The cast of "Big Brother 15."
It was a summer of controversy on "Big Brother" thanks to repeated displays of racism, sexism and homophobia inside the made-for-reality-TV house. But while the TV audience, live feed viewers and headline readers on the outside reeled from the remarks and actions, the contestants responsible for the bad behavior remained in the dark about the controversy — that is until the competition came to an end on Wednesday night.
At that point, the players left the safety of their sequestered environment and the reality the rest of us were already aware of started to sink in.
For GinaMarie Zimmerman, Aaryn Gries, Spencer Clawson and winner Andy Herren, those consequences range from lost jobs to public admonishments from current and former employers.
Zimmerman, who used the N-word and made a variety of racially insensitive comments about fellow houseguests, lost her job as a pageant consultant during the second week of "Big Brother 15." But the loss is a fresh one from her perspective.
"It's a real big stab in the heart kind of thing, because my whole life is pageant and dancing," she told Entertainment Weekly. "And I love the (pageant) kids. ... They seem to look up to me for positive, not negative things. I want to be a good person for them. It's hard, 'cause I probably won't see them for quite a while."
But she understands why.
"Anything I said or (that) offended anyone, I apologize for that," she said. "You know, I got a big mouth sometimes. I've got to keep it shut."
Gries, Zimmerman's best friend in the game and cohort when it came to some of the most offensive comments uttered in the house, was let go by the modeling agency that once represented her. But unlike Zimmerman, it seems Gries isn't too upset.
"To be honest with you, it wasn't that great of an agency anyway," Gries told CBS2 with a smile. "I have six meetings with six new agencies ... so it's a better step."
Yes, the Texas-native believes she'll benefit from the fallout from her racist behavior — but she says she's still sorry for it.
"They were very ignorant and insensitive (comments)," she explained. "I wasn't thinking before I spoke. I definitely don't feel that way, and I think a lot of things were taken out of context, unfortunately. I own up to it, but it is what it is and I'm learning from it."
As for Clawson, the Union Pacific conductor who inspired statements from his employer distancing the company from his misogynistic and homophobic comments and a police investigation following a joke about child pornography, the status of his job is uncertain.
On Wednesday, the railroad company issued yet another statement.
"Prior to Spencer Clawson being allowed to return from his Leave of Absence to active duty with Union Pacific Railroad, a formal investigation will be held under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement to determine the facts involving Mr. Clawson's behavior on the 'Big Brother' television show and online live feed," the statement read. "Based on the results of the investigation, Union Pacific will determine the appropriate action regarding Mr. Clawson's employment status."
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Clawson apologized for his "boneheaded" comments and "bad jokes." He also expressed his hope for continuing his railroad career.
"I believe, from my understanding, that the union is fighting to preserve my job, but at this time, I understand the railroad is trying to keep some distance from me," he said. "I find that very unfortunate. I love my job; I'm really good at it. I do hope I can get back up there and just get back to work and return to some normalcy here soon."
Winner Herren, who received harsh, homophobic comments from some of his fellow houseguests, made some strong statements of his own — especially where Elissa Slater (aka America's Favorite) was concerned. He was in between semesters at his former place of work, but Glen Ellyn, Illinois' College of DuPage, issued a statement on FB last week explaining that Herren's comments and behavior do "not represent the opinion or values" of the institution.
When Herren spoke to EW, he said, "Anyone who's been in the classroom with me can attest to the fact that I love my job and would love to be back there."
While he didn't address the comments he made in the house at the time, he later tweeted an apology to Slater.
"Big Brother" is over for the summer, but despite the season of controversy, CBS has already renewed the reality TV show for next year.
First published September 20 2013, 6:29 AM