Cortney Hendrix On Love, Life, And Married At First Sight - Exclusive Interview

Cortney Hendrix has come a long way since Married at First Sight. The former reality TV star was just 26 when she tied the knot with Brooklyn firefighter Jason Carrion, fell in love, and ultimately divorced in one of the show's most devastating breakups. The North Carolina native has grown up a lot since then, and she has no regrets about undergoing the intense social experiment on national television. That's because, since her life was being filmed, she was able to literally rewatch her mistakes and work to change them, which led her to find the happily-ever-after she deserves with her new husband, