You know about Monet Bell, but according to the 35-year-old (on Thursday) former Married at First Sight and current #BlackLove star, you don’t really know her at all. After sharing her personal life and quest to find happily ever after on two reality shows, she acknowledges that there are some ill-favored misconceptions about who she is based on 60 and 30-minute episodes of television. So I talked to her today in the hopes of clearing things up.
So why did she decide to do reality TV? Is she as cold as she appears on the small screen? Does she still talk to Vaughn Copeland? And if she never married, would she be okay?
As she shared the new time for the FYI show #BlackLove, which is at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays now, Bell answered all of those questions and more during our chat. Here’s what we learned:
MadameNoire: What made you initially decide to do reality TV, specifically, Married at First Sight, to find love?
Monet Bell: Actually, I didn’t know that it was a reality show at first. A friend of mine suggested it to me, telling me that it was a docuseries about being a single woman in the city. At the time, I said, “This could be fun. If we’re going to talk about relationships and dating, I’m a perfect candidate for this because this is exactly what I do.” You do a Skype interview, and then they select who they want the group to be. And so when you come in, that’s when you meet the writers and creators of the show, and then they tell you what it’s actually about. And then you have an amount of time to figure out whether or not you want to do it or not. And at that particular time, I was ready to get married. I was in a place where I wasn’t having issues meeting men, but I wasn’t meeting the right kind of men or men who were ready to settle down. So to be honest with you, I was like, “If you can do it better than me, then go for it.”
MN: Okay, that actually makes more sense. Because there’s an assumption that there’s a level of desperation in doing a reality show.
Bell: There’s this notion that because you take this particular route, “Oh my goodness, I’m desperate for a man.” No, it’s not desperate at all. It’s more or less, what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working and if given the opportunity to get married and potentially fall in love with somebody, why wouldn’t you take it?
MN: Even though the marriage was only five weeks, did you mourn your divorce from Vaughn Copeland in any way?
Bell: I think the mourning was more about me feeling like I’d failed at the marriage. It wasn’t really about him. It was the idea of marriage. In my family, everyone is married. No one gets divorced in my family. So I was the first divorce. So it was the idea of growing up within a family of all married couples to then be the one where my marriage failed. You start to question yourself: “Could I have done something better?” “Did I not do enough?” It’s all these different emotions. But there was never any question or doubt that he was not the husband for me. And I would say that he probably feels the same way about me.
MN: Do you still talk to Vaughn?
Bell: No. I don’t. Uh uh. Nope.
MN: Did you and do you still feel pressure from your family about getting married and having kids?
Bell: I go home, and my mother is like, “You know you’re 30 about to be 35.” My uncle asks, “You dating somebody?” Even my younger cousins are married with kids. At one point someone said, “Are you a lesbian?” I’m like, “NO! I like men!” Yes, I’m dating somebody, but you don’t bring everybody you’re dating home. I’m from Cleveland, and all my family is in Cleveland. I’m in New York by myself. So if I’m going to bring a man home, it’s got to be something serious for me to make you come back to Cleveland with me. So my family is like, “Who is he? What’s going on?”
MN: So is it awkward for them to watch your life play out on television? Because on Married at First Sight, there was a lot of talk about your sex life with Vaughn and some very intimate issues and things. How was that?
Bell: What’s very interesting about my family is that there are no boundaries from a sex perspective. Sex education was an open topic in my family. There was nothing taboo about sexuality. I had a cousin who came out and no one cared. They only cared to ask, “Is your girlfriend cute? Because if she ugly she can’t come home [laughs].” So that wasn’t it. The things I was nervous about were in terms of speaking about relationships, like the relationship with my dad. There’s an episode where I talk about how my father, who was extremely influential to me, never told me he loved me. But I never felt unloved. I felt the complete opposite. I actually felt exceptionally loved by him. But when the episode came out, my aunt, my father’s sister, called me. She wanted to talk about it and express to me that my grandparents never said “I love you” either. She said it was an old-school mentality, and she wanted to, at least, be able to say to me, “He loved you.” And I’m like, “I never questioned him not loving me.” It was just a matter of showing affection and saying it, and it just wasn’t his thing. So those are the tidbits I get nervous with, and then I’m compelled to make sure that I clarify it with my family so that they know what I mean by it.
Do you think you’ve been judged unfairly from your time on Married at First Sight?
Bell: Absolutely! I’m not an actress. That was my first real time on television. It’s a really stressful situation to marry a stranger, you’re living together, there’s a level of intimacy with each other. Then there’s stress and arguments, fights, and then there’s a camera crew. It’s very, very stressful. Not that editing did me wrong or anything like that, but I think it’s more from a perspective of, you saw a stressed out Monet. You didn’t really get to see the true essence of my personality. You saw more of me just uncomfortable, awkward. I came across like I’m cold. All these other things that really aren’t who I am as a person at all.
