Sunday February 23rd, 2020 3:07PM

Marital bliss or nah: '90 Day Fiance' becomes hit for TLC

By The Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — "90 Day Fiance" is becoming more popular by the spinoff for TLC.

The docu-series follows different couples involving an American and a foreigner who are searching for love while trying to overcome cultural barriers in a race to marry. It's a rushed journey to the altar, particularly for the foreigner who is required through the special visa to marry their U.S. citizen petitioner within three months upon entry into the United States or depart the country.

Some couples end in marital bliss. Other relationships didn't stand a chance after continuous drama including keyed cars, vulgar shouting matches and domestic violence incidents.

The various story lines have become so enticingly popular since the series debuted in 2014 that the cable network created six spinoffs series. Four of them, including a new series, will air in September.

"It's a relatable show," said Chantel Everett, 28, who stars in the spinoff "The Family Chantel," which airs its season finale on Monday. The Atlanta native made her first appearance on season four of "90 Day Fiance" when she introduced her then-fiancee Pedro Jimeno to her family under the false pretense that he was visiting America from the Dominican Republic on a temporary student visa, but instead they were secretly planning to get married.

Everett and Jimeno, 27, ended up marrying in a very small ceremony. But drama soon followed in "90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?" as her family believed Jimeno married her for a green card and not because he loves her. The friction among them ultimately resulted in a family brawl with Jimeno getting into a fist fight with Everett's brother during dinner at her parent's house.

Jimeno said the fight almost led them to divorce, a notion Everett never thought would happen when they first started the series. The couple tries to repair the fractured relationship between their families in the spinoff.

"Before I would watch the show and look at the situations the couples were going through, I'd think 'Oh, we're nothing like that. Our love is perfect. We're going to have a fantasy life.'" said Everett, who's in nursing school while her husband works at a warehouse. "Once I got on the show, I realized no relationship is perfect. We have our flaws. A lot of them too. ... It's hard to watch during those difficult moments of your life."

Other foreigners on the show like Jimeno are often labeled as "gold diggers" and criticized for trying to marry an American to solely gain entrance into the U.S. with the hopes of someday becoming a citizen.

But Jimeno said that's not the case, at least for him: "I married Chantel because I love her."

It's a lengthy and arduous process to gain approval for the K-1 visa that allows "90 Day Fiance" participants to enter the U.S. Among the requirements: the couple needs to prove that they've met in-person within two years prior to filing; the American has to show they can financially support their fiance or find a co-signer if they're unable and the foreign applicant must interview with the U.S. embassy or their nearest consulate before being issued a visa.

Along with "The Family Chantel," the first season of "90 Day Fiance: The Other Way" also airs on Mondays. The series shows the U.S. citizen who is willing to live in their partner's country, which sometimes can be impoverished.

In the Sunday lineup, "90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days" has already started its season while "90 Day Fiance: Pillow Talk," premieres Sept. 15.

Darcey Silva, who appears in "Before the 90 Days" and "Pillow Talk," said people are invested in their stories "because it's real."

"I think a lot of people can see themselves through the cast members," said Silva, who returns to "Before the 90 Days" for a second time after a failed relationship with her ex-boyfriend Jesse Meester from Amsterdam. The 44-year-old Middletown, Connecticut-native, is now searching for love in another country with British businessman Tom Brooks, 39, who she met face-to-face in London for the first time after interacting online the past few years.

Silva said she doesn't have a hard time finding a date domestically, but is fascinated with meeting men internationally.

"I love the adventure of having a relationship overseas," she said. "I love traveling. Obviously, I was married before and had other boyfriends throughout my life. But I don't mind taking those risks in finding love whether it's overseas or anywhere else. I never worried about meeting this guy who I haven't seen for years."

Some of Sliva's series members don't mind taking those same risks.

On "Before the 90 Days," Caesar Mack, 46, a nail technician in North Carolina, shelled out more than $40,000 in five years to financially support a 28-year-old Ukraine woman named Maria who he's never met. Some on social media believe he's being scammed, but he believes the woman is real.

Despite being strung along by her fiancee named Sumit, 60-year-old Jenny Slatten still traveled from California to India to live with her 30-year-old beau in hopes of marrying him in 90 days on "The Other Way." He initially duped her on Facebook when the posted pictures of him as a male model, until he revealed his true identity several years into their relationship.

All of the "90 Day Fiancé" cast members' fast-track to marriage might seem interesting, but Everett doesn't recommend it. She doesn't regret marrying Jimeno so quickly, but she suggests others should wait much longer.

"I would say get to know the person before the 90 days," she said "That way, you would have as much information about this person as possible before you make a commitment that could potentially change your life, for better or for worse."


Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter:

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