Exclusive Interview with Esonica Veira from ‘Temptation Island’

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Temptation Island is one of the best reality TV shows this year. The reboot of the beloved Fox hit from the early 2000s follows four dating couples at the most vulnerable time in their relationship. They travel together to Maui, but are soon split apart as they move into separate houses with 12 attractive singles of the opposite sex. At the end of the show, each couple will decide whether to stay together, leave the island with someone new, or leave completely alone.

Mario Perez/USA Network

Esonica Veira had been dating her boyfriend Gavin for a little over a year prior to going on Temptation Island. They came to the island for two separate, but similar reasons. Esonica needed to determine if the man she fell in love with is really her forever king and if she can ever truly get over his cheating past and start fresh whereas Gavin needed to decide if he is ready to say yes to a lifelong commitment. I got the chance to talk with her about how she and Gavin originally met, what initially attracted her to Kareem, in what ways she feels like this journey helped her grow as a person and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!

I want to go back all the way the beginning and I want to know how you and Gavin met initially.

Okay, we’re going way back. Honestly, Gavin and I had a very interesting meeting; it is almost like a movie in itself. So both of us were on set for a show called Love Is __, which was on the OWN Network. We were doing background. Pretty much what was happening was we were in the same area and he approached me like, “Oh what’s your name? I like your dress” and stuff like that. I kind of was a little bit standoffish to him in the beginning, because I was like, “Who is this guy?” I kind of played it off for a little bit, but then he was a little bit smooth so he was like, “Can I have your number” and I was like, “Well, I don’t have my phone on me. The only way you can get my number is if you memorize it.” So I told him my number and then he memorized and surprisingly, he called me the next day. I was just really surprised because his phone was dead; he didn’t have any way of writing down my number but he memorized it. I was like, “This is crazy so I guess that’s a good sign.”

That’s so funny. I love that you met on that show because I loved that show and I was actually just thinking about the other day how much I miss it. 

Yeah, that was a good show. I’m mad they stopped it.

So in terms of how you got on Temptation Island, I know it was Gavin’s idea to initially bring you, but what made you ultimately agree to do this show? Were there questions that you were specifically looking to answer about your relationship?

Yes, it was definitely Gavin telling me about it and the reason why I was like, “Okay cool.” But of course, being in a relationship for a year and a half, I like to experience new things and I was open to having kind of an experience where it was one in a million; it is either like you know, or you don’t know. Still scary, but something that I was willing to do because it just seemed like something that we would do in a sense because we’re very outgoing people, we like to have fun and have new experiences. I was definitely scared though because of the storyline about it. Of course, you go into a house with singles and anything can happen. But in my heart, I was more confident about our relationship. Even though I was scared, I was hoping that he would be able to prove to me that he was the right decision.

Were you familiar with Temptation Island before you went on the show? And if not, did you go back and watch old episodes to see what twists and turns they may throw out at you?

No, I was not familiar with the show before. If he didn’t tell me about it, I probably wouldn’t have known about it. But we watched the [first] season together and I had confidence. I was like, “Yeah, we can definitely do this. It shouldn’t be that much of a problem.” But season two definitely ain’t like season one [laughs]. 

Right. Did you guys hash out a set of boundaries or deal breakers before taping began, like what the type behavior would be okay and what was going to be unforgivable?

We definitely had a conversation to some extent about what rules we were making. And even in the time that we were making rules, it wasn’t something that we necessarily agreed on a hundred percent. I would be like “No kissing” and he would be like, “Well, you might kiss someone.” So yeah we set rules for each other, but we didn’t necessarily agree on the rules that we made for each other. But rules were definitely set. Of course there are things that happen that draw lines and stuff like that, but when you go into experience like that, you realize that you want to be a little bit open to seeing what rules you’re going to let slide by.

So all season you were letting Kareem get as close as “arm’s length” and then “shoulder’s length” and so on. Was that your own personal thing or was that something you and Gavin had discussed prior?

For the most part, Gavin was pretty okay, except with one particular rule, which unfortunately I did break. But I did that for my own protection, having some type of arm length and some distance and so forth. I’ve heard that, “Oh, maybe it’s a little closed-minded to talk to one person” too, but I’m the type of person where I prefer to focus on one person. I mean we were living in the house with these guys so if I didn’t know them from living in the house with them, how am I going to know them more from going on a date? I know them already. So you just have to set boundaries for yourself and know how you feel about the dating world.

Speaking of the guys, do you remember what was going through your head that first night when you first saw the singles and they were doing their introductions?

Yeah. I was like, “Oh my gosh, what the hell did I get myself into?” It was scary. It was like a horror movie in a sense because I’m like, “I can’t believe this is happening at this moment.” I was scared. I was not excited. I was very nervous. I just didn’t know what to expect.

You mentioned after having watched season one that you were like, “We got this”. Did that change after you saw the singles and the experience started to settle in? Were you still just as confident in your relationship or were you a little more like, “I’m not sure if we’re gonna make it off the island?”

I was definitely confident for a very long time. But they find a way to break you, I’m not going to lie. This show finds a way to slowly chip into your insecurities and make you question yourself and your relationships and sometimes really react in ways that are questionable to some. 

So that first week, you decided to take Kareem out on a date. What was it about him that you found attractive and in what ways did you guys connect off the bat?

