"Big Brother" crowns a season 15 winner

Season 15 of "Big Brother" came to a close Wednesday night, with contestant Andy Herren taking home a $500,000 cash prize.

Herren was crowned the first place winner of the most controversial season yet in the show's history.

Several of the contestants came under heavy criticism from viewers this summer, with some of the houseguests accused of repeatedly making racist, homophobic and misogynistic remarks.

The season finale centered on three contestants competing for the final Head of Household: Herren, GinaMarie Zimmerman and Spencer Clawson.

Clawson's employer, Union Pacific, distanced itself from him earlier in the season after he delivered several inflammatory comments. A police investigation was even launched after Clawson made a child-pornography joke.

He came in third place during the final challenge, and seemed to be as-yet unaware of the negative public response to his behavior when questioned about it by host Julie Chen.

Zimmerman, who was previously fired from her job as a pageant coordinator for her rhetoric, finished in second place, receiving a prize of $50,000.

But it was Herren, an openly gay contestant who endured repeated remarks from his housemates, who was able to convince members of the Jury that he deserved to be this season's winner.

Despite the fact that he had previously helped to evict at least half of the Jury members from the house, Herren convinced them to crown him the winner by pointing out his loyalty to Zimmerman throughout the season. He never once stabbed her in the back, even when she emerged as his top competitor.

Elissa Slater was another contestant who had a good night. She won America's Favorite and was awarded $25,000.

Following the season finale's taping, affiliate KCBS spoke to several of the houseguests, including Aaryn Gries, one of this season's most notorious contestants. Gries made headlines with her offensive language, and was dropped by her modeling agency as a result.

"To be honest with you, it wasn't that great of an agency anyway," Gries told KCBS. "I have six meetings with six new agencies tomorrow. So it's a better start."

Candice Stewart, who was often the victim of racially-charged jokes made by Gries, says the two became friends during their time in the Jury house together.

"I believe that [Gries] has really changed to be completely honest with you," Stewart said. "I think when you know better, you do better. I think me being in the house and me not giving negativity and giving her love once we were inside of the Jury house has really changed her."

Gries is now seeking redemption over her past remarks.

"They were very ignorant and insensitive," she admitted. "I wasn't thinking before I spoke. I definitely don't feel that way. I think a lot of things were taken out of context unfortunately. I own up to it. But it is what it is and I'm learning from it."

Tell us: What did you think of this season of "Big Brother"?

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    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.

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