When it comes to making reality television, the more dramatic the premise, the better. Keeping that in mind, there’s no doubt that the hugely popular 90 Day Fiancé introduced by TLC in 2014 has achieved that and more.
The show follows couples made up of a foreigner and an American during the process of obtaining a K-1 visa, more popularly known as a “fiancé visa.” With 90 days to wed, the clock is ticking, and plenty of drama ensues. Let’s take a peek at what goes on behind the scenes.
Fans of the show have often wondered what sort of payment participants on 90 Day Fiancé receive. After all, it’s not easy to live out the majority of your relationship — sweet, sour and everything in between — on camera.
According to a Facebook post made by Nikki Cooper — wife of season five participant David Toborowsky’s best friend, Chris Thieneman — participants make approximately $1,000 per episode, plus $2,500 for each tell-all episode they participate in. The catch? Only the American member of each couple is paid. That’s got to promote some good will, right?
Background Checks for All
Although it may seem like a no-brainer that TLC performs background checks on contestants of the show, what’s surprising is what they somehow seem to miss in those checks. Several contestants over the course of the show have had previous criminal charges on their records — something TLC producers definitely weren’t aware of when casting.
Known criminals who have appeared on the show include Angela Deem, Jorge Nava and Danielle Jbali. The charges included a DUI, drug possession, theft and forgery. For a show that’s about love and marriage, they don’t seem to be working diligently to keep any bad seeds out of the mix.
Remember season two’s Ricky Reyes? If so, you’ll recall that his original fiancé, Melissa, ditched him mid-season, leading him to propose instead to his second choice leading lady, Ximena.
So, what did we not see on the show? All through the casting, filming and release of the season, Reyes was actually already married to someone who allegedly didn’t know he was appearing on the show. They even have a child together! Clearly, whoever approved the K-1 visa application wasn’t doing their homework, or maybe TLC execs didn’t do their job to make sure the visa really existed. The mystery is real.
A Change in Concept
It’s difficult to imagine what the reality TV world would be without the drama-filled gem 90 Day Fiancé on the air. Fans may be surprised to hear that the show was originally conceived to be a very different concept.
Pitched initially as Bachelor Wars: Russia, the show would have followed single men as they traveled abroad to Russia to find a mate. After some development, however, producers decided to instead focus on the K-1 visa process. The change allowed for a wide range of stories to be featured — and we have loved every second of it.
A Lengthy Process
Although the show focuses solely on the 90-day process that requires K-1 visa hopefuls to exchange vows before their eligibility to remain in the country runs out, the process to become a U.S. citizen is much more complex. You don’t automatically become a citizen by marrying an American, as some people mistakenly believe.
Once a K-1 visa is granted, a green card must be obtained, which officially recognizes an immigrant as a lawful permanent resident. Three full years after a green card is received, the resident is then permitted to apply for citizenship, which is also a tricky process. The things we do for love!
Season One Stays Together
The fairly dysfunctional relationships that have become synonymous with the 90 Day Fiancé brand probably lead most viewers to think the couples that appear on the show have no chance of lasting. Well, when it comes to season one’s crazy couples, you would be dead wrong on that front.
To the disbelief of every logical person on this planet, all four of the couples that appeared on season one of the show are still reportedly together. In fact, the couples all have children together at this point as well. Talk about happy families being formed in an unexpected way!
Speaking of staying together, the overall ratio of couples that have gotten married and stayed together after their appearance on the show isn’t too shabby, all things considered. Reportedly, 25 out of the 32 couples that have appeared on the six seasons to date remain together.
That’s a pretty impressive percentage compared to rival reality shows like The Bachelorette‘s 6 out of 15 success rate and The Bachelor‘s shockingly low 2 out of 23 success rate, which is obviously more of a failure rate. Maybe it’s true love, or maybe it’s the American residency sweetening the deal. Regardless, the crazy start seems to be working.
Spin-Offs Gone Wild
It’s clear that TLC is pretty pleased with the huge and consistent viewership the show has brought them. It’s no surprise then that they’re milking the concept for all it’s worth by finding more and more ways to create similar programming to attract viewers already hooked on the original — plus a whole new set.
Remarkably, there are five separate spin-off series of 90 Day Fiancé. The first, 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After follows couples after their season airs. The others are 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, 90 Day Fiancé: What Now?, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way and The Family Chantel.
Cross Couple Flirtation
Clearly, a lot goes on behind the scenes that fans are not aware of, thanks to editing and events that take place away from cameras. Some secrets were revealed by TLC via Twitter following a 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After special.
What was the juiciest of those gems? According to TLC, Mohamed Jbali, who was still with Danielle Mullins at the time, asked a producer of the show to share Anfisa’s number with him. While Mohamed has denied ever asking for the information, we have a feeling the accusation led to an argument between the not-so-happy couple, who eventually divorced.
