Taylor Hale on her epic speech and historic Big Brother win

It was perhaps the most remarkable and unexpected journey in Big Brother history. And history was indeed made when Taylor Hale was crowned the champion of season 24 on Sunday's live Big Brother finale, the first Black woman to ever win a non-celebrity edition of the game. (Tamar Braxton won the second season of Celebrity Big Brother in 2019.)

Big Brother
Big Brother

CBS Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'

Taylor was on the outs of the house almost immediately when the season began — ostracized by the other women of the cast and ignored or denigrated by some of the men while also going on the block for eviction seemingly every week. But after being on the receiving end of terrible treatment by Daniel Durtson and Nicole Lyong, Taylor was invited to join a new alliance called the Leftovers, and she never looked back.

Taylor won two Head of Households, but, more importantly, she made strong social connections with everyone in the house, and then perfected the jury management part of the game with her goodbye messages to those she sent packing. That management paid off, as did a blistering finale speech in which Taylor told the jury they could reward fellow finalist Monte Turner (who brought Taylor to the end) for his impressive game stats and moves, "or do we want a winner where we choose resiliency? We choose persistence as a reason to win this game?"

Taylor then brought it home to tears from the jurors and cheers from the live studio audience by ending with: "Jury members, I am challenging you to make the hard decision and change the course of this game and choose progress for the course of this game. I can be the winner of this season and I promise you will not do it in vain if you do it tonight."

The jury responded by awarding Taylor with eight out of nine votes. What does it mean to Taylor to not just win the game, but to be the first Black woman to do so? How did she craft that epic speech? And what did Nicole say to her on that finale stage? We asked the champ all that and more when we spoke after her historic win. (Also read our final interviews with runner-up Monte Taylor and third place finisher Matthew Turner.)


CBS Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What does it mean to not just win Big Brother but become the first Black woman to win a non-celebrity edition of the show?

TAYLOR HALE: It is the exact goal that I had coming into this entire game. It is mind boggling that I even pulled it off considering where I was on the first week and second week. And we can go on week to week of how many times I sat on the eviction night block. But I watched a lot of seasons in preparation coming into this game, and the last season that I watched coming in was season 3. And I saw Danielle and the win that she should have had get taken away from her. And that just gave me the extra fuel that I needed to never let go of why in this game.

And there were so many times where it would've been very easy for me to step away from this game. I think everybody can understand that. But my purpose for coming to this game was so much bigger than just Taylor Hale playing. It was so much bigger than just trying to make a name for myself. There was a bigger moment for me that I knew that I had to fulfill, and somehow I ended up pulling it off. So I just want future Black women Big Brother players to know that they can come into the game and they don't have to be bullied or harassed or painted as a villain. They can just be themselves. And win.

How much did you find yourself thinking about Danielle Reyes or Da'Vonne or Tiffany and some of the players of the past that did not get that confetti shower that you did?

I thought about them all the time. When it was hard, I thought about them, and I thought about Da'Vonne in her first season. She was evicted, like, week three because people were talking about her the first week when she was counting things in the house. Why is it that people who look like me playing this game are immediately villainized, immediately looked at with shadows of doubt when there are so many other players who have played more mischievous and malicious games?

Even Kemi was really bullied her season. Even though she was talking about, "I was a high school bully" — she still got it. So I just want there to be freedom for us to exist. And if I had to be the one that beared a lot of the burden so we could prove the point, then so be it. It paid off, and now there should be freedom for the rest of the future.

Let's talk about that epic speech. You found a way to make a super compelling case while also playing to the jurors' emotions. I saw some wiping of eyes during that. Take me through how you crafted that whole thing in your head?

Well, thank you. You know I love giving a good speech in this house. [Laughs] But I truly felt like I did not have an argument coming into the finale and I just knew that if I could get there, the only thing I had was talking about my experience in this house, and that was going through the fire of verbal harassment and being unfairly pinned for serious, serious things that are impacting people's lives.

And all I knew that I could do is point out, "Yes, I have won competitions and that is one way to win this game. But there's so much more that is happening in this game." I know Indy is a massive Big Brother Brazil fan, and she talks all about how the game can be bigger. We can make a better game. So that — even though she and I are on opposing sides — it still resonated with me because I want people to look at this and think, "Okay, Big Brother's a microcosm of the real world. How are we impacting people in this game? Yes, you have to win things and be really competitive, but we're still people." So when it came to my speech, it was much more about relating to people as people, because I wasn't seen as a person for a very long time.

Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'
Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'

CBS Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'

How confident were you before the jury Q&A and speeches? I'm sure you were doing jury math in your head, so what were you thinking?

Well, I don't know if people saw during my last HOH, I was counting M&Ms all week, and it was me and Monte and I was like, "Monte wins six to three, Monte wins eight to one, Monte wins five to four." I just did not feel like there was any chance, especially considering that I hadn't won HOH part one or two. The whole day I practiced my speech, but I was ready to sit there for second place. Even third place if Turner ended up winning.

So I did not think my speech would resonate. Part of me thought that it might land as trying to guilt the jury into voting for me. But again, all I knew is that I had the truth, honesty, and some vulnerability, which was one of my biggest critiques from the beginning. So I knew if I could be those things, it just might land, and eight to one was beyond anything I ever could've imagined for this jury.

What votes surprised you the most?

