Paola Shea may not be in the Big Brother house this summer, but her name is still on everyone’s tongue. In a recent episode of the CBS reality series’ 19th season, several houseguests compared the season 16 contestant to newcomer Alex Ow, even giving her the same nickname: Pao Pao.
“I do not look like Alex, so stop comparing me to her,” Shea, 30, said in a Twitter video posted on Saturday, July 1. “We’re two different people, and this is, like, some racist s–t.”
The controversy began inside the house when Jessica Graf referred to Ow as “Pao Pao,” telling her fellow houseguests that Ow reminded her of former contestant Shea, who is also of Asian descent. Megan Lowder misheard the remark and thought Graf, 26, called Ow a “panda.” Lowder, 28, notified Ow later in the day, asking, “Isn’t that a little racist?”
After it was revealed that Graf said “Pao Pao” and not “panda,” a group of houseguests verbally attacked Lowder for spreading a false rumor. Soon after, Lowder exited the game, later telling The Desert Sun that it triggered her PTSD symptoms from her time in the Navy.
The controversy quickly made headlines online as Shea’s video message went viral. Earlier this week, she addressed the drama in a lengthy Instagram post. “So the Hollywood Reporter and the media discussed my tweets on why I think Jessica calling Alex, Pao Pao was a little bit racist. I just wanted to voice out my opinion because the media and tabloids can twist things around,” she wrote on Monday, July 3. “I’m not trying to call Jessica racist. I just think that it’s inappropriate for her and the entire house to refer to Alex as me, just because we are both from Asian descent.”
Shea continued, “I know that we have similar personality traits but we are completely different people. That is my view on things, you guys can voice out your own opinion and I will not get offended.”
Big Brother airs on CBS Sundays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET, and Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.