The immigration-focused reality television dating series, “90 Day Fiancé,” has entertained the viewers for the past eight years, capturing the top spot in the TV ratings list for having drawn a huge chunk of the viewing public in 2021 for non-news shows on cable TV. Interracial relationships are put to the test for 90 days, and not all of them succeed in securing a happily ever after ending. There was a buzz on social media that some of those who participated in the program suffered a tragic loss, and fans wondered if they were just gossip fodder, or if there was some truth to it.

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The background on “90 Day Fiancé”

There was a time in the beginning, when “90 Day Fiancé” was thought of by most people as a dating show, in which the participants had to fall in love with their partners over the span of 90 days. However, in the show, the participating couples were already in a serious relationship, and were planning to take the next step.

The premise of the TV show

The main reason there was a show at all, was the fact that there was this American immigration requirement called K-1 Visa. Any non-US resident can marry an American citizen, and then stay in the US legally provided that the marriage takes place within 90 days of the foreigner arriving in the country, otherwise, US government immigration officers were required by law to issue deportation orders. In “90 Day Fiancé,” viewers witnessed how the engaged interracial couples navigated through their socio-economic and cultural differences for about three months.

TV Premiere

“90 Day Fiancé” made its television debut on 12 January 2014, produced by Sharp Entertainment for the TLC network. The premise was perfect, as the reality-TV show seized the interest of the major cable TV audience. It drew skepticism from some viewers, as the engaged couples scrambled to make their marriage plans work within the deadline. Naturally, people were curious about the K-1 Visa, because apparently not everyone was aware of the specifics surrounding this law that allowed non-residents to live and work in the US for good. The show became an eye-opener as well as a great conversation debate if the love between the couple was real, or if the foreigner was just aiming for the elusive green card.

Nine seasons and counting

The continuously high TV ratings that “90 Day Fiancé” received since its launch confirmed the ingenuity of its creators. Whether it captured the imagination of every single hopeless romantic who wanted a foreigner for a spouse, or the practical idea of getting an easy passage to the US through marriage with a resident, more people were hooked each year. For nine seasons, the producers have presented to the audience the realities and intricacies of international dating. The narrative on each episode didn’t begin and end with just the couple in it, as each of their stories involved their families as well. It was like watching a daytime drama series, but with regular people instead of professional actors, which made it even more interesting to watch. The ninth season just ended in August 2022, with the usual dramatic flair that the show was known for in its Tell-All special episodes.

“90 Day Fiancé” 18 Spin-offs

With the continuing cable TV and streaming services expansion, there were more ways to watch “90 Day Fiancé”, and therefore more money was coming into the network’s pockets. The reality-TV series was a huge hit not only locally but globally as well, so it was a no-brainer move of the TLC executives in creating a franchise out of it. There were 18 spin-off series produced – here are just some of the most popular among them:

“90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After”

Viewers were mostly left with cliffhangers on what happened with the couples they were rooting for in the original show. The TLC executives knew that loyal fans wanted a continuation of the stories, and so they created “90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After”, which chronicled the lives of the newlyweds. It premiered on 11 September 2016, and has been just as successful as the original – the seventh season began airing on 28 August 2022.

“90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days”

The “Before the 90 Days” spin-off was the prequel to the original show. In this version, fans witnessed the thought process that went through each couple’s decisions as they made the ultimate choice of living together permanently in the US. It also highlighted how the K1-Visa played in the relationship. It made its TV debut in August 2017, and while it hasn’t been renewed officially for its 2023 season, the producers were reported to have already started interviewing new participants for the show.

