The premise of MTV's The Challenge is to participate in physical competitions with the ultimate goal of winning a cash prize. Unfortunately, every cast member can't win that money, but sometimes they gain a lot more. The Challenge: Final Reckoning contestant Natalie Negrotti has found comfort in being her true self and a passion to educate others after being, as she claims, "outed" by a castmate. And despite any past drama, she's shifting the focus to the positive.
Being so open about her personal life wasn't something the Big Brother alum actually intended to do when she joined The Challenge. In a recent interview with Bustle, she shares what compelled her to sign up for the show, airing Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on MTV, in the first place. "I'm very competitive," Natalie explains over the phone. "I love competing. I've been an athlete my whole life. Because I competed my whole life, the opportunity just fit."
And she's so right — when Natalie made her first Challenge appearance last season on Vendettas, she stood out as a top-notch competitor. Now she shines for being an eternal optimist determined to use her platform for the greater good. During the July 17 episode of Final Reckoning, Natalie stated in an on-camera interview, "So I'm pansexual, and I'm OK with that now."
Sadly, she didn't exactly share that information on her own volition. During the same episode, she claimed her costar "Kayleigh [Morris] outed me on social media," as images of Instagram comments appeared on the screen. For her part, Kayleigh has addressed this storyline in a series of tweets and claims that she did not "out" her costar and described going on reality TV as a "risk." Her posts make it clear that she and Natalie view this situation very differently.
Later in that same episode, Natalie confessed,
"I wasn't ready, and I haven't even got the opportunity to tell my whole family. She just did it in a really malicious way, and that's not fair to me. But I know that I'll never forget and I'll never be her friend."
However, now months later, Natalie tells Bustle, "I've moved on. I forgive her... I just want to use this platform [to] educate people about what to do, but to also emphasize let's not throw hate at Kayleigh. Two wrongs do not make a right."
It would be easy for most people to get consumed by anger in this type of situation, but that's definitely not the case for Natalie; she's looking at the bigger picture. "Let's help the people that need [support], so we can prevent this from happening to someone else who could potentially end up really depressed from it or go into a downward spiral and commit suicide," she says, not taking the matter lightly.
She continues, "So many people don't realize the severity of the situation. There is so much that I haven't even shared. The backlash for what she did was actually kind of dangerous because the fanbase was trying to hack into my account and even hack into my loved ones' accounts because of what was revealed. So it's really dangerous in so many more ways than people can imagine."
But now, Natalie is turning the tough experience into a positive one. She declares, "It really was an awful time for me, but I'm not hurt by it anymore. I just want to take an educational stance on it."
Ironically enough, one person who Natalie wants to benefit from this experience is Kayleigh. "I hope she has learned a lesson from it," Natalie says. "I hope she can use her platform for good now instead of doing things like that. I don't wish hate on her. I know she's a good person, but everyone makes mistakes and everyone can lash out from a place of anger."
Natalie adds, "I haven't really spoken to her since we filmed, but I hope that she has learned. I hope that moving forward that everyone can just learn from the situation." Maybe these two can find closure when they film the reunion for this season.
On the flip side, there have been costars Natalie leaned on throughout this whole ordeal. She shares, "I would say Cara Maria [Sorbello] and also my partner [Paulie Calafiore]. He's been supporting me through it all so I got really lucky, but Cara Maria is one of my best friends on the show."
Trust me, this is not a pity party. I'm OK. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm happy.
The support from Paulie was something that she never saw coming, since Natalie and Paulie were paired as partners because of their pre-existing rivalry on Big Brother Season 18. She recalls, "He was my arch-enemy on Big Brother. We had the biggest feud of the season, but he is a great competitor and I can never take that away from him." Paulie has been more than just solid teammate for Natalie. Their relationship has come a long way, thanks toThe Challenge.
Speaking of Paulie and Cara Maria, she says, "They both tell me that they love me for who I am and to always be myself. If people don't like me for me, that's on them and not on me, and they're missing out. They have just been so supportive. They are friends that have encouraged me to be myself and to be free."
It's amazing Natalie has found genuine support, but she can't help thinking about the others in similar situations who aren't as lucky. She asserts, "Trust me, this is not a pity party. I'm OK. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm happy. I just don't want this to happen to other people who don't have the family and the support system that I have. I'm very lucky and fortunate that I can get through all of this stuff."
Beyond Natalie's family, friends, and costars, she's also received some encouragement from viewers, revealing, "Only three episodes in, I've gotten more love than I've ever gotten on any show."
The fan interaction goes beyond "love," though. Natalie explains, "I feel like now people can really relate to who I am, and they're not so confused. In the past people used the word 'fake' to describe me. 'She's so fake,' but it was only because I was never true to my authentic self out in the public because I kept that part of my life private."
She continues, "No matter what, you're not the only one who's going to experience this. You're not the last person who's going to experience this. All you can do is educate people and do everything in a positive manner."
Everyone's circumstances are unique, but Natalie does have some wise words for people who have been through something similar: "It's OK to be yourself. Don't be afraid. Everyone is different. Live your truth." Of course, it's a lot easier said than done, as she adds, "You might have to clean house, but you'll be left with the people who truly support you, love you for you, and have the best intentions for you."
The Challenge: Final Reckoning is still airing, so the viewers don't know who the actual winners are — especially with the show's notorious twists and turns. No matter who gets that grand prize, it's fair to say that Natalie is a "winner" this season. She's gained much more than a check.
"I feel so empowered now," she declares. "I feel like myself. I don't feel like I'm drowning. I don't feel like I'm being restricted anymore... Now I am my true authentic self 100 percent of the time and it's a good feeling."
Being on The Challenge has changed Natalie's life for the better. She has managed to turn an enemy into a close friend, become comfortable with who she truly is, and most importantly, find the platform to help others.