The 2006 “turkey slap” incident has gone down in Big Brother infamy.
The 2006 “turkey slap” incident has gone down in Big Brother infamy.

Inside reality TV’s most infamous scandal

It was the reality TV incident that taught Australia what a "turkey slap" was and even prompted the Prime Minister to get involved.

At 4.17am on July 1, 2006, Big Brother contestant Camilla Severi was summoned to a bed by two of her housemates, Michael "John" Bric and Michael "Ashley" Cox where the shocking situation then unfolded.

The scene never made it to air on then-Channel 10's hit reality program, but was instead broadcast as grainy night-vision footage in an online livestream of the house … and then was promptly redistributed by viewers across the internet.

The grainy footage was shared around the internet.
The grainy footage was shared around the internet.

 

As Australia went into uproar, the two men were quickly booted from the show and effectively went into hiding, while even then-Prime Minister John Howard called for Big Brother to be axed.

"Well here's a great opportunity for Channel 10 to do a bit of self-regulation and get this stupid program off the air," he told Macquarie Radio amid the backlash.

The housemates were shocked to learn the two men had been kicked off the show.
The housemates were shocked to learn the two men had been kicked off the show.


More than 14 years on, the "turkey slap" is still fairly regularly rehashed in the media - even more now that the revamped series has begun airing on Seven.

While she's been largely silent on the matter since leaving the house, Severi opened up about the toll it took on her life during an appearance on The Ben, Rob & Robbo Show's Big Brother recap show.

"My feelings have changed about this subject a few times," she said.

"At the time there was an enormous amount of hype, we had helicopters flying over the house with telephoto lenses and taking photos of me the day after the boys got taken off the show. That was scary, it was uncomfortable.

"A lot of people got hurt in that process, the boys were taken out of the show, it followed us all around."

In the weeks following the scandal, Severi, then 22, told The Sydney Morning Herald that her two former housemates were still "loveable" to her.

"I was uncomfortable for a split second in time, but the boys' behaviour doesn't make them any less loveable to me," she said in August 2006.

"Everyone is talking about the scandal, but you can substitute anyone into that equation and the same thing would have happened."

Michael ‘John’ Bric and Michael ‘Ashley’ Cox spoke to host Gretel Killeen after being kicked off the show.
Michael ‘John’ Bric and Michael ‘Ashley’ Cox spoke to host Gretel Killeen after being kicked off the show.

 

In her new interview on The Ben Rob & Robbo Show, Severi described the events that led to the incident taking place, explaining that it was early in the morning, everyone was tired, and the housemates had been drinking.

"It's one of those things where it was really a moment in time," she said.

"I was on the show for a hundred days, it was about 15 seconds of my time in the house and yet people do like to talk about it a lot."

Severi admitted that it was a "confusing" experience to be caught up in.

"We were all mucking around and I've said this before, if it happened at a party and someone did that to me I'd probably say to them, 'Hey that wasn't cool' and then we'd move on," she said.

"But because it happened on live TV and it's been dissected so, so many times from different angles, it was quite a confusing experience.

"I don't know how the boys feel about it now, but where I'm at now with it is I feel like yes, it was, the boys didn't mean any harm to me, they didn't mean to hurt me and I actually didn't mean to hurt them if I was upset the day afterwards."

A shocked Camilla speaking to Big Brother in the diary room.
A shocked Camilla speaking to Big Brother in the diary room.

The former reality TV star turned radio host added that she was "scarred" by the ongoing attention the "turkey slap" garnered.

"Look, I didn't ask for that to happen and sometimes when people ask me about it I say, 'Well, it's really interesting this keeps following me around because I didn't do it'," she told the hosts.

"But am I scarred by it? No. What I'm scarred by is the constant attention, you know, and the fact that I went on to do eight years of breakfast radio, I have three beautiful children, I'm married, like I've got a really full life, I'm studying, there's so much other stuff that's going on in my life and this was like such a blip on the radar."

It comes after a former Big Brother producer, who was working in the control room during the 2006 series, admitted it had been a "pretty scary" time and provided a "huge lesson for the industry".

"It was pretty scary," Yana Groves told The Guardian in February. "It was something that happened so unexpectedly that I think it rocked the reality world. The producers did everything they could in that situation - to do the right thing and take the right steps."

 

Originally published as Inside reality TV's most infamous scandal

The reality TV star went on to have a successful career in radio.
The reality TV star went on to have a successful career in radio.


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