The Season 4 winner reflects on “the boy I fell in love with.”
It hasn’t been easy for Jawahir Khalifa to keep one of the biggest secrets of her life. The 22-year-old from Amsterdam couldn’t tell many people when she left to film Season 4 of Too Hot to Handle (which dropped on Netflix Dec. 7 and 14). “You have to tell your family where you’re going because you can’t just disappear for six weeks, but besides that, we had to keep it a secret,” Khalifa tells Elite Daily. Even her close friends didn’t know what she was up to.
In the year since filming, she’s also had to stay mum about her relationship with Nick Kici. After winning the show’s $89,000 prize fund (a designation voted on by their fellow contestants), the couple traveled to Bali, moved in together in London, and went to Detroit for the Fourth of July to meet Kici’s family. Though Khalifa confirms they are no longer together, she tells Elite Daily that the “door is still open” and they remain “very close.”
In Everything I’ve Learned About Love (So Far), celebrities share their most heartfelt and heartbreaking lessons about dating, relationships, and breakups, and offer their best advice. Below, Khalifa recalls her favorite behind-the-scenes moments from filming, what she learned from her experience, and why she still feels “so lucky” to have fallen for Kici.
Elite Daily: What was your approach to dating before you went on Too Hot to Handle?
Jawahir Khalifa: I really just wanted to have fun. I wasn’t really looking for anything serious. I was running away from relationships because I thought “They’re going to hurt me, so I have to get out of this.” I only had one real relationship before the show.
ED: We saw you had an interest in a few different guys. You explored those connections, but ultimately kept coming back to Nick. What drew you to him?
JK: I’m very energetic, and he knows how to ground me and keep me calm. During the show, you could see how we looked at each other, and we could talk about anything. I felt so comfortable around him, and he didn’t judge me.
ED: What is something about you and Nick’s relationship on the show that viewers didn’t get to see?
JK: Our late-night whispers. I was always being the naughty one and trying to make him break the rules. We talked a lot about our future and even shared little things like our favorite colors.
ED: On the show, you talked about how you were adopted and often felt like you were unworthy of love, and how in the past that caused you to run away from relationships to protect yourself. What was different about Nick that caused you to get over that fear?
JK: He’s very understanding and he’s very, very, very patient. I haven’t experienced that before. I don’t know a lot of guys who would’ve just waited for you to go and figure things out like I did when I explored things with Shawn. It took a lot out of Nick, so I really appreciate that.
We’re unfortunately not together now — the relationship ended around two months ago — but we’re still very close. That gate will always be open for him because he will always have a special place in my heart. In the year I spent with him, I got to know myself better while also falling in love with the world around me next to the boy I fell in love with. I was so lucky. Still am.
ED: Do you think there’s a chance you’ll ever get back together?
JK: There might be. I can’t say. We'll see. The door is still open.
ED: What is the most meaningful lesson you learned from your relationship with Nick?
JK: It took faith to let my guard down, to open up, and to love. I’m going to blush when I talk about it. We learned to just live in the moment, enjoy, and appreciate each other.
ED: What’s the biggest lesson you took away from your time on the show?
JK: I am loved, and I’m also learning to be myself. It’s hard for a lot of 22-year-olds to be themselves because we live in an era where everyone is trying to be perfect on social media. Those are two important lessons I took away, plus obviously the beautiful man.
ED: What is your greatest strength as a partner?
JK: I’m very supportive and caring. When it comes to Nick’s music or him wanting to do anything, I’m always very supportive. Sometimes too much, where I’ll be like, “You should be writing music right now. Why are you doing this?”
ED: What’s something you still want to work on?
JK: My communication skills. I feel like every day when you wake up, you’re still learning. How boring would life be if you knew everything about yourself and there was nothing to improve? Every day when I wake up, I want to communicate, keep bettering myself, and if I feel a certain way, put it out there and not be scared.
ED: What was it like watching the show back and reliving those early days of your relationship?
JK: It brought up a lot of emotions, and it made me realize who I fell in love with. My first time walking toward the beach, I hadn’t seen how Nick was looking at me because my eyes were all on Nigel. Then seeing us win the show — I don’t know how to explain it. It was beautiful to watch back.
ED: What’s the most memorable moment from your time on Too Hot to Handle?
JK: The workshop where we painted each other. For some people, it might just seem like a little coloring situation, but it was a moment where I really put myself out there. I had to look Nick in the eye and connect with him, and I was like, “You know what? This is how I feel, and this is my story.” I got very emotional.
ED: What is your best piece of relationship advice?
JK: Go for love. Love doesn’t come by often, and when you find it, hold onto it and cherish it. Whatever it takes, just follow your heart. Text that guy if you want to text him. If you want to let that man go, let him go.
ED: Who is one celebrity couple you admire?
JK: Idris and Sabrina Elba. They’re cute. David Bowie and Iman is another relationship I still stan.
ED: Are there any misconceptions about your love life people might have from seeing the show?
JK: After the episode where I explored things with Shawn, everyone was like, “What are you doing, girl? Go back to Nick. Don’t do Nick like that.” I got so many messages, but me and Shawn are just friends, so that’s one thing that I want to clarify. Also, it’s a show. We had fun, and you’re just seeing bits of memories that were put together.
ED: And finally, what does love mean to you?
JK: Sometimes people think when you love someone, you have to hold onto them. Like when people love a flower, they want to pluck the flower. But really, when you love someone, they’re not your property, and sometimes you have to let them go. That’s what I learned. You want the best for that person, even if it’s not with you.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.