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Getting Back to Reality

Amber Siyavus still seems a little gun-shy, talking about her just-ended, sometimes tumultuous stint on "Big Brother 8." "This isn’t going to be edited, right?" she asked last week at the end of a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Siyavus’ concern with editing is understandable: She, like, every other reality show veteran, has learned firsthand how real life can be sliced and diced to create televised drama.

But Siyavus makes no excuses. She admits she said those horrible things about Jewish people on the show, and that she’s sorry about it. She admits she does tend to be a crier, although not nearly to the degree "Big Brother" producers would have you believe.

And, Siyavus admits, now that her time on the show has ended, she’s nervous about returning to her own reality back in Las Vegas.

CBS’ "Big Brother" show sequesters a group of contestants in a house. There, they’re watched by cameras as viewers follow the goings-on in weekly prime-time recaps and online 24/7.

Siyavus easily was this season’s most polarizing presence. Some viewers — most, actually — didn’t like her and enthusiastically ripped everything from her looks to her intelligence.

Siyavus says she didn’t realize the depth of critics’ enmity until the show ended. It was her sister who turned on the lights. "She told me that she was reading a lot of the fan boards and I was like the least-liked houseguest."

That surprised Siyavus, who had thought that her struggles — which she says includes kicking a meth addiction — would strike a positive chord with viewers. While the show portrayed her as self-absorbed, overemotional, vain and shallow, Siyavus says it didn’t show the times when she was supportive and helped others in the house when they were down or upset.

"I was just not what they portrayed me to be, and they made me out to be this horrible person," she says. "I’m so not that. I’m the complete opposite."

Siyavus thought viewers would like her because she’s honest. "Obviously, I was wrong."

Many fans were turned off by — and lampooned her on YouTube for — her apparent propensity for crying, and even dubbed her "Waaamber."

"When I cried, that was my downfall," she says. "They took that and magnified it. Yes, I did cry a lot, but they showed nothing else but me crying."

Siyavus says she had no strategy going into the game other than to be herself and get to know her housemates. That, she now sees, was naive.

"I don’t like to screw people over, I don’t like to lie to people," she says. But other players may not have that hesitation, she adds.

"A lot of people who are really into reality TV and people who know how to play the game went in there with the mind-set of, ‘I’m going to play this game.’ That was my disadvantage. I didn’t realize that."

Getting used to the constant filming wasn’t difficult, Siyavus says. "You get so used to being in there, you spend so much time doing nothing and you get so comfortable, it’s like you just forget what’s really going on and (that) you’re being watched and taped all the time."

Yet, it was that atmosphere of artificial casualness that contributed to Siyavus’ most controversial moment on the series: Angry at fellow contestant Eric for betraying her trust, Siyavus made derogatory remarks about Jewish people while talking to another contestant.

"I have friends of every religion and every race and I in no way, shape or form meant to offend anyone," Siyavus says. "I’m not prejudiced at all.

Siyavus, who says she is still mad at herself, says the comment was made in anger during the heat of the moment.

"If I had my way, I’d go to each person I’ve offended and tell them I’m so sorry," Siyavus says. "Obviously, that’s impossible, because so many people are offended. But I’m so, so sorry."

Except for that, if she had to do it again, Siyavus wouldn’t change much of what she did.

"The only thing I’d change is, I’d play the game more for me and not be so trusting of people," she says, even though "it’s hard not to be trusting of people."

Siyavus’ 8-year-old daughter, Lexi, watched the shows and "enjoyed it," Siyavus says. "She’s proud of me."

Lexi stayed with Siyavus’ sister during the show. Siyavus now is looking forward to reading a journal her sister kept of Lexi’s activities while she was gone.

"I have a journal for the whole three months," Siyavus says. "That means a lot to me."

Then comes the challenge of returning to normal life. Siyavus admits she’s not sure how that will go.

"You know, I never realized it was going to be this big, and I know people are going to be coming up to me, saying things," she says.

"It does suck, the (loss of) privacy part. I’m going home and I don’t know what I’m going home to. I have a daughter and I’m with her all the time, and I don’t want people harassing me and saying things to me."

And what’s next?

"Honestly, I don’t know," Siyavus says. "I haven’t thought much about it. I just want to go back home and be with my family and see how everything goes."

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