Paulie Calafiore was eliminated on the Aug. 17 episode of The Challenge: USA after going head-to-head against seven-time champ Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio in the elimination ring. However, before he was sent home, he had a vulnerable conversation with Tori Deal about his sexuality, publicly coming out as bisexual for the first time in his reality television career. In an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife, Paulie admitted that coming out on the show is something he’d been grappling with for years.
“Season after season, I had come in and I had always been so on the fence about talking about it,” Paulie shared. “I recall on earlier seasons, producers were kind of being like, ‘Where is this anger coming from? What is this chip on your shoulder and why does it seem so aggressive and passionate?’ And it’s always been on the tip of my tongue, but I always worked around it by just being like, ‘Oh, I was super competitive and I got picked on blah, blah blah.’ I never really hit the nail on the head.”
However, after “years of therapy,” Paulie said he was ready to finally have that conversation this season after taking four years off from the show. “[I realized] it’s alright to have this conversation. You can still be a beast and show a vulnerable side because you’re in control of if you’re letting somebody use a vulnerability against you at the end of the day,” he explained. “I think once I came to grips with that, it was much easier for me. It was like…let’s just rip the Band-Aid off. I’m gonna blurt it out.”
In the end, Paulie was happy with how his story was told. “It came out exactly the way I wanted it to come out and it was delivered the way I wanted it delivered,” he shared. My heart was pounding the whole time, but it’s out there now and it’s a weight lifted off my back and chest.”
Paulie has been dating fellow Challenge vet, Cara Maria Sorbello, since 2018. While Cara wasn’t on this season, Paulie said that she also hopes to return in the future. “Whether we’re on a season solo or together, we’re just ready,” he shared. “We’re ready to come back and be dominant. I think we’re also both in a place where we’re not looking to let certain things be taken too personally on our side. We’re really just focused on securing ourselves as two of the most dominant players to play the game, but also as a couple, the most dominant couple to ever come from that show.”
Read more from our interview with Paulie below!
On why he was ready to return after four years off: In the time off, I built a business and I tried out for the Winter Olympics, so from a timing standpoint, it didn’t really work out in the latter part of the four years. It was just a scheduling thing. Those first two years was a little bit more of me having to take a break in terms of some things that I did to myself, essentially, to get myself removed from Total Madness and Double Agents. Then factor in COVID spreading those seasons out…it was only one season filmed per year. But I was finally able to get everything settled and I was ready to come back for this.
On why he was ready to mend fences with Josh [Martinez] and Johnny Bananas after previous rivalries: It was four years off and even though there was a lot of animosity and hatred, it’s one of those things where you come in and it’s a fresh start. Us being on a team and being in a room together definitely helped me mend that. You don’t really want to be that person who’s holding onto too many things and clouding you from that ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to win. If I’m focusing on them, I’m not focusing on winning.
So I came in with that mindset and I was able to be in that middle position and kind of understand where people were lying and be able to pick up on things faster than I would have if I was just focused on whether Johnny and Josh were trying to get me out. I would’ve missed certain things and not paid attention to certain conversations if my guard was down.
On why he started working with the vets before his elimination: [When it started], I was kind of seeing where the chips fell. I didn’t really know the people on the CBS side. I knew the vets, but I wasn’t allies with them on previous seasons we played. I was trying to ride the middle as long as I could, but the CBS people were looking at me as a competitor, rightfully so. The vets…it seemed like they needed me a little bit more, which is why I started leaning that way.
It was scary coming back. I had no ties. It’s not like I was back there with people I had worked with in the past. I was kind of on an island alone. It was challenging, but I like that challenge. If it wasn’t for the [random] Hopper, I was sitting in a pretty good place. [I only got] three votes out of an entire house and I wasn’t even considered once as the nomination to be the person down there. So if it wasn’t for that [hopper] twist, I think I could’ve really made a run.