Sunday, September 28, 2014

'Married at First Sight' Monet Bell Shares Her Life, Experiences and Lessons Learned

Monet Bell, 33, was hoping for happily ever after when she said "I do," to Vaughn Copeland, 30, on FYI's Married at First Sight. The experts had deemed the couple highly compatible on paper. But Monet and Vaughn quickly discovered they had irreconcilable differences that could not be overcome in the 5 week time frame of the social experiment. 

In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, we'll get to know Monet, why she chose to apply for 'Married at First Sight', what caused the breakdown in her relationship with Vaughn and the positive lessons she learned from this experience. Here we go...

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in NYC and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Do you have siblings and are you close with them?

I have 2 sisters and 1 brother. We are all in contact with each other. 

Are you close in proximity to family?
No, I have lived in NYC for almost 11 years and for the most part, I have been alone. Only in the past 3-4 years has my younger cousin moved up here for college. She and I are close. 

What is your support structure? 
My support in NY is based on my close friends. However, my family does visit. 

Have you always lived in Harlem?
The first year I moved to NY I lived in Brooklyn and the Bronx. However, once I moved to Harlem I fell in love with the area. 

Can you share how you heard about 'Married at First Sight'?
A high school friend of mine found out about it, and gave me a call to suggest I interview for it. However, when I interviewed for MAFS I didn’t know what the premise was. I thought it was a docu-series on being single and dating in NYC. I didn’t find out about the premise until I was invited to the work shop. 

How did you come to a decision to apply for the show?
It was actually easy. Once I found out the premise, I already knew that I was in a place that I really was ready to settle down, but I hadn’t found the right guy. I also had no prospects either. I was dating men who had no interest in settling down. I was over that, and I wanted a husband.

Was the general consensus of your friends and family in support of your decision?
Yes, my family and friends were supportive from day one. They know I march to the beat of my own drum. (Laughs)

Did you have any reservations, once they told you they had a match for you?
I had a few, but once I met the experts I felt more confident. I also felt like I immediately connected to Dr. Cilona, so knowing someone of his caliber would be on the panel was reassuring. Also the producers made it clear that this show was going to be positive. From a surface standpoint looks aren’t the most important thing to me, but I knew this was going to be on TV. No TV channel is going to match people up with trolls, to be on air. So I knew at minimal, he was going to be somewhat attractive. 

What was originally on your list for a potential husband?
I have never been the type of woman with a long list of things I needed in a man. I just wanted a man who cared about my happiness, was ambitious (has direction/a plan), wanted children and was respectful. Oh wait...and was taller than me. I’m 5' 4” and not asking for much. Here’s the thing, when I think of the men in my life, they are ambitious, focused, have direction and stability. These men are all gainfully employed and are successful in their own right. It didn’t occur to me that I had to be that specific, because to me, that is par for the course with driven men. 

Dr. Joseph Cilona told you to be careful what you ask for; that perhaps you didn't understand what went along with that. Can you explain what this meant for you personally?

He was correct. I asked for things in a husband, but I had not taken into consideration that with those characteristic come other components. I said once before, I wanted a traditional man…you know, someone that opens doors, walks on the outside of you while walking down the street, a good provider, and one that occasionally brings me flowers. However, I didn’t think about the fact that sometimes with a traditional man, they can be chauvinistic. I had not considered this until going through the show. Now when I ask for things, I try to think about the other characteristics that might come along with it. 
A person is never going to completely know until they are in the relationship, but I have grown and I'm a smart cookie…(Laughs)
What’s great about the show, is that the viewers watch me grow and change as a person. I have grown as a woman and I think because of the show, I will be a better wife to the right man. I have also made sure to understand what kind of wife I want to be to my husband. 