Kareem was just generally a gentleman. He wasn’t aggressive, he wasn’t too pushy and he understood the situation that I was in in my relationship with Gavin and he was willing to be a friend that would listen. So that is how he became such a role in my situation because more importantly, all I really needed was a friend to listen to me and help me resolve the situation that I was going through in my relationship.

At your first bonfire, you see a clip where Gavin says that he was unsure if you were the one. Did that change the way you approached the rest of your time on the island?

When I heard Gavin question if I was the one, it definitely struck a nerve with me. Like I mentioned before, maybe we didn’t communicate clearly enough because I feel like we came there for a different reason. I feel like we came there for him to prove to me that I was the one, not for him to question if I was the one. So for me, hearing that on the first date kind of threw me for a loop because I was like, “I thought you already knew that I was the one. I thought you were just here to be like ‘Hello world, she’s the one!'” So it just kind of confused me a little bit.

Speaking of bonfires and the clips that you specifically saw at bonfires, when you saw the clip of Gavin sucking Payton’s toes, what was going through your mind at that moment?

I was disappointed, and unfortunately sick. That was something I didn’t want to see. I know he said he was playing and that it was all fun and games, but that just didn’t sit well with me at all. It didn’t. It made me feel bad. A lot of people say, “Well, you put on a good face.” I was like, “Nah, I was hurt.” I was definitely hurt.

Yeah. Did you feel like you weren’t seeing the guy that you knew?

I definitely felt like it was a surprise a little bit. Yeah. 

Did the bonfires get easier and tougher as the time went by?

It was an emotional roller coaster. One week you have a good bonfire and then the next week, you’re kind of like, “What the hell is this?” So it never got easier.

You choose Kareem for every single date that you went on. I know you mentioned that since you were living with the guys in the house you obviously knew them pretty well, but was there ever anyone else you consider taking or was it always going to be Kareem?

I mean there were really good guys. For instance, Etay, he didn’t last very long but I thought he was a pretty good guy too. Me and Etay we were pretty close and he was a good person to talk to as well. Jose also was pretty energetic, but I feel like Jose has a very fiery personality so both of us together, at some point it’s gonna be an explosion. And [with] Chris G., he’s the comedian of the house, it was a good vibe too. But I don’t know. I don’t know why I felt that way [laughs].

When you guys got to send video messages to each other, you told Gavin that you felt like you evolved and learned a lot about yourself in this situation. That’s honestly just been one of my favorite parts of the season is seeing everyone, and you specifically, grow as a person. So looking back, what’s the biggest thing that you learned about yourself from this experience?

The biggest thing I feel like I learned about myself is just really being able to sit back and take a timeout and understand your growth. Know that in every situation, you learn and you’re not the same person that you were before. It’s okay to grow, it’s okay to change, and it’s okay to progress. Just hope that you find someone that is on that same level with you that you can actually have a strong foundation to build on.

I love that. So episode eight is when you finally break your rule, and you let Kareem in your bed. Up until this point you and Gavin both had made sure not to let physical stuff happen out of respect for one another, so at this point were things with Kareem just no longer able to be ignored? Why let things go further at that point when you hadn’t up until then?

Right. That’s a very good question. It came a point where, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. Things kind of happened a little quickly. I let down my wall a little bit and I was just like, “Wou know what? We could just have a conversation and just talk I suppose that”….. I don’t know. It just kind of…

It was just the right time.

I don’t know if it was the right time. It was just a tricky situation, you know?

Yeah. I’m curious: what has watching this show back been like? This is your first experience on reality TV, so is it weird or are you totally comfortable with seeing yourself on TV?

[laughs] That’s hilarious. That’s a good question. It’s weird and it’s interesting being able to see yourself, a mirror image of what you’ve done and what you were. Because even now, looking back at this, this is not who I am today. This is who I was in that 30 days in an edited version. So it does give you an opportunity to sit back and kind of see how you did things, see how you would change things. It’s definitely something to get used to. I wouldn’t be like, “Oh yeah, it’s totally 100% cool.” Like, I’m not the person that does things for the highlights. If I am a part of something, I’m going to try my best to learn from it and see how I can use it to help somebody else that may be in a situation like me.

Right. What do your family and friends think about it?

Well, my family and friends are gonna be supportive of me and the decisions that I make. If they think that I’ve done something that hasn’t really been the best, [they’ll] just let me be aware of that situation and help me grow a little bit. But so far, everyone’s just really been supportive for the most part. So I do appreciate them because I would need that support.

Mario Perez/USA Network

Without giving away the ending, are you happy with how things ended? Do you have any regrets about your time on the show?

I try not to live my life with regrets and understand that, good or bad, everything happens for a reason and it will all connect. Whatever the outcome may be, because of it, I’ve grown and just understood myself a little bit better and for that, I’m happy.

Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have some kind of inner-nerd so what is something you are currently nerding out about?

Something I’m nerdy about? 


I’m nerdy about the way the mind works. I’m nerdy about the way the way people think and why people do the things that they do. I’m nerdy about the psychological aspects of things.

Did you ever study it or take a class in psychology or anything like that?

I’ve never studied it, but I’ve always wanted to do that. But it’s just too many years of school and I was like, “Okay. It’s not for me.” I’ll be a psychologist at heart or something. But it’s always been so intriguing to me, just understanding the mind.

Part 1 of the Temptation Island season 2 finale airs tonight, Thursday December 12 at 10/9c on USA. Make sure you follow Esonica on Twitter and Instagram.

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