In a rare instance of accountability for the franchise, producers behind MTV’s The Challenge have taken swift action against a cast member for comments made on social media. Dee Nguyen, who made it to the final round of the competition series last season and was one of the winners, will not be invited back, according to a tweet from the show’s official account. “As a result of Dee Nguyen’s offensive comments on the Black Lives Matter movement, we have severed ties with her,” the statement reads.
Last week, Nguyen, who is Vietnamese Australian, posted a black square on her Instagram account as part of the Black Out Tuesday campaign online. After a commenter critiqued her post, writing, “Wake up! People are dying,”(this comment has since been removed from Nguyen’s Instagram), Nguyen responded with flippancy: “People die every fucking day.”
Instagram commenters accused Nguyen of participating in Black Out Tuesday “for clout,” with some even offering advice on how to be a better ally. Nguyen, mindful of increasing her visibility, as is the way of most reality stars, expanded the drama to Twitter, where she wrote, “IDK why some of you think I’m anti-BLM. I’ve been saying that since the day I lost my virginity,” along with another tweet showing a picture of dogs that reads: “We are the same animal. Racism is stupid.”
To say that Nguyen was dragged by her fellow castmates would be a disservice to the word itself. Her mentor, Challenge veteran Wes Bergman, disavowed Nguyen and fired her from his Patreon charity show Friends and Benefits, which finds Challenge favorites living in a house paid for by Bergman while doing charitable work in Kansas City. Bergman tweeted that he’d made the decision on Monday to “ask [Nguyen] to leave my home and my city; effective immediately.” A black castmate, Swaggy C, who appears on the current season with Nguyen, wrote a long and informative thread in which he calls her a “clout clown” and accuses her of faking her charitable work with Bergman because she couldn’t fly back to Australia due to the covid-19 outbreak.
Nguyen has since apologized on Instagram and Twitter in a statement that takes almost no accountability, highlights that she is a person of color (as if that exempts one from being racist), and positions herself as the victim. It is the quintessential non-apology.
Her firing is notable, considering that The Challenge and The Real World producers tend to take little to no action against its casts or have otherwise been late to penalize previous racist incidents, as well as sexual assault. Maybe after 36 seasons, Challenge producers have decided they hate racism more than they hate quitters.