Mind the Age Gap
There have been some pretty atypical age gaps between couples on the show over the years. One of the largest gaps was between season three couple, Nikki and Mark. When filming, Nikki was a mere 19 to Mark’s 58 years of age. Yeah.
A less severe age gap — but one that had fans much more upset — occurred between Jonathan and Fernanda in season six. Although he was only 32 versus her 19, it was revealed during the show’s filming that they reportedly had already been together for two years prior. A 30-year-old with a 17-year-old just didn’t sit well with viewers.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of reality TV, but what’s important to remember is that while the show follows “real people” in “real situations,” what is said and done within the parameters of a show isn’t always 100% spontaneous or authentic.
According to a friend of contestant David Toborowsky, “There are times where there are different people or producers that come up to you and say, ‘Oh, I think it would be cool if you do this,’ or ‘I think you should say this.'”
Editing Makes All the Difference
It may seem obvious to many that reality shows don’t always portray their stars in the most positive light, but for some participants of 90 Day Fiancé, the product of their hours upon hours of filming was pretty upsetting to watch at times. We know exactly what you mean.
For example, Sean from season one of Before the 90 Days, made it clear in a public Facebook post that he felt he wasn’t portrayed by the show in a way that was true to his character or his way of living life. We feel for him, but we can’t say we’re surprised. Everyone who goes on these shows has to realize that you need drama and turmoil to keep fans tuning in for more.
Career Reality Stars
It’s not uncommon to find contestants on reality shows who have already appeared on different programs in the past. That might seem unlikely for a show with such an “out there” premise, but the participants on 90 Day Fiancé are no exception to this phenomenon.
Molly Hopkins of season five previously starred in a Lifetime show called Double Divas, which followed her and fellow owners of an Atlanta lingerie store. Darcey Silva of Before the 90 Days had previously been on Millionaire Matchmaker. The record-holder, though, is undoubtedly Before the 90 Days star Patrick Cornett, who has been on six reality shows in total.
Cast Member Cast Away
Remember sweet and innocent single mother Nicole Nafziger from season four? Well, viewers of the season probably recall that things didn’t remain so sugary sweet once she and boyfriend Azan began to take their relationship to the next level.
In fact, fans felt that the way Nicole was treating Azan was so toxic that it warranted her removal from the show. After physical attacks by Nicole, including pushing and shoving in a particular episode, a petition was posted requesting that Nicole be taken off the show altogether.
Azan on the Prowl
Speaking of season four couple Nicole from Florida and Azan from Morocco, it was revealed at the end of the show that Azan had been unfaithful during the engagement. The extent of the infidelity continued to be revealed after the season wrapped up.
From messaging flirtatiously with other women around the world to actual audio recordings that revealed romantic exchanges, it was clear that Azan had been busy. Despite this breach in trust, the two are reportedly still together, although their marriage has apparently been put on hold for the time being.
Kneed to Know Basis
Have you ever noticed that in many of the confessionals for the women on the show they are sitting with their knees up? Whether you have or haven’t, it appears to be a trend — and an unexplainable one at that.
When questioned about it, season four’s Anfisa claimed that producers specifically requested that they sit with their knees raised and touching before they started filming, but they were never told the reason. It’s difficult to imagine what the rationale for this could be outside of creepiness. Theories are certainly welcome.
Staying in the Spotlight
Their paychecks may not be massive, and their time on TV may be fleeting, but some of the 90 Day Fiance participants have found other ways to remain in the public eye. Although they may not be household names in every home, the ever-growing viewership means that more and more people recognize the faces of past participants and are eager to learn more.
Luckily for participants who are interested in making more money off their D-list fame, many companies are eager to sponsor reality stars who have a large social media following. Don’t be surprised when you see them pop up on TV again.
The Real Deal
Some skeptics out there speculate that TLC brings couples together for the first time during casting to better guarantee drama, but this is certainly not the case. The actual couples that appear on the show existed before their 90 Day Fiancé status ever did, and they are actually the ones who applied to the show, not the other way around.
Ever noticed the instructions at the end of an episode about upcoming casting opportunities? According to Executive Producer Gabriela Tavakoli, hundreds of submissions pour in as a result of that advertisement. Producers occasionally also reach out to immigration lawyers about potential couples.
Choosing to go on a reality show means that you’re voluntarily stepping into the public eye, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that internet trolls should be welcome to say whatever they like. For some 90 Day Fiance participants, like Loren, the ridicule they have received has been too much to handle.
After fans repeatedly commented on and made fun of a tick she had, she revealed she has Tourette Syndrome. She had tried to keep it private, but thanks to all the online noise and commentary, she was forced to speak out about the condition.
What’s in a Name
Although it hasn’t been proven to be true, many fans who follow members of their favorite couples on social media and report their findings on message boards and Reddit threads have theorized that some contestants have changed their names while on the show. The rationale behind this possible choice isn’t clear, but using a fake name definitely looks suspicious, to say the least.
