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Dom Gabriel Feels A Bit Misunderstood In His “Villain Era”

The Perfect Match winner changed things up when he returned for round two.

Elite Daily; Getty Images

In Elite Daily’s series Villain Edit, reality stars share their thoughts about getting a complicated edit, set the record straight on controversies and misconceptions, and detail their redemption arcs. Here, Perfect Match star Dom Gabriel talks switching strategies, villain eras, and breakup drama.

Dom Gabriel didn’t want to repeat his first season of Perfect Match when he returned for Season 2 — which sounds odd, considering he won. “Yeah, I won the show, but that relationship obviously didn't work out,” the 30-year-old tells Elite Daily. He’s referring to his breakup with co-winner Georgia Hassarati shortly after filming ended, a split that was engulfed in drama after Hassarati began dating Harry Jowsey around the same time.

Reflecting on the first season, Gabriel regrets how he approached the experience, wishing he hadn’t focused so exclusively on one match. “I didn't talk to anybody the first season; I regret that,” he says. “I regret not talking to Savannah [Palacio]. Who knows how that would've went? Or to see things through with Ines [Tazi].”

It's called Perfect Match. It's not called Loyalty Island.

So when he got the call to come back for Season 2, he flipped his original strategy, trading in his loyal boyfriend persona to become a more free-spirited flirt. When his initial match Tolú Ekundare called him out for being hot and cold, she declared Gabriel had entered his “villain era.” But in reality, he says, he was pushing her away to avoid repeating his mistakes from last season.

“I know how she felt because that's how I felt the first season, where I was very hyper-focused on one person. And then I got blindsided,” Gabriel says. “I didn’t want to do that to her.” He decided to encourage Ekundare to talk to other guys on a night when the women had the power to match up. The conversation caused a lot of friction, but Gabriel stands by how he went about it. “I do believe when I left her, I put her in a good position to still carry on in the Perfect Match world.”

While Ekundare may have decreed Gabriel is in his “villain era,” he maintains there’s more nuance to what went down that wasn’t shown on Perfect Match.

Jesse Lurz

Elite Daily: What was going through your head when deciding if you were going to come back for a second season?

Dom Gabriel: When they asked me to come back, I thought to myself, "Yeah. It was fun the first time." And it's a good opportunity to date around. I didn't get to talk to a lot of people the first time. I was kind of committed.

ED: So you didn’t want to commit too strongly to one person this time?

DG: Yeah, my mentality was to still have a good time and be respectful, but to do what the show's purpose is: to date. It's a dating show. So I came back to date around and try to find a perfect match. It's called Perfect Match. It's not called Loyalty Island.

ED: You’re on this season with Harry, who dated your ex Georgia shortly after your breakup. But there was no tension at all between you two on the show. How did you two form that bond?

DG: A lot of people thought we would have animosity toward each other because we dated the same girl. But at the end of the day, we didn't know each other then. So when we met at a Netflix event, I went up to him and said, "Hey, man. It's nice to meet you." And he was like, "Yo, I thought you hated me." I said, "Nah, bro. Why would I hate you? We don't know each other." And then the show brought us closer together.

ED: This time around, you were brought in as a date rather than starting out in the house. Did that change the experience for you?

DG: Yeah, it sets a different tone. When you start off in the house, you get an opportunity to talk to a lot of people. But when you get brought in on a date, you're immediately with this one person. So when you want to talk to other people, it's frowned upon.

If there's nothing polarizing, then there's nothing to watch.

ED: It was Tolú who brought you into the house, but she said your personality changed and you became cold toward her after that initial date. What’s your view of that situation?

DG: I love Tolú, and we genuinely hit it off. We got in the house and were vibing, but it reached the point where I felt like I was doing the same thing I did last time. I wanted to explore different options, and I was honest with her about that.

I became really distant because I just didn't want to hurt her. I think that's where the perception of me seeming cold to her comes from. When Alara [Taneri] came in and I wanted to explore that option, it was very difficult because I knew if I went with Alara then Tolú might go home, and I didn’t want that to happen. I was trying to do the right thing.

ED: In one of her confessionals, Tolú said you’re in your villain era. Do you feel that label applies?

DG: I was like, “Huh?” I know she was really into me, and anytime someone tells you they're not interested, it’s easy to take that to heart. But I don't feel like I was malicious toward her.

When you're watching a show with all the dramatics and editing, it's easy to be like, "Oh, he's in his villain era." But in real-world terms, we had a great first date, and then we started living together in the villa. It was very quick, and I wanted to explore other options, and I told her that. We ended things in 48 hours. So I think it's a regular dating thing: We went on a date, we tried to figure it out, it wasn't working.

ED: Did you feel any added pressure on this season after you were a fan favorite and winner last time?

DG: I knew I had a reputation in the house. People had a perception of me from watching the first season, and I thought they may view me as a ticket to win. It is a strategy game at the end of the day. I was worried somebody could be using me, like they did last time.

Jaclyn Moy

ED: Are you ever thinking about how you’re going to be edited when you’re filming these reality shows?

DG: No. I just got thrown into this world. I got asked to go on The Mole, and it was a way to make some money. Then I got brought into these dating shows, which I don't watch, so I'm just trying to have a good time and I want everyone around me to have a good time.

ED: At the same time, reality shows thrive on drama. Do you see the value in villains on these shows?

DG: There's real world and then there’s TV, and if there’s no controversy... if there's nothing polarizing, then there's nothing to watch. People are going to have opinions and make up narratives because it's edited and there are a lot of things left out. That's the fun of reality TV! You watch these shows and try to figure out what's going on in this person's brain.

People can perceive me and think, "Oh, he was this person on this show. And then he came in, and now he's the villain." But why? There's no nuance or context.

ED: Would you do another season of Perfect Match?

DG: I want to say never say never, because I said I never would last time, and here I am. But I think it’d be fun to do a competition show for a change of pace.

ED: What kind of show do you have in mind?

DG: Maybe a competition show that's not based around love. The Mole was really fun. Or actually, what if we did a dating show that's not structured around competition? Something like The Bachelor where there are some people who actually like me. Can I get in a room of women who actually like me?

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.