For fans of the Netflix series The Ultimatum, the names Lisa Horne and Brian Okoye probably incite an immediate reaction. When the couple appeared on the second season of the series, though it was only for a short time, they made a big impression. For context, Horne issued the ultimatum to Okoye as she was ready to be married to him after two years of dating. The two came on the series to see if meeting other people would leave them wanting to, indeed, marry one another, or move on with someone else. The reality of watching her partner getting to know other women present for the experience was particularly rough for Horne, who went through an emotional rollercoaster as he mixed and mingled.
By episode three, the couple made an abrupt exit from the program because she found out she was pregnant. Okoye was both shocked and over the moon about the news, and agreed that it would be best for them to leave the show and focus on themselves and their baby on the way. They returned briefly for the reunion to explain their departure, and Horne’s behavior while on the show (anxiety meets hormones gone wild), and to confirm that they did indeed have a baby. They welcomed a son named Mason in May 2023.
Months later, the couple talked with ESSENCE about life after the show, and most importantly, life as new parents.
“It feels good,” says Horne about motherhood. She also has an 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. “I feel great.”
The first-time dad agrees. “I feel amazing. I feel good. Just need to balance it all, but in the essence of it, it’s been beautiful.”
The pair filmed the show last September and left around the time that she was five weeks pregnant. In the time after they made the choice to leave, they did the work to ensure their relationship was on solid ground and to prepare for Mason — without the distractions and stress of the program.
“It was so peaceful to be able to just focus on and prepare for the baby instead of worrying more about the show,” says Horne. “I’m glad we did make the decision to leave because I couldn’t imagine having gone the rest of the show pregnant.” In addition to leaving behind their cast mates, they sidestepped conversations that were happening both on the show and on social media where people questioned if she was actually pregnant. For the record, Okoye never doubted his partner, hence the genuine joy that he displayed when she told him the news on the show.
“I think a lot of people expected me to respond bitterly or like, ‘What!?’ But this is somebody that I love and I see myself spending the rest of my life with,” he says. “One, I would never have humiliated her on national TV in front of everybody, or even behind closed doors. And two, she told me the best thing that I feel like any man would want to hear if this is truly somebody they want to be with.”
As for Horne, she didn’t hear any of that commentary until they watched the show in the summer.
“We didn’t know anything until we watched the playback back in July, so the whole time, none of that was on my mind,” she shares. “Our biggest focus was focusing on our relationship after we left because we got into therapy and we were prepared for the baby. So all of that other stuff never even reached me, and I’m thankful it didn’t because it was already a stressful time.”
In therapy, the two learned how to better communicate and to be more trusting of one another, and they also prioritized individual counseling to work on themselves. They also had to figure out where they stood on marriage and make peace with it. As shared during the reunion special, Horne still wants to get married, but their focus is on making sure that when it happens, they will stay married.
“It wasn’t just about a ring to us. It was like, this is someone that I truly love and want to be with, so I want to make it work first before worrying about marriage,” says Okoye. “I would say that marriage is still a priority to us. It’s definitely something that we’re working towards, but we’re making sure that individually and together, we are growing towards that and not doing it separately or with different intentions.”
More than four months into parenthood, they say that late nights and constant diaper changes haven’t hurt their relationship, but actually been of benefit to it. They are both on the same page, with Okoye even prioritizing date nights for the couple with help from a babysitter, and being as hands-on as possible with Mason. “Brian as a dad, it was just an eye-opening experience all in itself because even when I was pregnant, he just immediately was in protective mode and dad mode,” she says. “But especially when he got here, just seeing him as a dad, it was so beautiful. It was amazing. And still is amazing.”
Although, as a Nigerian man, he was raised watching his mom cook, clean and handle the kids while his father worked, Okoye says nowadays, things have to be different and there needs to be a balance. So while Horne takes Mason one night, he cares for him the next so the work of raising a child is truly shared.
“We’re not focusing solely on this is your role every single day. It’s like, okay, some days you might be 50% or 75, let me pick up the other 20 or 50%. So I think that’s a really big thing and a lesson that we’ve learned, and we’ve really just been doing it honestly as it comes and doing it naturally. But we also have set expectations for each other so we can hold each other accountable when we don’t meet that,” he says.
They work as a team for the betterment of their daughter, and their son, Mason Obinna Okoye. Obinna mean’s “father’s heart” in the Igbo language by the way, and that was a name picked by Lisa.
As they settle into being a family of four, they share that they wouldn’t be against doing reality TV again if there was an opportunity to do something family focused. But when it comes to another experience like they had on The Ultimatum, they’re both in agreement: they would “never do anything like that again.”
According to Horne, “It was intense. There were challenges people didn’t get to see, which obviously didn’t sit well for someone that was already high stress coming in.”
“It took a toll on you,” he adds.
But thankfully, going through that experience has been to the benefit of both the couple and their family as a whole.
“It was really stressful just hearing the comments and hearing things that weren’t true and things like that. But you just have to take it with a grain of salt because regardless, that is what’s filmed. That’s what’s out there. Those were the actions displayed,” says Horne. “But after everything, having to go through it with the person that you love and having that support has been pretty amazing, because even that in itself made us even more stronger because you have someone who is like, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter what people say, it doesn’t matter whether good or bad, it doesn’t matter their opinion because this is our family. This is what we’re protecting. This is what we have prayed for.'”
“I think that being that me and Lisa are on the same page, and that we are happy where we are and where we’re going, it gives you peace of mind versus listening to the outside noise or listening to what the media is saying or what people on social media are saying, because that stuff can really get into your head,” Okoye adds. “But us being able to dial it back and just focus on our family first and be normal people, which we truly are, that really gives us peace of mind and allows us to just grow as people and as partners.”