MAFS' Holly finally speaks out about her 'toxic' experience on the show
She might not have had the longest amount of time on this year’s season of Married At First Sight, but Holly Greenstein definitely had one of the most dramatic experiences on the reality TV show.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, the 37-year-old bride tells all about her time on MAFS, her tumultuous relationship with Andrew Davis, and what viewers never got to see on TV.
Although it came out early in the season that Holly has had acting experience, appearing in the NBC drama series Timeless back in 2017, she asserts that she went onto MAFS with “genuine intentions”.
“I think the last season I watched was with Martha [Kalifatidis] and Michael [Brunelli], and Jules [Robinson] and Cam [Merchant],” she says.
“That was kind of my impression of the show, the happy stories and the journey. And I kind of thought of it as just an extreme way of dating. There are a lot of cultures out there that are open to an arranged marriage, and I looked at it more in that way, more in a traditional aspect.”
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As for her acting career, Holly decided while living in Vancouver that acting could be a part of her life without taking up her entire life.
“It just wasn't returning to me what I was investing into it,” she explains. “But I didn't go on MAFS to try and get a gig out of it, I went on with honest intentions. Yes, I enjoy little modelling gigs here and there, but that was not the reason why I went on the show.”
Speaking about her wedding day, Holly admits she wasn’t nervous at all driving to the ceremony.
“The production had me so convinced that they’d found this incredible guy,” she says. “I'd gotten my nails done, I had this incredible designer dress, I had my makeup done, I felt great. Then I started to walk down the aisle and he turned around and my heart just dropped.
“He kind of had this cheesy smile and an air of fakeness around him. And at that moment, I said to myself, ‘Holly, he’s not what you’re expecting but he’s here taking the same risk that you are, give him a chance’.”
“And in fact, I did not write him off on the first day. But he actually admitted on camera, and it just wasn't edited in, that he wrote me off on the first day. I think he realised on day one that I just wasn't his person.”
‘They got it wrong’
Holly remarks that Andrew was “completely different” from what she had told the experts she wanted in a partner at the very start of the experiment.
“I asked for someone who would be on my team, someone who wanted a family, and someone who maybe would be open, honest and genuine,” she details. “They got it wrong.”
She also adds that this year’s participants constantly had doubts over whether or not some couples were paired together purely for the drama.
“There are always questions from us cast members, ‘Did they throw the right one for us in the mix, but then pair us up with someone else?’. It's probably the case,” she says.
“Look, I don't know what the producers do. Everyone can just read for themselves on what a disaster it ended up being.”
Heading into the honeymoon, Holly explains that she was open to getting to know her new ‘husband’ despite their rocky start.
“He was being warm to me, but you have to note, we were surrounded by producers, cameramen and soundies the whole time,” she describes. “There was a group vibe the entire time. So he was being warm to me, but he was very well aware that he's on camera.”
One of the most shocking moments on the pair’s honeymoon was when Andrew stripped down in front of the cameras to join Holly in the bathtub - something that she says she protested.
“My producers set up a bathtub scene and I all but begged to not do the bathtub scene,” she admits.
“I tried to express to my producer that I wasn't comfortable with it, and you could see my face was flushed and I was nervous and I didn't want to do it. My producer, I don't know how she convinced me to do the bathtub scene, but it was not flagged with me that he was going to go in naked.
“Of course, I'm 37 years old, I've been in relationships before, but that was not respectful.”
'I was portrayed as a little crazy'
Holly insists that just because the audience never saw Andrew yell at her, it doesn’t mean it never happened throughout their relationship.
“Go back to all the footage, you will not see Andrew yell at me once,” she says. “They really made sure that he didn't look that bad.
“Still, people could see through it and people could see that he was gaslighting me and trying to make me look bad with the other people. I was portrayed as a little crazy or a little unsettled, and that’s because there was really not that deep context there of how gaslit I really was.”
The First Commitment Ceremony
When it came to the first commitment ceremony, Holly reveals that she wanted to write ‘leave’ but the producers had other ideas.
“It was clear that we had an interesting storyline for TV,” she acknowledges. “I feel like there was a little bit of influence, shall I say, from my producer to stay.
“I actually said the day after, had I known that the couch had panned out the way it was going to, I would have written ‘leave’ no matter what. No one could have convinced me otherwise.”
Fans online ended up slamming Andrew for the way he treated his ‘wife’ at the commitment ceremony, with Holly labelling his behaviour as “disgusting”.
“He ripped shreds off me on the couch,” she says. “He was just unkind, gaslighting, blaming me yet I was sitting there not sure what I was being blamed for. ‘She did this, she said that’. Even the experts were like, ‘You clearly don't want to be with her, what are you doing here?’.
"When he wrote ‘Leave’, crossed it out and wrote, ‘Stay’, they were like, ‘Why are you staying? Why did you write stay for? Clearly, you don't like her’. It was actually quite embarrassing because all the other couples were at least fighting for something, but he was just insulting me.”
Following the commitment ceremony, Holly says that she messaged her producer and announced that she was leaving.
“I said something along the lines of, ‘If I had realised that that would have been that disgusting, I would have written ‘leave’. I'm done, I’m ready to walk’,” she recalls.
“And my producer said, ‘Look, he wants to apologise to you’. So he said this whole apology speech, which you see one per cent of, and he said that he wrote me off on day one, he admitted that he did not treat me well, and he said, 'I'd like to move forward’.
“I basically said, ‘Look, in a very friendly way, I'll move forward, I’ll do the tasks with you’. But I was really cautious. I didn't really want to be there, it was just kind of being held together by sticky tape and production.”
