By Julia Cancilla
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been binging Netflix’s “The Ultimatum: Queer Love”—the show that puts relationships to the test in a messy social experiment. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, let me break down the premise of the show for you: couples at a crossroads of marriage are asked to break up with their partner for a three-week “trial marriage” with someone else from the cast before spending another three weeks with their original partner. Then, each person must decide if they want to move forward with their new partner, their original partner, or all alone. Obviously, things get complicated fast.
Twenty-five year old Lexi Goldberg joined the show with her girlfriend, Raelyn Cheung-Sutton, because Goldberg wanted to get married but Cheung-Sutton didn’t. Goldberg quickly became a spectacle on the show for her tumultuous relationship with Cheung-Sutton, her feud with Vanessa Papa and her friendship with Mal Wright.
Goldberg stopped into Inked NYC to get some matching tattoos with her current partner Kristin Zancanelli. We got the chance to chat with Goldberg about her time on “The Ultimatum: Queer Love,” her final thoughts on the explosive reunion and more.
Hi Lexi! You’re my first ever magazine interview. Nobody else in the office watches the show, so I was like, I need to do the interview.
I’m happy to be your first.
Obviously I watched the show, I was obsessed. Going into “The Ultimatum,” you and Rae weren’t on the same page, you issued the ultimatum. What were your expectations for your relationship going into the show?
I think going into the show, they posed the question of, “Some people are gonna be there because they’re ready for marriage. Some people are gonna be there because they’re not.” And so it’s this interesting dynamic. Half of the people, you’re wondering, what if I meet somebody that is ready for marriage? And that might be a really cool thing for me to experience. Then on the other hand, what if I meet people who aren’t ready for marriage? And maybe that gives me a very different perspective. Because it’s so easy to have your opinion when you’re in your relationship, but when you’re in a different thing with somebody outside—you know when you hear something from somebody that you know and it doesn’t sound as good as when you hear it from a stranger? I think it was a lot of that, but ultimately I just wanted clarity.
That totally makes sense. If I try to imagine myself and my partner on the show… I could not imagine it. The jealousy and the feelings that come up.
I’m sure it is. How did you deal with that and navigate through those feelings? Have you always been or have you not been a jealous person to begin with?
I don’t know if I’ve ever… I think I’m not the most jealous person, but I’m protective of my relationship and I think I’m skeptical of other people’s intentions. When you first go in, you get on set, you have your last night and then you break up. But it doesn’t really feel like a breakup. So I think there was almost like a missing element. I wasn’t jealous because for the first day, I was like, oh, this is chill. I’m not even broken up even though I’m broken up. Psychologically, you can’t place it. Then by day four, you’re watching people talk and connect and, usually when you have a relationship, you know who your person’s friends are. And now I’m like, what are you talking to them about? Like, what’s going on? So it’s weird, and I think there was definitely a day that I was like, oh, what’s happening? And that was a really interesting switch for me because I went from being like, we’re fine, I gained some clarity to seeing my girl over there and thinking she might have feelings for someone else.
I could not do it. I really couldn’t. So, we saw the dating process in the beginning, which was probably awkward after being with the same person for so many years. Who were you the most drawn to or felt the most comfortable with on your first impression?
First impression? I felt the most comfortable with Mal. That was so clear to me. Our conversation was just so relaxed and calm. I felt so at ease. And then I felt the most like, intrigued at first by Vanessa and very much was like, this is very uncomfortable for me. But you know how when you go into dating and you’re like, oh, I have butterflies, or I’m not sure if those are butterflies or anxious flies? I didn’t know. I knew that sense of calm with Mal, but I didn’t know what I was feeling with Vanessa.
Speaking of Vanessa… the choice ceremony. Were you planning on confronting her or was that a spur of the moment kind of thing?
I think I knew going into the choice that I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. And I was worried if I said too much it was gonna like, possibly feel controlling or dictate how my ex behaved. But I also was like, if I say nothing, that’s just not who I am. I’ve always kind of been one of those people that speaks up for what they believe in, speaks up when something’s wrong. So I think I sort of knew I wanted to say something, but I think even when we were sitting there, I didn’t know if they were gonna ask me about my time with Vanessa. I didn’t know if the host was going to, and then when she did, I was like, oh, okay. I guess it’s the time, this is when I have to say something.
I was rooting for you in that episode. Did you watch the entire season back?
I’ve watched it twice now. I watched it once right before we filmed the reunion and then I watched it once with my girlfriend.
Wow. Oh my God. With your girlfriend.
How was that experience?
Deeply uncomfortable. [Laughs] No, I think it’s like, there’s things that I just know the context of and there’s ways that things are edited that, like—it’s not to say anything’s done right or wrong, but you’re like, there’s a little more to that. There’s so much they couldn’t show. And then you’re like, oh, and I maybe don’t need you to see me kissing someone else. So, it was weird, but there were a lot of comments that we were getting—good, bad, indifferent from people who watched the show. And I think it was fair that she wanted to be able to understand why and form her own opinions.
You’re glowing now. I mean, you look good in the show, but you look very happy.
It’s the most empowering feeling in the world, and that’s what’s so cool. There will be people that are like, oh, she’s so different now. And I’m like, what are we uncomfortable about? Are we uncomfortable about the fact that I feel like I’m walking with more oxygen in my lungs? I feel like I walk lighter on my feet. I feel more confident. When I wanna wear something, I just say, screw it, I’m gonna wear this. If I want another tattoo, I’m like, let’s go to Inked. So it’s been more freeing.
I love that for you. So you kind of touched on this, how do you feel about the editing of the show? Do you think they gave you and everyone a fair chance?
