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'Big Brother' Hopefuls Turn Out In Droves For Nittany Mall Auditions

by on April 20, 2015 6:50 AM

The popular reality television series "Big Brother" began in the Netherlands, but has become a staple of American television.

State College earned a chance to be represented on the show, hosting open auditions at the Nittany Mall on Sunday afternoon for the program's seventeenth season.

The show, which puts contestants in a house under constant surveillance and no contact with the outside world, ends with one of them winning a grand prize of $500,000.

Over 150 people came down to record a two-minute audition tape, showcasing their personalities in hopes of earning a shot at the half million dollars.

One person who auditioned, Huntingdon native Jake Barnish, says he'd love nothing more than to compete on one of his all-time favorite television shows. 

"I've been watching 'Big Brother' since I was 11 or 12. Season six was the first one I saw, and I've watched every season since then," Barnish says. "I heard a couple people here saying that too, but I really love the game. For me, it's not even about the fame. A lot of people go on trying to increase Twitter followers. I don't even have Twitter. It's about the $500,000."

Barnish hopes that his audition tape and application are eye-catching enough to earn him a spot in the "Big Brother" house and a shot at that prize. He feels that he stands out from the crowd.

"I'm a pretty unique person with a unique background. I stand out," he says. "My high school voted me homecoming king and most unique. I'm not the average guy. I think I'd be good for the show."

As for an audition strategy, Barnish didn't really have one. He was nervous when the time came to film his pitch for the show. 

"Honestly, I didn't really know what to say in the audition," Barnish says. "I kind of winged it, but I feel I have a legitimate shot."

Contrary to Barnish's quiet demeanor, Byron Locke went with a more flashy approach at his Sunday audition. Locke drove over three hours from Teaneck, N.J. to try out for "Big Brother".

"I had to make a quick stop at Burger King and get my energy up, but it was worth it," he says. "They got to see me, so that's all that matters."

Locke bought a brand new blazer, complemented by a suave pocket square, for his audition. It wasn't just his outfit that exuded confidence, however.

"I'm funny, I'm social, I'm handsome, and I got style," Locke says. "This is a new blazer. I wore it just for this. I just really hope I get on the show. It would be a life-changing experience, the best moment of my life."

Like Barnish, Locke has his eyes on the grand prize. He attended college for three years, but doesn't have the money to finish his degree. 

"This would be a great opportunity to finish school, help my family out, and just set my life up for the future," he says. "That's why I drove three hours."

About half of those to audition on Sunday made a fairly lengthy commute to Nittany Mall. The other half took a short drive from within Centre County.

Andy May lives in Bellefonte, and says he couldn't pass up the opportunity to drop by the mall and vie for a bed in the "Big Brother" house.

"I like to explore, adventure, and better myself whenever I can," May says. "I think I could do well. I'm great with people, but if I have to I can be cutthroat. I have that kind of mindset. I'll be your buddy, and you could never tell if I really wasn't."

That attitude goes a long way in the "Big Brother" house, where weekly competitions give the contestants a chance to force each other out, one at a time.

Big Brother 17 will kick off with a two-night season premiere on June 24 and 25. Tune in then to see if any State College natives made their way into the house.


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Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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