Sorry bigots, Big Brother has always been proudly ‘woke’ in its diversity

The promotional photos of Farida and Jenkin, Big Brother UK housemates.

Big Brother made its long-awaited return to ITV last night (8 October) with a colourful cohort of 16 new housemates. Yet the diversity of the contestants has, predictably, caused some social media trolls to cry “woke”.

16 people from a variety of backgrounds entered the famous house in rapid succession during Sunday night’s pre-recorded show, with each one speaking briefly to co-hosts AJ Odudu and Will Best, before the first round of Big Brother games and shenanigans began.

Despite the show serving plenty of drama – out gay housemate Jenkin had his suitcase blown up, his access to hot water removed and unwittingly nominated a housemate for eviction all on his first night – some viewers were too preoccupied with the show being supposedly “woke“.

This year’s housemates include Farida, a 50-year-old Asian woman who wants to let the world know that Muslims “aren’t suppressed”, Kerry, a 40-year-old NHS worker with multiple sclerosis who became the first civilian housemate to enter the house in a mobility scooter, and Dylan, a 39-year-old DJ with a prosthetic leg.

The cast also includes several people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community, while housemates Matty and Tom are bringing much-needed ‘perm’ representation.

One social media user whinged that the housemate list “ticks all the far left woke boxes” while “leaving out the white alpha male” – despite more than a third of the housemates being white men.

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Others scolded ITV for making the show “woke preachery” and “political correct woke bullsh*t”.

Big Brother debuted on Channel 4 in 2000, running for ten seasons before moving to Channel 5, where it was axed in 2018.

Though Big Brother has only been off our TV screens for five years, some appear to have forgotten that the show has always championed diversity.

In 2004, Nadia Almada became the first trans winner of the reality show, long before trans people and their lives became the central talking point for Britain’s two leading political parties.

A graphic comprised of two pictures of Big Brother UK's first and only trans winner Nadia Almada with a neon rainbow background
Big Brother’s Nadia Almada. (Getty/Channel 4)

In 2018, drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist Courtney Act won Celebrity Big Brother, while several of the most diverse, and most beloved, figures in British entertainment have the show to thank for their success.

The Great British Bake Off host Alison Hammond began her TV career as a Big Brother housemate way back in 2002, while host of the 2023 PinkNews Awards Rylan won Celebrity Big Brother in 2012, securing his career in the entertainment industry for years to come.

Former housemates including Brian Dowling, Brian Belo, and Makosi Musambasi have also made big career moves since their time on the show, demonstrating that Big Brother has never been a platform solely for white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender men.

As one person defiantly wrote on social media: “Big Brother has always been the wokest of woke”.

“#BBUK hasn’t ‘gone woke’,” commented another. “You’ve just become intolerant of anything other.”

Big Brother continues on ITV2 at 9pm every Monday through to Friday.