“90 Day Fiancé: What Now”

When the audience continued asking for updates on social media, TLC executives created a new spin=off called “90 Day Fiancé: What Now.” The show offered the latest happenings on their favorite couples or individuals from seasons of the original show. Since marriage didn’t guarantee a happy=ever-after life, loyal fans wanted to know if the couples stayed together, or if they parted ways. It premiered in July 2017, and initially was only accessible through their online streaming service called TLCgo. When the network realized that there was a demand for it to be on TV, they combined all the clips they uploaded online, and turned them into episodes for a TV version. Fans expected the fifth season to commence this 2022 even if there was no official announcement of any renewal or cancelation after they stopped filming in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way”

Viewers often wondered if the narratives would have changed if the dynamics of the relationship were flipped over. Instead of the Americans bringing foreign spouses to the US, it’s the other way around in “90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way.” This time, the pressure was more on the US citizen to see if leaving his or her home in the name of love would be the best decision, or biggest mistake. It made its TV debut on 3 June 2019, and featured six couples who went through many ultimatums and embargos just to seek their ultimate happiness. The six foreigners hailed from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“90 Day Fiancé: The Single Life”

One of the most recent additions to the popular reality-TV franchise was the “90 Day Fiancé: The Single Life.” In this version, the production team followed the lives of those individuals who weren’t successful in achieving their happily-ever-after ending with their now-former partners. The show focused on how the unlucky cast members moved on from their disastrous relationships, and dived back into the dating scene. It premiered in February 2021, and it’s now on its third successful season.

The huge debate about “90 Day Fiancé”: Real or Scripted

Like all other reality-TV shows, the “90 Day Fiancé” franchise was accused of being scripted.  Fans were conflicted over the issue, and it didn’t help that some of the former cast members claimed that it was partly scripted, but no written script was given to them.

The Robertson family from “Duck Dynasty” fame called it “guided reality.” It meant that one of the TV producers would make suggestions on what topics to discuss, or what activity they needed to undertake for an episode, but the implementation or execution was the responsibility of the cast; some TV insiders and stars admitted that reality TV was mostly made up of this agreement. Sometimes the over-the-top drama between the 90-Day couples and their families resembled a soap opera – a narrative like this would often send some fans into a frenzy, and automatically call the show scripted on social media. The cast members weren’t professional actors to begin with, and so sometimes the audience felt they were trying too hard to push a ridiculous story arc.

With the “90 Day Fiancé” franchise’s dominance in the cable TV ratings over the years, voyeurism on the lives of other people thru the show will probably continue into the next decade. Whether scripted or real, the fans couldn’t care less.

Deaths on “90 Day Fiancé” franchise

There have been tragic losses in the cast and within their families, which tested their resilience as the K1-Visa had certain limitations on the movements of non-US residents. Here are some of the heartbreaking stories:

Guillermo Rojer couldn’t come home to bury his brother

In an episode aired in June 2022 during the ninth season of “90 Day Fiancé,” Guillermo Rojer learned that his brother, Jose Joaquin, whom to whom he was very closeh, died in the Dominican Republic from acute kidney failure. Kara Bass shared that it was soul-crashing for her fiancé not to be able to return home at that time to be with his family. Apparently, due to the K-1 Visa requirements, he couldn’t leave the US within 90 days after the documents were filed. In case of emergencies such as this, non-residents needed to get Advance Parole permission to return to their country of origin. However, they were advised that it could result in a re-application for the K-1 Visa, since it only allowed one-time entry to the US. When Guillermo and Kara eventually married a month after Jose’s passing, they paid tribute to his brother by placing a vacant chair designated for him during the ceremony.

Corey Rathgeber’s father died while he was in Ecuador with his fiancée

Corey Rathgeber was 3,000 miles away from home, when he learned that his father,Gary had passed away in January 2019. He was part of the first season of “90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way,” as he’d decided to leave everything behind and move to Ecuador permanently with his fiancée, Evelin Villegas. The former Washington resident said that his father’s sudden death from an inflamed pancreas changed his mind about his future, realizing that life was so short. When he was able to return to the US months after his father’s death, he knew that his family needed him, but he chose to be with Evelin. Some fans were highly critical of his decision, since his father was quite worried about the kind of compromises his son would make with Evelin. Apparently, she’d already taken $40,000 from Corey, bought a cocktail bar in Ecuador in her name, and declared that she didn’t want to have his babies. Gary advised him that marriage should be a give-and-take relationship; Corey should have listened to his father. as during the Covid-19 quarantine period in 2020, there were reports that the relationship wasn’t going well.

