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Married at First Sight: Vaughn Speaks

I don’t know if I can say I watched fyi’s controversial reality show, Married at First Sight.  Does it count if you watched some of the show’s most cringe-inducing, awkward first moments from between the webs of your fingers or while hiding behind a couch?  Subtlety was not the theme of this televised “experiment” that allowed sexologists, therapists and spiritual gurus to match couples who agree to marry, sight unseen.

Early on, it didn’t look like a win for Jamie Otis, a grown arse woman who actually wall slid (and cried) at the mere sight of her intended Doug Hehner…that is, until Miss Jamie caught a look at that banging bawdy (have mercy!) during their honeymoon.  Jason Carrion and Cortney Hendrix, an aspiring firefighter and a make-up artist, were an instant and adorable hit, though Jason’s emotional walls and reluctance to introduce his new wife to his terminally ill mother cast mystery into their marital outcome.

I actually had some hope for the sole Black couple, Vaughn Copeland and Monet Bell, who were both good-looking, seemingly accomplished individuals who claim they hadn’t had as much luck finding The One.  They made waves by (ahem) consummating their marriage on the first night.

But alas, JET (the home of Black LOVE), was not to get another addition to our images of wedded bliss.  Out of those three couples, Monet and Vaughn were the only ones to actually divorce, as of the season finale.  Much was made of Vaughn’s seemingly caveman characteristics, asking Monet to cook for him all the time and balking at the prospect of meeting her girlfriends.  Here’s an example of public opinion.

Monet, for the most part appeared friendly and engaged, but homegirl lost some points for an emasculating speech she made during a long drive about not thinking Vaughn was established enough to jump the broom.  Ouch!

Monet has been sharing her perspective on this risky experiment in finding a spouse, but little has been heard from Vaughn.  That is why I decided to get on the phone with this semi-reality villain to see what was really going on.

Check out the Q&A and get Vaughn’s side of the story on issues, ranging from his obsession with home-cooked meals to the infamous ménage à trois comment.  He also makes some intriguing remarks about the image of Black women in pop culture that I encourage you to read and discuss amongst yourselves.

JET: How did it feel watching the show?  Did you watch with friends and family? Or did you avoid it?

Vaughn: I did watch it.  One of the groomsmen has family in southern Pennsylvania.  So I’d go to his house, have dinner–made a little activity out of it.  I gave them the behind-the-scenes story, my opinion. I liked the show, I thought it was provoking.  Most people said it makes you question the person in the mirror, what do I bring to this situation? It gets you thinking about your strengths and weaknesses.

JET: You mention weaknesses…What do you think the show exposed as being your weakness?

V: I thought this was going to be pure documentary style and tried to forget the camera was there.  And I was also working long shifts at work, then driving all the way to where Monet lived.  It brought out my grumpy side.  Monet was really good at turning it on and seeming bubbly in front of the camera.  But when I am not in a good mood, I am not skilled at hiding it.   Part of my job entailed waking up extra early to beat the New York traffic, and during a day, I might travel sometimes to Delaware, to Pennsylvania, to Jersey.

JET: What is it you do in case viewers don’t remember?

V: So I am a field service technician….I have kind of a long title.  The easiest way to describe it is a field technician on industrial devices and I am in the National Guard.  Yeah,  I work hard and drive a lot.

JET: Which of your strengths do you think were portrayed on the show?

V: Well, me and Monet did fight, but I tried to show some patience.  And I think it also showed that I wanted to get this to work.  I went to brunch, I moved in with her, and we went to the counseling sessions.  I truly only did this to find a nice person and be married.  I didn’t try it for the purpose of being on TV or to get some kind of fame.  I hope my genuineness showed through.

JET: Well, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I kind of found it interesting that you say you wanted to do this to get married.  At least on the male side, we don’t learn of too many attractive men finding a hard time getting a wife…

V: Well, you’re going to find this very ironic, but I’m going to go ahead and say it.  There is a stereotype that Black women are very argumentative and hard to get along with and don’t want to cater to a man or submit to man.  I’ve dated women of other races, but I wanted to settle down with, and start a family with, a woman of color.  I got to list the qualities I wanted, so I considered this a true test.  I thought: There has to be a Black woman who will be sweet, kind,  and likes to cater to her man.

JET: Hey! I hope you’re not saying this has soured you on Black women..she is one Black woman.

V: It hasn’t ruined my experience.  I found it ironic.

JET: I was pulling for you as an example of Black love on national TV.  I have to say, I was like: “Nooooo!” when I saw what was happening between the two of you.

V: That’s really tough to hear you say that because Monet and I had some nights where we talked about that.  We felt that pressure (being a Black couple), but at the end of the day, we were matched people who were almost too similar.  There is somewhat of a racial aspect to it…a thought that successful Black women don’t want to submit. There were real major trust issues.  She told me I wasn’t established as a man.  Truth be told, that was how she felt and I always knew it would be some type of issue.  I’m a quiet guy, but very perceptive…so eventually when that came out, it was good to hear, but you can’t tell a guy that and expect him to bounce back from that.

 JET: Is there anything you regret that aired?