How would you change your original list, based on your experience on the show?
My list is the same. The only difference, is now I have subcategories to clearly define what I want. The other day, I sent Kevin Frazier this long list on Twitter of what I'm looking for in a husband. He laughed at me because it was so long. I was doing it mostly to make a point. Although I wrote this list out, I don't think anyone will get 100% of what they want. We have to value the important stuff we need. I'm not perfect and I don't expect husband to be.  

Other than what we saw of Vaughn moving in, sharing your space, grocery shopping and learning to cook, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make to married life? 
I think Vaughn and I have extremely different love languages. Because I didn’t understand how to show him I cared in a way he would receive, that contributed to us struggling. For example, I think he needed more verbal affirmations. That isn’t something I tend to need.  

In my interview with Cortney, she indicated she and Jason were able to tune out the cameras by keeping eye contact. Were you able to tune them out as well, or do you think the cameras were a detriment to your relationship? 
The cameras really didn’t bother me. I think Vaughn took more issue with having the cameras around all the time. Yes, I do think to some extent, they did hurt our new relationship. I wish he and I had been able to share something similar to what Cortney and Jason had. That would have been very helpful to us.  

In your initial assessment, Dr. Cilona told you that true intimacy requires vulnerability, something you said you struggle with. Were you able to be vulnerable?

No, I wasn’t able to be vulnerable all the time. I think I had moments of vulnerability. 
For me, trust goes hand and hand with vulnerability. Due to poor communication between Vaughn and myself, I wasn’t able to establish any trust with him. He was admittedly in a bad mood, most of the time. I think that contributed to him not building trust with me, as well.

Coming up in Part 2 of the interview...Monet's relationship with and take-away from each of the experts, her biggest challenge post show and advice she would give to Married at First Sight Season 2 applicants and matches. 

You may also want to read:

All screen caps are made by Bee, courtesy of 
FYI network's Married at First Sight. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Voice Season 7 Blind Auditions Premiere Night 2 Recap

#VoicePremiere Part 2 did not disappoint in either musical talent or humorous sparring over contestants, among the judges. I was thrilled from the moment it started. This is pure entertainment at it's finest.

Gwen and Pharrell continue to step up their game and hold their own with veteran coaches Adam and Blake. In fact, I feel Pharrell has put together the strongest team so far. 

Tonight's Top Performances go to...

"Stay With Me," Maiya Sykes! #TeamPharrell

The Voice YouTube

Maiya has been working as a professional singer for the better part of two decades. I cannot believe this woman has not made it big with her powerhouse vocals, but she's on her way now. The coaches all turned their chairs and the banter that ensued was the best this show has had to offer yet. Blake, knowing he had no chance, cheered on Pharrell as he succinctly shut down Adam and Gwen. This is a BiG win for #TeamPharrell, and my top pick of the night.  

"Sweater Weather," Taylor Phelan! #TeamPharrell

The Voice YouTube

Taylor Phelan was the lead singer in a previous indie/rock band, The Canes. From stage presence, to perfect pitch, to an occasional strum on the guitar, he brought the whole package. Prior to his performance, Adam was his choice, but Pharrel threw out a "melodically articulate" and stole the candy right out of Adams hand. 


"Give Me Love," Reagan James! #TeamBlake

The Voice YouTube

For a young girl of 15, Reagan can belt out an Ed Sherran ballad. She wanted Pharrell, but of the two chairs turned, she pulled a real shocker and chose Blake over Gwen. I think Reagan has one of the most unique combinations of tone and style we've heard in the first two nights. Pharrell agrees. He lamented his decision not to turn and admitted that Reagan is a total threat to the game. 

