The first contestant from the Island to compete on Big Brother Canada has no regrets following a season that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-six-year-old Vanessa Clements got the chance of a lifetime when she went from super fan to contestant after being selected as a houseguest on the eighth season of the popular reality show.
“I wanted to be on the show for a long-time,” said the lobster fisherman from Mill River East Road.
A lover of reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race, Ms Clements had applied in the past for Big Brother, going to open cast calls in Halifax, but with no luck.
When she applied this year, Ms Clements decided to highlight her other passion: lobster fishing.
“Whenever I did the video, I brought the camera out onto the boat and I just kind of fished lobster and I talked about the game and how I would play it and worked it out for me,” she said. “It was definitely a dream come true.”
Following personal tragedy - the death of her lobster boat captain -, Ms Clements was full of mixed emotions when she learned in February she was going to be a contestant on the eighth season.
“I was overflowing with an amazing feeling, but at the same time, I was going through a hard time,” she said, adding her captain was a fan of the show too. “I literally attended his funeral and left for Big Brother on the same day.”
Flown to Toronto, where the program is shot, filming for the show didn’t begin until early March, and for a couple weeks before entering the house, contestants were sequestered in a hotel, giving Ms Clements time to process her feelings.
“My mind was kind of confused, but I tried to focus, get my head back in it, and said I was going to play this in his memory,” she said.
The eighth season of Big Brother Canada premiered on March 4.
Ms Clements’ strategy going into the house was to form an alliance with other people from Atlantic Canada.
“They usually have someone from Newfoundland, from Halifax, so I wanted to go in there, knowing I’m the first person from PEI, but I was sure they would have other Maritimers in there, and I wanted to work with the Maritimers and I wanted to run the game,” she said.
However, as it turned out, not only was Ms Clements the first competitor from the Islander to be on the show, but she was the only houseguest east of Quebec, forcing her to rethink her strategy.
As the first houseguest from PEI, Ms Clements put the bar very high for herself.
“I would not expect anything but a win,” she said. “Then when I realized there wasn’t even anyone else from the Maritimes, I was like, not only am I representing PEI in this game, I’m representing the Maritimes... I definitely tried my best.”
The game delivered its first twist on that premiere episode when host Arisa Cox informed the houseguests their video profiles had been live online prior to the season beginning. Canadians had the opportunity to vote for their favourite houseguests and the four contestants with the lowest votes were in jeopardy of being eliminated.
Ms Clements was briefly concerned, but told herself she had nothing to worry about because she was confident she would receive the support she needed from back home.
“I know people around here vote hard and really stand behind their people,” she said. “So, I knew I got this and turns out I did.”
Ms Clements was spared that first week thanks to those voting back home, something she appreciated tremendously. When she learned about the amount of support she did receive after the show was shut down, she said that made her feel like a winner.
Despite being a short season, a lot happened, from the show’s first ever self-eviction and two houseguests being ejected from the house by the show’s producers.
“Our season will go down as the most unique season ever,” said Ms Clements.
Then halfway through, the producers began updating the houseguests on the COVID-19 situation.
“It was crazy to get these updates,” said Ms Clements. “We were all freaking out... It was scary and terrifying.”
Then came the announcement the show was shutting down after the Ontario government ordered all non-essential businesses to close. The last episode of the season aired on April 1.
“It was a really sad time,” said Ms Clements. “They said you guys have one last night in the house and then you are going home tomorrow... It was just so much so fast. It was ripped away from us so quickly... It was just a dream come true and just something that maybe will never happen again for me and for it to end that way, it was heartbreaking.”
Coming out of the house and into a world dealing with a global pandemic was surreal.
“When they dropped me off at the Toronto airport to come home, it was dead in there and everybody had masks and I really didn’t understand why because I didn’t see the progression of the virus,” she explained. “It was weird.”
Ms Clements said she talks on a daily basis with some of the other contestants on the show as well some former contestants from prior seasons who have helped her with the transition from the house to back to the real world.
“No matter what, we are kind of like our own little family now because we went all through it together,” she said. “I definitely miss them.”
Upon returning home, Ms Clements had to self-isolate, but was able to fish in the spring season and is getting ready to fish in the upcoming fall season.
“I love fishing,” she said. “It’s definitely my passion and I love being on the water.”
Ms Clements likes to joke the coronavirus won season eight, but despite everything, she said she is grateful for the experience and loved every minute being on the show.
With the announcement of a Big Brother Canada season nine, Ms Clements hopes the show will ask her to return someday as the program often has past contestants come back to play again.
“I have no regrets,” she concluded. “I worked with people. I made alliances. I always knew what was going on. I always knew what the plan was. I felt like I was playing a very good game... I would do it the same if I went back in, but probably just more hardcore.”