Exclusive: Ali Leitza talks about her 'Love in the Wild' experience (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 07/06/2012
Love in the Wild contestant Ali Leitza was eliminated during Tuesday night's broadcast of the NBC reality dating competition's fifth season-season episode.
Ali and partner Benjamin Clark finished last in Love in the Wild's fifth adventure and Ben was then selected by Michelle Sacco, his prior partner, during the subsequent Couples Choice Ceremony -- leaving Ali to choose between "unmatched area" occupants Ryan Smith and Jesse Wilson as possible new partners. However, Ali opted to select neither guy, eliminating herself from the competition as a result.
On Thursday, Ali, a 33-year-old from Little Rock, AR who currently resides in North Little Rock, AR, talked to Reality TV World about her Love in the Wild experience -- including whom she said became an "extreme prick," why she didn't think it was a big deal to split Ben and Michelle up when she did, what she thought was the most psycho comment made of them all, whom Jesse was great friends with on the show, and whether she thought Jesse truly wanted to reconcile with her or had another motive.
Below is the first half of our exclusive interview with Ali. Check back with Reality TV World on Monday for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: You said in your final words that if you're not with the right guy, you can just turn "psycho b-tch." However, we didn't really see much on the show of you flipping out on any of the guys or anything. Did more happen than what was shown, and if so, I guess what went down?
Ali Leitza: Probably the best way I can describe that is it was a poor choice of words just because, I don't know if I really did anything psycho, like I said. It's just, when you're not making that love match that somebody's feeling it more than you are, you kind of get a little testy and mean when they keep pushing the issue. I think, if anything, I felt like I was being mean and negative, but not necessarily psycho.
Reality TV World: A couple of days ago, you tweeted saying some things had aired onLove in the Wild that made you cringe and you had been expecting some things to air that didn't make the cut. So what things made you cringe and did you expect to air that didn't get edited into the episodes?
Ali Leitza: You know, there's so much that happened behind the scenes that built up to a certain moment, and a lot of times, not a lot of it -- of the background information -- makes it in the final editing. And so, it's like, you kind of want to tell your side of the story and not just have the punch line out there.
I felt like I got portrayed as like this conniving person who was breaking up this "lost love-type" relationship between Ben and Michelle. But in all actuality, [Jenny Blatt] was only gone a handful of days at that point, so how much love could've actually formed at that point, you know? And I'm there for the same reasons as everyone else.
Me taking the opportunity to try to get to know someone, I mean, of course it's going to break up another couple, but I'm looking at it as at most, we've been here a couple of days among all of us as this group, so how much tie can you have to one certain person? So wordy! (Laughs)
Reality TV World: No that's fine! So based upon what you're saying, why did you want to pair up with Ben? I know why you thought it wouldn't be an issue to take him away from Michelle, but why did you personally think something could happen between you and Ben?
Ali Leitza: That's hard to say because I went into this with my eyes wide open saying I'm open to meeting someone. I kind of realized early on that maybe that guy wasn't there, but yet, it's a bit of pride to just kind of pack up your bags and leave even if you don't see a love match.
I mean, sometimes that competitive nature comes out in you where, even if you know your future doesn't lie amongst the guys, you still want to compete and have a good time and there's nothing there saying, "You have to leave if your love match isn't there." Maybe you meet your best friend who you're going to carry on through life with, you know, just like a best friend.
And so, I thought, "Well, Jesse and I obviously aren't clicking. He's a great guy but he's not for me. And I'd rather be with a partner that even if he's not my future husband, we might click more like -- I don't want to say like friends, but we might have more in common where it's not so combatant going through these challenges."
Reality TV World: You mentioned during last night's episode that you had no idea how strong Michelle and Ben's connection really was. Could you talk about why you were so unaware of their relationship? Was it because they had spent time at the Oasis or do you think they were just really private about things?
Ali Leitza: That's really easy to answer, because Jenny Blatt, who was Ben's partner with Michelle -- and they were a trio at the oasis, so I wasn't really -- not that I'm discounting the oasis experience, but as a trio, it's hard to really build upon a relationship at the oasis with the three people. So, I wasn't even considering that.
But the fact that Jesse and I spent time at the oasis and we didn't see what was developing at the cabins -- to say that Ben had a hard decision choosing between Michelle and Jenny, he got a little sick to his stomach making that decision.
So in my eyes and a lot of people's who were there witnessing it, we didn't understand whether it was just because he had a strong tie to both girls and couldn't decide between the two or if he hated letting go of someone that maybe it was a friendship but he didn't want to hurt her.
Whatever the case is, we only saw it as -- you know, he took it hard having to let go of Jenny, and just a few days later, I'm breaking up Michelle and him, so how much love could've actually grown between the two of them to where if I came in, I would undo everything they worked so hard to develop in those few days.
But it's not that they hid it. I'm not saying I don't believe in love at first sight, but it takes me a little bit more time, and then by the time I do fall in love, it's unbreakable. I just didn't know if they, you know, had that linked so far.