Favorite Tweets of the Night

Here's a look at the teams after night #2

Team Adam
Pop artist Clara Hong
R&B soul singer Damien Lawson
Pop vocalist Joe Kirk

Team Blake
Country artist Allison Bray
Country music musician James David Carter
R & B vocalist Reagan James
Country singer Taylor Brashears

Team Gwen
Pop artist Bryana Salaz
Folk pop artist Taylor John Williams
Reggae artist Menlik Zergabachew
R & B singer Sugar Jones

Team Pharrell
Soul singer Luke Wade
R&B artist Elyjuh Rene
Soul singer Danica Shirey
Alternative rocker Taylor Phelan
Wedding singer Maiya Sykes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Voice Season 7 Blind Auditions Premiere RECAP

The Standoff

Photo courtesy of NBC

NBC's The Voice Premiere was totally off the charts tonight. In fact, it may have been my all time favorite in the 7 Seasons of this show. 

I loved the feisty 'go girl' attitude of Gwen Stefani when she took on veteran coach Adam Levine. Pharrell wasted no time going straight into mentoring mode and won over not only contestants, but also Blake Shelton.

What do the bevy of tweets trending #VoicePremiere and #TheVoice reflect?

Favorite Tweets of the Night:

Two stand-out performances

My hats down favorite blind auditions of the night go to....
James David Carter! #TeamBlake

AND...Damien Lawson! #TeamAdam

Here's a look at the teams after night #1

Team Adam
Pop artist Clara Hong
R&B soul singer Damien Lawson

Team Blake
Country artist Allison Bray
Country music musician James David Carter

Team Gwen
Pop artist Bryana Salaz
Folk pop artist Taylor John Williams

Team Pharrell
Soul singer Luke Wade
R&B artist Elyjuh Rene

To watch the opening coach group performance "Hella Good" 
and other videos, click here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Voice Season 7 Preview

First Look at Season 7 - Including Two 4-Chair Turn Performances!

Season 7 of The Voice returns Monday, September 22nd on NBC and it's looking to be another great season! No doubt the bromance will continue between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, but it will be interesting to see how the dynamics change when new coaches, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams, are added to the mix. 

All four Voice coaches open up night one with their first group performance, "Hella Good." Ironically, this song was the first collaboration between Gwen and Pharrell, back in 2001. Here is your first look at the song airing Monday night:

On The Voice premiere, TSA agent Damien's life is changed forever when the coaches turn for his version of, 'Its So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday'. Here is a sneak peek at the 4-chair turn performance:

I admit, I got a little teary eyed watching the end of this clip. I think I have to go with Pharrell with his talent for blue-eyed soul, as the best match on this one. 

Also on Monday's Voice premiere, all four coaches turn their chairs for Luke Wade's version of "That's How Strong My Love Is." Will he go with Adam, who stood on his chair to show his enthusiasm for Luke? Adam seems pretty confident he's got it locked in. 

The Voice returns for it's 7th Season on NBC, Monday, September 22nd at 8/7 CDT.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Married at First Sight - From the Lens of Psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona

A Glimpse Under the Veil of "Married at First Sight"

FYI Network's Married at First Sight Season 1 Finale became the most watched telecast in the network's history. I caught up with one of the show's four expert specialists, Dr. Joseph Cilona, licensed clinical psychologist, for exclusive insight on the docu-series that became a phenomenal overnight success.

How did you originally get involved with "Married at First Sight"?
I was contacted directly by one of the casting directors working on the show at the end of 2013.

What was your first thought when you were approached?

To be frank, I thought it was absurd, certain to be salacious, exploitive and sensational television, void of substance and quality. I initially refused to even take the meeting. I have been approached by producers more than a dozen times in the past, and turned down all of the offers, because I felt that the projects were exploitive or lacking substance in one way or another. I have worked very hard to build a successful private practice and professional reputation and would never threaten that by becoming involved with something that would undermine my reputation. And I just would never be comfortable being involved with something that was hurtful, demeaning, or exploitive to anyone, lacking in value for the viewer.

What made you decide to agree to this social 
Well, the irony is that this project sounded the most over-the-top, and it turned out to be the one I was most comfortable with and chose to do. When I initially politely declined, the casting director really pushed me to view the original Danish version of the show, upon which the US version would be based. They sent links of the entire series. Once I began watching, I was shocked to find that it was nothing I thought it would be. It was thoughtful, compelling, innovative, respectful, and very well executed. I watched the whole series in a few days. After I finished, I contacted them and told them I’m in, as long as they execute it the way they did the Danish version.

