Now that the season finale of E! TV’s reality dating show “Catching Kelce” has aired, Paducah native Maya Benberry can say it: She caught Kelce.
“I did win. We wrapped up filming the finale April 8, and we’ve had to keep things a secret since,” she said. “Now we just date in real life. To me and him, it feels like a fresh start.”
By “winning” E!’s first reality TV dating show, Benberry doesn’t get a marriage proposal or monetary prize, but merely the favor of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. She also wins the publicity that comes with it, the good and the bad. The Kansas City Star, which covers the Chiefs and the show, offered an example of the negative when Wednesday night’s finale aired.
Now that the show’s over, Benberry and Kelce are free to date like normal people. After filming ended in April they were able to ditch the cameras, but could only see each other in secret — her in Los Angeles, him in Kansas. When E! began airing promotions for the TV show in August, however, producers put an end to their visits. They had to rely on phone calls and FaceTime.
But yes, they’re still together, Benberry said.
Monday is the soonest they can see each other, with Kelce busy with the Chiefs and Benberry back in Paducah. It’ll be the first time the couple’s seen each other since the summer.
Benberry flew home from Los Angeles on Tuesday for a finale watch party Wednesday night at Walker Hall. She wanted to be surrounded by family and friends, people who knew the real her and not just the character portrayed in “Catching Kelce.”
Now that the show’s over, she can talk about that, too.
“The show totally misrepresented my character, and I’m not happy about it,” Benberry said.
“I can’t be too upset, because legally I agreed to it. But it’s frustrating. I went on the show initially to promote myself in a way, and my image on the show isn’t how I am in real life. But if nothing else, that’s just pushing me to make sure my actions speak more than my words from here on out.”
Benberry’s always known a great deal of editing and manipulation happens to reality TV footage but never realized the extent of it until she experienced it herself, she said.
For example, Benberry said the majority of the girls in the “Catching Kelce” mansion grew to be close friends, but the warm and fuzzy moments don’t get shown. She said most of the girls have kept in touch with one another “in real life,” post-filming. Fellow contestant Lexi Noel actually drove up to Paducah from her home state of Georgia on Wednesday to watch the finale with Benberry at Walker Hall.
“Some of us, we just feel like the show could have been so much better. If you saw more of what really happened, it would have been so much more interesting,” Benberry said.
“Now I feel like I need to redeem myself in a way,” Benberry continued. “I just want to show that you can go for things and make it happen. You can be a minority or be from a small town and move to L.A., just hoping you can make it and do it. You just have to believe in yourself, know what you want and tunnel in on that end goal.”
Frustrations aside, Benberry doesn’t regret her decision to take part in “Catching Kelce.” She went into it for the experience and the chance to get her name out there, and she certainly got that. She’s the first African-American to win an American reality TV dating show. And to her surprise, she also ended up meeting her “dream guy” in the process.
Her feelings for Kelce are real — much more real than “Catching Kelce,” she said — but they’re taking things slow. She’s not going to uproot her life and move fulltime into his just yet. He’ll continue focusing on his football career in Kansas City, and she’ll continue focusing on hers in L.A. Now she’s working on her own fashion line and her lifestyle and advice blog, “Uncensored Moments with Maya.”
She and Kelce will figure things out in time, she said.
“This is really the big transition,” she said. “Now I’m going to have to figure out how I can incorporate him into my life, and vice versa. I think that’s our next challenge.”