British People Are Racist, Just Not To Me, Says Big Brother Darnell02:28 - Monday 15 September 2008 - In Category UK Entertainment
Darnell Swallow had never seen an episode of Big Brother before he entered the house as a contestant in 2008.
The 26 year-old songwriter, who was born in Ipswich and grew up in America, says he only landed a part in the show by chance; after accompanying a friend to an audition.
Overground spoke to Darnell about life and prejudice in and outside of the BB9 house.
How did you feel when Dennis spat in Mo’s face?
My mum always told me the only time you fight is when somebody hits you first, or when somebody spits on you. When that happened I thought it was a piss-take because what could Mo do? Nothing, because there are rules and laws. He just had to take it. It wasn’t even an altercation. I’d rather be punched in the face than spat on. I was the only person defending Mo, and I wasn’t surprised; that’s how people are.
How’s being albino affected you?
Oh man, it sucks! I’m not going to lie. I was the only white guy at the family reunion. Sometimes I see myself so different from my own family members. I’ve never actually met another albino, so it really feels like I’m alone. But at the end of the day I might be albino, but I’m still a black guy.
Have you experienced racism in Britain?
No, but the reason makes me upset. I had a white friend who was really successful and helped me out when I needed it. He was a good person, but one day, he turned to me and said: ‘…oh yeah, I forget sometimes that you’re black’. It made me think: if I had been down and out with black skin, I probably wouldn’t have made that friend.
Another time, I was making a documentary about pit-bulls, and interviewed a young, successful black man, who was doing well in college. We were filming in a park and saw an older white man enter with his dog. Our cameraman, who was also white, went over to ask if we could interview him. He said ‘no’ because he thought the college guy looked dodgy.
It’s crazy, because I was the one who was more of a criminal at the time. But he wouldn’t make that judgement on me because he saw me as a white man.
How do you feel about 23 year-old Alexandra De Gale, who was removed from the house after intimidating other contestants?
She understood a lot of the things I talked about and was always telling me to ‘fix up, look sharp’. She gave me advice, but there wasn’t anyone there to give her advice. Many of the names she was called like ‘bully’, I’ve been called that as well. And I got into big rows like she did. But maybe because people got to see more of me so they got more of an understanding. They only got to see one side of her.
You were a gang member in St Louis, Missouri, and now work as a mentor with young people in north London. Britain’s seen a drastic increase in violent crime among teenagers over the past two years – why is that?
They need something to do. I think they should be kept in school longer; at least the ones who want to stay away from trouble. You’re 16, and not able to attend school anymore. You probably come from a single-parent household; what are you supposed to do? I left school at 15 and that’s when I got into all the stupidness.
Most of the people they see on TV are 17-year-olds driving Bentleys and wearing big chains. The kids feel they have to have that now. They may not even want it, but when they see the nice girl next door going for the guy with the money, they think: ‘why can’t I have that?’ It’s in their faces all the time. London is full of opportunities, but these kids need to be made aware of them.
Tell us about your music…
I don’t just want to put out a good record; I want to put out a great record. Right now, the face is what people are seeing. But I’m a gifted songwriter who can sing and can rap. I’m working on an album. I was an artist before I went into the house.
Are there any UK artists you’d like to work with?
I like Bashy, Ironik, Kano. I love Leona and Estelle, who really deserves her success. There are great musicians out there who have to do a lot more work than me to get heard. I respect that, and that’s why I want to do well.