Robert and Anny’s baby died

Not all couples who participated in “90 Day Fiancé” were lucky enough to stay married like Robert Springs and Anny Francisco from Season 7. The 41-year-old father of five, Robert, from Winter Park, Florida, met the 31-year-old Anny from the Dominican Republic online, and they found many common things between them during their video chats that lasted months. They finally met face-to-face when he took a Latin American cruise that made a stopover in her country. After being with her for less than a day, he proposed to her and she accepted. When she was brought to the US, they encountered problems – Anny was offered $15,000 by one of the grandmothers of Robert’s children just so she would return home. However, they conquered all of the obstacles, and were married before the 90-day limit was up, and had a daughter in July 2020 and a son in September 2021. The fans and their co-stars were sad that in April 2022, the couple announced that their seven-month-old baby passed away after undergoing heart surgery.

Jason Hitch died during the pandemic

One of the alums from the second season of the reality-TV series, Jason Hitch, was reported to have died on 14 December 2021 due to complications from the Covid-19 virus. He was even rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but his body just gave up. To the family’s knowledge, he didn’t have any pre-existing medical condition, but was unvaccinated. His sister, Sharon, said that she held his hands before he succumbed. Jason was one of the controversial participants in “90 Day Fiancé” due to a violent altercation with his then-wife, Cassia Tavares, being arrested for physical assault, but the charges were later dropped. Jason reconciled with Cassie but their problems continued, so their marriage ended in divorce. The fans found it annoyingly funny that the couple continued on filing for divorce, then would withdraw it until they realized they were better off as friends rather than spouses. They were granted a divorce on the day of their fourth wedding anniversary. Jason was 45 years old when he passed away.

Angela Deem lost her mother, 10 days after she was married

A tragic loss happened with one of the cast members, Angela Deem, who appeared in a few “90 Day Fiancé” TV episodes with fiancé Michael Ilesanmi. She was originally in the second season of “Before 90 Days”, and then became part of the seventh season of the original series. The fans were curious as to the fate of the couple, and so they were featured in the fifth season of “Happily Ever After.” On her wedding day, about a few hours after the ceremony, she received a ‘phone call that her mother, Glenda, was found unconscious and unresponsive; she was rushed to the ICU where she remained in a coma for the next ten days before she succumbed to cancer at the age of 77. Fans of the show sent messages of sympathy, as they were aware of her mother’s condition due to her numerous shared photos of Glenda on her social media account.

Two interesting scandals about “90 Day Fiancé” stars

The TV show itself was filled with so much drama already, that it shocked some of the viewers when they learned that some of the stars were involved in scandals on a much bigger scale off-screen. Here are just some of them:

Larissa Dos Santos Lima was arrested twice

In November 2018, Brazilian Larissa Dos Santos Lima from the sixth season of the TV show was arrested after a violent scuffle with her American husband, Colt Johnson. It was interesting to note that initially, it was Larissa who called for help from the police, and when they arrived, they automatically handcuffed Colt. However, after the couple was interviewed, it was Larissa who was arrested. It happened once again in January 2019, after the couple had a major argument – the police arrived to see an injured Colt and when they questioned Larissa, she said that her husband assaulted her, but due to pieces of evidence presented, they didn’t believe her, and arrested her that day.

Jorge Nava was arrested for carrying 300 pounds of marijuana

The fourth season “90 Day Fiancé” alum never thought that he would be arrested for a serious charge, when he went out for a drive in February 2018. Jorge Nava was stopped on the road for a traffic violation, and the police discovered close to 300 pounds of marijuana inside his car. The prosecutor was originally asking for 24 years, but his lawyer was able to get a plea deal, which resulted in a much lighter sentence of two and a half years prison time.

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