As another season of Married at First Sight ends, and a whole new opportunity for singles to find love at the altar prepares to begin in the new year, unforgettable Season 12 alum Paige Banks is working on one of her most important relationships — the one she has with herself.
After a rollercoaster experience, marrying fellow Atlanta resident Chris Williams and dealing with the tumult of that unhealthy relationship, along with the online criticism of viewers, Banks is moving forward, happy and healthy.
“I feel like I’m in a more refreshed, refined place,” she tells ESSENCE. “Last year was very turbulent to say the least, but the best thing about it was it was an opportunity for extreme growth.”
For Banks, an accountant, of all the things experienced during her time on the series, she’s grateful to have a better understanding of who she is and why she handled things a certain way in the past. She saw the ways in which she attempted to uphold her marriage, to the detriment of herself. Now she’s asking, how does Paige take care of Paige? She’s found the answer in a variety of ways, including by going to a therapist, the “right” therapist, and wants to continue to nurture herself and her path forward with additional assistance.
“I have my weekly therapy sessions. I think that those should be ongoing just to identify who Paige is and stay true to that,” she says. “I also want to invest in a life coach to help me stay firm on the direction of where my life is heading.”
She’s also been protecting her spirit, including from much of the negativity she witnessed on social media during her season. As she tried to making things work with Williams, despite continuous disrespect, people either looked at her as a victim, which she never wanted to be, or lashed out at her for trying to keep her vows.
“I feel like more so recently, I’ve had a lot of Paige supporters,” she says. “I’m very grateful for them, but it was really rocky during the season.”
But she understands the questions people had about the way she handled things.
“I think I was so invested in the ideation of marriage, this process. I put so much trust in what could have been, as opposed to really recognizing what was right in front of me,” she adds. “There was definitely a lot of naiveté. I should have walked away after the wedding, but I wanted to see it through.”
There are no regrets, though. In addition to being able to see what she needed to about herself, Banks also was able to help other women spot toxicity in their own relationships.
“I’ve received a lot of positivity and a lot of transparency in regards to women who have gone through similar accounts that I’ve been through in their marriages, relationships,” she says. “I’ve had a lady tell me how she decided to walk away after it was a long-term relationship, I think 10-plus years, just after seeing my situation. So, just seeing those testimonies, I understand that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Someone who has been feeling some shame though is her ex. Williams has had plenty to say online about his time on the show, the ex-fiancé who ended up being a third party in their marriage, and about how he ultimately treated Banks. He’s gone back and forth from being defiant to apologetic. But as Banks made clear during our conversation, she no longer speaks to him, and has no interest in even speaking about him.
“It’s so funny how people slide in my DMs, trying to tell me what other people have to say,” she says. “‘Girl, did you see what…’ I’m like, ‘No, thank you though.'”
“I’m not perfect, I never claim to be, but the reason I don’t want to speak on him is because there’s just nothing to speak about at this point,” she adds. “He is a grown man and he can deal with his own actions accordingly, and I’ll handle mine as well. I don’t really have anything to say. Did I see it? Yes. Do I have a comment about it? No.”
Her focus these days is on being a support to other women. One way is through an empowerment conference she’s putting on with fellow MAFS Season 12 alums Briana Myles and Haley Harris called the Journey to Self (happening Jan. 23 at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta). She’s also writing her first book. Turning the Paige, set to be released in late 2022 through Touch Point Press, will spotlight journal entries created during her time on the show. It will put a spotlight on things she went through that connect to life experiences before she was picked to marry at first sight.
“‘The Blacker the Berry’ talks about colorism, how I’ve dealt with that in my adolescence and now, and what that looks like in dating,” she says of the contents of her upcoming book. “‘Call me crazy, but…’ there was a lot of the ‘girl, Paige is crazy for staying with him,’ but why? We talk about it. I talk about my childhood traumas, dealing with people of predatory behavior and how understanding physical boundaries can affect your relationships, dating and things like that.”
The book also details incidents in her childhood that led to her internalizing a need to protect the Black men in her life, even when their behavior towards her was harmful. Identifying these things and the ways in which they have impacted her relationships, she hopes to help other women in similar situations.
“Writing this book was important for me, and understanding that women of all ages, teenagers, older women can relate to a nugget, probably a phrase in my book. I really wanted to be raw and authentic in that aspect.”
Also important to Banks in her journey, as fans of the show may recall, is her faith. Though she would say she was “crumbled” in different ways by having her heart and emotions toyed with on national television, her belief system was left stronger. Because of that, she isn’t sorry that she did the show or about what people saw her go through. She is grateful that who she is now is better and more secure than the woman she was when she walked down the aisle and onto our TV screens. She is working to be the best version of Paige Banks for her future husband and most importantly, for herself.
“I think for me, [God] just allowed me to see a full lens of areas that I have to work on within my self-worth and how I view myself, because I’m not going to let a man, monkey, dog, cat, woman define my worth as a human being,” she says. “That was my biggest area to work on, and I’m grateful for that, because if you’re not loving on yourself, ain’t no other man or woman going to know how to love on you as well. So, I’m just very fortunate to understand the journey in which I had to take and not think of everything as a negative, instead, thinking of the blessings in disguise.”