JUST 327 people have been lucky enough to live in the Big Brother house - and Mark Byron is one of them.
And now, with ITV2 confirming the show is returning, Mark has revealed what really went on behind the scenes.
Here, he tells how housemates became pals even before the series began, how producers put contestants through “sadistic” tasks and how footage was edited to create fake romances.
'Savage' audition process
As a huge fan of the show growing up, Mark - who now owns a beauty clinic in Knightsbridge - originally applied for Big Brother the moment he turned 18 and became eligible to take part.
Despite being put through automatically by producers after they met him in his first audition, he turned it down.
“It sounds crazy because I'm the most LGBT person ever, but I hadn't fully come out of the closet yet,” he tells us. “So I got offered the show and was like, ‘Oh my god. I've now got like four weeks to come out.’ I just thought, ‘No, this is just moving way too fast and coming out wouldn't be on my terms.’”
Five years later, Mark applied again, and producers remembered him immediately - meaning he was able to fast-track past a lot of the audition stages.
The whole process took about half a year, however, with the first group audition cutting down candidates from around 1,500 people to a much smaller group, and involving “playing silly games and imitating tasks”.
Candidates were even tasked with actually having to vote to evict someone from the audition process.
“It was so savage, but I actually loved it,” Mark laughs. “The gag was we evicted this guy and he was so upset, but they then brought him back into the room three minutes later.
“That was just to give you a taste of what nominating is like and everyone was mortified, I laughed my head off.
“The guy was devastated, and, of course, he never made it into the show.”
Mark met two of the people who’d go on to become his housemates that day - Helen and Pauline Bennett.
“Pauline and I literally spent the whole day together,” he says.
After coming out of the Big Brother house, one of the show’s execs told Mark he’d written “automatic housemate” on his application when he met him.
“That was really nice, but also a little bit sadistic because I still had to go through months and months of auditioning!” he laughs.
Isolating with 'awful' chaperone
Before contestants enter the Big Brother house, they’re forced to go through a 10-day isolation period, in which they’re cut off from the outside world.
Each housemate gets paired with a chaperone who producers believe are well-suited to each other - but that wasn’t the case for Mark.
“Me and my chaperone did not get on at all,” he says. “Oh my god, it was so awkward - we just did not see eye to eye!
“I'm one of those people where if I get really bored, I'm probably a bit of a wind-up so I was winding him up, but he just wasn't finding it fun.
“We didn't click at all. I didn't even say goodbye to him!”
Before contestants walk into the house, they’re driven up in cars with blacked out windows, while wearing blackout face masks and ear defenders to block out the sound as well.
They then had to walk through a giant eye to meet presenter Emma Willis and walk into the house in front of the crowds.
And a usually confident Mark was terrified.
“I was like a rabbit in the headlights,” he says. “I actually moved my ear defenders slightly so I could try and gauge what was going on and all I heard was the person in front of me walking through the eye to the most enormous boos you've ever heard.
“My confidence went from a 10 to -50. I was s**ting myself.”
He continues: “Even now I don't remember the feeling of walking through the eye.
“All I remember is that Mariah Carey was playing and I saw my cousin and my best friend looking really glam - I had told them ‘If you do come to any evictions you need to look good’.
“And then once that door shuts behind you, you’re just locked in and like, ‘Right, let's do this. Let's have the best summer ever!’”
Producers faked romances
While many Love Island contestants have admitted producers play a part in the conversations had around the villa, Mark insists Big Brother bosses never got involved.
He says: “They don’t need to, as they cast you with people they know you're going to get on with, or not get on with, and the minute the drinks open, the romance and drama comes!”
However, Mark admits when he watched his series back, he realised viewers believed there were some romances that weren’t ever actually there thanks to clever editing tricks.
He says: “I remember they really edited it to look like Helen and Ash [Harrison] were having a romantic thing and that just wasn't the case.
“Even me and this Irish guy Chris [Hall]; we had a couple of kisses when we were drunk, it was never anything that deep, and then I watched it back and it played out like it was this enormous gay romance.
“I was like, ‘What the hell?’ We probably kissed twice in 10 weeks.”
Mark remembers his time on Big Brother with fondness, saying it was “never, ever, boring”.
He adds: “You're with a mixture of people that you would never usually be with in real life. You do tasks every single day and sometimes the task can take up the majority of the day.
“It's almost like being on holiday, like you do the tasks, you all go off, get ready, do your hair, get dressed, then the alcohol comes out and you have a bit of a party in the night, it's really, really fun.”