Aneesa and Rachel on being the only female and gay pairing on MTV’s “Challenge: Battle of the Exes”

 
 

An interview with Rachel Robinson

AE: I really want to know, what do you
all do when you’re not participating in these challenges? I feel like
it would be really difficult to maintain a normal job when you keep
getting called up for the shows all the time.

RR: It was actually really
interesting for me going back this time because it was marking the
decade from when I started, which is crazy. It was pretty refreshing
actually because the biggest thing for me in the past couple of years,
is that I’ve really found my career as a personal trainer. (The show
has) really only helped my career flourish because it just brings more
attention to what I’m doing whenever I go back. It was great for me,
that’s one of the reasons I went back. It was definitely hard, though,
to go back and be that much older.

This season was very different for me. I think what it ended up showing
me was a reflection on gender. And having been the only same sex team
and seeing the natural dynamics forming in the house, it was very clear
that the men in the house have this camaraderie that doesn’t really
trickle down to the women with other women. It’s just different coming
back as a woman. I have a girlfriend that I’m very serious with and
that in and of itself makes it very different when you’re coming back
to these challenges. Last time I came I was single and kind of had
nothing to worry about. But when you come back in a relationship, you
really have to protect it to some degree. It just makes getting to know
everyone a little different and it makes it harder to be there because,
for me, when I’m in a relationship it’s really hard to be away from
that person.

Also, just coming back at this age was really interesting because I
have a long history with a bunch of people there that I don’t even
remember anymore. I showed up and I was like, wait a second — do I have
bad blood with Robin or Diem or Paula, because I don’t even remember.
And then I would sit down and think about it and be like, “Oh my God,
we might have bad blood because that one time back in the day during
the Inferno, I sent in blah blah blah” and — you just never know how
someone else feels.

AE: So when you decided you were going
to go back on the show, did you go back to past seasons and to figure
out who you don’t get along with?

RR: No, but it’s so funny that you say that because when Aneesa
showed up she was like, “I’ve watched all of the old Challenges before
I got here.” And I said, “You did?” And she said, “Yeah I watched every
single episode.” (Laughs) I can’t even remember anything. I bet
sometimes the fans remember more about the show than we do. But yeah,
Aneesa watched the episodes and I think she had a really good memory of it all. I’ll be honest: I watch the episodes once, I take it for what it’s worth and then I’m done. I go into each challenge with a clean slate in my own head. I like to
go into them not talking to anybody, not setting up any kind of
alliance and hoping that I just kind of win and that will keep me in
the game.

AE: I feel like trying to start things
with a clean slate would be very difficult for some of the other teams
of exes.

RR: Well and I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Aneesa and I
have the longest history out of all of them.

AE: Typical lesbians!

RR: Our relationship was right
after the first Battle of the Sexes
and that was about 10 years ago. And we’ve known each other through
the years. She’s voted me off of challenges. (Laughs) there’s just
been so much, down and down and down since then. Only after The Duel
and us making it to the end, did we really come full-circle with each
other and just kind of let go of everything.

I don’t think either of us had a real issue but it was hard for her
sometimes when I would date other cast members. She really didn’t like
that. Going into this though, I mean Aneesa has probably gotten closer
to my girlfriend than she even is to me at some point. She loves my
girlfriend. So now it’s a totally different experience. But I think the
fact that we knew each other so well and I competed against her for so
many years, definitely plays with your mind a little because you’re
used to being somebody’s opponent and now they’re supposed to be on
your team. And it’s not like other couples there because the men and
the women don’t have that same dynamic within their relationship. The
boys usually play against the boys and the girls usually play against
the girls. So for Aneesa and I, it was very different because it was
putting two people together who only have a history of competing
against each other. It definitely played with (my) mind a little, you
know?

And I think the thing that motivated Aneesa so much was not only
competing against the other teams but also competing against me.
(Laughs) Using me as — I remember when we would finish a challenge she
would be like, “I beat you!” and I’d be like, “Yep, ya did!” So I think
there was a sense of competitiveness even with each other.

But to be honest, when I found out they picked Aneesa to be my partner,
I was so happy. There were a few other people they could’ve chosen and
with Aneesa I felt comfortable.

AE: Yeah, I was wondering if there
were any people, exes or not, who you really didn’t want to see on the
show.

RR: There really wasn’t anyone that I didn’t want to see, but I
knew my girlfriend would be a little uncomfortable with a couple
people. So for me it was like, because Aneesa has such a great
relationship with my girlfriend,  it almost made it OK. So that
was my main objective, for the whole thing. The whole time (before the
show), we still never know what’s going on but people start talking. So
I knew Aneesa was going. So when I knew Aneesa would be on the
challenge, that was actually the deciding factor for me to say I was
going to be on the show or not. I knew that if she was there, I would
have a friend. So the fact that she ended up being my teammate, it’s
pretty funny.

