unmarried alum Becca Tilley Has come a long way since her fabled flat stomach tea era of 2015. “It was a rite of passage, and then you look back and you think, why, why would I ever do that? Especially when I started working with brands that came from the first show, I knew no one else was doing it. So it was very unfamiliar to me and I was doing all my own deals. Like none of my management company or anyone helped me. I myself was negotiating my own brand deals and Flat Tummy Tee was one of them. And then I posted it and people got really upset with me. I realized that I have to be careful who I say yes to. I couldn’t say yes just because of money,” he recalls with embarrassment. His audience quickly reminded him of his influence and new responsibilities as an influencer. Becca initially approached brand deals as a deal breaker, thinking her 15 minutes of fame could end at any moment. The misstep taught him to be more aware of his approval. “I didn’t know how long I would do this. And so for me, I thought, ‘When this season unmarried Broadcasting and people being interested in me, I can make some extra money doing it. My mindset was to say yes to everything because who knows when it will go away. But I think the Flat Tummy T thing was a moment of, ‘Okay, if it’s going to last longer than I thought, I can’t say yes to everything. There has to be a moral compass.” Protecting his audience becomes paramount. “I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities and a lot of money to make sure I know what I’m talking about and the products I’m talking about. If I ever preach something that was potentially harmful to someone, it eventually comes back to me. This is something you need to be aware of. Some people might say it’s not that deep, but for me, I think that moment was one of clarity where I thought ‘If you’re going to do this, you’ve got to do it right.’

June marks a new chapter for Becca, as she finally decides to go public with her relationship with singer Hayley Kyoko after four years. Despite being transparent about their bond, Becca found that announcing their relationship to her audience brought an unexpected wave of relief. “Honestly, I didn’t really expect to lose weight or feel lighter. We weren’t public on social media or media, but we were very public in our lives. If we were at a restaurant together and someone came up to me and listened to my podcast or wanted to say hey, I always introduced Hailey as my girlfriend. So for the last four years, I didn’t feel like I had weight on me until I was in public. And then I thought, ‘Oh wow. I was carrying a weight and I didn’t realize how much lighter I would feel not having it on me or not using pronouns on our podcast and avoiding common questions like that. I feel good.” Her announcement instantly resonated with many of her followers, awakening her to the power and impact of coming out on a larger scale. “I knew people would be supportive, but I didn’t think I was ready for this much love and support. I didn’t even get past how I was going to feel to realize that my story could help other people. I didn’t even go there mentally because I was focused on going through it personally. I got so many messages from so many people who Really related to my story or people who have navigated the same things or are going through the same things. It was really nice to think, ‘This is so much bigger than me navigating the criticism.’ It’s a lot bigger than having my feelings hurt by not agreeing with my decision. It was something I was really overwhelmed by, but in a really good way.”

This realization reminds him of how far he has come in terms of his idealistic journey and how important his perspective has been in helping others come to terms with who they truly are and those around them. “I didn’t feel pressure to be public because for me, I knew that being public meant giving people a chance to criticize or give opinions about my relationship. I think what I’ve come to realize is that people are going to have opinions, whether they’re there or not. We still have control over what we share and talk about. I think it’s important to have these conversations about life and things like sexuality and religion and things that I sometimes present so shallowly. For so long, I had one view of everything and it was always on a surface level. This conversation in particular gave me the opportunity to go deeper and talk about things I hadn’t been open about in the past and like to navigate some things. So it’s opened up so much that I wasn’t thinking when I was debating, ‘Should we go public or not?’ So it’s been good. I am very positive and I am grateful for that. It’s nice to go a little deeper.” His surprise revelation is a delightful gay twist in a franchise that’s often dismissed as annoyingly heterosexual. “‘My season aired seven years ago. I’m lucky I’m able to give credit because after everything I’ve done. from unmarried is due to unmarried, but I’ve also been able to separate my life from that world a bit. I hope that if anything, it gives people a different perspective on what love looks like. And I think the whole conversation is normalizing same-sex relationships and not making it a spectacle. Just saying, ‘I’m in love with someone and maybe you don’t expect me to be in love.’ Baker’s heart was warmed by the passionate cheering for her happiness regardless of gender. “When we came out I realized a lot of people were rooting for me to find love and be happy. In my mind, they were only rooting for that if it was with people and I think the best way possible, I recognize that many people just love love. It’s important to have this conversation to normalize it and not make it seem so different or unique. It’s the same thing. We hear ‘love love’ all the time, but it’s as simple as that. It’s having that conversation and showing people that.”

Hayley showed him the qualities of weakness. “I’ve never been in love before Hayley and I was really scared. I had pride in being the ‘cool girl’ who didn’t let her guard down. When I met Hayley and we fell in love so quickly, it was all feelings. It was scary. It was exciting. It was like a whirlwind. That’s basically what everyone always told me. I was experiencing it for the first time and with a woman for the first time. I think our relationship has opened my eyes to a love that I never really saw for myself because our love is a beautiful partnership in the sense that we both strive. It’s also so effortless because we love each other so much that putting in the effort doesn’t feel like work. We want to have the best relationship, so we do what we want to do.” When two perspectives enmesh, a beautiful mural can be painted. I would never open my heart or mind without someone whose thoughts I love and respect. In that direction. It may be different than I expected, but we always say to each other, ‘You are my safe place.’ And I think what you really hope for in a relationship is to find that feeling specifically.” Beca doubted if true love was really in the cards for her. “I always thought I was very emotionally tough. Even when I was with Hayley. I was still very single when we met and I was very content being single because my whole thought process was ‘If I don’t want to hang out with that person all the time, I just want to be. Single.’ I like being alone. I always thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen for me. I was okay with that. And then when I met Hayley, I thought, ‘It was worth the wait.'” He just found the woman of his dreams. Panni, he also discovers the vibrancy of an entire community and an extended family that will hold his hand every step of the way. Welcome home, Becca. The door is always open for you.

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Becca Tilley is coming home. Photo credit: Courtesy of Becca Tilley.