Although Keesha Smith made it to fourth place when she played Big Brother 10 and was voted America’s Favorite that year, she was the first player voted out of Big Brother All-Stars. On night one of Season 22, Cody Calafiore became the first Head of Household. His original targets were Janelle Pierzina and Kaysar Ridha, but due to a new twist in the game — The Safety Suite — both players were able to secure safety for the week. Seemingly determined to get a veteran from an older season out of the game, Calafiore placed Smith and Kevin Campbell on the block.
In Thursday night’s eviction episode, Smith was evicted from the house in a unanimous vote. Here, TV Guide caught up with Smith to discuss how it felt being the first All Star sent home, what it was like playing the game during a pandemic, and why she was targeted week one.
How are you feeling after last night?
Keesha Smith: It sucks to be back in the real world so soon. Only a week in, and I’m out!
It was hard to read your emotions last night — were you surprised that you were voted out or did you see it coming?
Smith: No, I totally saw that it was happening, unfortunately.
And were you surprised it was a unanimous vote?
Smith: No, because right now it’s week one in the game. Nobody has drawn lines in the sand, so to speak. So, I knew that the house was going to do a unanimous vote. I even told people who I knew I had their vote, “Just go with the house because you have to stay in here. You have to continue to play this game.” I wanted to make sure that they’re OK.
Well, that’s very kind of you!
Smith: Yeah, well, I didn’t have enough votes. And I knew that I didn’t have enough votes.
In the episode, we didn’t get to see a lot of your strategizing. Did you have a plan to try and get votes thrown to Kevin
Smith: I felt like I really did try! I felt like I went around and was really trying to hustle up the votes. Maybe I waited too [long]. I’m not really sure. You know, I thought I had it at one point in time. This is what makes it really hard: I was talking to everyone and everyone just kept telling me that, you know, “Oh, I love you. I like you a lot. I really want you in this house.” So, I thought, “They want me here. I think I have a really good chance.” But there’s not a whole lot to go off the first week. You’re literally going off somebody’s personality this season. Not always — but this season.
It did seem a bit quiet for week one.
Smith: Everybody was laying low. Nobody was saying anything. Nobody gave a name. I mean, everyone was just really scared. We’ve all played before. Nobody wanted to come out there just being the strong personality. You know, honestly, I thought it would be me and Memphis that would be up once Janelle and Kaysar saved themselves.
What was it like being in the house again with Memphis?
Smith: Well, it was amazing being in the house! I don’t mind Memphis at all on a personal level. I haven’t watched, so I’m not really sure what happened — but I believed him whenever he said, “I have your back. Hey, you know, I got you, right?” I understand after a while he couldn’t give me his vote because the whole house was voting Kevin’s way, so that I did not take personal. I’m not sure if something else happened that I’m not aware of. [Laughs] But as of right now, I’m OK.
So, what was your strategy before you even went into the house?
Smith: I feel like I didn’t get to do much. I wanted to go in and lay low mainly because I don’t know a lot of these people. They all know each other. They’ve established these bonds. And right away, I was like, “Oh, this isn’t good. I’m going to be a target, just because of that.” But when Cody won HOH, I was like, “OK, I’m just going to lay low. There’s no reason that I should be on his radar at all.”
From my perspective, I feel like you did lay low and I still don’t really know why you were on his radar.
Smith: I know. I don’t understand either. I mean, me and Kevin? Of all the people in the house?
Is there anything you’d do differently?
Smith: Absolutely. Looking back at it now, I would have went to the HOH the first night and I would have had a conversation with him and I would have at least have introduced myself to him. And I would have tried to connect with him on a personal level.
What’s it like being on Big Brother in the middle of a pandemic?
Smith: The world right now is pretty surreal. I feel like the Big Brother house is actually more normal than the world that we’re all living in. Going into the house and to be able to take my mask off and hug people — I mean, strangers. We would all discuss that/ We’re like, “Wow, this is so nice being able to eat next to you or like you or just be near you.” Coming back out to what’s going on now, I’m still, honestly, I’m trying to adjust to it.
Because we’re all used to quarantining now, it seems like there would be less of an adjustment to the isolation of the BB house?
Smith: You’re exactly right. It’s pretty much like being at home — like we’ve all been for the last six months.
Did you have any hesitation about doing the show and cutting yourself off from the news with everything that’s going on?
Smith: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. As soon as I got the call, it was just like, “Yep, I’m in. I’ve been waiting for this.”
So, who are you rooting for to win?
Smith: My top three: Janelle, I just love her. I’m so glad that I ended up in the room with her. Kaysar, for sure. He’s a huge sweetheart, no doubt about it. He gets a little paranoid a little fast, but that’s OK. And Da’Vonne [Rogers]; she had my back.
Did you feel that the game has changed since the last time you played?
Smith: Oh, absolutely. It’s changed a lot. First of all, it moves really fast. At least in my case, there was no time to adjust. Everything just moved so fast. I feel like if I would have had more time, I wouldn’t be in the situation that I’m in now, but it was barreling through so fast. I just didn’t have the time to make the relationships that I needed to make that the other people have already established.
It seems like everyone is playing nice.
Smith: This cast, at least for the first week — we all know it changes — they were so chill! Like everybody loved everybody. You never heard a negative thing being said about anyone. In my past [season], I believe it was like war the first day, and it never stopped until the end.
Why do you think people are playing it so soft?
Smith: I believe it’s because we’ve all been here before. We’re all older now. And we know how this thing goes. Nobody wants to be the first one to be that outgoing personality and give other people a reason to want them out of the house. So, everyone is trying to play the quiet game; everybody’s got the lay-low game right now.
How much longer do you think that’ll last?
Smith:I think it’s going to change as of, like, now.
Good! I think as fans it’s more fun to watch when it’s that way.
Smith: Absolutely! We were like so boring in the beginning! [Laughs]
Who do you think has the best chance of winning at this point?
Smith: It’s so early. You know who I could see like sliding through until the very end is Nicole [Anthony]. She’s a sweetheart first and foremost. She is absolutely one of the nicest people that I have ever met. And everyone loves her. And there is no reason that anyone should be going after her, and I could totally see her making it all the way to the end.
Big Brother airs Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 8/7c.