The experiment then progressed into ‘Intimacy Week’ for the couples, although Holly says “there was no intimacy” and the experts just gave them basic tasks to do like the ‘melting hug’.
“After the hug, he said, ‘How was that for you?’ and I said, ‘I didn't feel anything, it was awkward’,” she details.
“He made my skin crawl by that point. And I wasn't rude to him. But I was being honest and just said, 'Look, I just don't feel it’. And because I did not validate him, he started yelling at me and that's when I said, ‘Here's the door’.”
Rumours emerged earlier this year that the main reason why Holly and Andrew stayed on the show for as long as they did was because they were paid a bonus of $3000.
However, Holly denies that she was given more money to remain in the experiment an extra week.
“I certainly was not paid any more money to stay on the show, I just had a very good producer who was very good at her job and convinced me to stay,” she explains.
“You know what, for all I know, there may be some truth in Andrew being paid money to stay, because he certainly did not want to be there.”
The Dinner Party
Things went from bad to worse for Holly when she was the last person to arrive at the next dinner party and found herself in the firing line from her fellow participants who had suddenly turned on her.
“What wasn't aired was that there was a little naughty off-screen party between all of the cast members, except for me and Selin [Mengu],” she reveals.
“So they're off having a cheeky drink, they snuck into someone's room. And I think Andrew bad mouthed me at this little sneaky off-camera party and so everyone had an opinion of me.
“And the producers couldn't work out why everyone's opinion of me suddenly changed. They went from witnessing me being torn to shreds on the couch, to all of a sudden thinking I'm the trouble. And so obviously to make the storyline work, they had me walk in last and him walk in one of the first and him say his piece.
“They didn't tell him what to say, the producers just knew that he would just try to gaslight the group. And he did. He went in, he gaslit the group being like, ‘I'm trying so hard’. And I walked in and it was like everyone had a bullet for me. It was hard.”
Holly went on to say that she found it “really tough” not being supported by the other brides, who chose to defend Andrew instead of her, and the dinner party became “one of the hardest nights” for her in the experiment.
“I genuinely thought I was going to enter that dinner party with support from my fellow cast members, as I had paid to them in the journey to date,” she adds.
“And when Olivia [Frazer] came at me, almost accusing me of being the problem, it actually was a kick to the guts. Obviously, I’m looking like I’m crazy, but it just didn't make any sense to me because I had no idea what Andrew had said. I told them exactly what had happened and they just simply didn’t believe me.”
The Final Commitment Ceremony
While Andrew shocked the experts when he didn’t show up to the next commitment ceremony, Holly admits that she was relieved because it gave her “a moment to have a voice” and deliver a speech to the cast.
“It was really important for me to address the group because I wanted to stand up for the women who have been gaslit, who have been with narcissists and not believed,” she says.
“I couldn’t care less about Andrew, that speech was not for Andrew because I had no care for him. But I was disappointed by the group not supporting me, and I wanted to address them.
“Even after that speech though, people were still Team Andrew because he was such a great speaker. I think I speak okay, but it was hard to get my voice out because I was so gaslit and so shaken. I was in such a toxic relationship.
“It was sad that they didn't support me and it was sad that even on screen they didn't get to see what really happened, but we all know that you only see one per cent. So I did have a few cast members reach out and go, ‘Oh my god Holly, I didn't realise and we're so sorry we weren't there to support you’. So I did have a lot of support after the fact.”
Andrew was once again a no-show at the reunion, which Holly believes might have been a planned decision by the producers.
"I think he had brought too much toxicity and I think for duty of care, I think it was just best he didn't come back,” she says. "I heard rumours that he was not invited back, but you don’t know anything for certain.
“I’ve had zero communication with Andrew since the show and I’m happy with that.”
Watching the experiment back on TV, Holly expresses it was often “very hard and very triggering” seeing the way Andrew was edited.
“I felt like Andrew wasn't shown how he really was,” she remarks.
“It was hard and it was embarrassing being shown in a bathtub with someone that I didn't really like and situations that I didn't necessarily want to be in. But it is what it is, you sign up for this and sometimes you just don't have control over it.”
Looking back on the season, Holly acknowledges that there are a few things she wishes she could have done differently.
“That second night of the honeymoon when I realised Andrew was not a nice person I should have packed my bags and left,” she says, “But you can't go back in life, it’s just not a thing. We are who we are because of experiences, good, bad and ugly.
“The biggest thing I've learned is to stay true to myself, don’t cop s**t, fight for what I believe in, fight for yourself and stand up for yourself. Don't allow anyone to walk all over you.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone considering going on MAFS, she states that it’s important to “go in with your eyes open”.
“Know it's a reality TV series and there's a small chance that you might meet the person you're going to be with. Go in for an experience, but be strong and realise that it's a reality TV experience.”
Post-show, Holly is currently in “a very positive relationship” with her new boyfriend and says she couldn’t be happier.
“I'm in a relationship, not a fairytale,” she asserts. “We are really strong together. If we find that we're not communicating right, or we don't understand each other, we continue to work on it. So I'm in a really great spot.”
She is also focused on returning to a sense of normality, continuing work as a cinema manager, and engaging with her followers on social media.
“People have been so kind to me, so I just want to make sure that I stay in touch with them because they've been so supportive of my journey,” she continues
“It's hard to find the one and when you do find the one, I want them to know that it's realistic and it’s not Instagram perfect. So whatever opportunities come my way, I'm definitely open, but I'm just happy being in real life.
“My MAFS chapter is certainly done. It's in the box, the lid is closed. There is string around it, a chain and a padlock. It's done. And I'm so fortunate for all the warmth I've received and that I can move on from MAFS and build upon from there.”
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