Big Brother controversies

Rows, racism and removals: Inside Big Brother’s biggest ever controversies

I cannot believe the Roxanne Pallett saga actually happened


Big Brother is back for 2023, and although the ITV reboot seems keen to steer the show back into the light, this is a show that goes hand in hand with controversy. When you keep a wide range of personalities in the same place and don’t let them leave, it feels believable that this show in its 23 year history has been dogged with some of the biggest controversies and scandals in TV history. Here’s a quick roundup of the biggest Big Brother controversies of all time.

Nick cheating scandal

This one from all the way back in Big Brother 1 pales in comparison of seriousness to most on this list, but at the time the nation was horrified when Craig (eventual winner) revealed to the house he’d discovered a ‘very derrrrty plan’ – Nick was showing other housemates paper with names on to influence nominations. The house and the public were horrified. It was a massive deal in 2000!

Denise Welch pulls down Karissa’s trousers

Yep, Matty Healy’s Loose Woman ma found herself in the middle of a controversy when she pulled down Playboy Bunny Karissa Shannon’s trousers. Nicola McLean said on it “I genuinely believe if a man had done that he would have been kicked out.” Karissa was fuming, too.

‘David’s Dead’

A literal French farce. The best comedy writers in the world could not pen this. It’s a shame something as sad as David Bowie dying will be remembered for spawning this but it’s one of the greatest TV moments ever even if it was a bit controversial for feeling lighthearted at a sad time. I think Bowie would actually find this hilarious, though.

Shilpa Shetty race row

In what is the most infamous and horrific of all the Big Brother controversies was when Jade Goody, along with Danielle Lloyd and S Club’s Jo O’Meara, were accused of racist bullying towards Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. The saga caused global news scandals and in India people literally burnt effigies of Jade in the street. She was evicted in silence, with no crowd allowed. Shilpa went on to win the show.

Emily removed from the house for saying the n word

A year after the Shilpa / Jade race row, housemate Emily casually said the n word in conversation with other housemates, including Charley Uchea who is Black and called it out. Big Brother removed Emily from the house at 3am. Why she said it is literally anyone’s guess. So weird. “Back where I come from it’s just a friendly term, making fun of people”. Yikes.

Pete Burns’ coat

A year after the Shilpa / Jade race row, housemate Emily casually said the n word in conversation with other housemates, including Charley Uchea who is Black and called it out. Big Brother removed Emily from the house at 3am. Why she said it is literally anyone’s guess. So weird. “Back where I come from it’s just a friendly term, making fun of people”. Yikes.

Pete Burns’ coat

In the final ever season of Celeb Big Brother, Roxanne Pallett caused national outrage when she claimed that Ryan Thomas had purposely hit her when he playfully fake punched her. It was horrific, and Roxanne tried to gaslight the house whilst Ryan pledged innocence but thankfully we saw it all, and Emma Willis grilled Roxanne in a savage interview. Ryan then won the season.

Christopher Biggins’ removal

“Lovable” pants stalwart Christopher Biggins fell from grace when he was removed from Celebrity Big Brother after some utterly inappropriate comments. He got three warnings on the show for things he’d said, which included saying bisexual people were in denial about being gay as well as AIDS being a “bisexual disease”. In unaired scenes, he also made antisemitic jokes to Jewish housemate Katie Waissell about concentration camps

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