In the summer of 2014, Derrick Levasseur entered a house full of strangers, and months later, walked away with $500,000 after winning CBS’s “Big Brother.”
His secret? Something he calls his “undercover edge.” The longtime undercover detective was able to maneuver through the house using techniques he developed in his day job. And the success didn’t stop there for Levasseur. In the years that followed Season 16 of Big Brother, he was on a show on Investigation Discovery, and has a new show lined up for 2018.
In his new book, “The Undercover Edge,” Levasseur guides readers through skills he developed as a detective. He’s having a book signing at Books-A-Million in Concord at 7 p.m. Friday.
Ahead of the book signing, Levasseur spoke to the Observer about his life post-“Big Brother,” his relationship with some of his former housemates, and how having an “undercover edge” can help everyday people be successful in life.
Q. So you won the $500,000, but outside of money, how has being on “Big Brother” affected your life?
A. It’s crazy because it affects it in multiple ways. When you’re locked away from your family for 100 days, you have a new appreciation for the people who really matter, and you realize that the circle of friends you have may not be as strong as you think, because the people who really matter to you are the ones you think about while you’re there. So it gave me an appreciation for my family, but more importantly, it gave me a new appreciation for life, and how short it is. How the opportunities that you’re presented with in life may only come once, and if you don’t take advantage of them, you may miss out on some of the best times of your life. Because I almost didn’t go on “Big Brother,” and since leaving “Big Brother,” I’ve made it a point to take advantage of those opportunities that I otherwise would be against.
Q. Do you still stay in touch with people from your season?
A. Of course. Cody (Calafiore) is no longer a friend, he’s a brother. We talk all the time. My daughters call him Uncle Cody. I stay in touch with Caleb (Reynolds), I stay in touch with Nicole. I stay in touch with Zach (Rance), Frankie (Grande), I’m friends with Brittany (Martinez). Some I’m closer with than others, but for the most part, we’re all cordial. We all get along. There’s no drama, like you see with some of the other seasons. We’re all pretty much one big happy family. We played the game the right way. We didn’t go too personal with things, and that’s allowed us to remain friends, even three and a half years later.
Q. When you were on the show, you used a lot of what you’ve learned as an undercover detective, and it was obviously successful for you. Was that always your strategy going in?
A. The strategy that I incorporated was this undercover approach, this undercover edge that I use every day in life, because it’s what I’ve been trained to do. And that’s kind of where the book derived from. I took basically my personal and professional experience as an undercover detective and I created this approach. And this approach encompasses the main components of undercover work – which is observation, adaptation and communication – and what I did was adapt those main components to everyday situations. So my hope is that the reader can take the same skills, techniques, and lessons that I learned as an undercover cop and use them at work and at home. And hopefully they’re able to have the same kind of success that I’ve had by using the same approach.
Q. What made you want to pass along some of these skills to other people?
A. My whole life has been about helping people. And it started with people asking my “Big Brother” strategy. I realized that I wouldn’t write a book to just say how I won “Big Brother,” because I don’t think that’s contributing in a positive way. But I said to myself if I have something that I really think could help just one person to really change their life and hopefully have some type of success…then it’s worth it. If I can help someone become a better leader, become a better communicator, in their own lives – and they look back at what I showed them and they can say “Derrick, thank you, because what you talked about in your book changed my way of thinking and has forced me to push myself to do things that have helped me become successful” – then it’s all worth it for me. It really is.
Q. Is there a particular tip or skill in your book that you really think people should take away from the book?
A. There’s a couple, there’s not just one. Because the way I wrote the book, I build on the relationship between me and the reader. And it starts off with knowing yourself. You have to know who you are, your strengths and your weaknesses, because understanding what you’re not good at is just as important as understanding what you’re good at. You can enhance those strengths and also work on those weaknesses. Knowing your target is important because, yes, you can know who you are, but without knowing the person you’re dealing with, you’re not going to communicate with them effectively. And then there’s also some techniques I put in there, (like) using silence to extract information. Psychologically, we as people are programmed to dialogue. If I take a momentary pause, just a second to respond, sometimes that person will feel an awkwardness that their answer wasn’t good enough and they’ll continue speaking. And in my experience – doing interviews, interrogations, and in real world – some of the next words out of their mouth are some of the most important factors that you can use going forward.
Q. “Big Brother” is known for bringing veteran players back on new seasons. Would you ever consider playing again?
A. It’s possible, but I will say, it’s probably not likely. I went into the house, and I wanted to prove to myself that this approach to life, I could use inside the game and it could be effective. “Big Brother” is essentially a microcosm of our society. It’s a melting pot of different people, different diversity and also different beliefs. And I knew that if I could go on that social experiment in front of 7 million people, and incorporate this approach that I use every day...then you can do it anywhere. I wanted to prove to myself and the people that watch the show that this isn’t just something I’m thinking of. I don’t look at “Big Brother” as just a game show anymore. It was a social experiment and a proof of concept that the undercover edge works. It really does. And if you do it the way I laid it out in the book, it’s going to work for the reader, too.
LaVendrick Smith: 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS