Everything I've Learned About Love (So Far)

The Ultimatum’s Mal Wright Is The Virgo Partner Of Your Dreams

“I do think I'm rather practical.”

Originally Published: 
Elite Daily; Courtesy of Mal Wright

Mal Wright never envisioned herself as a famous heartthrob. When she and then-girlfriend Yoly Rojas responded to a Netflix casting call for The Ultimatum: Queer Love two years ago, Wright thought they’d work through some issues in their relationship and then go back to their normal lives. Plus, if anyone was going to flourish in the spotlight, it would be Rojas. “She’s a Leo, so I figured she would thrive,” Wright tells Elite Daily. “I absolutely thought I’d be the background partner.”

But when The Ultimatum: Queer Love was released in May, the 37-year-old based in Atlanta became an overnight sensation: effortlessly cool, self-aware, and composed in the midst of the chaos unfolding around them. (Wright uses she/they pronouns.) Throughout the season, she never got involved in the drama, even maintaining her calm when Rojas fell in love with trial marriage partner Xander Boger.

Fans on the internet were down bad almost immediately. “A rainbow shirt in target won't turn your kids gay but Mal from The Ultimatum Queer Love will,” one person tweeted. “I would get up at 3am and make a sandwich for Mal from The Ultimatum. She so damn fine,” said another. Wright is now a bona fide internet celebrity with almost 350,000 Instagram followers, and her comment section is reliably thirsty. Too Hot To Handle’s Francesca Farago commented on one photo carousel: “My fiancé & i watched the ultimatum for the plot… the plot:”

Here, Wright tells Elite Daily what it was really like to film the show, why they’re a big advocate for therapy, and whether they relate to their zodiac sign. (Plus, a hint about her current relationship status.)

ED: You came on The Ultimatum: Queer Love as the person issued the ultimatum by their partner. What was your hesitation about getting married?

MW: I absolutely thought Yoly was the person I was going to spend my life with. My parents have been together for 50 years, and they didn't get married for the first 10 years of their relationship. They’ve always preached about taking your time.

Marriage is more than just saying you're married. There's a lot of responsibility involved, and you want to make sure your finances are in order and you’re on the same page about things you want, be it a house or child planning. In lesbian relationships, child planning can be pretty costly, and I wanted to make sure the things we wanted were actually tangible.

ED: What was it like filming the show? Tell me about the behind-the-scenes experience viewers didn’t get to see.

MW: It was intense. Your castmates and production essentially become your co-workers. You have cameras around you all the time, and behind the scenes, you become one big family. We had a really diverse production team, and they were always supportive and sweet when I was upset or sad. It’s totally unscripted, so what you see is really what you get. There’s no reshooting — you’re getting the first version of yourself.

We film 30,000 hours of content that gets broken down into 10 episodes, so there’s so much context behind the scenes that adds to the story. If you think about it like a paragraph, consumers don't get the rough draft. They get the punctuation, and it's up to them to deduce whatever they want.

ED: Is there anything that didn’t get shown that you wish had made it to air?

MW: The development of my and Lexi's story. She and I are still very close to this day — I was with her family in the Jersey Shore a few weeks ago, and I just got off the phone with her before talking to you. I don’t think people got to see how we got this close, and I wish they’d been given a little more insight.

ED: Lexi told us something similar about your friendship, and even said you’d briefly considered trying a romantic relationship during your trial marriage. What’s your memory of that conversation?

MW: Lexi and I are both very logical. We thought, “We could explore something here, but what would it mean after all of this? Do we intend to be in each other’s lives forever?” We didn’t want to muddy up the reason we came into that experience.

ED: Speaking of what a practical person you are, you were extremely level-headed on the show, even as you were watching your partner fall in love with someone else. How were you feeling inside?

MW: None of it was easy. It was very emotionally and spiritually taxing. There's still healing happening now, and this was filmed two years ago.