Do I think they gave everyone a fair edit? That’s actually something that I think about a lot. I think there’s parts of the show… I try to be super mathematical about it, right? They show the world 10 hours of a show. 10 episodes, 10 hours roughly. And they cut that from 30,000 hours of film footage. So it’s like 0.0003% of the footage, which is unbelievable. I think there are parts of it where I’m like, no. I think there’s times where I felt like I looked a little more like I was really offended by what happened between Vanessa and Rae, and it wasn’t always about that. There was some other stuff that went on in the show that, you know, I take a pretty honest stance on the way we treat people. Whether it’s your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, we treat people with kindness. So I don’t really tolerate ignorance across the board. It’s kind of one of those big hard nos for me. And so I think there’s some ignorance within the show that doesn’t necessarily get seen, and that’s in large part due to timing because there just isn’t enough time to show everything. But what feels like a big moment for me and why I behave the way I do in situations is not always a big moment for whoever’s editing or for a person watching. It’s hard to visualize it, but you kind of have to to step outside of yourself for a second and be like, if somebody walked by you and bumped into your shoulder, nobody on the rest of the street has any opinion about that. But you might be really offended by that bump to the shoulder. But it’s so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that it’s not shown to everyone else cause nobody else is looking at you.
That’s so true. I like that way of putting it. I love your relationship with Mal. You both bonded really well together. What’s your relationship like now?
We talk every day. Literally every single day. We don’t live in the same city, so I can’t say that we see each other every day, but I talk to her every day. I sometimes talk to her three times a day. If I don’t talk to her today, I’m like, where is she today? Our relationship’s been great. My family is her family. She’s the first person I told when I was getting into a new relationship. She’s coming down the shore with us this week to go spend time with my family. Anywhere I go, any celebration that’s part of a big step in my life, I want Mal to be a part of it. I want her to have her own successes.
That’s very sweet. The reunion was crazy explosive. What are your final thoughts on how it went? Like, do you think Vanessa has grown? I know that there was a big thing with Tiff and Mildred. Do you think people were honest in the reunion?
What’s really hard about the reunion is being in front of a camera that is not familiar to any of us. And so we get back into this, we’ve been away from the filming for, what, a year and five months at that point? We go back on set, nothing’s familiar. We’ve just all digested a whole entire moment of our life by having to watch this show. And then they take it piece by piece. Like, you talk to me, you talk to Rae, you talk to Vanessa, you talk to Xander, Xander talks to Yoly… and it just kind of goes process by process. I think there’s always things that we can do better, obviously. There’s no world where I think any of the cast members that I’m close to, myself included, ever condone or support domestic violence.
I think that was a shock for us all. And I can’t say we all handled it perfectly, but when you’re sitting there and you’re learning about something that happens and you watch this long-winded 30 minute speech from Mildred, and then ultimately she says, “oh, and by the way, I got arrested for domestic assault for throwing a dog cage at Tiff.” You’re like, wait, what just happened? It’s a lot. And it’s, quite honestly, really sad and disheartening to hear that about these members of our cast, because we are a cast, right? That Mildred couldn’t protect her partner without using violence, it’s the last thing you want to hear. And unfortunately, I think as many people know, there is a span of domestic violence within our community.
It’s something we all should be talking about more. Something we all should be educating ourselves on more and advocating for more. So my heart goes out to Tiff. I hope Tiff’s doing okay, we don’t have the closest relationship. I don’t know what Tiff needs, but I hope Tiff knows throughout the course of the time after the show when I reached out, that they know I’m there if the support is needed.
Do I think Vanessa’s grown? No. Again, I think there’s probably some stuff that doesn’t make the cut in the course of a four hour filming of a reunion. There were some things that she was dishonest about that she couldn’t own up to. And that’s okay. I think there’s a point in time where you have to say to yourself, somebody’s not going to learn, they’re in their ways. So I don’t fault her for her ignorance, I hope she grows, but at the end of the day, there’s a point in time where I said, you’re not a person I want in my life because you’re not the type of person I would’ve included in my life. If we weren’t in a cast together, like no. I don’t wanna be associated with people who commit domestic assault. I don’t wanna be associated with people that use ignorance as comedic relief.
The reunion was chaotic, obviously. At the very end of it, it announces that I have parted ways with Rae. So amidst all of it there, there’s a lot of chaos. But I think, hopefully, what everybody gets from it is growth and learning what the right next thing for them is. Protecting themselves better, getting the help that some people really need to not commit the same acts of violence that they did either on the show or after the show. I just hope everybody carries the same weight in terms of how we’re representatives of this community in a really big way right now. And we should try to handle that with care. Because people put queer people under a microscope. Any mistake we make, any way we do something wrong, it’s like, oh, that’s why we shouldn’t have had another queer TV show. That’s why we can’t have another queer character. Oh, that’s why we can’t have a queer person in Congress. So I hope people continue to carry it with care and know that we’re representatives of a community that needs us to show up in the best way possible.
You gave me chills. That was amazing. So what’s your biggest takeaway from going through this entire experience? Like, if you could just sum it up in one lesson.
If you’re in a relationship where you need to issue an ultimatum, you might not be in the right relationship.
Alright. That’s good advice.
That’s my advice. If you feel like that’s what you need, if you feel like your timeline is different from someone else’s, maybe it’s not the right timing. Maybe you should be in something different that’s more supportive of what you need. I wasn’t and that’s okay. Now I turn to my relationship with my current partner, it’s so clear the ways in which you either are or are not with somebody that’s aligned with your goals, your dreams, your aspirations, your day-to-day needs and that’s really important to making a marriage work, to making a life partnership work. Or even just to making simple things like a friendship work.