United at The Rock

SGA President Ovi Kabir and Student Services Director Maddie Stephens attended the United at the Rock event on Wednesday Feb. 20, 2019.

UT alumnus and former Student Government Association president Ovi Kabir is taking on the big screen with his trademark welcoming smile as he is set to compete “Big Brother.”

Kabir, 22, graduated from UTK this past May and will test his wit and skill on the popular CBS reality TV show’s 21st season.

“Big Brother” brings together 16 “house guests” from across the U.S. to live in a house where each week someone is eliminated until one person remains to take home the grand prize of $500,000.

While staying in a custom built house outfitted with 24/7 surveillance and microphones recording everything, contestants are cut off from the outside world for three months during the competition. Each week, both contestants and those watching will vote a “house guest” off the show.

CBS announced the cast on Monday, June 17, with the show set to premiere on CBS on Tuesday, June 25 at 8 p.m. with another episode following Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Getting to know Ovi Kabir through “Big Brother”

Kabir is taking the Volunteer spirit with him on the show in the form of his “Power T” pin and his orange crocs, which he said is like walking on clouds.

Although Kabir is currently unavailable to be reached for comment, his said in his CBS profile that he is excited for the challenge, even if he will be missing his Insta-famous dog, Mowgli.

“I think that’s what makes this experience so cool is that I’ll get to challenge myself and get to know a lot of people that I did not know before and learn about their experiences in life,” Kabir said. “So, it really comes down to me missing my dog.”

While Kabir may be missing home, he is in it to win it, relying on his experience as a rowing coach and what he learned at UT, as well as befriending those on the show.

“My main strategy is to go into the house and get to know all the Houseguests on some sort of personal level and not alienate any members,” Kabir said, adding he will do his best to create a strong alliance with some of the Houseguests, but also create bonds with those on the outskirts.”

Kabir plans on staying true to his genuine, honest nature and being straightforward with evicted Houseguests in the goodbye messages including doing his best to say how good of a player they were.

“Though I have all these strategies in mind, I understand ”Big Brother“ has many twists and I must ‘expect the unexpected,’ as Julie Chen says,” Kabir said. “So my other strategy of being flexible and being able to flow with the game I think will be instrumental in me winning.”

Support from home: UT community excited for Kabir’s opportunity

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Dean of Students Shea Kidd Houze worked closely with Kabir during his time as SGA President and wishes him the best of luck on the show.

“It was a pleasure to work with Ovi when he was SGA President. He was student-centered, genuine, transparent and had a sense of humor even on the really tough days,” Kidd Houze said. “Something I always admired was that he was serious about the things that mattered but never took himself too seriously. It’s hard not to like a guy like Ovi, and I wish him the very best on Big Brother 2019.”

Current SGA President and senior in the college scholars program Natalie Campbell is cheering Kabir on along with the rest of her executive team.

“I’m super confident in him. From what I hear from some of our alumni, it can be sometimes tricky to transition out of this position, it’s kind of like you’ve spent so much time in investing in this campus, in these students and investing in other things besides your future and it’s like what do I do know,” Campbell said.

“I think that it's great that he found something he finds exciting and that he’s going to be good at and I’m glad he’s doing this for himself,” Campbell added.

Campbell also said that seeing Kabir on “Big Brother” will show other Vols that there is so much more they can do after they graduate, and that they aren’t set on a certain track.

“We’re so young and we have so many opportunities and I love that Ovi is showing everyone that you don’t have to stick to this predetermined track and that you can take a bit of a detour and do something unexpected.”

Senior studying political science and Kabir's girlfriend Hannah Blackwell said she may not know much about the show, but thinks Kabir's personality is perfect for it.  

"He's just the type that he can go into any group of people and really just thrive, no matter where he is," Blackwell said. "I don't want to say something and then bite my tongue (Tuesday) or if he gets kicked off the first week, but I really could see him making it really far."

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