After a season that saw former President Donald Trump aide and headline stealer Omarosa Manigault Newman compete against the likes of Mark McGrath, Metta World Peace, Ross Mathews, Shannon Elizabeth, Brandi Glanville, James Maslow, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Ariadna Gutierrez, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Chuck Liddell for $250,000, CBS’ first-ever winner of Celebrity Big Brother was crowned.
Winokur took home the winning title and grand prize. As for her friend and ally Mathews, he won the second place prize of $50,000 — as well as being voted “America’s Favorite Houseguest,” adding another $25,000 to his winnings.
It was a near 30-day competition where the famous cast of CBS’ summer flagship, Big Brother, were all locked away in seclusion from the outside world and under 24/7 surveillance. There were fights, tons of tears, asthma attacks — with Omarosa checking into a hospital and continuous chatter about her former boss.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with both Winokur and Mathews to look back at the season, dissect Omarosa’s role on the show and find out why they would never consider stepping into this realm again.
There were some early predictions that Omarosa could win it all…
Marissa Winokur: We were never going to let Omarosa win. Come on! I’m just kidding.
No, you’re not.
Winokur: I’m totally not kidding! The minute she walked into the house we said, “We have to get her out!” But then Ross and I had this conversation where we felt she was such good TV that we have to keep her, because we want the show to be a hit. You have to keep Omarosa for that. But if she got to the final two, she deserved to win.
Ross, you were able to get Omarosa to share some details from her time working in the White House. Can you talk about that?
Ross Mathews: I just thought I’d ask and she’d answer back. And she kept answering back! So I kept asking. I knew what kind of scoops I was getting and would run into the diary room and scream to the producers, “Did you see that?!” I was fascinated by every second of every day with Omarosa.
What is your reaction to that conversation being brought up in a White House press briefing?
Mathews: Where’s my Pulitzer? I need some sort of prize here. (Laughs.) I just wish Trump would have tweeted about me. But I would hope in the next press briefing no one brings up The Biggest Loser. Can we just get back to doing the job of the people? Thank you very much. That being said, I did get the Omarosa scoop.
Do you see a friendship with her outside of the house?
Mathews: I don’t know. Omarosa knows how to be a reality TV star. And it’s a skill. I watched her do it. I watched her turn it on and I watched her turn it off. I can respect someone who is good at what they do and she is good at this. I beat her and got her out of the house, but she’s good at it.
Did you ever think the show wanted her to win in the end?
Mathews: I was proud to be going toe-to-toe with someone as infamous as Omarosa. But I knew I would get her out.
What made this jury bitter?
Mathews: I don’t care! I played my best game. I made alliances and I crossed alliances. And then I made it to the final two. And then I won America’s player. I could not be happier. I should have won, but whatever! I’m a little surprised the jury took everything so personally. I would have voted for me. But what can I do? I can’t control that. All I can do is control my game. I don’t get why Shannon is so pissed. That one throws me for a doozy. She should go ahead and Google the show again and see how it works. It surprises the hell out of me. I thought if I back-doored her she would have said, “Awesome! Good game play.” I’m shocked by her.
What was your reaction to her being upset that you betrayed her?
Mathews: We’re playing a game here. If you’re playing chess and someone checkmates you what do you do, cry? It’s a game! I’m sorry.
What surprised you the most in the house?
Mathews: How personally the jurors took everything. I think with time, they’ll chill out.
Marissa, when you were making your final speeches, it seemed like you wanted Ross to win.
Winokur: I thought he was going to win. I found out now that he wasn’t going to take me to the final two, but if he had taken me I had a speech planned saying how I did everything with Ross. We don’t even need to argue about this or fight to the death, because he deserves to win. And that was my other speech. But then when I took him I thought I could fit for it more.
Did how much you talked in the house ever annoy your houseguests?
Winokur: The only person that said anything to me ever was Brandi. Day two she said, “You’re going to calm down.” And I said, “No, this is how I am!” And by the second week she said, “This is who you really are.” Going in, that was my biggest fear — that I was going to annoy everybody and the fact that Omarosa told me last night, “Everybody loves you,” I almost cried. I was very lucky that I was with a bunch of people who were happy by my big mouth.
Would you do something like this again?
Winokur: No. I’m never going to do anything like this again. This was pretty intense. I was such a fan of the show, that’s why I did it, and now I can’t wait to watch again and know what’s going on. And watch the feeds, because the feeds are where the show actually plays. If you’re watching the feeds, you know what’s really happening. If you’re watching the edit, who knows what’s going down?
Would you consider doing a regular season?
Winokur: No, never! I don’t know how anyone does it for more time than we did it. Maybe I’m going to act again.
Mathews: Never. I will never be back in the Big Brother house. I am done. I put in my time. Once you go to state prison, you don’t go back.