The real-life “Alex” from “Orange is the New Black” speaks out


Think about an ex from a long-term relationship. I’m guessing the two of you see the way things played out a little differently from each other.

Now imagine that one of you wrote a book that touched on that relationship—and that book in turn became a highly fictionalized, monster-hit TV series. And, oh, yeah, you and the ex have both been to prison.

That should answer any questions about why Catherine Cleary Wolters is now, with Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black so close, so very close to us, talking to the press.

Cleary doesn’t dislike the show, and in fact watched all of Season 1—as she herself says, “Who doesn’t want to see Donna from That ‘70s Show have lesbian sex?” she does seem to want to get her own version of events out there. Her Vanity Fair interview is just the right blend of generally interesting and tasty juicy bits to savor.

realalexPhoto by Claudia Susana/Vanity Fair

For example, while Wolters is very clear on the fact that she and Piper Kerman never got back together romantically, the show is, if anything, downplaying the amount of sex in general that goes on.

“Usually what you would do was have sex in your jail rooms,” she explains. “You’d have sex anywhere you could: the tennis court, the outdoor squash court, or the rake pile. Anyplace! When the guards aren’t around all bets are off. Everyone goes to it!”

The show does seem to be accurate in portraying the she-said/she-said controversies on whether or not Alex ratted Piper out, which Wolters says in real life was more of a mutual and simultaneous thing.

“I named her, she named me, and we all named each other. Fact was, we all thought we were doing the right thing, confessing, getting protection, and saving ourselves from certain death at the hands of a Nigerian drug lord who we knew would soon find we had all been arrested.”

… But Kerman sees things a little differently. In her response, she says,

Before pleading guilty, I received a copy of Cleary’s “proffer,” her official statement to the U.S. Attorney about her crimes—and in her proffer she implicated me for the crime I committed. When I plead guilty I was required to provide my own proffer—I could not possibly have described my crime without mentioning Cleary.

Wolters also says the timeline of her relationship was different than is portrayed in the show, that it was the drug-running that led to romance and not the other way around. (Nevertheless: Not a recommended technique for finding a girlfriend.) Wolter’s follow-up to that statement, that she and Piper were always friends with benefits, and not girlfriends, leads to a painful little moment worthy of the show in Kerman’s response:

If Cleary believes we were never girlfriends, that is startling news to me, though it’s certainly not the first time she has surprised me.

The whole interview is well worth your time. And will give you something to do besides bingeing on photos and trailers until Season 2 comes out.


Orange Is the New Black Season 2 premieres June 6 on Netflix. Like you didn’t already know that.

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