What was your first thought when you heard Big Brother was coming back to UK screens?
Oh my god. It’s like a cat – how many lives does the show have? It never seems to die (laughs). Over the years, I’ve had a bit of a love and hate relationship with the show, but on this occasion, I’m delighted that it is coming back.
I think that ITV will elevate the show. I do hope that it borrows the essence of the original series – that is what all of the reports say that this show will be a throwback to the older versions of the programme. I really hope that is the case. I hope the show celebrates diversity, inclusivity and representation of our social cultural existence that is reflected in today’s society.
The best thing about the original series’ of the show was that it celebrated real people, normal housemates from all walks of life. That is what I hope the show returns to.
Love Island has been a huge success in recent years. I found it difficult to relate to the show because of the type of people that were on there – there was a lack of representation – whereas Big Brother should celebrate and champion diversity.
It’s a real show featuring real people. Big Brother is the founding father of reality TV.
What advice would you give to the new housemates?
Most people have great stories to tell. I think the most important thing is to be yourself and have character. We know that Big Brother can be an intense experience for the housemates, so I’m sure that the casting team will be able to find the right people to be part of it. Nobody should go in there thinking that you won’t be manipulated in some way by Big Brother. Everyone is.
Nadia greeting fans after her Big Brother win
There were reports that a few familiar faces may return to the Big Brother house as part of the ITV reboot. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve spoken about this a few times since ITV announced they were going to bring back the show. I feel like myself and other contestants from the Channel 4 series should be part of it because we were the OG’s.
We have a lot of wisdom that we can pass on. We’re like Olympic athletes – this is the Olympics of Big Brother! We’re ready to pass the torch on to the next generation of contestants.
I’ve been manifesting. I’ve been thinking about being involved and I feel that we would have a lot to offer.
I am really excited about it coming back. My mother is obsessed with the Portuguese version of the show – it has been on for years – and she asked me to apply for that version! I’m like, “Mother! That is impossible, darling.” (Laughs). Hopefully I can tell her that I can be part of the new UK version. That would be a real honour for me.
It would be nice to acknowledged by the show. We’re ready to come back and show the kids how it’s done (laughs). I have a Gen X mentality but a Gen Z entitlement (laughs)! I’m way ahead of the times (laughs).
Nadia on the impact winning Big Brother had on her life
When you walk through those doors of such an iconic show, things will always change for you. Being one of the original housemates and also a winner of Big Brother 5, I was propelled to a platform of huge notoriety and fame.
I did notice that some of the people around me changed. It wasn’t anyone’s fault really, but it is understandable when your life completely changes overnight. A lot of my friends had to adjust to that.
In the end, my life changed, but you have to remember that this was pre social media and Big Brother was the most popular show on the television at the time – traditional newspapers and magazines were a lot more influential than they are now – which is very different to today’s world.
When I went onto the show as a trans woman, I was the first person to ever really do that and, because of the time, some things were a little bit difficult. I’ve still been the first of many things for the trans community twenty years on from the show, but we’re visible. We’re present in all aspects of society.
I got to meet wonderful people and work with a lot of them. It gave me an insight into a very different world. I can’t change the past, but I do not regret a thing.
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your series?
I do. There is one person in particular that I am still close with – we see each other all the time – and that is Marco. He works in law now and he lives a very linear lifestyle now, but he is still the Marco that I know and love from the show.
Everyone else kind of moves on. Geographically, with some of us, its impossible to catch-up. One out of twelve is not too bad (laughs). It’s all about quality not quantity (laughs).
Nadia on her role model status within the trans community
I went to the Big Brother producers with my own terms and conditions. No other contestant had ever done that before. No one had the audacity or the confidence to say to them,
“You want me to come into the show and I want to be part of it. I will come in as Nadia, who works in a bank and is from Portugal. I didn’t want my gender to be a big part of who I was on the show.”
I made my own rules from the very start and Big Brother never allowed anyone to make their own rules. That was exciting because I needed that reassurance for myself. Throughout my life I’ve been put in a box – we’ve all been given labels regarding sex, religion, looks – I just wanted to be a human being. That is what fascinated me with the show, that I could be that person.
I wasn’t trying to keep a secret in there (Nadia didn’t reveal to her housemates that she was trans), it was more to do with my necessity to be myself by stripping all the layers – I stripped a lot actually (laughs)! I just wanted to have a good time and step away from being labelled in a very prejudiced and misogynistic society.
I became a generational inspiration for the trans community. By being present in popular culture, I was representing my people. To this day I still get messages from people who say that they truly understood their own sexuality when they saw me on Big Brother.
You have to remember that twenty years ago, there was no trans reference. I kickstarted the conversation and started the dialogue.
That is so powerful. I changed the perception of an entire generation because I was one of the first. When I was a kid, I loved Ru Paul. I can remember watching that in the 1990’s and my parents would say to me, “Don’t get any ideas.” That was my only reference.
In 2000’s, popular culture had Nadia. Not only did they see someone from another culture, but they saw someone that was trans but without any labels. I think that resonated with a lot of people.
I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be a Queen of Hearts for a new trans tribe – they support me, and I support them. I am so proud of the new voices that are prominent members of the trans community within popular culture, people like Paris Lees, Charlie Craggs and Munroe Bergdorf. I’m like a mother to these young girls and I blazed a trail for people that saw themselves through me. I am so proud that they look up to me because I adore what they do.
I paved the way for a more present trans community. I feel like I did my bit and the community is much more present now, which is great.
RuPaul an inspiration
How society sees trans people at the moment?
This is a serious matter. I don’t like the conversation. I don’t like the narrative at the moment. I don’t like the lobbying that exists within popular politics for the trans community – I think it dehumanises us.
I don’t appreciate the fact that we’re being objectified. The English language is not linear – it is contently evolving, and I feel like language has been weaponised to hurt the community.
I’m open to dialogue and I want that. I think in many ways, modern society embodies some of the older values that existed years ago. I feel like there are people out there that are trying to divide us and that is scary.
When you have a Prime Minister that makes derogatory comments about trans people and their body parts, what kind of message does that send to the world?
Recently the UK Government blocked the gender proposal from Scotland. Never, ever in the history of Westminster have politicians blocked a policy from Scotland before. This is what scares me. England is a nation that is looked upon by other as a first nation, so when these other countries see people like the Prime Minister referring to the trans community in a derogatory way, it sends out an awful message and people feel like that they can repeat those views.
When you’re in a position like that, you can’t be so disgusting. You can’t attack a group and try to marginalise them within society. It’s cruel and inappropriate. I can see much more progressive countries than England. It’s disappointing, which is why it’s important for us to come together – we’re stronger – freedom of speech is fine. If you accept my pronoun and you except my self-identity, then we can sit down and talk. If you refuse to acknowledge me as who I am, how can I truly express myself.
We’re here, we’re not going anywhere. We’re making progress.
20 years ago, I started a conversation. The conversation went in the right direction, and we achieved a lot. The conservation is digressing a little bit at the moment because people are trying to dehumanise us. We are speaking louder. We are visible and we are stronger!