For many of us, trash TV—aka the love language of millennials and gen Zers—has been a blessing in disguise. The genre, having gained mass popularity in the early 2000s, has explored a variety of topics, teaching our generation about the little things in life. Often, viewers are gifted with a double bill and, without even realising, they end up spending a whole afternoon watching two identical twins share one romantic partner and teen mothers struggle to juggle adolescence and motherhood. Two hours well spent, if you ask me.
The pinnacle of trash TV, however, comes in the form of 90 Day Fiancé. If you’ve never heard of it, the show’s concept is pretty self-explanatory: a selection of couples, along with their families, are documented as they face a little-known facet of American immigrations laws, the K-1 visa—which allows non-US citizens who are engaged to Americans to remain in the country for 90 days. Following this period of time, they must either get married, return home or face deportation. That’s kind of the ultimatum viewers all wait for at the end of a season.
Ever since its inception in 2014, this global hit television series wove its way into the homes and hearts of millions. And the statistics speak for themselves. According to Parrot Analytics, 90 Day Fiancé ranks at the 99.7th percentile within the ‘reality genre’, meaning this particular show has a higher demand than 99.7 per cent of all reality TV programmes in the US.
What’s even more impressive is that the audience demand for 90 Day Fiancé, as of 2022, is 19 times the demand of the average TV show in the US.
Over the past eight seasons, audiences have been shocked and delighted by the explosive nature of the couples shown on screen. There are, however, five unique pairings whose chaos and controversy have gripped fans of the show more than others.
Let’s begin with an OG pairing. Season two of 90 Day Fiancé has often been regarded by fans as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). It can only be described as pure anarchy. And throughout this season, one couple in particular lived for the drama.
At the time of filming, Danielle Mullins, 41, and Mohamed Jbali, 26, met as almost all participants of the show do: online. That being said, their virtual relationship soon evolved into something much more serious and Jbali decided to travel from his home in Tunisia to the US in order to be with Mullins and eventually get married.
From there, things began to spiral out of control. The couple had been keeping a number of secrets from one another—most significantly, Mullins was facing an overwhelming amount of financial debt while Jbali was blatantly uninterested in a romantic relationship. Oopsie daisy.
Although the couple somehow managed to make it down the aisle—your guess is as good as ours—the pair’s honeymoon didn’t last too long, with the newlyweds soon separating as Mullins remained in her hometown of Ohio and Jbali left for Miami.
Luckily for us, the controversial pair weren’t about to disappear off of screens just yet. Soon after credits rolled on their marriage, both Mullins and Jbali appeared in the show’s spin-off, 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?
This whopper of a follow-up series documented an infamous explosive argument between the former partners. Jbali revealed to the public that he had never been attracted to Mullins and even went as far as to make incredibly hurtful claims about her personal hygiene.
A full-blown divorce, lawsuit and online feud later, the pair finally went their separate ways to start independent lives. For all the hopeful romantics out there, perhaps you can find a happily ever after in recent reports claiming that the two have been in contact and are keen to repair their friendship.
Pedro Jimeno and Chantel Everett are undoubtedly the king and queen of 90 Day Fiancé’s season four. Their families’ feuds are legendary within the much-debated sphere of reality TV—so much so that the pair’s communication issues and dramas have been documented throughout an array of shows including: 90 Day Fiancé, 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After? and even the couple’s personal spin-off show, The Family Chantel.
One of the most shocking arguments shown on the original show came relatively early on in the couple’s bumpy relationship. During a joint family dinner, tension arose between Everett and Jimeno’s sister, Nicole. The argument dramatically escalated and eventually led to a physical altercation between Everett’s brother River and her partner. Tables were kicked, hair was pulled and insults were hurled back and forth.
But what really made this scene reality TV gold was Everett’s dad who, amid all of the drama, remained seated at the dining table calmly finishing his din-din. At least someone had their priorities in check.
Viewers may be sad (or relieved, it’s all a matter of perspective) to hear that the couple were ultimately unable to resolve their differences—with Jimeno officially filing for divorce on 27 May 2022.
Next up is a couple whose controversial relationship inspired the meme of the decade. Many of you by now will have seen, or perhaps heard, the viral TikTok sound that goes a little something like this: “I like the view.” “You’re my best view.” “Neeh.”
What some of you may not know is that the audio clip originates from the highly-popular prequel series 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days. I know what you’re thinking, there’s no sleep for the wicked. In the series, viewers were introduced to Edward Brown, aka ‘Big Ed’, and Rose Vega.