Reality TV World: Michelle seemed to get in your face immediately after you picked Ben to tell you that you had no shot of breaking them up. She also said the only time you'd get with Ben was when you were forced to sleep together in the cabin at night. What was going through your mind when she was saying all that? Did you take her words into consideration at all or did you just brush them off and determine you were ready to fight for him?
Ali Leitza: Actually, if anyone was going to throw out a psycho comment, that would have been the psycho comment of the year, saying that the only time you'll have with Ben is when you're going to bed with him at night or whatever. Because I fully expected to wake up with her laying in between us and be all psycho to that degree.
But in all honesty, if a guy's worth fighting for, then I'm up for the challenge. And unfortunately, Ben wasn't it. I kind of went into it halfway thinking, "Okay, he might be a better partner than Jesse. There's no love here, but yet, it might be more to my advantage to not be so combative with a partner going through these challenges and just finish it with a friend."
But she just made it unbearable. I mean, I went to her woman to woman in the beginning, no cattiness, and just said, "I didn't realize Michelle had such a tight bond. It is what it is at this point, so if you could just work with me and not try to make me feel like a third wheel..."
I pretty much, as soon as I made the decision to pair up with Ben and realized it was a mistake, I was the one saying I was going to step aside and just bare through this next challenge and then you can partner back up with him.
But when she got so possessive and catty and wanted to dominate his time, to me, that soured the experience and I just more or less said, "I'm ready to go. I mean, I can't even find a guy to be a respectable friend." Because it was on him too! He could've said, "Respect the boundaries since we're new partners now." But instead, he kind of invited the cattiness. So, he's partly to blame for the turnout.
Reality TV World: During last night's episode, Ben said Jesse's intentions were good when he selected Michelle because he allowed the opportunity for Michelle and Ben to possibly reunite following the next adventure. Do you think that's truly why Jesse made that decision or do you think it was just a move to keep himself in the game and maybe he just told Ben that to stay on his good side?
Ali Leitza: Right. Jesse and Ben were good friends through this experience, so I could see him, to some degree, doing that. In other aspects, Jesse's a competitor. No one likes to bow out of anything, especially if they think they have a shot at winning, and I think it would've been a blow to his pride to some degree if he would've just stepped out.
This show is entertainment, so therefore, if Ben and Michelle -- or any of the couples -- were really strongly aligned and have it in them to make it through -- what am I trying to say? In the real world, a couple of days separation would not be the death to their relationship.
So if Jesse wanted to go home, which would mean Michelle would've ended up leaving also, then Ben and Michelle could've easily reunited after the show was over.
So I don't know that Jesse needed to ride in with his white horse and make it look like he was saving the day and there was no other alternative. I think it was more him kind of sticking up for a guy, I mean for his buddy, but also him prolonging his stay in the experience.
Reality TV World: When you walked into the last Couples Choice Ceremony, were you pretty certain Ben was going to end up with Michelle or did a part of you think Michelle was going to want to stay with Jesse?
Ali Leitza: Oh, no doubt in my mind that Ben and Michelle were getting back together.
Reality TV World: Since you and Ben had finished the adventure in last place, did you think you had any chance of surviving or did you prepare yourself to be eliminated?
Ali Leitza: Well actually, because [Jenna Gillund] was struggling with wanting to stay partners with Ryan versus going home, I knew that her going into it, most likely she was going to give that option to Ryan to either finish as friends or both of them leave.
It kind of played out the way I expected, so Jesse had approached me before the Couples Choice Ceremony and was trying to kind of -- the show made it appear as though he was trying to reconcile with me -- which in a way he was because he doesn't like to have such a negative atmosphere between us.
However, I think a little bit of his motive was to tell me that Jenna was most likely going home with Ryan, and so, there was that option for both of us to stay. So I mean, I went into it with my mind made up regardless. I was going home. There was no option for me to stay with Jesse even if that was presented to us.
Reality TV World: Did you form a connection with Ben at all or did he spent all of his free time with Michelle? Did you think there was anything between you two or was Ben just emotionally shutdown around you?
Ali Leitza: I can honestly say that I think if I could do a re-take on that Couples Choice Ceremony when I chose him, I would have chosen to stay with Jesse or to go home at that point, because as soon as I chose him, it's like I just swallowed a lump in my throat and it just -- I didn't want to give him an opportunity to get to know me. I didn't think he wanted to take the opportunity.
I think -- how can I word this? I think I liked him better before I had him as a partner, because I saw this side of him that everyone -- both the other contestants and those watching -- saw of him, like the fun-loving, quick-witted, accented, soccer dude, whom everyone fell in love with. But when you get on his bad side, he becomes an extreme prick and that's the side of him I saw.
I think I tarnished my experience and what I viewed him as by picking him as a partner, so if I could undo that and get back to -- because I mean, if I only wanted him as a friend, it's like, not only did I miss out on the experience of seeing him in his fun-loving arena, but I also had a negative view of him also.
Above is the first half of our exclusive interview with Ali. Check back with Reality TV World on Monday for the concluding portion.