V: The ménage à trois comment at dinner…you gotta understand.  There’s certain things I can say and I can’t say…But what I can say is that reality TV has its ways.  The way it was edited makes her look like she was mad, but she really laughed at that comment.  There were a lot of questions asked and answered, and we’re both consenting adults.  But Monet will back me up on this: that was a fun night.

 JET: What, for you, was the turning point for you and Monet’s relationship?

V: There was a time when I came back, and she wanted to have a girls’ night that made me really upset.  You have to realize that things are sometimes shown out of order. That incident actually happened after she told me I wasn’t as established as  a man.  She said that, and then I had all these long car rides, and it kept replaying.  I can’t get over that as a man.  I’m someone who takes pride in his work, and I feel accomplished in things I’ve done. I was essentially put with somebody that doesn’t match on a lot of levels and, on top of that, looks down on me as a man.  I didn’t want to fight anymore.  I knew it wasn’t worth fighting for.

JET: Well, you said earlier that there were a lot of similarities between the two of you.  Now you’re saying that you two didn’t match. What do you mean?  How were you similar?

V: I think she’s an alpha female and I’m an alpha male….it’s tough.

JET: Say no more. I definitely get that…  All in all: Do you think you were portrayed fairly?

V: I’d say that most of my family and friends that know me, they know I am the the baby of the family.  I like to make everybody laugh and I like to keep the party going. There were sometimes times that me and Monet joked, but those didn’t make it into those episodes.  A lot of that was poorly portrayed.  At the same time, I know what we went through was real and that comments were being taken out of context.  You had two passionate people who wore their hearts on their sleeves, and when we felt slighted, we wouldn’t let it pass.  You guys saw a guy who argued a lot from Married at First Sight, but I know that isn’t the full me.

JET: Your mother came on the show and she seemed so cool and so fair.  She didn’t rush in to your defense like “that’s my baby.”  She really seemed to listen to Monet’s side.  What was your mom’s reaction to the decision?

V: My mom would say: I hope you guys can work it out.  My mom is fair.  A lot of times, she was pro-Monet. A lot of times, she wasn’t.  What’s interesting is that her co-workers say we sound alike.  We don’t yell, but we can say harsh things.

JET: Yessir, that crack you made about how you were being “civil” really sent Monet off and I was a little steamed at you (from the TV screen), too.

V: Yeah, I knew that one was rough.  But imagine being in somebody else’s place with a camera crew and all your free time being spent arguing with someone.  It got to a point where I was mentally exhausted and I had to say it.

 JET: How awkward was it moving out on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most awkward?

V: [laughs] It was extremely awkward.  A lot of people don’t know this.   The last few scenes, showing us exchanging gifts and writing apology letters…we were not saying anything to each other than what needed to be said at that point.  There was a lot of tension and if you look at our body language, it speaks volumes.  We didn’t have too much to say to each other.  I was happy to keep it moving.  I’m sad to say, it hurt in a way that we signed up for this experiment, only to be the one couple out of three to get a divorce.

JET: What was it like when you found out?  How did you know you were the only ones who didn’t make it?

V: I had an idea because of rumors, and actually, this is when I knew.  We didn’t have contact at all with the other couples.  I think we were the first couple to go to that final session and right as we were leaving, we saw another one of the couples who got out the truck, turned to the camera, kissed and embraced.  I could tell at least one of the other couples worked.  They were kissing and hugging while me and Monet couldn’t even look at each longer than two seconds.

 JET: Would you ever do something like this again?

V: Like this? Blind marriage? No, I’m not really not into that.  If anything though, it reassured me in what I am looking for.  It has not turned me off, and definitely not off the Black woman…but I wouldn’t do this again.  I learned from this.  I want to say me and Monet are good friends.  We send friendly texts.  We hashed it out at the reunion.

JET: How has this affected your dating life?

V: I really can’t answer that.  We were not going on TV, but we were told we have to uphold the appearances during this time.  So from May to this past Tuesday, I’ve been pretending to be married.  So I couldn’t date.

JET: Fair enough.  So let me ask this: What will you look for now in a date…now that you have had this experience?

V: I definitely think I will pay attention to red flags if I think a girl, off the bat, is somewhat argumentative or I can’t make her laugh.   If she’s not a foodie who enjoys home-cooked meals and making the home comfortable, those are deal breakers.

JET: Vaughn, you talk about cooking so much on the show and now, as we’re talking.  [laughs] Can you cook?

V: I cook! [laughing]  I’m the man on the grill.   I cooked a little salmon salad for her, but they didn’t show that. That’s the thing.  I have no control over what makes the show. It’s not like I want a girl who all she does is cook.  I like somebody who enjoys the homelife and will make a man comfortable.

 JET: How has this affected your view of marriage?

V: I really want to think that I take dating and marriage much more seriously.  If anything, I’ve learned it’s important to have open communication and somebody who speaks the same language.  I look back on old relationships and I think I ended them prematurely because I didn’t want to put in the work to communicate.  People are not mind readers and you’re going to run into challenges and bumps.  It’s important to communicate in a way that’s non-aggressive.

Want more “Married” tea?  Check out the reunion special on September 16 at 9 p.m. EST. And if you dare to take this “I do” challenge, the show is casting for the next season!  Details here, and if you do it, let me know.  I’ll come throw some rice as you walk off set.