We Caught Up With The ‘Big Brother’ Winners To See How They Spent Their Prize Money
Long before we were obsessed with the drama going down on The Bachelor or Married At First Sight, we were all absolutely addicted to Big Brother Australia.
When the show first debuted in 2001, the housemates felt like family and the episodes became part of a nightly routine for thousands of Aussies.
Tragically, the show was eventually axed in 2014 after eleven seasons (and one Celebrity Big Brother). Ratings suffered after the series started favouring twists and novelty housemates over casting actually interesting contestants. But the early years proved just how good the reality show could be and how a simple concept can make TV gold.
While the series may never return to our TVs (I’m still holding out hope!) there’s no denying it changed the lives of the winners who each took home a decent prize packet.
We spoke with four of the most memorable winners of Big Brother Australia to see what happened to their prize money and where they are now!
Reggie, Winner of Season 3
On what winning Big Brother Australia was like:
“The period after winning Big Brother was crazy!! Absolute madness! I had no idea at all what it was going to be like as I went into the show just wanting a holiday and thought I was going to go back home to cooking fish and chips!
“Everyone wanted to come and say hello to me and they were all very friendly. I couldn’t walk down the street without being mobbed! Then for about three months, after the show ended, I was travelling around Australia doing promotions. So many interviews and nightclub appearances.”
What happened to the $250k prize money?
“The prize money didn’t last long! I paid off the house in Tassie and unfortunately my marriage broke down to [ex-partner] Adrian and I left it to him, I walked away.
“Then I couldn’t get a job for about two years after the show as no one would take me seriously and it was still crazy. So I lived off what money I had, paying rent. I also was conned out of $40,000 by a guy who made out that he was a TV producer! We filmed a TV pilot and he kept on asking me to pay for the production while he was waiting for money to come in. That was a whole bunch of lies and I got burnt there big time!”
On what it was like adjusting to life after Big Brother:
“Still 16 years on down the track I get people coming up to me and saying g’day! It’s amazing, really,” Reggie said.
“It took a long time to adapt back to [my previous] normal life years. As I was extremely popular everyone just loved me.”
Look, she’s not wrong. Reggie was arguably the most beloved winner ever and beat Chrissie Swan with 72% of the vote.
The reality TV star then revealed she’s had a tough time in the years following her win.
“My life changed heaps after the show. I left Tassie went to Sydney for six months and I found it too fast for me after coming from a little town. I left there and went to Melbourne for three years and got a job as an air hostess with Virgin. Absolutely loved flying and looking after passengers. I then moved to the Gold Coast remarried and had two beautiful kids, Mia who is now 12 and Lucas, now nine.
“Sadly that marriage broke down and I’m now living with the kids doing share care with their father. I’m now legally blind and my son has Cystic Fibrosis so life has and is a battle! But it is what it is and you gotta make the most of every day.”
On the possibility of doing Big Brother All Stars:
“If Big Brother came back I’d do it again in a heartbeat! I had the best time of my life, it was so much fun. I would love to see it come back starting with a Big Brother All Stars.”
Trevor, Winner of Season 4
On what was the weeks after winning Big Brother Australia was like:
“It was very hectic to say the least. Travelling around doing interviews, events and being the centre of attention. I remembered it being very surreal and always wondering WTF was going on. Why are these strangers so involved in a show that just shows us being ourselves? I enjoyed it at times, but it was very in your face.
“I still remember to this day that it could be the hundredth time that someone gets a pic or an autograph with you, but it’ll be their first time meeting you, so you have to stay humble and take that time to say g’day. After all, you put yourself out there and you’re subject to public scrutiny.”
Did the $1 million prize money last long?
Trevor told us: “It all depends on what you spend it on..!?” adding that he, “bought a house and invested” and no longer has a mortgage to pay off.
On how has his life changed since winning:
“I got an opportunity to work at a great radio station 1029 Hot Tomato. I started back in 2005 [which I still work at], plus now I’m doing MC work with the Gold Coast Titans.
“I proposed to my then-girlfriend Breea once the season ended, we went on to be married for 15+ years and have had two sons Maika and Creedence. Starting a family was the best decision of all our lives because we’re such a close family unit.”
Benjamin, Winner of Season 9
On being chosen for Big Brother Australia after years of auditioning:
“Being picked for Big Brother was a dream come true as I was a super fan of the show. I had applied four times and had nearly been cast each year. It really was surreal to be placed in the house which I had watched for so many years.
“I had been influenced by and loved so many contestants in previous seasons. I loved Reggie Bird Season 3, Paul Dyer Season 4, Anna Lind-Hansen Season 6 and had greatly idolised the previous LGBTI housemates; Johnny Cass Season 1, David Graham Season 6 and Zach Douglas Season 7. I learnt so much from them and I believe they are the real trailblazers of LGBTI personalities in Australian TV.”
On the media circus after winning the series:
“After winning Big Brother it was a really strange time in my life. I received amazing support from other contestants and fans of the show. On the flip-side I also dealt with the backlash of bullying claims. I often had to remind myself of the reality of what happened, rather than have random people who saw very small snippets of the show change the narrative.