Did you know any of the other experts prior to agreeing?
No, I did not. But of course, I did some Googling and was very impressed by their credentials. 

What were the risks involved for you professionally?
As mentioned above, I have worked very hard to build a very successful private practice here in Manhattan, one of the most competitive markets for my field.  I put decades into building my credibility and reputation. Involvement in a national television project that might undermine that, had some very significant risks for my business, and my livelihood. 

What did you see as the possible gains that would outweigh the risks?

There were actual contractual assurances that the US version would mirror the Danish version very closely, so that made me very comfortable. Also, having dealt with so many production companies in the past, I could tell that Kinetic Content was different. They too were really invested in creating something special, innovative, and committed to honoring the Danish model. In fact, the shows creator, Michael Van Wurden, actually flew in from Denmark and spent four days with all of us, explaining all the elements of the model and why they are so important. This really made me feel relieved and excited about moving forward.

Were there any deal breakers for you?
We (the experts) had to have full control over the matches.  There couldn’t be any influence or override from production for production value or anything else. We were assured and they honored that. We had full control over making the matches.

Can you explain the selection process and your role specifically?
The casting process was already underway for 4-5 months when we were brought on. I believe these kinds of shows usually cast for only a month or two, so I knew they were taking it seriously. The producers were quite clever in the casting and did not reveal the actual premise (that there would be a blind arranged marriage) until the very end stages. In doing that, I think they really filtered out a lot of people that might have been in it for the wrong reasons (e.g. fame, notoriety, exposure, etc). 
They advertised things like: 
“Are you single and looking for love, but just can’t seem to find it no mater what you do?  Are you ready for commitment and marriage? Are you open to something radical?”  etc.
The casting people did a great job in finding candidates with potential. They conducted what they called “workshops” in which they divided them all into groups separated by gender, so they wouldn’t be exposed to one another. Then the Executive Producer, Sam Dean, dropped the bomb on them that they would have to agree to a totally legal blind arranged marriage.  
After the shock subsided and some people literally ran out, they turned it over to the experts. 
We then explained who we were, our professional background and expertise, what we would be contributing, exactly what our roles would be, and why we decided to participate in the show. This seemed to make a real difference in the decision to move forward, for a lot of people. I think they were assured by the fact that we are credible professionals with our reputations on the line, and were intrigued at all we were bringing to the table, to help them find love. 

As far as my specific role, I administered four separate sophisticated psychological assessment measures that examine different facets of personality, as well as the authenticity of the applicants.They had already undergone background checks and full psychological evaluations by an external firm that specializes in that (I was given access to those findings).
I also conducted extensive clinical interviews and developed my own thorough questionnaire, addressing every aspect of romantic compatibility I could think of. The process was exceptionally thorough, intense and extremely time consuming.

What was the time frame from reviewing applications to final selection?
Between 5-6 months total.  

What prompted you to go with the 3 couples?
The core of my recommendations was based on the findings from all of the formal assessments measures I administered. These yielded almost 100 pages of data on each participant. I then had to figure out how to use that data to inform my recommendations. 
Remember, these are sophisticated psychological tests intended to examine facets of personality. However, they were not intended (or as far as I know, previously used) to determine romantic compatibility. 
I ultimately had to use my best clinical judgment on how to use the data.  Of the 120+ facets of personality examined in the tests, I chose a 75% or higher apparent compatibility (or complementarity) as a cut-off for making recommendations for matches. 
The other experts had their own methods of assessment. We came together, discussed our findings and came up with our matches. The one thing the production company insisted upon, was that our decisions were unanimous. We all had to be in agreement on any final matches. 

You've said you went to bat for Jamie. What were the concerns about Jamie?   What was it that compelled you to fight for her?

