Photos courtesy of Lauren Russo
We got a chance to speak with Philadelphia’s Derek Frazier about his journey to the finale of CBS’s Big Brother.
If you watched this season of Big Brother, you probably adored Derek Frazier, the runner-up in the 23rd season. But did you know that Frazier formerly worked in the Main Line as an Admissions Director at his alma mater, Valley Forge Military Academy?
Residing in Wynecote at the time, he lived with his mother up until his recent transition to the Philadelphia area. Frazier was working in data entry before his submission video impressed the judges and he got chosen to compete on Big Brother 23.
Since Main Line Today last spoke with Derek Frazier in 2019 about his father, Joe Frazier’s legacy, he has truly stepped into the spotlight. His inviting personality is one of the reasons he was so successful in the show. According to his good friend Lauren Russo, who helped manage his social media while he was in the BB house, the goal was always to connect with everyone on the show.
What makes Season 23 of Big Brother so unique is that, from the start of the show, the final six contestants decided to form an alliance to fight for the importance of representation for people of color (POC) in the media. Lauren says that Frazier’s personal goal is to allow black and gay people to know that they can be on television, too. He hopes to be a role model for future generations by stepping into the media being his true self, unapologetically.
“I know Derek is going to be happy to have a black winner, whether it is him or another contestant,” says Lauren.
After the conclusion of Big Brother 23, we got the chance to speak with Derek Frazier about his experiences in the house.
MLT: What do you think stuck out about your submission video that got you on the show?
DF: When I did my video, it was at a time, can I be honest with you? Where I was just like, I am going to say whatever. I don’t think I’m going to get picked, but I’m gonna say whatever. I was my authentic self; I spoke the truth and did not hold back. Some people think you have to be very proper like an interview. Be yourself. I cursed in the video. I said my reasons why I wanted to be there, why I thought it was important. Don’t try to put on an act. Be yourself, and I think that’s what the casting team at CBS loves about you is yourself. Show that and explain why you think you should be on something and, being on Big Brother, I explained that I wanted to be the first African American to win. I am also gay, and I am also big, and they don’t show that type of diversity on a lot of reality shows, and I wanted to show that.
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MLT: What was it like being on the show? How was your experience in the house? Was it harder or different than you expected?
DF: It was definitely harder both mentally and physically. When you watch the show at home it looks like, “Omg, so much fun,” but those competitions are competitions, and they were draining. But it was worth it. I had so much fun. I would just say being away from home and being cut off from the world was difficult, but I think what helped me was that I went away to Valley Forge Military Academy. Going [away] to the school definitely helped me with being away from home and being able to focus.
MLT: Do you think the strategy for this game is more mental or physical?
DF: Depending on your type of style, I think I have neither. I played more of a social game. But I think if you come on with a mixture of both, you have the perfect combination. But don’t forget about the social [aspect] because it is also very important.
MLT: What was the most difficult part of being on Big Brother?
DF: The most difficult part for me was having tough conversations with people you care about and realizing there are so many cameras around. Being away from home and not knowing what is going on. Not winning competitions and not hearing from home was even more difficult.
DF: I wish that I would have held back, you know. I say things very blunt and what I feel in that moment and I wish I would have kinda refrained a little bit. Especially with my friend Azah, I wish I would have just pulled back a little bit. I’m still gonna tell her how I felt. I wish I would’ve just pulled back and remembered there’s a thousand cameras, not just me and her.
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MLT: How does it feel to make history as the first group of African American finalists on the show?
DF: It felt amazing. It felt like we did something way bigger in history. We did something that other people didn’t do but we were also able to show a bigger alliance that has never happened before. It was great to know our mission was accomplished because no matter who was sitting at the final two chairs, no matter who wins, someone from African American descent is going to win for the first time in Big Brother history and I think that is important.
MLT: Do you think as a gay African American man on TV, you made other people in your community feel more welcome in the media?
DF: I think so. My goal was to show the different side of the black community…being a gay man that I think a lot of people don’t see. It was really tough growing up, especially in the hood, in the type of lifestyle that the black community is at times. I wanted to be able to show people you could be gay and enjoy life and be you and people will accept you for you. That was my goal to come on and say, “Hey, this is me,” and I think this was the right platform to do that.
MLT: Do you think your friendships you made on the show will last outside the house?
DF: I think so. I don’t think all of them, and that’s okay because you know some people are gonna take things personal. I mean it is a reality show, if you take things personal, you can’t do that. We’re here to entertain, but I understand people may take things personal, but if people really know who people are, you won’t. You have to be genuine about it. You know who I am, we live together and hopefully people understand that and, if you don’t, nothing is ever meant to hurt. You’re here for a competition. There’s money on the line and you have to get as far as you can.
MLT: What is the number one thing you will miss most about the Big Brother house?
DF: The number one thing is probably going to be the storage room. There was always food in the refrigerator and the fact that I didn’t have to pay for it and the fact that it was always there. I am going to miss requesting a lot of things because now I’m like, “Can I get this?” and I realize I gotta go get it, so I am gonna miss that. Also the people and the bond that we made was amazing.
MLT: What are you going to do with your runner-up prize money?
DF: I want to help my mother. She has a lot of medical bills. I was there to fight for her [and] she’s always helped me and fought for me. I do also want to donate to a charity, either to a single mother charity or start my own charity for single mothers. I think that is very important because I grew up in a single-parent home and I want to be able to give that back.
MLT: What is the one Philly food you missed the most?
DF: Baby, whatchu think? A Philly cheesesteak! I can’t wait to get me one. That’s the first thing I’m getting when I get home.
MLT: What are you plans now that the show is finished? Do you plan to stick around the Main Line?
DF: I’m definitely staying in Philly, that’s my hometown. I’m hoping I can do more things. I have my TikTok, I’m doing The Regular Deular Show, I have my Instagram that I run with my best friend, and I’m planning on doing more videos and more content. I’m hoping to entertain, to be myself, maybe host something or start my own podcast, whatever. I like talking and entertaining. [I want to] continue doing reality or end up being a co-host or get my own show. I would love that.