“Soon after the show finished I was contacted by Channel Nine to be on Celebrity Apprentice but a change in casting saw me replaced with [runner-up contestant] Layla Subritzky. To be honest that really hurt and I had to dig deep into the maturity vault to support my good friend Layla, who did brilliantly on the show.
“I volunteered for nine different charities which was really rewarding and quite soul refreshing. I think that helped with the anxiety and the guilt I faced with being the winner while others felt the loss. Some housemates who I thought would be friends for life dissolved and some [friendships] which I didn’t expect stayed strong.”
What happened to the $250k prize money?
“I spent the money on a few frivolous and silly things such as a movie projector and some holidays, but I invested the rest of the money into property. For that reason the money didn’t last that long because it was largely invested. Which explains why I wasn’t wearing new clothes and shoes. I certainly didn’t buy a jet ski. $250,000 isn’t really much when you look at the housing market.”
On what happened with his proposal on the finale:
“I get asked all the time if we got married and the reality is that we didn’t and while that’s disappointing to some fans I tell them it’s important that we are still together and we are still absolutely in love after almost ten years together.
“Ben Williams is my life partner and we have a real relationship just like everyone else. We always have each other’s back and I couldn’t live without him,” he said.
“I think the proposal made a big impact in a way that many people might not understand. It was a massive step forward for Australian audiences to see that same-sex couples were the same as everyone else. Love is Love. People still stop me in the street to talk to me about that moment in television history.”
On Big Brother Australia being rebooted:
“I genuinely hope the old BB comes back one day. The crew were extraordinary behind the scenes and the team at Dreamworld were always good to me. I believe there is still more stories to be told about Australians. Plus when Big Brother is done right, it’s engaging, hilarious and thought-provoking. I don’t care what people say. I just hope it has more everyday people like fish and chip owners and less Instagram models.”
Tim, Winner of Season 10
On adapting to normal life without Big Brother controlling your every move:
“It was a crazy ride that’s for sure, for the first few weeks I had trouble adjusting back to living on my own schedule and mum had to make sure I was eating meals and doing my washing alone.
“It really was a crazy feeling to be on your own after living for 101 days on Big Brother’s schedule, always surrounded by other housemates in such an intimate way. I guess we were like released zoo animals who had forgotten how to live in the real world… I’m not quite sure I’ve even worked that out still! I remember the buzz that lasted for many months afterwards where you couldn’t go anywhere without people screaming your name. I’m glad that’s died down now.
“When I won in 2013, social media was literally taking off… there wasn’t even such a thing as an Instagram influencer, we were the guinea pigs of a new phenomenon that I think became the end of the social experiment that used to form the ‘reality’ of reality tv. These days it’s hard to find any contestants applying for reality shows who don’t expect the social media fame following.”
What happened to the $250k prize money?
“I literally had $20 left in my bank account when I started the show, so the $250k was a whole new lifestyle for me. I gave $50k of it away, including $10k divided up amongst the other 20 housemates in my series to choose to give to charities of their own or keep for themselves, it was a cruel experiment of my own and some did actually keep it!
“I remember getting into so much trouble for posting a pic of my bank account when the prize money was added, I legit had to make a quick phone call to the bank to change my account number!”
“One of the wildest things I spent [the money on] was buying a crocodile off Terri Irwin, it was actually a large donation to sponsor a tagged wild croc in support of my hero Steve’s conservation research of wild crocodiles. I still pinch myself to this day that I went away croc catching with the Irwins and ended up with a croc named after me!”
Tim added that he didn’t even spend all the money. “Believe it or not I still have some [prize money] left in the bank.”
On life after reality TV:
“I think only in the last year have I come back down to earth. Five years of navigating 15 minutes of fame tells you just how huge an impact the experience has on your life.
“I think once you have a taste of fame you either change for the worse trying to hold onto it as your source of purpose and validation, or you realise it’s all just a bit of fun and fluff that will pass.”
“At the end of the day when the red carpet invites end, the followers and likes plateau out and the Daily Mail stops writing about you, I think it’s important you remained true to yourself, friends and family and that you didn’t get sucked into all the hype. This was a challenging lesson to learn, but I’m glad I got through it all and can happily say my life has returned to normal.”
On the future of Big Brother Australia:
“I don’t think Big Brother in its pure form will ever return, and if it did I don’t think I would recommend being part of the reality TV machine that spits people out. I feel as though it was a nasty beast I somehow knew how to ride and maintain some level of control, [but] not everyone is able to do that. The show is a great experience and one I will never regret, navigating notoriety afterwards is not so fun.”
The ‘finding love’ freak reality shows people watch these days require a different sort of person to apply who is savvier and willing to be manipulated by producers to get fame at all costs. It’s sad they have to be so heavily produced, it means people are more likely to be exploited, chewed up and spat out wounded, after the hype of the show inevitably dies down.”
Surely we’re overdue for a 2020 Big Brother reboot. The campaign starts here.
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