The two stars whose names are most often called out for being false are Chantel and Jorge. After noticing that Chantel’s name didn’t quite match with her sisters’ names — River and Winter — fans did some digging and claimed that her real name is CeAir.
Not a Charity Case
While some cast members have turned to sponsorships to make additional money, other stars have gone so far as to request donations from fans. Some contestants, like Tania Maduro, have straight up asked for money for nothing, while others offer something in return.
It doesn’t feel like any of these contestants should be asking for a handout, but if they can’t be talked out of it, it should at least be done in better taste like with David and Annie. Promoting themselves through Cameo, the couple offers personalized advice and videos to anyone who sends them funds.
What TLC Once Was
We now know TLC as a channel featuring a wide variety of reality television, much of which would be called “trashy” by most viewers. Before the days of these types of shows, TLC, which stands for The Learning Channel, was known for much more wholesome content.
Co-founded by NASA in the 1970s, the channel was designed as a platform for programming that actually taught its audiences something. The shift to docuseries and reality TV really took hold in the early 2000s, and the network hasn’t looked back since.
By the Numbers
The success rate of couples on shows like The Bachelor may be low, but the pay rate is much higher for the actual bachelor or bachelorette. Although the salary varies based on negotiations made on the featured single’s behalf, the lowest reported earnings for a bachelor or bachelorette is $75,000 for the season.
And don’t even get us started on shows like Property Brothers and Fixer Upper, whose participants make upward of $25,000 per episode. Of course, the biggest payouts go to big reality names like Gordon Ramsay, who made as much money as Beyonce did in 2016.
An Excuse to Meet
If you’re a regular viewer, you know that the K-1 visa process is complex. If you’ve watched the spin-off, Before the 90 Days, you’ve also seen that the lead up to receiving a K-1 isn’t so simple either.
One of the main requirements when applying for this visa is that a couple has been physically together in the two years prior to their application. It seems understandable then that those interested in getting this type of visa would be eager to appear on Before the 90 Days as this gives them a chance to meet their partners while filming.
Finding Love Abroad
If you’re single these days, chances are you’ve given dating apps a test run. While most of us stick to the basics like Tinder and Hinge, there are tons of websites and apps for finding love abroad for those who are willing to cast their net a bit wider.
This type of story has become so common, in fact, that a new industry has emerged: marriage brokers. These modern matchmakers pair up Americans looking for love — the vast majority are men — with single women abroad who are eager to escape their home countries to start new lives.
For Dramatic Effect
We’ve already covered that not everything that is said or done on 90 Day Fiance is exactly spontaneous. Perhaps the most talked about scene from the show that was later revealed to have been staged was the Thai massage.
Season five viewers will have trouble forgetting the creepiness that ensued when Chris, David’s best friend, asked David’s fiancée, Annie, if she would give him a “Thai massage.” The internet erupted in disgust and disbelief when the episode aired, but after the season was finished, Chris’ wife, Nikki, revealed that the whole scene had been scripted.
Switching It Up
In its original form and its various spin-offs, the 90 Day Fiance franchise has seen people from all walks of life come together for love — or maybe just for a green card. We’re not here to judge. Up until now, every couple has been made up of a man and a woman. Soon enough, that pattern will be broken.
According to the trailer released for season four of Before the 90 Days, we will finally be seeing a same-sex couple featured. Can you believe it? The couple will consist of 29-year-old Stephanie from New York and 24-year-old Erika from Australia, and they are sure to stir things up.
Each season of 90 Day Fiancé films over the course of the two-and-a-half-month period in which the K-1 visa is valid. Although that may not seem like much time in the grand scheme of things, it’s difficult to imagine being followed by cameras day in and day out during an already stressful period in life.
Like many feature films and TV sets, the hours that cast and crew members are expected to be prepared to work are pretty grueling. To be specific, it’s not uncommon to film for 12 or more hours per day.
Jorge Behind Bars
Anyone keeping up with the mostly crazy couple Anfisa and Jorge knows that Jorge — if that’s even his real name — is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for drug possession. While it can’t be fun to be in the clink, at least Jorge has managed to slim down quite a bit while he’s in there.
According to an interview conducted with E!, Jorge has been working out twice a day with a fellow inmate. He is also limited in terms of food intake now that his meals are portioned and decided for him.
It’s clear that a lot of drama goes on both on and off camera with the 90 Day Fiance participants, but you may be surprised to learn that something purely positive emerges once in a while.
Season two’s Tarik, who proposed to his future wife in an epic rap, has continued to pursue his music career under the stage name Dirt DayOH. His career took a step forward when he teamed up with castmate Ricky Reyes, the owner of a video production company, and released a music video for his song “God Bliss Woman.”