Exclusive: Michelle Sacco talks about her 'Love in the Wild' experience (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 07/31/2012
Michelle Sacco and her partner Benjamin Clark finished Love in the Wild's second-season in second place during last week's finale of the NBC reality dating series, which featured singles attempting to find love in the Dominican Republic.
As the runner-up couple, Michelle and Ben just fell short of claiming Love in the Wild's grand prize of an all-expenses paid first class trip around the world together. The pair were beaten by champions Kenneth Barrington and Yanina Beccaria in the season's grueling final adventure, which took the couples two days to complete.
Last week, Michelle talked to Reality TV World about her Love in the Wild experience -- including how she said her departure from the show was like a scene out of a "dramatic romantic movie," why she broke down one of the days following her return home and what resulted from her emotional plea to Ben, what she was concerned about when she joined Ben and Jenny Blatt's team dynamic, and how she felt about Ali Leitza's decision to momentarily steal Ben from her during the season.
Below is the first half of our exclusive interview with Michelle. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion and click here to start reading our interview with Ben. To begin reading what Ken and Yanina had to tell us, click here and here.
Reality TV World: Congratulations on finishing Love in the Wild as the runner-up.
Michelle Sacco: Thank you very much.
Reality TV World: At the end of Love in the Wild's finale, it said you and Ben are still going strong. Could you talk about your relationship a little bit? How are things?
Michelle Sacco: Ben and I are great. He just recently moved to Atlanta and he's met my entire family and we are currently planning our own little -- well, not trip around the world -- but our own little trip around Europe. So hopefully this Christmas I'll be able to spend the holiday with his family in England. So we're doing amazing.
Reality TV World: How did the decision come up to move in together? Was that a difficult decision to arrive at or was it spontaneous?
Michelle Sacco: Yeah, well, it kind of happened quicker than we thought it was going to happen, but Ben was kind of changing jobs and was already looking to relocate somewhere, and I was in Atlanta just missing him like crazy every single day. So, it was actually my idea. I just broke down one day and I told him, I was like, "Just get your butt down to Atlanta! I need you here with me."
It's really hard going from spending every single waking and sleeping moment with someone and then you come home and you're apart, and I couldn't stand that and neither could he. So he's down here and we are silly happy.
Reality TV World: I know that while the show's airing, the contestants are supposed to keep the outcome of the show and their relationships secret. So how did you two go about that? Did you just try to have secret getaways together? Did you tell your family and friends right away or at least try to hide the news from them as well?
Michelle Sacco: Well, my immediate family knew, like my mom and my sister. We spent some time with them and Ben says that I'm a really good cook, so we rented a lot of movies and we had little date nights at my house. When we first got home, I'd go up to visit him in North Carolina, but we rented a lot of movies and we cooked a lot at home.
There's like a pretty private dog park next to my house and we would take the dog there during the day when no one was there and have little picnics and stuff. So, yeah, we laid low. We didn't go out in the city and go to really busy restaurants or big clubs or anything. We just kind of stayed in for the most part. It worked out pretty well.
Reality TV World: When you and Ben left the show, did you ever think you'd make it to the point you're at now? I know you hoped to build on your connection once you got home, but were you really confident at the time you could actually make that happen?
Michelle Sacco: I was pretty confident when we left. Actually, I was in the airport when we were leaving the Dominican Republic and it was crazy. I had one of our cast handlers with me. He was trying to take me to my gate and go to Atlanta. Ben had a few connecting flights and all this stuff, so he was with someone else.
We were kind of split up. It was almost like the end of a really dramatic romance movie. We were like split up and could barely say goodbye, and I'm sitting at my gate and I'm just like so torn and upset because I couldn't tell him goodbye properly. Literally, like right before I got on the plane, he like runs up to my gate and he's like, "Michelle!"
And I was like, "Oh my God!" I ran over and gave him a big hug and was like, "I already miss you so much!" He made a point to tell the people he was with, "I need to go tell Michelle goodbye," and so he came over to my gate and whatever.
But when we came home, I just missed him all the time. When we were together, it felt like it was right and I didn't want him to be away from me. So I pretty much knew right when I got home that I wanted to be with him all the time.
