‘Big Brother 19’ Blackface Controversy: Paul Abrahamian plans to dress up as Dominique Cooper


Season 19 of Big Brother, CBS' stalwart summer reality competition, has been a volatile one. From the very first day of the new contestants' stay in the Big Brother house, the power plays have been frequent and cutthroat.

But a new twist took center stage over the weekend: As has happened before, the series finds itself embroiled in a controversy over racially charged actions caught on the show's infamous 24/7 live feeds. One contestant, Paul Abrahamian, has been captured planning and debating wearing a black mask — which he described as a "black face" — in order to imitate fellow houseguest Dominique Cooper. He says the phrase "black face" in two different clips, both posted on Twitter Sunday.

The resulting firestorm has fans arguing over the intention of Paul's costume and rallying around Dominique, while the contestants stay sequestered inside, unaware of the controversy just outside the house.

This week, houseguest Alex Ow holds the power as Head of Household. This means she gets to nominate two of her fellow competitors for eviction — whomever loses the vote among the houseguests, to be held on live TV Thursday, goes home. Alex nominated Jessica Graf, not currently seen as her target, and Dominique. She did so in consultation with Paul, who has grown increasingly critical of Dominique in recent days, even making fun of the Christian contestant's religion.

See the "Big Brother" Season 19 contestants:

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Big Brother Season 19 contestants
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Big Brother Season 19 contestants
Ramses Soto (21) 
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Current City: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Occupation: Cosplay Artist
Dominique Cooper (30; turns 31 on 7/11/17)
Hometown: Tuskegee, Ala.
Current City: Woodbridge, Va.
Occupation: Government Engineer
Josh Martinez (23)
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Current City: Homestead, Fla.
Occupation: Hair Care Sales
Alex Ow (28)
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Current City: Camarillo, Calif.
Occupation: Eco-Friendly Marketing Rep
Elena Davies (26; turns 27 on 8/19/17)
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Current City: Dallas, Texas
Occupation: Radio Personality
Christmas Abbott (35)
Hometown: Lynchburg, Va.
Current City: Raleigh, N.C.
Occupation: Fitness Superstar
Raven Walton (23)
Hometown: DeValls Bluff, Ark.
Current City: DeValls Bluff, Ark.
Occupation: Dance Teacher
Jillian Parker (24)
Hometown: Celebration, Fla.
Current City: Las Vegas, Nev.
Occupation: Timeshare Sales Rep
Cody Nickson (32)
Hometown: Lake Mills, Iowa.
Current City: Plano, Texas
Occupation: Construction Sales Rep
Megan Lowder (28)
Hometown: Cathedral City, Calif.
Current City: Phoenix, Ariz.
Occupation: Dog Walker
Matthew Clines (33)
Hometown: Arlington, Va.
Current City: Arlington, Va.
Occupation: Renovation Consultant
Cameron Heard (24; turns 25 on 8/27/17)
Hometown: North Aurora, Ill.
Current City: Woodridge, Ill.
Occupation: Microbiologist
Mark Jansen (26)
Hometown: Grand Island, N.Y.
Current City: Grand Island, N.Y.
Occupation: Personal Trainer
Kevin Schlehuber (55; turns 56 on 8/7/17)
Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Current City: Boston, Mass.
Occupation: Stay-At-Home Dad
Jason Dent (37; turns 38 on 7/12/17)
Hometown: Humeston, Iowa
Current City: Humeston, Iowa
Occupation: Rodeo Clown
Jessica Graf (26)
Hometown: Cranston, R.I.
Current City: Los Angeles
Occupation: VIP Concierge
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But Sunday's planning on the live feeds took things to a new level. In the first clip, Paul shows an assembly of other contestants (including Alex, Christmas Abbott and Ramses Soto) his Dominique costume, complete with dress, leggings and what he describes first as a "black face," then as a "black mask." In a second clip, he asks fellow houseguests Elena Davies and Mark Jansen if he should wear the "face mask," describing it as a "black face" again.

Debate over Paul's motives has spread like a wildfire since the clips went viral in Big Brother fan circles. The Big Brother fan-run live feed updates account @BB_Updates provided extensive notes on the conversation. According to the notes, Paul's intent is to dress up in snake-like feminine clothing, including a patterned dress and python leggings. The black mask, he argued, matches the rest of the outfit; he turned down Alex's green bandana, suggested as an alternative by Jessica, because it didn't match.

Some are standing by Paul against accusations of racism, though some admit that his plan is ill-formed and ill-advised. Others are arguing the intent doesn't matter; that blackface has such a painful connotation and horrifying history that even a plan without racist intent can still cause major harm.

So far, Dominique is not aware of the plan. Should Paul go through with it, he'll either show up to the Power of Veto ceremony to be held later today or to Thursday's live eviction vote in costume. Until then, fans of Dominique are rallying on Twitter to get others to vote for her for a new twist, the Halting Hex, which could save her from eviction — and throw the house into topsy-turvy turmoil once again.

See photos of "Big Brother" host Julie Chen:
10 PHOTOS
Julie Chen through the years
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Julie Chen through the years
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06: Julie Chen attends the AOL Build Speaker Series to discuss 'The Talk' at AOL HQ on September 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 26: The 7 Wonders of THE TALK! Season 7 premieres with shocking reveals, behind the scenes secrets, surprising reunions and more. Monday, Sept. 12, 2:00 PM ET/1:00 PM, PT/CT on the CBS Television Network. Julie Chen, shown (Photo by Robert Ascroft/CBS via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 02: Julie Chen attends the 4th annual CBS Television Studios Summer Soiree at Palihouse on June 2, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18: Julie Chen attends 2016 CBS Upfront at The Plaza on May 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: (L-R) TV personalities Sheryl Underwood, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler, and Julie Chen walk the red carpet at the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on May 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for NATAS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 25: TV host Julie Chen attends the naming of the Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center at The Wallis Annenberg Hall At The University Of Southern California on February 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (EXCLUSIVE ACCESS, SPECIAL RATES APPLY) Julie Chen attends the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/VF15/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves (L) and wife TV personality Julie Chen attend the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 11: Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson visits the ladies of 'The Talk,' Wednesday, February 11, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. From left, Sara Gilbert, Sheryl Underwood, Taraji P. Henson, Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne and Aisha Tyler, shown. (Photo by Lisette M. Azar/CBS via Getty Images)
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