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Big Brother's Hisam Goueli Discusses Mental Health and That Epic Blindside

Big Brother's Hisam Goueli Discusses Mental Health and That Epic Blindside

Hisam Goueli

The gay psychiatrist and former contestant talks about one of the most epic (and cringeworthy) backdoor blindsides in the show’s history.

Reality TV shows have come back into the limelight as writers and actors continue to strike. One reality show, CBS’s Big Brother, has been running for 23 years, and its 25th season is off to a memorable start. As a result of an epic secret plan that came together perfectly, a 45-year-old gay psychiatrist specializing in geriatric patients was betrayed last week by his alliance and others in the game to send the former head of household packing.

Fans of Big Brother were treated to one of the show’s more sinister (and enjoyable) tactics a couple of weeks ago: the backdoor blindside.

Having previously won the head of household and veto competitions, Hisam Goueli, who specializes in geriatric patients, thought he had secured his safety for the week. However, he found himself the target of the oldest houseguest in the game, Felicia Cannon, 63, who convinced the entire house to conspire against Goueli.

Making him believe that he was safe and convincing him not to play for (or to throw) the veto competition, Cannon left the doctor speechless and “devastated” when she nominated him to replace a previously nominated pawn and it became clear that he was the actual target.

An 11-0 vote evicted Goueli, but he insists that he does not blame anyone but himself.

As he explains to The Advocate, a perfect blindside like the one he experienced requires a specific set of conditions.

“I think for this blindside to happen, a bunch of things have to occur. One, I have to overvalue my relationship with the people who blindsided me,” he said. “Two, I have to be confident in where I’m at. And I think that the third thing that has to happen is that I’m distracted by other things.”

Moreover, he was proud of Cannon’s accomplishments as a player in Big Brother and said he had a strong affinity for her.

“Being a geriatric psychiatrist, I felt like there was a greater purpose to our moving forward and winning,” he said.

He added, “At that time, I felt really good about my position in the house.”

In reality, the fellow houseguest found his direct nature off-putting and his decisiveness in decision-making without others’ input condescending.

“I wasn’t aware that people had felt so negatively about me,” Goueli admitted. “I prefer directness and straightforwardness, and I project that on the other people in the house. And what I learned is that not everybody loves that. In fact, some people find a distaste for it.”

Goueli also said he was distracted by focusing on how his alliance would progress.

“I thought the week would go relatively smoothly. We had the numbers to win, and we were making plans to move forward.”

Goueli added a fourth ingredient to the perfect blindside.

“You have to have people that are really good at lying to you and making you feel comfortable and relaxed. And I would say that Felicia and [53-year-old] Cirie [Fields] are masterful at that, and we watched them do this to Jag [Bains] as well this past week.”

He said that because he works with older patients, he’s thrilled to see Big Brother include more senior players.

“I believe that older adults frequently are told that their life ends once they retire,” he said. “I really want to engage older adults in finding a new purpose.”

He explained that he was thrilled to see two older players because he thought he would be the oldest person. He said it was part of his excitement to work with them.

“That just naturally drew me to them,” he said. “I think that allows my guard to go down because I have this moral purpose, which is ‘let’s make sure the older people get to the end.’ I saw myself as older too, being 45. They just didn’t see me that way.”

Goueli added, “I want there to be an older winner. I think right now, the oldest winner is 42, and it would be great to change that.”

Outside of the game, in the real world, Goueli said that one of the reasons he went on the show was for representation purposes.

“I think there’s a lot happening nationally regarding equal rights,” he said. “One of the things that I wanted to prove by going on the show is that you can be gay and strong and confident and own space and that you are deserving of that space, especially since the laws and judicial rulings are telling us otherwise.”

He expressed hope to use his platform to highlight the needs of the aging LGBTQ+ population.

“We don’t talk a lot about the older gay population, and this is a generation that lived through the AIDS pandemic. Many of their friends passed away at young ages. For this group of people, society can be very lonely,” Goueli said.

He added, “Our communities sometimes can be relatively cruel to this group of people, but my hope is that we will be able to come together on that.”

He continued, “I think that loneliness can cause people to have a skewed perspective on life. And loneliness in and of itself, I think, is one of the most painful experiences. It drives people to disengage not only with friends and families but also from support.”

He said it’s essential to find a connection to somebody.

“Connection is actually what keeps us safe. Connection is actually what gives us purpose. And so, from my perspective, the thing that I would tell people is that it all starts with one conversation,” he said.

Goueli said he’d be open to returning to Big Brother if such an offer ever came.

“The Big Brother house is a challenging game, and I think it’s important for me to say that it’s a game because it is designed to have pitfalls,” he said. ”It is designed to have rewards, and that will change your calculus. The game, just like people will experience, sometimes you can be in a large group of friends and still feel very lonely. Sometimes you can feel like everyone is watching and still feel very sad. And those experiences are very true in the Big Brother house, just to a heightened reality."

Goeuli expressed excitement about how the season will unfold.

“I am intrigued to see how people maneuver the game. I’m intrigued to see how some of the people I connected with move forward. I’m intrigued to see the tactics and strategies people employ to maneuver [and] manipulate people,” he said. “I was not that person, obviously, which is how I ended up [voted] out. I’m really direct, straightforward, and loyal. So it’ll be interesting to see where people make concessions and how far they get. I hope that the decisions they make, they can live with, and just like [mine], I can live with.”

Now that he’s back in Seattle, Goueli will have plenty of time to reflect and return to helping older people with their health needs.

“I’m going back to my job," Goueli said. "I’m excited to see patients. I’m excited to help older adults, and I’m excited to move back into the real world.”

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