From Harwinton to Hollywood

Lewis Mills alum Christian Birkenberger’s journey on Big Brother

The Houseguests compete to win the Power of Veto. During the Veto meeting, the winner of the competition can keep nominations the same, or save someone from eviction for the week on BIG BROTHER Wednesday, August 4 (8:00 Ð 9:00 PM ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and live streaming on P+. Pictured: Christian Birkenberger Photo: CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The Houseguests compete to win the Power of Veto. During the Veto meeting, the winner of the competition can keep nominations the same, or save someone from eviction for the week on BIG BROTHER Wednesday, August 4 (8:00 Ð 9:00 PM ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and live streaming on P+. Pictured: Christian Birkenberger Photo: CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Esther Minery, Contributing writer

It started with a kiss, then developed into a showmance. From cuddling in front of other house members, to Alyssa Lopez openly labeling Christian Birkenberger a good kisser, fans went wild. The question fans are all dying to know: are the reality TV stars still together?

Birkenberger, a Lewis Mills alumni, has made quite the name for himself living in small-town Harwinton, Conn.

The Houseguests participate in the brand new Sunday competition called “Wild Card Competition,” where each team sends one person to play. Safety is always up for grabs but there is always a risk/reward element. Then, the Head of Household nominates two fellow Houseguests for possible eviction.

The 23-year-old was scouted onto the CBS hit “Big Brother” to participate in season 23 this fall. He held his ground and was a good competitor on the show, but was unfortunately voted out in week five when Head of Household, Derek Xiao, turned the house against him.

Birkenberger had fun on the show, and loved each second of it there, although it was not the reality TV show he had expected to hear back from.

“Fun fact, I never actually applied to Big Brother,” he stated. “I am a huge ‘Survivor’ fan and I applied for Survivor maybe four years ago, and I got pretty far in that casting process.”

Although not accepted onto “Survivor,” Birkenberger’s application was passed around through casting directors, and a few years later the casting producer for “Big Brother” reached out to him asking if he would be interested in being a part of their show. Without hesitation, he said yes.

This life turn was no surprise to Birkenberger, however, as he had always imagined his future would be connected to something in the world of social media and reality TV.

“I did expect to get on TV, and even more specifically on reality TV,” he said.

After high school, Birkenberger attended Tunxis Community College to receive an associate degree in general studies. He used this knowledge more as a backup plan because deep down he knew he wanted to get into acting and modeling. Right out of high school, he started booking jobs for acting, modeling, and commercial gigs which supplied him with an income for everyday essentials like food and gas while going to college.

He started by taking pictures with Peter Mellekas, a Newport photographer, where he modeled and started posting those shoots along with others on his Instagram. As time went on, he was progressively acknowledged by not only other photographers, but studios along the way. He now has a manager from New York City, Nolé Marin, who handles all inquiries. His long curly hair and piercing blue eyes make him stand out from the rest, so it is no surprise he has gotten this exposure from his modelling.

Birkenberger started to grow his platform on Instagram, where he interacted with his followers daily. He used lots of hashtags, made sure to tag those he’d worked on a project with, and got involved and collaborated with influencers who had more followers than him at the time. He now has a whopping 56,000 followers.

“I posted I think three times a week on Instagram, a lot of modeling photos. I understood my audience and understood my fanbase at that time,” he stated in IMessage audio clips.

On the hit CBS show, the last seven evicted houseguests become part of the “jury” to help decide the winner. They live in a secluded area, where they are not allowed to communicate with the outside world, the intent being to shield them from viewing the behind-the-scenes information on social media, such as secret alliances or betrayals of which they may not be aware.

Following a live vote, a Houseguest is evicted and interviewed by Host Julie Chen Moonves. Remaining Houseguests compete for power in the next Head of Household.

Since Birkenberger was not one of the last seven to get evicted, he was eliminated pre- jury. Because of this, he actually had the benefit of doing more podcasts and more interviews than those who were still on the show, and still part of the jury.

“I saw that as an opportunity to, I guess, stay relevant while the show was happening,” he said. He wanted to be sure he was engaging with the fans while the show was still airing.

On the show, Birkenberger had many laughable moments, one being the night he decided to apply facemasks with fellow houseguests Xavier Prather and Kyland Young. Birkenberger continued to make funny faces and “IT” references, while amused by Tiffany Mitchell’s freaked out reaction to their looks. The other houseguests filled the room with laughter, each one of them enjoying the others presence.

“I was very sad to leave my friends because there was nothing in that house I didn’t enjoy,” he said. Despite leaving of the show earlier on than most, Birkenberger still makes an effort to reach out to them. “I am still in contact with every single person on the cast. There is a good handful I communicate with in a group chat or directly every single day.”

The cast members are all really good friends and want to make plans to get together during New Year’s. Though rumored that Birkenberger and Lopez are no longer together, he has not spoken on the topic.

While moving onto bigger things, past teachers of Birkenberger have watched him succeed and move through his life the way he had always hoped.

“Christian was a really kind and sincere young man,” said Kristen Grindal-Keller, his family friend and former teacher. “He was very funny and had a great sense of humor, while also being a pretty quiet and typical teenager.”

Brynn Mandel, English teacher at Lewis Mills agreed, “He literally was that kid who always had that smiley, kind of cheerful outlook. Very pleasant, upbeat, and sweet.” She also added, “He was probably one of Ms. Atwood’s favorite kids.”

Indeed, since graduating from Mills, Birkenberger and Atwood have kept in touch through phone, email, and social media.

“Christian has a special place in my heart,” stated Atwood, a Mills business teacher. Birkenberger called her before he left for his in-person audition to tell her the great news and ask if she could be one of his references. “I was ecstatic,” she recalled.

Atwood said she was very happy with his strategies for winning competitions, especially becoming Head of Household, Captain of his Kings, and winning safety from elimination. She was sad to see him go, as he had the potential to go all the way.

It upset her when people began to misjudge his character over social media.

“I felt he was being portraited being a bit smug and more of a ‘jock’ stereotype then he really was,” she said. In school, she recalled Birkenberger was motivated, and would help any staff member or classmate when they needed it.

It is safe to say that despite the growing success of this rising social media star, he has stayed true to his character and has avoided letting this newfound attention get to his head. He plans to continue being a social media influencer, although his primary focus is still acting in TV shows and movies – a dream many have had, but few fulfill; something that, for Birkenberger, now seems less a dream and more reality.