Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the season finale of Celebrity Big Brother.
Ross Mathews walked into the Celebrity Big Brother house as a superfan with his eye on the $250,000 grand prize, but he left the game with something even more valuable. Mathews fell short of winning the first-ever Celebrity Big Brother title—a bitter jury awarded the $250,000 prize to his wing woman, Marissa Jaret Winokur—but he was named runner-up and earned a $50,000 check.
But Ross Mathews’ bigger win came at the very end of the Celebrity Big Brother broadcast when he was named America’s Favorite Houseguest. Ross scored an extra $25,000 for that honor, and he became very emotional as he thanked viewers for voting for him.
On the Celebrity Big Brother finale, Ross Mathews lost out to his ride or die, Marissa Jaret Winokur, earning only three out of nine jury votes. Six celebs voted for Marissa to win the game: Ariadna Gutierrez, James Maslow, Shannon Elizabeth, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Omarosa Manigault, and Chuck Liddell. The other three stars—Mark McGrath, Brandi Glanville, and Metta World Peace—voted for Ross.
A longtime student of the Big Brother game, Ross Mathews knew he was dealing with a bitter jury during the pre-vote Q&A session with the evicted houseguests.
“I’m sorry about the lying. But hello, it’s Big Brother!” Ross said. “If you’re gonna come in the house, you’ve gotta play this game.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly shortly after the Celebrity Big Brother finale aired, Ross Mathews said he has no regrets about his gameplay during the three-week stint on the celebrity-themed season of the CBS reality show.
“I stand by everything I did in the game,” Mathews told EW. “I played this game hard. If I didn’t, I would have been home sooner. I made it all the way to the final two. I don’t apologize for anything I did it in this game.”
Ross also said he believes the members of the jury played the Celebrity Big Brother game “with feelings and not strategy.”
Ross Mathews admitted he wasn’t sure if Celebrity Big Brother viewers were cheering him on or hating him while he was sequestered in the CBS house, but he got his answer when he was named the winner of the America’s Favorite Houseguest vote.
“I knew I was playing hard and I didn’t know if people were hating me or rooting for me because of it,” Ross said.
“America’s Player, as a superfan, means more to me than the title of winner. Because the fans get this game. They want people to go hard, play to win and enjoy every second, to relish the Big Brother experience. Even when I was put on slop, I relished being on slop. It was part of the game!”
With his America’s Favorite Player win, Ross Mathews may have won the most important prize on Celebrity Big Brother. Still, some fans felt he was robbed of the Celebrity Big Brother title, including Big Brother alum GinaMarie Zimmerman, who took to Twitter to write, “Don’t worry [Ross]. I had bitter b*tches in my jury too. We all love you and think you’re amazing!!! Well played. One of the Big Brother greats!”
Other celebrities and superfans also weighed in on Ross Mathews’ gameplay and the surprising Celebrity Big Brother finale.
While he didn’t win the Celebrity Big Brother grand prize, Ross Mathews told Entertainment Tonight he is grateful that Big Brother fans “get” how he played the game—even if some members of the jury didn’t.
“I am so grateful for every single second in the house,” Mathews told ET.
“I am so happy… The fans of the show get this game — how you have to play it, how the rules outside the world don’t apply in the Big Brother house — so I’m glad they got it.”
Ross added that he thinks some of the other houseguests voted with their emotions, but in the end, it was America’s vote that counted the most.
“I think the houseguests were kind of emotional about it all, but that’s how it works,” Mathews said. “You go in the jury and you vote. This is the first time the jury actually got to see the show. But listen, I did something right! I got second place and America’s Houseguest! I’ll take it!”
You can see Julie Chen revealing the name of the Celebrity Big Brother winner in the video below.