AE: You brought up your girlfriend. Was she worried when you first got the phone call asking if you’d do
the show again? I feel like if my girlfriend was about to be on one of
these shows, I would just assume we were going to need to break up.

RR: You know what, I think whenever I call her up and tell her
I got the call — and this is the first time they’ve called me to come
back since The Duel — but when I
got this call, she kind of knew I was open to it this time around. So,
she sort of laid out a few things that she would definitely be
uncomfortable with. Then after a few weeks, things fell into place at
the right time and I decided I was going. I remember looking at her
before I left for the challenge and said, if I can’t do the challenge
because we don’t think our relationship can survive it, then that
speaks volumes about our relationship to begin with. So I said, “If I
can go away on this challenge and you can stand by me and support me
and trust me and know that everything’s going to be OK, and I can come
home and still have your support, and everything can work out, then
that to me will be more important for us in the long run.” So I kind of
looked at the challenge as a little test for us. And she was so
supportive, she couldn’t have been more supportive while I was there.
she was just great. So, so far so good. I should knock on wood right
now. (Laughs)

AE: No kidding! So I was able to
see the first episode and it seems like they were able to start things
off pretty awkwardly with teammates needing to get honey off of their
ex’s body. I imagine that for some of the teams that part was really
difficult.

RR: Well, the getting the honey
off for us was no big deal. Her touching my body or my touching her
body — those feelings just aren’t there anymore. We just wanted to get
the challenge done. But for other people, yeah, when they make up these
shows and figure out who to cast and even the order of the challenges,
to me is very, very, very well thought out. You’ll go from one that’s an
individual challenge to a team challenge to one that you have to use
your head and it plays around with how you have to strategize in your
own head. And even where the challenges lay in the game in terms of
where people will probably be at in terms of drama in the house.
Whenever I walk away from this, but this time more than ever, I feel
like I have to have a total mind detox.

For me, I’m not going to downplay what it was like to be a two-girl
team, the only two-girl team, in a game where we have a lot of men that
are the kind of men I don’t normally hang around with. Like just this
alpha-male type-A man. And it’s the kind of thing where you put a bunch
of them in one house and it’s almost like they become a pack.

AE: I’m pretty sure that sounds like
my idea of hell.

RR: Yeah living within that dynamic for a very long time was
interesting for me. It really re-enforced to me, the way our society has
gender roles and stereotypes and the way sex plays a role. I hope that
in some way there can be something that comes out of this.

AE: It sounds like this could easily
become a university course in sociology or anthropology.

RR: I don’t know of any
lesbian out there that has experienced a similar social experiment that
I just went through. When I came home I just felt like, wow that was a
really intense thing to live through. There was a part of me that came
home and felt like I needed to write a book or something. I came home
so raw and emotional. My girlfriend looked at me at one point and was
like, “What happened to you out there?” and I was like, “I don’t really
know,” I just came home with this emotional baggage. And I felt like,
now — thank God — with time and being in our own environment, I can get
over it. I really felt like I survived a social experiment. Like, being
taken out of my life, being taken from everything I know, taking away
any form of communication and being put in a house on a same-sex team
that was the only same-sex team, it was very interesting.

AE: It sounds to me like you might
still have a little PTSD.

RR: Everybody in the game and anybody who’s done a
challenge — I have the honor of saying I won The Duel, and that was a
solo competition and I won $100,000 — I can never hate on this show.
This show has not only brought me so many positive things in the last
10 years, but it’s helped me buy my house. I sit back and I’m so
thankful for everything it’s brought to my life and helped me learn
about myself. If I have to be a part of a social experiment and be
uncomfortable for a little while, it’s worth it because every time you
do one of these shows, you learn more about yourself. At the end of
each show you walk away and ask if you can change anything and it has
definitely changed the way I’ve done certain things and viewed certain
things.

Honestly, the way things have unfolded over the years — I came out on
the show, I had relationships on the show and now to be on Battle of
the Exes
with another woman, I just couldn’t have asked for anything
better.

As we finish up our interview, I realize I’m exactly where I was supposed to be: wearing lots of baggy clothes on this side of the TV; writing about the show instead of participating. Keep up with Aneesa & Rachel on their Twitter
accounts and let’s hope these ladies can pull off a win for us.

Challenge: Battle of the Exes premieres tonight at 10 pm on MTV.

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