When 34-year-old Jessica Castro was cast on season two of A&E’s Married at First Sight (the premise being that two complete strangers—matched by relationship experts—meet at the altar and get hitched), the Brooklyn, N.Y. native was excited to meet “the man of her dreams.”
“I was all-in to the experience,” Jessica tells VINAZINE. “I wanted the fairytale love story.”
However, that fairytale quickly became a nightmare. As viewers watched the season play out in 2015, Jessica’s marriage to Staten Island’s Ryan De Nino was tumultuous at best. And although they agreed to stay married at the end of the experiment (“I didn’t want to quit—I never gave up on anything,” Jess explains), shortly after the finale, they split.
From there, De Nino began threatening Jessica and her family. In fear for her family’s safety as well as her own, she decided to get a restraining order against her former husband in May 2015. “It was really scary,” she admits.
But instead of Jessica looking back on the whole experience as a big mistake, she instead chooses to see a silver lining: If not for Married at First Sight, she would’ve never met her closest vinas: Davina Kullar and Jaclyn Meuthen, who were also cast on the show.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about the other girls,” Jessica explains. “The network brought us in for a meeting at their office and I remember Davina and I were waiting for Jaclyn to arrive. All the sudden, this little ball of energy comes in—she was literally lighting up the whole room. She hugged and kissed us like she knew us forever. It was an instant connection.”
After the meeting, the three women went to lunch and opened up about how tough the experience was. “At that point, I was the only one trying to make my marriage work,” Jessica says. “We could relate to each other because we were going through the same crazy experience together.”
As the girls dealt with the downfalls of their marriages being played out on national T.V., they went through a range of emotions. “We were all getting backlash at some point from media and some fans,” Jessica says. “The reason we bonded so much is because we were in each other’s shoes—we knew the pain.”
With every mean Instagram or Twitter comment that was posted to them, they made a point to check in one another and talk through their heartache. For Jessica, it was refreshing to find vinas she could depend on.
“I always became friends with the wrong girls—I learned the hard way,” she shares. “As you get older, it gets harder to trust females. Look at how friendships are portrayed on reality T.V., like on Love & Hip Hop, women are neck and neck literally with each other. That is not how it should be, especially at our age.”
It’s why the girls have refused to bad mouth one another. “We’re each other’s backbones,” Jess says.
The three girls have even been approached about getting a reality show of their own, but they’ve walked away once they hear the pitch. “A lot of producers came to us wanting to base the show on us fighting and all this drama, but that’s not us,” she explains. “I appreciate that we stuck to our truth. We can show the world that female friendships can be supportive and drama-free, despite what reality T.V. portrays.”
Today, the women focus on their special IRL bond. “We have a group text going on,” Jessica says. “We get dinner together and catch up as much as possible. We all have our different lives, but we always find time for each other.”
Without a doubt, Jessica feels like Davina and Jaclyn were put in her life for a reason.
“We were not meant to be on the show to find husbands; we were meant on the show to find friends for life,” she says. “Some friends come and go, but I know this one is for a lifetime. As corny as it sounds, it’s an unbreakable bond.”
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