The other side of that is, people have this notion that #BlackLove is a dating show. So initially, they were like, why is she going on another dating show to find love? #BlackLove isn’t a dating show. I just happen to go on dates on the show. But really what this show is really about is five women of color trying to figure out how we’re getting in our own way and just overcoming some of the behaviors that are counterproductive to what we would like. In my case, as a result of Married at First Sight, I was uncomfortable with sharing a lot of hurt, a lot of aspects of who I am as a woman, and you can attribute those to a fear of not wanting to scare men off, or never wanting to be too overwhelming to a man. The biggest takeaway I got from #BlackLove is that I no longer do that. Whatever man I’m dating, he’s got it all up front. There’s no need for me to reserve things anymore. I’ve lived a lot of my romantic and personal life out on national television.
MN: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
Bell: I see a lot of comments, and, for the most part, I avoid reading comments. When I do read, there’s this idea that I don’t think anybody is good enough for me. Or that I think I’m too good for whatever their situation is. And that bothered me because what I notice is that it’s coming typically from women. In the first few episodes of #BlackLove, I was on a few dates with Antonio, and by the third date, you see me kind of move on from it. So I would get comments from women that said, “You think you’re too good for him!” “Why don’t you want to be with him?” And what’s such an interesting thing, and I wish someone would analyze it, is this idea that you should just take whatever you can get. And because I want to get married and because I want to have kids and because I’m expressing that, I should just accept whatever man is interested in me. No. I’m not accepting any man because I don’t have to accept any man. I don’t encourage women to take whatever they can get because, “Oh my goodness, what if I don’t find a man?” So I think the misconception is that I think I’m too good, and that’s not it at all.
MN: I heard in a previous interview that you were thinking of freezing your eggs. Have you gone through with that?
Bell: Not yet. The only step that I’ve taken is speaking to a fertility doctor and figuring out what that looks like. But the reality is that it’s very expensive. I have a little savings account, and I’m saving money. Insurance doesn’t cover it, absolutely everything for it is out of pocket. But that’s actually the reason I haven’t done it yet. I have to get the money together. But when I made the decision that this is something I will proceed with, girl, I felt like some weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt free. I feel like when I’m dating now, I enjoy it more now because I’m not worried about it. I’m not on a date with a man looking at him like “Is this my future husband and father of my kids?” I’m just on a date with a guy, and I’m not thinking about it.
It does alleviate pressure. But this whole idea that “Oh my God, women are having babies in this day and age until they’re 40.” Listen, I don’t have Halle Berry money, Tyra Banks money, or any of these other people who are out here using other people’s eggs, surrogates and everything else. Yes, it happens, but it’s not as common as it’s made to seem. That doesn’t happen for every woman. And in my family, the biggest health concern is that the women have been hitting menopause early. My cousin hit it going into 41. That doesn’t mean that will necessarily be my story, but it is a health concern for my ob/gyn. So this idea of, “Oh my God, you have time!” Yeah, some people do have time. But not every woman does have that time or the money.
MN: If you never married, at this very moment, could you say you would be okay?
Bell: I would. Not right now, though. If you asked me that same question when I’m like 37, I might tell you, “You know what? I’m using my eggs. I’ll get a donor, and I’m having the baby. Husband or no husband.” But if you ask me right now? No. I want to get married. And here’s the deal: The egg freezing, I look at it as an insurance policy. I actually hope I don’t have to use it. I hope I fall in love, I get married, and I have babies, and I don’t have to use those eggs. But I want them there just to know that if it doesn’t work out like that, I have them there if I want to use them.
MN: What have you learned about yourself and what you want in a relationship after working with the experts from Married at First Sight and #BlackLove, and all you’ve been through?
Bell: I would say that one of the things I learned is that I like myself. It makes a difference because you’re going into this thing with all these efforts and they’re adjusting things. And the biggest fear amongst the things being taught to me, and all the things I was hoping to learn, was that I was going to lose the parts of myself that I really like. And so I think there’s a conscious balance to make sure that while I’m growing and learning in this process, I don’t lose the key things that make Monet, Monet. And those are the things I love about myself.
And even during the episode of #BlackLove where Jack said, “I think you have this air of desperation about you,” it was being able to have enough self-awareness and committing to the process to figure out what was driving the desperation. You see on TV that it came from a place of me genuinely wanting to be a mother. And people say, “Oh, you could adopt.” I think adoption is amazing. But what I’m speaking to is that I want to be pregnant. I want to feel life in me. I want that experience. And being okay with saying that’s what I want, those are some of the things I learned. Not subscribing to social media pressures and not subscribing to everybody else. Being okay with who I am as a woman, that’s what I learned.