It feels like we were just watching Season 5 of Married at First Sight in Chicago, and already, the Lifetime series is back with three new couples. This time, they’re making love connections happen in Boston. While the city may be different, the nerves, the hopes and the expected drama are the same.
One of the pairs we will be watching closely is Shawniece Jackson, 29, and Jephte Pierre, 26. Both parties come from big families (she is the oldest of 10 kids, he is the oldest of 14) and based on what you will see in the first episode, that could either be a major benefit or a big problem. Despite all of that, the newlyweds’ goals are the same — to find lasting love.
We spoke with Jackson about how the dating scene is for Black women in Boston, the ups and downs of having big families involved in their new marriage, her penchant for crying a lot, and why she was over the traditional dating scene and ready to be married at first sight. Be sure to tune into the premiere episode of Season 6 tonight on Lifetime. The Married at First Sight casting special airs at 8 p.m., and the wedding episode airs right after at 9 p.m.
MadameNoire: What was the dating scene like for you as a Black woman in Boston?
Shawniece Jackson: So the dating scene of a Black woman in Boston, it’s kind of hard. I want to say the people — everybody’s working in the city of Boston, so you’re either at work or out hanging with your friends. When you meet someone, you always meet someone hanging out. Of course, there’s dating apps, but I was very scared of the dating apps. I didn’t even go there with that part. I did not think twice about dating apps [laughs].
Here in New York City, the dating scene is very difficult as well. Do you think it’s maybe just a city struggle? Or is this a time where everyone is saying, “It’s really hard to find your match”?
I definitely agree as far as it being the city. Everybody moves at such a fast pace and we’re all so focused on working and doing what we have to do in everyday life that we actually forget about just going out and socializing with different people and networking. I think that’s kind of why it becomes a challenge.
You work in a salon, you make wigs, you’re the first child of your mother in a big family. You seem very busy. Do you think with all of the stuff you had to commit to and responsibilities you had, that you actually made the best effort to see what was out there before trying MAFS?
Before I decided to do MAFS, I think I did. I think I exhausted my options as far as the lengths that I wanted to go. I didn’t do any dating apps, but if somebody decides on doing that, that’s on them. But for me, I was very afraid. I come from a family of all girls and there’s no guys [laughs]. So it’s like, be careful. I never explored those options. So as far as the options I say I had as far as friends trying to connect me, I think I exhausted those options. I was like, I do want to search further for love but I just don’t know where to go or how to start. So to me, Married at First Sight was a great opportunity.
What made you feel that way? Because MAFS isn’t just the marriage. You also have to be on television and that opens people up to scrutiny and all sorts of things. What made you feel like, no matter what, this is something I want to do?
As an individual, I’ve strongly believed in doing what I want to do and what I felt was best and it’s all about knowing yourself. And as far as it being on TV, I’m still going to be Shawniece. As far as the experts, I trust them and I walk by faith to find a match for me. Everything that comes outside of that? I have to continue to be and stay true to myself, and everything else falls into place by doing that. It didn’t matter of it being on TV. I want to find a husband and I’m putting my life in the experts’ hands. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to find lasting love.
Did you get to watch previous seasons and learned anything from the choices of the women, particularly those of color?
I have watched past seasons and it’s not that I learned or said “I don’t want to do this or do that,” I really just went into it just trying to be myself. One thing I didn’t want to do is not be myself or try to hide anything for the camera. I felt like, if I tried to avoid it, my story wouldn’t be told properly. So I tried to just be myself and be as open as possible, and this is my story. I feel like a lot of people will be inspired by it and be able to relate to it, so it was just a matter of me just trying not to close the cameras out of what I am and who I am. It was hard, but you’ve just got to be open. But like I said, I’m probably going to inspire a lot of people and people will be able to relate to me as a Black woman, so I just want to be fully transparent.
What have been the perks and the downsides, if any, of you and Jephte coming from large families? Are your relatives vocal with their concerns, or have you guys just received a great deal of support all the way?
Having a big family on both sides, I think we gained a tremendous amount of support. Between my family and his family it was just all a gain. It wasn’t any losses and I’m really truly grateful and blessed for that. We have a tremendous amount of support from both sides of the family.
I wasn’t sure because by the end of the first episode it looked like someone’s mom was going to disrupt the ceremony!
I know! I know! You have to wait to see everything. But I will say this: We have a lot of support. There’s more people rooting for us than to watch us fail. We are, I think both sides of the family, of Christian background and it makes it even more solid and more supportive.
One thing you said is that you were going to be transparent. In watching the first episode, something I noticed is that you cry a lot [laughs]. You cry three or four times in the episode, but for positive reasons. Will we see more of that this season? And for good reason more than negative ones?
I will say this, being Shawniece [laughs], I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m sad. I cry. It’s a way I express my emotions and sometimes it’s uncontrollable. It just happens and I don’t know where it comes from [laughs]. So don’t be alarmed! Don’t be too shocked. Just know I cry [laughs]. But you will definitely see a lot of tears in this season. Good ones!
Obviously you can’t tell us much because we have to wait and watch. But what would you say to people, knowing the experiences you’ve had, who are considering taking this same route?
The best advice I would give is, as a woman, to be completely whole within yourself. Even if you’re doing MAFS, be open-minded. And if you’re just dating in general, whether you’re in a relationship or you’re not in a relationship, be content with yourself and be truly whole with yourself. I think it takes a lot of any woman to go through the experience that I’ve gone through and dating in general. But I believe that if you continue to be yourself and be whole within yourself and content within yourself, you’ll be successful in any relationship. And that’s the biggest advice that I could give anybody. It’s stuff that I’ve learned from being married at first sight, how solid and whole I was, so I say that’s the best advice that I can give.
Right, because people often assume there is a desperation involved and the parties aren’t whole or happy, but you say you were and that made you 100 percent ready for this experience.
It’s a learning experience. You grow with the person and you’re doing a lot of different things. So as much as you’re learning things about your partner, you’re also learning things about yourself. That’s why I say it takes you to be solid and whole and content with yourself. You have to have that confidence to move forward and do what you have to do and just truly be yourself. I think being yourself is the major part.