I would say to the camera, “I hope you guys don’t hate me. I hope you all understand where I was coming from.”

[Matt] Turner kind of nailed it, though. In the house, he told me, “People are going to think you're iconic. Your story is so good, and you’re funny.” At the time, I didn’t believe him. I thought Big Brother fans didn’t value that or someone’s journey. They want to see competition wins, backstabbing, and manipulating. I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. But when I got out of the house, I was the one with the most followers. I broke the record for winning the most money in the game.

ED: Going into your speech to the jury, where recently eliminated players decide which of the final two will win the grand prize, what was your goal?

TH: I wanted to narrate my journey and how hard it was. I called out the sexism and racism I faced. I called out the times I was accused of using mental health and illness against people. I needed the jury to imagine playing this game, while also defending your character and still treating people with kindness. That’s like playing this game on expert mode, when everyone else was playing on easy or medium.

I still believe in the rootable villain. I don’t think that competition reality TV thrives without good villains.

ED: You eventually won over people enough to get the jury vote 8-1, and once you left, you were able to see the audience’s love for you — more proof that you were never a villain in their eyes. For other stars, do you think that the “villain” label can be more difficult to shed?

TH: It’s got to be harder for people on edited shows like The Bachelor or Too Hot to Handle, where there’s no live stream or backup footage to corroborate your character. At least on Big Brother, people have receipts.

ED: What did your family and friends at home think of you being a villain on the show?

TH: It was harder for them than it was for me. They had to see everything in real time, and they couldn’t do anything about it. I walked out the victor with money and fame, but what did they really get? They didn’t get the tangible rewards, and they had to deal with a lot while I was gone.

ED: What was it like seeing the audience’s reaction to you postshow?

TH: When other players meet Big Brother fans, they usually tell them, “Oh, my God, I loved that game move.” For me, people will come to me, crying. They’ll tell me about the time they were bullied or isolated. It’s a deeply emotional bond.

ED: Coming out of the show, what was your experience like with castmates?

TH: To this day, it still frustrates me that there are people from my cast who can’t let go of the idea that I am the version of me that they believed I was in the beginning.

I don’t have to have the closest relationship with everyone from my season, but they’ve apologized, they’re working on themselves, and I can appreciate them for who they are. A lot of them are in some sort of therapy now. I really appreciate people who apologized before getting evicted and facing heat from the outside world.

ED: Did you get any feedback from other reality stars?

TH: Rachel Lindsay didn’t watch Big Brother, but when we finally talked, she said, “I don't know about your season, but I just was told that you're the first Black woman to win this thing, so I got your back.”

ED: How do you view the term “villain” then versus now?

TH: On reality TV, there are two different categories of villains. You’ve got your villain who’s just a bad person. People who are sexist, misogynistic, or homophobic. They’re not fun. They drag down the experience. Then, there’s the lovable villain. They’re sneaky, coy, and a little devious. They own their game. Those are the villains that we want to see on TV.

On the show, the house labeled me as the first type — the more negative villain. But I still believe in the rootable villain. I don’t think that competition reality TV thrives without good villains.

ED: Do you have a favorite reality TV villain?

TH: Before she got into politics, I would say Omarosa [from The Apprentice]. She’s one of my OG reality villains. I could not stand her, but why couldn’t I stand her? She’s just such a compelling TV figure.

Corinne [Olympios] from The Bachelor is another one. Why was the girl napping during a rose ceremony? Why do I still think about her cheese pasta? A good villain makes you love to hate them, while secretly rooting for them. You want to see all their stupid, silly antics.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.