Reality TV World: While your fellow contestants haven't come right out and said they didn't think you and Ben would make it and last as a couple, when I talked to most of them, they had implied they thought you two just had a very strong physical connection and nothing much deeper. Now that you and Ben are still together and happy, what would you want to say to those people? Do you kind of have that "I told you so" mindset right now?
Michelle Sacco: You know, I understand where people would think that Ben and I just had the physical attraction and nothing else. When I came onto the show, a lot of people judged me because of the way I look. I like makeup and my curled hair, and you know, everything like that. So I was judged from the get-go on my appearance.
So for some of the cast members to say, "Ben only likes her for the way that she looks," I understood where they were coming from. But now, looking back, I don't know if I would say, "I told you so." But, I mean, when Ben and I were there, we were only worried about Ben and Michelle.
We weren't worried about [Summer Mack and "Chase" Aaron Chase]. We weren't worried about Ken and Yanina. So, a lot of the intimate conversations that we had or the little sweet romantic time that we had while we were on the show that maybe would've been on-air or whatever, a lot of the cast members didn't see.
So they didn't see us connecting. They didn't see me showing him photos of my family and of my dog and they didn't see him telling me about his family back in England and his soccer career and us really bonding. So, they can make all the presumptions that they want while we were on the show, but I wasn't really worried about that at all.
Reality TV World: At what moment during your time on the show did you decide you and Ben truly were clicking and had the potential to start a good relationship? Was there one solid conversation or something that stands out in your mind as being that turning point for you?
Michelle Sacco: I think our breaking moment was on our date and we were still in a trio with [Jenny Blatt]. Jenny, bless her heart, she got a little seasick when we were on the boat and she was a pretty fair-skinned girl and she was frying like a vampire out there. So, she was trying to stay out of the sun and would like go under the boat or try to get some air or something.
So Ben and I, fortunately, had a lot of time to talk on the date, thank goodness. He pretty much just laid everything on the table -- his concerns. He wanted to figure out why I was there. I wanted to know the same, why did he come on the show? What is he looking for? And we really just basically, yeah, put everything on the table and got to know each other.
And that's when I knew -- we went back to the cabins after our date and I had this great feeling. I was just like, "This guy's awesome. I'm clicking with him. I'm truly attracted to him. He has an amazing personality and I feel really good about this." So I definitely think our date was kind of like the breaking point for us.
Reality TV World: Ben was paired up with Jenny for quite some time and it seemed like he had a lot of loyalty towards her as a partner, but viewers were a little confused as to whether that's all it was or whether he had some real feelings for her. So when you first met Ben and formed a trio with them, how did you immediately feel about the situation and did you see them having a connection? If so, did that worry you at all?
Michelle Sacco: I actually, I didn't see a connection. I pretty much knew just by his body language and the way that he interacted, talked to her, everything -- I didn't see a connection anything other than friendship. So I wasn't really concerned. I didn't think of her as a threat or anything, but they were great friends.
So if I did have any concerns, I was thinking early on when I got there, "Well, is this guy going to take a chance and get to know a girl that just came in the game [when] he's friends with Jenny and doesn't want to hurt her feelings?" So that was my only concern -- will he possibly hurt his friends' feelings by taking a chance with me? Which he did and I'm happy for it.
Reality TV World: Ali Leitza clearly picked Ben when you and him were really starting to hit it off. What were your thoughts on Ali from what you got to know about her and what was going through your mind when she snagged Ben at the Couples Choice Ceremony?
Michelle Sacco: I was completely blindsided when Ali chose Ben. Maybe in her defense, she was at the Oasis and before that, Ben and I were at the Oasis. So she didn't really see how we were connecting or getting to know each other, so maybe she didn't know that she was coming in and breaking up a couple -- or maybe she did and she just didn't care. I don't know.
But I was fuming. I was so mad, because if it was me, I wouldn't have taken that chance. Even if I had the slightest thought, "Okay maybe these two people could be a couple," I would not take that chance and be like, "You know what? I'm going to split you up just because I want to be on TV" or "I just want to be cruel and vindictive."
I don't know if she had motives or what, but I was completely blindsided and I was upset, but that pretty much gave me the fuel when I was paired up with [Jesse Wilson] to attack that adventure and come in second so that I can get Ben back. So, in the end, it worked out the way that it should've.
Above is the first half of our exclusive interview with Michelle. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion and click here to start reading our interview with Ben. To begin reading what Ken and Yanina had to tell us, click here and here.