By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
Big Brother 7 starts on Thursday. As another set of wannabes seek their 15 minutes of fame, is it worth it? Ex-contestant Eugene Sully tells all.
Since coming second in last summer's Big Brother, Eugene Sully has turned down just one invitation - to Jordan and Peter Andre's wedding.
"I'd never met them before, I didn't think I'd fit in and knew I'd end up looking gormless in some celebrity magazine," he says.
But surely that's the point of doing a reality TV show - to get something for nothing and your face in the papers alongside other z-list celebrities?
Not for this self-confessed geek and amateur-radio enthusiast, but he was always a bit different. He went into the house halfway through the show and came out the runner-up with £50,000 prize money.
His self-effacing attitude and refusal to get involved in the backstabbing and lewd antics to which his housemates were addicted made him a favourite with the viewing public. But why put yourself through such an ordeal?
Sully, 28, admits being on television did appeal to him but wasn't his main motivation for doing the show. He wanted to use the celebrity it brings to get a better job doing what he loves - anything technical basically.
Did he succeed? Not really. He is currently looking for work, staying in his nan's house in Crawley and living off the money he earned from Big Brother. That totals £85,000, including the £50,000 prize money he pocketed.
There was an initial flurry of interest in him after leaving the house and he was on Blue Peter, Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow and in Heat magazine. But he quickly became yesterday's man and has spent much of the year trying to maintain his profile and promote himself.
Hits on his personal website have fallen from a high of 300,000 a week when he left the Big Brother house to just 300 now. All the personal appearances have dried up.
Interest hasn't even picked up with the imminent start of Big Brother 7. But being voted off Celebdaq - the BBC's celebrity stock exchange - in January was a personal low for him.
"I think anyone who says they don't want to be on television is clearly disturbed," he says. "But it wasn't all about fame for me.
Over 7m people watched Anthony beat Eugene
"I like the environment and find the whole thing fascinating, that's where my interest lies. I want to work in television and if they want me in front of the camera, all the better."
But being in Big Brother does carry a stigma, he says, and it is hard to go any further in the media than just being fodder for the gossip columns.
"Most Big Brother contestants are egocentric, fame-seeking prima donnas - including myself.
"Subsequently they will do anything for press coverage and the problem is any company wanting to promote something will end up looking cheap if they use them.
"I am trying to fight that and present myself as Eugene, rather than a former Big Brother contestant. I don't mind talking about the show but I'd prefer someone to be asking me about digital television."
He admits he did not get as much work out of the programme as he had hoped, but is still confident that he will.
"Big Brother tell you before the show that most people don't get a career out of being on the programme, but everyone thinks they're going to get more out of it than they do. Even I fell for that a bit.
"When you come out of the house and you are noticed all the time, you do get a false sense of the fame you have. The reality is those who come out are not television presenters, singers or comedians, they have little talent. All most of them are good for is getting their boobs - or other bits - out."
Eugene entered the house almost naked
Despite the disappointment work wise, he enjoys the attention he gets from the public and is still recognised. He signed his last autograph in his local McDonalds three days ago. But the more attention he gets the more he wants, resulting in his professional standards slipping.
"I'm pretty much up for doing any media job, why not push it for all I can get?"
He has no regrets about going into the house and does not think he embarrassed himself while in there. But some might consider admitting to being a virgin on national television an intrusion of privacy and a high price to pay for a bit of fame.
"I didn't have a problem with the virgin thing," he says. "What I was worried about was any subsequent interrogation, but it didn't happen. Anyway, if I'd said that information was private, all people would have done is probe more and more."
He readily admits he is still a virgin. This is partly because he doesn't go out on the pull, but also because he cannot trust people as they might go and sell the story. The sex life of any celebrity - however minor - is of interest to the tabloids.
But for him the worst thing about being on Big Brother is the local youths who knock on his door in the middle of the night shouting: "This is Big Brother, you are evicted." He doesn't find it funny.
So, would he go in the house again?
"Yes, if I was asked," he says. "But I'd like the tasks to be a bit more intelligent, a bit more of a challenge."
I sat my girlfriend down last night, and tried to persuade her not to watch it this year. Its every night of your life till september nearly. Its no different to victorians touring asylums to ogle the loonies. The only thing worse is the quality of the spin-off BBLB/Big mouth satellite shows. Massive popularity and unprecedented revenue generation have made the producers utterly complacent.
