big brother house Big Brother Canada Season 3 Winner Sarah Hanlon (Photo courtesy of Jeevan Brar)

Some of our readers were interested in a behind-the-scenes piece on the Big Brother Canada home and I was recently chatting about it with my editor, when serendipitously, two days later, I had a chance meeting — at my fitness studio, no less — with Season 3 winner Sarah Hanlon.

We immediately connected when I overheard her chatting openly about her love of cannabis and being a Leafly Ambassador (I write on the topic). But it wasn’t until a fan came over to request a snap with her that I realized my stroke of luck.

Now that Big Brother Canada is currently airing its sixth season — and Sarah isn’t held back by any confidentiality agreements — I sat down with her to get the scoop on what it was really like living in a monitored house, what viewers would be surprised to know about the decor and behind-the-scenes set up, and why this current season’s home is her favourite in series history.

You’ve been described as a “super fan,” and many say that’s what helped you win Season 3. I take it then that you’ve been watching this season?

Yes. I’ve been watching this season and their house is so much nicer than ours! Ours was meant to be kind of torturous and this season’s (Season 6) is so luxurious. It looks like a castle!

The bathroom looks like a cloudy dream and the HOH room is Van Gogh-inspired perfection. The only room I don’t want to be in this season is the Have-Not room, which looks like a dungeon.

What did your season’s house have that this season’s lacks?

One thing we had that they don't however is a pool. An indoor pool is like the biggest luxury I can think of. Not using it enough is a regret.

What’s it like living in a house on TV?


The weirdest part is actually how normal it is, though it didn’t feel normal right off the bat.

When my season of houseguests first entered the Big Brother Canada 3 house, it felt really uncomfortable and abnormal because we had no furniture and none of our stuff. But when we won a competition and got all that stuff (couches, beds, duvets, pillows, etcetera ...) it felt eerily normal.

It’s amazing how creature comforts like that can make a situation feel just like any place. But in reality, it wasn't a normal house at all. It was more like a summer camp or something.

Describe the house to me in your season.

There’s a big shared bedroom, big shared bathroom — which was actually very functional (minus there being only one toilet). I like the idea of a bathroom with a sitting area and a lot of counter space. We each had a cubby drawer and it was actually perfect.

It got messy but that wasn't the bathroom's fault.

What don’t the viewers realize?

That the houseguests have no real control over their life when they’re in the house.

It’s definitely not a home. There are no clocks, no light-switches, no locks on doors, no windows. Instead of windows there are mirrors lining the walls of every single room and behind those mirrors are cameras.

Even I didn't realize that until a few days in — Big Brother is always watching.

The house is also completely controlled by production, in terms of heat, light, etcetera. So, it’s almost like living in a smart home. Soon everyone will live like we lived in the Big Brother house! Being woken up and controlled by the house itself!

What is the biggest myth or misconceptions about the house and the process of being on Big Brother?

A lot of people tell me "I could never do that,” in reference to being locked in a house for that long, with strangers, under surveillance, etcetera. But I really think many people would surprise themselves. I certainly did.

Sure, for lots of people it isn't worth it, or they wouldn't like it, but anyone could do it.

What’s the biggest take away from your experience on Big Brother?

I really think the whole game of playing Big Brother is a beautiful meditation on life and an opportunity to grow. And I think while it’s hard, it’s very rewarding and not like anything you would expect.

I made amazing connections and I am still learning things about myself and the world from my time in the house — and it’s been about three years!

Being "cut off" from the outside world at the peak of social media influence was a really great way to remind me who I was and what makes people and connecting with people so special and important. There was a whole segment on our season about how we really bonded because of the communal living atmosphere and the lack of digital escapism.

Also, Big Brother is a tough omnipresent entity on a game level BUT they take care of you while you and I felt really safe in there … Hey, imagine not going to the bank or grocery store or getting gas for 70 days! In lots of ways, it was really nice.

What can you tell me about the design of the house?

Our house had a steampunk theme with gears and cranks and pipes everywhere. It was two levels with a big, beautiful, grand staircase with a glass railing so you could see the kitchen and living room below.

Our main bedroom and the HOH bedroom (the fancy bedroom for the winner of the Head of Household competition that week) were upstairs, as well as the bathroom. We had a fake backyard area with a pool and laundry and fake grass. And then a small hot tub area attached to that, which was actually outside but walled with high walls so we could see anything but sky. The hot tub was a really nice treat for everyone.

I wish we had more laundry machines — one is not enough for 16 people. The Brick is a sponsor of Big Brother Canada and so the house was furnished with stuff from The Brick. As the winner of my season, I won $25,000 dollars to The Brick, which I used to decorate my house.

You mentioned when we first chatted that the current house airing now is your favourite of all the houses in Big Brother Canada and US history. Why is that?

It’s one of my favourites because it’s so colourful and it’s such a great theme (heaven/hell/castle/dungeon) that can work on so many levels. Plus there’s so much going on it’s almost Gaudi-esque and I LOVE Antoni Gaudi!

Everyone looks good from every angle cause there’s something visually pleasing everywhere you look: stained glass, gold feathers, a gorgeous wrap around staircase, bright clouds! It’s not boring that’s for sure!

How did you spend the $100K you won as the grand prize for winning the Big Brother Canada Season 3 money? 

I used the money to buy my house (or get a mortgage at least)! We renovated a little bit, put a really nice garden area in the back and re-did our loft and eavestroughs and little things.

I used my 25K from the Brick to fill it with a fridge, a Dyson, three couches, two beds, and the nicest washer/dryer you’ve ever seen.

I was never a homebody and I definitely never cared about things like washers and dryers until I had my own home. Now, I cook almost every night (which is so relaxing to me) and I’m obsessed with making my house a home. I’m so, so grateful to Big Brother for everything it has brought into my life, including my house.