Terrence and Indy — by far. Terrence was threatening me basically on his way out the door based on however the vote played out and how he would end up voting. He called me a brat! Considering his relationship with Monte, I just knew there was no way that I would get Terrence's vote. And Indy, I mean the girl was talking about throwing hot soup in my face and calling me a bitch all season! I was positive it was not happening. And when Indy put the key in, she said, I'm giving this to my favorite person. I said, "All right, Monte." Pat him on the back. "So that's your vote, not mine."

Well, let's talk about that because to me, one of the best aspects of your gameplay were your goodbye messages. How important were those in terms of your jury management strategy? Because I think it went a long way.

I think it did go a long way. When it came to jury management, I always made it clear what my intentions and my goals were. I think the only jury management video or goodbye message that I sent that really gave any actual concrete details was to Alyssa. And I know she was very hurt by Turner's decision not to keep her in the house, but she needed to know more concrete facts. Even though it was a very interesting vote that week, she needed more concrete facts about why he would've turned against her in the moment. But in those videos, I always wanted to make sure that people understood that I was not playing a game based solely on emotion — that I had a larger mission, and that any assumptions they might have about my game was much bigger and likely, largely incorrect.

Taylor Hale and Nicole Layog
Taylor Hale and Nicole Layog

CBS Taylor Hale and Nicole Lyong on 'Big Brother'

Nicole gave you a pretty hard time in there, but I saw you and her having a long talk right when you came out of the house. What did she say to you after your big win?

The first thing she said to me was "I love you. Seriously." And she said, "There's a lot out there." I said, "What? About you and me?" She goes… [makes a gesture with her hands] because you know how Nicole talks. "There's a lot out there. Just know that I love you." And I told her I love her too, because I do. And I'm not exactly willing to let go of that initial connection I had with her where I felt like we could be long lasting friends.

I think the circumstances of the game might have brought out a different side or player in her. But what I know about Nicole is that she will always own her stuff. And as long as people can own up to whatever they've done or said and are willing to grow, then I'm willing to keep them in my lives. So I will see what actually happened with Nicole. And some of the houseguests have told me some pretty hurtful things that were said early on, but time can heal a lot of things. And I think I'm looking forward to seeing if she and I can build a relationship.

What does it mean to not only win the respect of the jurors, but the fans as well who awarded you with the America's Favorite Player cash?

First of all, to make history two times over in one night… like there are brains on the wall, cause my head has exploded a billion times over. But, you know, it's no secret I am relatively new to the fan base. I watched last season and got excited about it. And then I started watching back as I was going through the recruitment process to get into the show, and in becoming a big fan I was so nervous that I would make bad or stupid game moves or I would say the wrong thing or say something about a player that they did or did not do.

I just wanted to be very respectful of this fan base coming into it because I know these Big Brother fans, they're a little ruthless and very protective of the brand. So coming in as a pageant girl, as a beauty queen, as someone who can very easily be painted as someone who does not take this game seriously, I just knew when the head shots were released that I'd be someone that was like, "Get her outta here. She just wants to be an Instagram influencer. We don't want her." So knowing that the fans would be so invested in my journey in this game, it doesn't feel real to me because I never, ever, ever thought that I would earn the respect of the fan base as well.

You had maybe the ultimate rollercoaster experience in the Big Brother house. A lot of highs and a lot of lows. What was the lowest moment for you?

There were some pretty ugly moments. Of course, I'm going to say the moment when Daniel yelled at me in the house, but I think it was less about him raising his voice at me and more the fact that I was being held accountable for someone's mental health journey. I was being held accountable for someone's sick mom, and trying to use these as game pieces when that was just the furthest thing ever from the truth. In fact, I was trying to express empathy and sympathy and hold space for these people.

So knowing that there are people who could see me in a light that is completely opposite from anything I am, that's when I felt like I don't deserve to be in this game if I'm making other people feel this way. And luckily Turner and whoever else influenced him in the decision outside of just the game play — they were able to take me and bring me into the Leftovers and acknowledge that I'm not the person I was being painted as. But that was a very, very difficult moment. And you know, depending on how I go and watch it all back, it'll maybe color some of the relationships I have in the house. But the lowest point was also the beginning of the highest point for me.

Big Brother
Big Brother

CBS Taylor Hale on 'Big Brother'

When will you start watching it back?

I think what I'm gonna do right now is watch all of the previously ons — so skip through and I'll watch like the first little recaps of everything on every episode. And then maybe I'll start doing my deep dive after a month. I know a lot of my friends and family and fans are gonna be asking questions and I don't wanna just say," I don't know." I only know my perspective. People have fully formed thoughts that I need to be prepared to answer for, so start with the previously ons and I'll take it from there.

Will you play again?

Okay, I need like a couple years. I need a handful of years. I know All-Stars just happened and I know we need some space between that. So maybe All-Stars, but I'll have to wait and see if Michael is on that season, because that might color if I'm coming back or not. I'm trying to actually win comps. I played nine Veto comps and I didn't win a single one. I need Michael to not be around so I can win a Veto.

I think he'd swap places with you if he could. Before you go, I wanted to be the first one to tell you that Rihanna's playing the Super Bowl.

[Super Excited] Okay, I wanna be at the after party! RiRi, hit me up! Did she say anything about our season or is she just staying quiet?

She's quiet, but you know, maybe you can hit her up at the Super Bowl?

My God, that's so good. And I will be there. I will be at that Super Bowl.

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