“I was like, there’s no way,” the 28-year-old tells ESSENCE. “Because after working for so long in this industry, you just don’t come across opportunities like that.”
The former Miss Teen USA 2010 switched from pursuing a career as a doctor of dermatology to study to be a TV host after her work as a beauty queen gave her a number of opportunities to be on camera. Once she handed off her crown, Crawford worked hard for years to make something happen.
“I started going to Fordham University and studying communications there. But, while I was there, I was also creating a reel and doing local red carpets and just trying to get my feet wet in the TV hosting industry,” she says. “I would be in class, supposed to be studying and learning, but I would be sending my material out and my media kit out to different local news stations and trying to get spots on there doing fashion, TV, beauty segments and stuff like that.”
She kept at it for some time, until seven years later, someone in casting for Catfish reached out to see if she’d be interested in guest hosting with star Nev Schulman. The show was a favorite of Crawford’s, who had been a fan since the 2010 documentary. She was inevitably brought on as a full-time host and has been on the often wild ride that Catfish can be ever since. Going from a fan to a face on the series has helped Crawford ask the questions (and have the comical, memorable reactions) that viewers can relate to. But being on the other side, learning of the experiences of those who come to the show for assistance and hearing why people catfish, has also allowed Crawford to be compassionate, especially in pandemic times.
“I always try to come from a place of empathy because I feel like we get a lot further in our conversations when we frame it in that way. But definitely, for a lot of the episodes we’ve been filming, a lot of people have been saying that they’ve been talking to the people online for a year or two years, right kind of at the start of the pandemic. Or at least the pandemic became a good excuse as to why these catfish could not actually meet up in person,” she says. “Then on the side of the catfish, there are a lot of people who started this because they were lonely during the pandemic and they didn’t know what to do.”
So now more than ever, Crawford says she and Schulman are looking to give people the space to be open about how they feel and how they’ve been handling things as they try to make connections in the COVID era. Still, this is Catfish we’re talking about. So for all of the moments of understanding and heartstring tugs, there is also plenty of mess. Crawford says the levels of it still surprise her and her co-host as they continue with Season 8.
“We’re shocked time and time again. Sometimes we think, oh, the person is who they say they were, this is going to be great. This relationship can go somewhere. Then one of the people in the situation is like, ‘actually I never wanted this in the first place. I’m sorry.’ What could have been a beautiful love story becomes a nightmare for the other party. It’s just chaos,” she says. “It’s strange. Nev and I are always looking at each other, like what the hell are we even in?”
To help you avoid your own chaos as you navigate the dating scene during these turbulent times, we asked Crawford how to best ensure the people you’re getting to know are who they claim to be. Here’s what she offered.
Make Sure Photos Are Consistent
We’ve had a few instances where the person we’re helping is like, “oh, I’ve been talking to this person, they’re so good-looking” and this and that. Then they show us the pictures and it’s pictures of different people, like three different people, four different, five different people. Do you really think that this is the same person? I’m always saying this is just five different light-skin girls. This is not the same. And they’ll be like “oh, I didn’t even notice that.” I’m thinking, what? We have to do better. Just because someone is attractive, off first glance, let’s look a little bit more into it. Really examine the photos. Make sure that the photos are of the same person consistently.
If They Can’t Do on-Camera Communication, Cut Them off
If the person isn’t willing to hop on a video call with you within two weeks, I like to say, of meeting on an app, even if you want to be lenient and give them three, you might as well just log off. There’s no excuse at this point that you can’t video chat with someone for 10 minutes. Be cautious of excuses, just random excuses as to why people can’t talk to you on the phone or can’t meet up or can’t video chat or whatever. There could be something that they’re hiding every single time.
Use Your Intuition — and Common Sense
You have to just use your intuition and trust your gut because you never know if that person could be lying to you about what they look like, but they could also be lying to you about whether or not they’re married or have kids, or different things like that. So it’s important to just use a little bit of common sense and trust your intuition.
Scour the Internet
I think the Internet is fair game. I would Google. I would Twitter search. I would do it all because first of all, even if you are who you say you are, I want to make sure that you’re not on Twitter embarrassing yourself and potentially me, if we get into a relationship. I want to make sure you’re not posting any weird nonsense. I’m not even going to be specific because, Lord forgive me, surely you’re not some crazy nut on the Internet and tweeting conspiracy theories and stuff.
Ask Questions the Right Way
It’s definitely harder to figure out if somebody is in a relationship or not. But I think you need to just search as much as you can. If the line of questioning gets to it, then I would ask do you have kids? No, I don’t have kids. Are there any kids out in the world that call you dad? You have to revise the question, right? Married? No, not married. Is there any woman out there who considers you to be their husband or boyfriend or their girlfriend? I need to know all this information. So, sometimes you do have to reword the question because these people out here will be like, “Well, you never asked me that!” Make sure whatever that is, you ask. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. In this day and age, if someone is offended or put off by you asking basic questions, then that’s probably already a red flag.