The duo were an unlikely pair and their relationship faced a number of obstacles, most prominent being their 31-year age gap—a fact that led Brown’s 29-year-old daughter Tiffany to shun the union and distance herself from her father. For audiences, this was understandable, especially considering Tiffany’s new stepmother would have been six years her junior.
Once Brown and Vega had met in person, they immediately hit it off. Audiences may remember cringing to themselves while watching Brown affectionately refer to Vega as “My Queen.” However, problems for the former quickly arose, with fans taking to the internet to criticise Brown for the manner in which he spoke to Vega and his misogynistic behaviour during the entirety of the popular TV franchise. In fact, a petition was even created by netizens pleading with the network to remove Brown from their many spin-off shows.
Since its creation in 2020, the petition has received over 46,000 signatures and details a number of reasons as to why Brown should be removed from TLC’s register of go-to ‘characters’. The list notably includes controversies such as sexual assault, rife misogyny and a predilection for young women.
One particularly serious allegation within the petition suggests that the reality TV star’s travels to Asia during the show was a clear example of seeking ‘sex tourism’ rather than an attempt to connect with his young partner.
Sex tourism is a global problem wherein foreign tourists travel to certain parts of the globe with the specific intention of obtaining sex, predominantly through the use of prostitutes. It is commonly considered as an industry composed of white western men who travel to third world countries seeking less restrictive social conventions when it comes to sex work.
In recent years, there has been an increase in access to information and education in regards to the decrimilisation of sex work and the validity of political agency for those within the adult industry. Nevertheless, exploitation still exists within the sex tourism business and Brown has been accused of taking advantage of this.
Let’s now revisit a couple that sent shivers down the spines of anyone brave enough to watch season three. Mark Shoemaker and Nikki Mediano made headlines in 2015 after the shocking couple earned the title of largest age difference in 90 Day Fiancé history. Shoemaker was 58 years old when he proposed to Mediano, who was only 19 at the time.
The pair, having met on an international dating site, connected in the Philippines for a romantic weekend. Only two days into the much anticipated trip, Shoemaker got down on one knee and spontaneously proposed to an unsuspecting Mediano, presenting her with a broken zip tie as a substitute ring. Who said romance is dead?
Unlike many of their fellow 90 Days alumni, Shoemaker and Mediano decided to keep their relationship private following their controversial appearance on the series. The pair even remained married for six years after their season wrapped. However, the unconventional partnership failed to last the test of the time and recently got divorced in March 2022.
Shoemaker, now 64, initiated the divorce proceedings against his ex-wife, now 25. Perhaps the father of four has been taking some tips from the founding father of ‘Leo Sexuals’, Leonardo DiCaprio?
Finally, we’ve reached the crème da la crème of 90 Day Fiancé’s most controversial couples: Jorge Nava and Anfisa Arkhipchenko. The pair appeared on season four and immediately became one of the strangest—and hated—duos in the show’s history.
The California native and Russian beauty became infamous among viewers for their explosive arguments and manipulative tactics. In one memorable scene, the couple are captured sitting for their one-on-one interview segment when a producer ‘accidentally’ mentions the previously disputed claim that Nava had recently visited a divorce lawyer. Arkhipchenko, in true reality TV form, threw a tremendous tantrum and chased her soon-to-be ex-husband out of the camera’s frame.
Throughout the season, Arkhipchenko was subject to regular criticism, both for her aggressive outbursts and her supposed “gold digger” tendencies. During one particularly incriminating episode, Arkhipchenko was captured by producers berating her fiancé after he refused to purchase a $10,000 designer handbag and couture wedding dress.
Arkhipchenko has since disputed these claims, insisting that the producers created and encouraged a number of false narratives which unfairly tainted her character. In a YouTube video on her own personal account, the former reality TV star also emphasised how, despite serious difficulties within the marriage, she “still tried to make it work.”
Nava and Arkhipchenko ultimately made their way into the 90 Day Fiancé hall of fame—successfully making it down the aisle and thereby reaching top-dog status.Their marriage, however, would soon face a rather inescapable legal woe.
After having been found with 293 pounds of marijuana in his car in February 2018, Nava was officially charged with possession of drugs with the intention to sell. He was subsequently sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Following his arrest, Arkhipchenko sought love elsewhere and has since moved forward with her life, recently pursuing a career as a personal trainer. Nava has also begun a new chapter of his life—after being released from prison in 2020, he is currently raising his child with a new mystery partner.
90 Day Fiancé’s legacy will live on in the ether, through memes, viral TikToks, fan pages and of course, new seasons. I certainly hope that, unlike many of the show’s couples, this TV sensation will last the test of time.