Brice Johnston Talks BIPOC On TV & CBS’ 50% Diversity Decision

Brice from Survivor: Cagayan and host of the Purple Pants Podcast is one of the voices speaking out on representation in reality TV; it’s paying off.

Future seasons of Survivor are going to look very different, thanks to a diverse swath of former players who have dedicated the last several months to pushing for change within the show they have contributed so much to over the years. In a landmark announcement early last week, CBS announced that SurvivorBig BrotherLove Island, and The Amazing Race will all feature casts of at least 50% BIPOC moving forward. While the network certainly deserves credit for such a significant decision, it is the former reality stars, such as Survivor: Cagayan‘s Brice Johnston, who truly deserve recognition.

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Brice, a Philadelphia native, competed on the show’s 28th season, which recently began streaming on Netflix. Although he was voted out on just Day 8, Brice established himself as a popular and significant player in the show’s history, particularly as one of very few queer BIPOC to compete on the show. He has maintained his presence within the Survivor community ever since, and served a fundamental role in founding The Soul Survivor Organization, which created an online petition calling for increased representation of BIPOC both in front of and behind the camera.

Related: Survivor: Host Jeff Probst Reveals When He Believes Show Will End

Brice explains that he, alongside several other black Survivor alumnae, “came together to figure out how we could create change in our own way” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in late May. Other notable members of the effort include J’Tia Hart-Taylor, Jamal Shipman, Sabrina Thompson-Mitchell, and Wendell Holland, who recently competed on Survivor: Winners at War. In addition to its online petition, TSSO hosted several online panels in which former Survivor players discussed issues of representation and intersectionality. Brice also notes that he and his colleagues “weren’t trying to call CBS out, but rather call them in to consciously analyze the role of diversity on the show and identify logical steps to move forward and improve.” Check out Brice’s initial reaction to the news here:

To the credit of Jeff Probst and the rest of the Survivor crew, it seems they have been receptive throughout this process. Still, there remains plenty of work to be done. Although more diverse casts will likely even the playing field for BIPOC, as well as expose audiences to a wider range of individuals, that does not mean that racism and bigotry cannot still pervade the show. Just last month, former contestant Rodney Lavoie Jr. was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, which acts as just one example of how cast members can still carry unwelcome prejudices into a show that should be focusing on positive representation. Brice encourages CBS to screen potential cast members more thoroughly before inviting them to be on the show. He also points out that “many Americans really only interact with the BIPOC community through their TV screens, so it’s important to portray those players in an honest and positive light.” Just earlier this year, Wendell was unfairly portrayed as the villain of Winners at War, which has since been revealed as a distortion of what was really occurring on the island. BIPOC representation onscreen is essential, but greater BIPOC representation behind the scenes may be even more crucial, as it would likely lead to more authentic portrayals of BIPOC cast members such as Wendell.

In a year so heavily defined by social justice and civil unrest, it is promising to see an organization like TSSO find success in its efforts to effect change. Future iterations of Survivor will feature 50% BIPOC, and we have former players like Brice Johnston to thank for that.

Next: Survivor: 10 Male Contestants Who Should Get a Second Chance

Source: Brice Izyah Johnston

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Updated: November 18, 2020 — 4:57 am

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