Did OWN’s ‘Ready to Love’ create any actual couplings?

One cast member contracted a rare brain flu and is in ICU
Michael and Shea appear to have found true love on OWN's 'Ready to Love."

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Michael and Shea appear to have found true love on OWN's 'Ready to Love."

Originally posted Saturday, December 29, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Will Packer, the Atlanta mogul who helped produce hit films such as "Think Like a Man" and "Girl's Trip," has jumped into TV recently and his first effort at reality TV "Ready to Love" concludes its run tonight with a reunion show.

Packer brought in eight Atlanta-based men and 12 women in their 30s and 40s seeking serious relationships. He mixed them up to see if any of them could end up as couples. He also focused on how the guys thought about dating and relationships.

It’s a much more mature show than, say, “The Bachelor” and the couples generally deal with things with restraint, intelligence and prudence. This may not have necessarily made firework-level TV featuring security guards and thrown drinks, but it fits in the OWN world. Oprah does not do stupid.

First off, the women narrowed the men down to three. Then those three men narrowed it down to three women by episode nine: Mike Gould and Shea Styles, Alexx Banks and Ashlee Akins, Aaron Cotteral and Angel Frank. 

Sadly, Alexx  couldn't make it to the reunion show, which aired December 29 for tragic reasons. Around Thanksgiving, he contracted a rare brain flu that landed him in the hospital where he was placed in a medically-induced coma. His mom created a GoFundMe page to help the truck driver out with medical bills since he is uninsured. Her last update two days ago indicates he's still alive but didn't provide details.

On the reunion show, Ashlee said Alexx was feeling ill and they thought it was just a common cold but none of the over-the-counter stuff was working. Three times, he was taken to the ER and sent home. The fourth time, his health clearly deteriorating, he was finally admitted. “His lungs collapsed and his kidney is damaged,” she said tearfully. “I’m not married but I love him.”

She said their relationship had been going well. “I couldn’t wait to see him every day, talk to him every day,” she said. “I miss my friend. I miss him! We got something good. It’s real.”

Thanks to the reunion show airing, there has been a rush of donations.

During a press event at the Gathering Spot earlier this month, I spoke with Mike and Shea  as well as two of the women who were not picked: Stormy Monroe and Shatava Lindsey. (Aaron - who liked to juggle women on the show - and Angel decided to part as friends and not remain dating.)

Shea, who works with Chrysler traveling to international auto shows and also at V-103, said she thought Mike’s initial move beckoning her over was a turn off. But she quickly fell in love with him as the laughed at the same jokes. They were so into each other, the show producers had to intentionally force Mike to talk to other women.

“I’m a rule breaker,” Mike said. “I didn’t care about the TV show and what rules they have.”

Naturally, after the show taping ended, they had to keep their relationship under wraps: no public appearances. Mike admitted he was worried about “The Bachelor” effect: as in, once the cameras were off, would their love end up feeling ephemeral? Shea also panicked.

But they have managed to do okay, Mike said. “I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It wears on us, all the public pressure. We’re in a good space. We even did a video where we read bad comments from social media like Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets. You can’t take that too seriously. Right now, she’s the most important person in the world to me. And vice versa. I want to keep it that way.”

Shea admitted she wasn’t all that happy about everything that happened on the show but weathered it. During episode 8, she walked out out of the cabin momentarily after an argument. She said she was super anxious but Mike committed to her and they were able to work things out.

Stormy said she enjoyed the experience despite not finding the love of her life. (She was interested in the charismatic Aaron at first but she figured out that he really playing the field and gave several women the impression they were his No. 1. "You a clown," said one of those women, Shanta Duncan.)

Given her busy life as a DJ, she said the show gave her a chance to meet men she otherwise wouldn't meet. Like a lot of women, she said this was a way to focus on herself for once as opposed to others. She said she did make a connection with one of the guys who didn't make the final three, pastor Chris Evans, and hasn't ruled that possibility out.

Shatava wished the show had provided a more even distribution of men and women. “A lot of them were eliminated way too fast before we got to know them,” she said. But overall, she felt it was a positive experience and like most everyone on the show, she worships Oprah, who went to her alma mater Tennessee State University.

In past dating, she felt like she gave too much too quickly so she held back and listened more this time around. She also had a relationship last six years without a full commitment and she is no longer in the mood to deal with that again.

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