I had zero interest in watching The Ultimatum: Queer Love until I saw their statuesque contestant, Mal Wright, on my television screen. Suddenly, I, along with the rest of the world, was heavily invested in a love story that would eventually fizzle, launching Wright into a new normal that she never expected.
Dating shows have become a guilty pleasure of our generation. Whether you’re looking for love or attempting to repair a strained relationship, folks have defaulted to reality TV to explore the possibilities. This was an easy formula for heterosexuals, but it never extended to the LGBTQIA+ community until The Ultimatum: Queer Love.
The Netflix series explored the union of five queer couples who reached the exasperating relationship crossroads; do we get married or go our separate ways? The couples are represented by one person who wants to be released from the shackles of being a forever girlfriend and the other who is reluctant to make the legally binding commitment.
Mal Wright, a charming masculine-presenting lesbian with a winning smile/dimples combo, was the ultimatum recipient. Her emotional maturity and authentic approach to love and relationships won the internet over, making her an overnight sensation. And while she couldn’t have expected the public’s warm response to her, she was initially disinterested in joining the show.
“I didn’t want to at first. And then when I talked to my partner about, at the time, she really had confidence in us being able to go through it,” she tells me in an exclusive interview.
“My thoughts just were, ‘No way.’ I don’t know if we’re set up for success with this,” she says. Eventually, the former HR leader obliged, testing the durability of their relationship for the rest of the world to see. And while couple’s relationship did not survive the ultimatum, Wright capitalized off of the show because of her lovable personality.
Mal Wright’s new normal after The Ultimatum: Queer Love
Reality TV takes hours of footage and reduces it to 60-minute segments that plays out in ten episodes. Most times, participants blame editing for how they are portrayed on screen, but Wright emerged as a fan favorite with viewers, launching her into a new and unexpected direction in her life.
“Interestingly enough, I was in HR leadership for a Fortune 500 company. So, I was in HR and project management. I was in a leadership role for the last 10 years. And then it was divine timing. I got laid off a couple months before the show came out,” she says.
Wright’s termination pushed her to explore her fullest potential. “As far as I was concerned, I could’ve stayed in corporate America for the rest of my life. I was going to follow my dad’s footsteps. That’s what he did. He was a VP of a company.”
But the Universe had other plans. With her HR position behind her, the idle time allowed her see what else was out there. “It’s just opened up all this time. When opportunities arise and I need to be places I can be there, you know? I luckily got to jump into casting for the next season of Ultimatum.”
When the teaser for The Ultimatum: Queer Love first came out, I was admittedly reluctant to watch it. There was a sense of joy to finally see the LGBTQIA+ community represented on screen, but I was disappointed in the lack of diversity. Wright was the only Black woman on the show, which was standard for these types of series.
“It was interesting to see and learn the process and to have a voice in it ’cause we need our voices. Picking our people if we want to see us onscreen or at least have an input,” she continues.
“I have a couple of meetings with other people in the entertainment industry. I’ve been doing this influencer stuff. Opportunities keep popping up and God is looking out,” she says.
It goes down in the DMs
Wright’s DMs are in shambles, but that’s to be expected. The show introduced a 5’10 delectable glass of mocha chocolate to the world, and the masses are ready to risk it all for a sip. The ladies, and even the gentlemen, shoot their shot on a daily, and the 38-year-old sees them all.
“The most interesting is people trying to fly me out to whatever part of the world they’re in. I’m just like, there’s no way. No, I could be crazy. It’s not even them. It could be me. What if I am absolutely insane?”
When people aren’t spamming her DMs with offers to be flewed out, they’re clogging up her business email with romantic advances. “My email is for work. It’s not for shooting shots,” she says.
“People have told me, ‘You showed up in a dream before the show.’ ‘I just know that we are soulmates,’ and I’m like, you don’t know me at all. We don’t know each other. Those have been the wildest when they repetitively reach out. It gets weird; some of them are kind and flattering, and you want to say thank you.”
Mal Wright is deconstructing the heteronormative ideologies in the queer community, one hug at a time.
Beyond the style, looks, career, and active DMs lies a woman who’s roots are about community. She uses her platform to promote a safe and welcoming space for Black and Brown queer folks. There is a freeness that our white counterparts experience that LGBTQIA+ people of color are reluctant to embrace. It is taboo for masculine-presenting women to date or show platonic affection towards each other, but Wright refuses to subscribe to that ideology.
“We learn what masculinity looks like through the men that we’ve watched growing up. That’s who taught us what it looks like to be masc. That’s where the toxicity seeps in. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it seeps in where we don’t embrace each other. We don’t see each other and be like, ‘I like what you have on,’ or whatever. It’s immediate tensions or competition,” she explains.
“What I’ve always admired is sisterhood. I’ve always watched femme relationships and relationships in the hetero community, the sisterhood I’ve always craved. I didn’t have sisters. I’ve always wanted to create the same thing – create the same femme dynamic amongst people that look like me.”
Often times people focus on the appearance of masculine-presenting women, neglecting the fact that underneath the clothing lies a woman. Holding hands or cuddling with feminine friends is socially acceptably while masc women are judged for sharing the same embrace.
“I feel different about undoing, unlearning, and deconstructing these norms we try to uphold. If I see somebody that’s masc, I’m going to hug them. And usually, when I’m out, and I see somebody masc, I make it a point to compliment how they look. Or if I see them with their femme partner, I’ll let the femme know she’s lucky. I do that intentionally to deconstruct this norm and to disrupt it,” she says.
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