One thing we all agreed upon, was that authenticity was absolutely essential for MAFS to have any meaning or value.  Participants had to be there for the right reason. They needed to be authentic and sincere in their quest to find love in this very unconventional manner, and for no other primary reason. Jamie’s previous experience in reality television gave us all pause and reason to question her authenticity. 

My testing has elements called, “Validity Scales,” that are very powerful indicators of authenticity. You really can’t fool these tests by trying to fake. I was actually surprised to see that Jamie’s results came up completely clean. There was not the slightest indicator of a lack of sincerity with her across all the measures. I was certain she was authentic. 

I also felt that my meetings with her outside of the testing, really convinced me of her authenticity. I actually brought her back for an additional thorough interview, specifically to address her intentions and her previous experience in reality television.

The other experts agreed and we all went to bat to include her. The production company and the network, I believe, had some reservations. We knew her history would cause skepticism once it inevitably got out. In the end, we were able to convince everyone why we felt she was a good choice. Everyone ultimately agreed she was a great candidate. And most importantly, we had what we thought to be such a strong match for her.

One issue the couples struggled with is trust. Is complete trust in 5 weeks essential or even possible in this scenario?

This is a tough question to answer.  Having gone through this process as an expert, it’s very difficult to explain how very intense and accelerated it all turned out to be.  So for me, making judgments like that about such a unique and unusual situation, is difficult. 
My short answer would be no, it’s not possible for anyone to have complete trust in such a short amount of time. However, I do think an extreme experience like this can help develop enough of a foundation of trust, to create a comfort level and take the risk to continue to work on what might be possible.

How involved were you in the editing process?
Not at all.

What is one thing you wish would have aired, that didn't?

I really wish they would have aired much more from my individual sessions, as well as sessions with the couples. I met with all of them for 4-5 hours each in total. Only about 5-8 minutes for each couple was ultimately aired of all of those 15-20 hours of meetings.

We covered some really important issues, and I really feel like showing more of those meetings could have added a lot to the viewers’ understanding of the participants, the nuances of their relationships and what the experience as whole had been like for each of them.

Tell me one thing that surprised you throughout this process.
The thing that was most surprising to me was how the perception of the amount of time that passed, was so distorted. The five weeks really did feel like a MUCH longer amount of time. I believe the other experts and all the participants had the same experience.

What is one thing you would change?
I’m not sure of anything specific right now, but I think it’s very important to examine very closely everything we did, to see where it might be improved.

Why do you think the show was so successful? 

I feel the show was so successful because it was absolutely authentic. I think the viewers could really see and feel that authenticity, which is what I believe resonated so deeply with them. I also think we could see pieces of our past relationships and ourselves in these couples. It touched on things that we all struggle with and care about.  

Share your level of personal investment in the success of the couples, the show and why.
It’s hard to explain how invested I became in these couples and in the show. Of course, when I agreed to do it, I was committed to doing the best job that I could do. However, as it evolved, it became much more compelling and engaging than I ever imagined it could be. It was an extraordinary experience in so many ways. I never imagined it could be so moving and meaningful.

What are your thoughts regarding the integrity and authenticity remaining intact for Season 2 of Married at First Sight.
For me, the most important element remains authenticity. Now that the show is so visible and popular, I think it presents some new challenges. But I do believe they are surmountable.  

Do you have to live in NY in order to apply/be chosen? If so, what is the reason for this? 

I don’t have any specific information about this. I do think there is a possibility of it being in another area of the country. The production of this show is very challenging in many ways. How the casting evolves may influence where it will ultimately take place. They need to find enough appropriate potential participants in a geographically accessible area in order to execute this. So, I guess time will tell…

 You might also like: A Chat with Courtney Hendrix 

To read my interview with Married at First Sight's, Courtney Hendrix, click here.

Screencaps made by Bee, courtesy of FYI Network's Married at First Sight.