I’m a person who really thinks about the consequences of having an emotional response. Also, I think people give me too much credit. [Laughs] We filmed for 10 weeks, and I only had to go through the really sh*tty part of it for three of those weeks. Yoly and I had been in couples therapy for a year before going on the show, so we’d had practice conversing about difficult things in heightened situations. I could tell what she was feeling eight times out of 10 before she said anything. When I saw her at the switch back [when cast members go back to their original partner after the trial marriage], I immediately thought, “Sh*t, my partner has fallen for somebody else.” I was mourning the situation and also feeling empathy for her.

The people you get in relationships with will show you reflections of yourself.

ED: You talk a lot about the benefits of therapy. Would you say that’s part of where your unflappable composure comes from?

MW: Absolutely. Lots of therapy, and also a life experience where three of my really good friends died within a short amount of time. I'm always thinking, “If I react poorly in any given situation, what if this is the last time I ever speak to this person?” That also gauges how I navigate conflict: telling the person how I actually feel and not leading with my first initial reaction. I'm probably not actually pissed — I'm just really sad, or I feel insecure. And I would hate if something happened to me or you and we never knew how one another actually felt.

ED: We saw you get engaged on the show, but then at the reunion, you were no longer in that relationship. Can you share anything more about what shifted after filming?

MW: For me, it came down to how we both handled conflict. The ways we were dealing with things when we got back from the show proved to me we were severely misaligned. In this one life we have to live, there are decisions to make, and in this case, we both deserved different and shouldn’t have settled for each other.

It’s easy to make relationship decisions based on good times and how well you get along, rather than how you solve problems. I can have fun with anybody, but in terms of the person I want to spend my life with, can we handle each other with care and respect when we’re not our best selves? Yoly and I didn’t really have that, so a couple of months after filming, I was the one who decided we needed to end it.

ED: Since The Ultimatum came out, you’ve been getting a ton of love online. What’s the most meaningful thing you’ve heard from viewers?

MW: People who knew me previously have said, “It's really cool to see you on reality TV and know you're that same exact person. That's actually how you are in real life.” In this whirlwind of sudden attention, you can lose yourself. So it's nice to hear those things from people who keep you grounded and centered. I am actually this kind person and I do lead with grace and compassion, even if I have bad days.

ED: I've seen people online saying you're a classic Virgo because you're so dependable and loyal. Do you relate to your zodiac sign?

MW: It's fun to poke fun at zodiac signs, and I believe some of it is accurate. I also think the terrible parts of any zodiac sign just require working through healing. We all have poor behavior if we're not healed. But yeah, I do think I'm rather practical. Unpopular opinion, though: Virgos can be a little bit boring.

ED: Based on your thirsty DMs and comments, I don’t think people see you as boring. Can you tell me about a funny message you got recently?

MW: I did an Instagram story asking for new luggage recommendations, and several people were like “I’ll carry you on.” I'm like, what? This is nuts. I think it's all really lighthearted and fun. I don't know if anybody's actually serious, but we're all just having a good time.

ED: For the sake of the commenters who are in love with you, can you tell me anything about your relationship status?

MW: I will absolutely never tell anyone anything about my relationship status again. I'm following the Issa Rae plan: pop out with your long-term boo on your wedding day and then put them right back. But I’ll share that I'm very, very happy and emotionally very well taken care of.

ED: What’s your best piece of relationship advice?

MW: Nourish the relationship you have with yourself, because the people you get in relationships with will show you reflections of yourself, whether you like it or not.

ED: And finally, what does love mean to you?

MW: There’s a parallel between how I feel about love and when I'm at my most present. Yesterday, I went on a bike ride with someone, and then I came home and was like, “I'm going to jump in my pool with my clothes on.” She said, “No, you won't.” But I absolutely did. I inspired my neighbor to join me, and we had this beautiful, raw conversation underneath the full moon. That’s love — being ultra-present in the moment and saying yes to things that bring me joy.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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