The modern day casting couch remains in the form of Big Brother auditions.
Eugene's angle / niche (geekiness) was his reason for being cast. Sadly, most 'contestants' fail to see the reality of the situation they put themselves into.
For every Jade Goody, there are 9 'oh, you are what's his name off of big brother, innit'.
Successful media careers do not automatically await these fame-hungry desperadoes when they come out the house, just as the streets of London are not paved with gold.
It's time to stop now. That said, I'm sure I'll tune in at 9pm...
Using Big Brother as an entry point into a high profile media career can be done. Look at Jade Goody, who has earned £2 million. That's £2 million more that I've earned since graduating from Cambridge University two years ago. And they say she's the stupid one.
Trevor Cerbera, Horsham, UK
Hmmm, personally I think anyone who "does" want to be on television is clearly disturbed. Especially if they'll sink to the depths of Big Brother to achieve it...
Yet again, the point is made "that most people don't get a career out of being on the programme, but everyone thinks they're going to get more out of it than they do".
And still people delude themselves after however many series?!! Everyone thinks that they'll be the one to break the mold.. and while that thought is there, there'll still be hundreds of people applying to go on and begin the rapid rise to fame and the (often just as rapid) descent into obscurity.
The media feeds this obsession, but they only feed it because people buy their magazines to read about z-list "celebs", which makes more people want to become z-list celebs, which sells more magazines... and so on. Isn't modern day "celebrity" wonderful?!
Dave, St Helens, England
It's perfectly clear from Eugene's sad story that the only people who benefit financially from BB are the programme makers. And I suppose that's the moral; if you want real fame, and a career in front of the camera, there are better routes (like have some talent or skill to begin with, or go and learn something at drama school etc) than being plucked from the street and expecting the world to fall at your feet as a result. Just treat BB as a bit of fun, with no expectations, seems to be the right way to approach it.
Rob, London, UK
Surely Eugene knew Big Brother wasn't going to kickstart a respectable TV career, when he was handed a pair of leaf covered y-fronts and told.. "you are going to arrive wearing these"
Lizzi , Poole, Dorset
BB doesn't give you any kind of permanent celeb status; it will always be a transitory award. What it can give you is many tens of thousands of pounds and an opportunity for you change direction in life- That's the way I'd look on it if I got in!
Craig Waterworth, London, UK.
He clearly isn't doing too badly if he's in the headlines of the BBC news website a year after leaving the BB house.
Alexander Denny, London
Big Brother is indicative of our society at the moment. Microwave fame. Everyone wants fame, riches and celebrity status right away. They may have no talent at all but were at the right place at the right time. I for one will not be watching Big Brother again.
Stephen Saidu, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
At least Eugene has some insight into the price you pay for being on programmes such as Big Brother, which other former housemates seem to lack.
I liked Eugene in the last series as he at least had some intelligence and tried to engage with people on a level other than the bitchiness that usually dominates.
Kate, Salisbury, UK
One of the very few genuine contestants on BB ever, pity he didn't get the other 50k - good luck for the future Eugene, leader of the techno-geeks
Andy, Bullbridge, UK
Big Brother contestants are being used & degraded whilst the tv companies make millions. Wake up losers! And viewers degrade themselves by watching this trash. Enough already!
I think Eugene has done a lot for amateur radio as a hobby. I am a licensed amateur and it has always had problems drawing in the numbers. Anything that can get amateur radio into the public arena is a good thing. So from my point of view all though i'm not a great fan of Big Brother for a multitude of reasons- positive can come of it!
Sam M3KWF, Wisbech UK
I don't know which is worst - the desperate people who go on Big Brother or the people who pander to 'celebrities' like Jade Goody as a result of their exposure on TV. I write and publish my own novels and have worked for years to build up a readership and generate sales. It's infuriating when I sweat blood to get a book in the top 20,000 bestellers on Amazon, only to see Jade's autobiography (don't know who wrote that for her) hit the top 100 less than two weeks after publication! Big Brother (and all reality TV progammes) are freak shows designed to make profit and the only winners are the people who control the product.
David Moody, Halesowen, U
I loved Eugene, I wish he'd got his own geeky show where he tested gadgets or something.
Natalie S, Hitchin
More of Eugene in the media please He is fit!!!!!
gemma carter, Rhymney Valley
Add your comments using the form below.
The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.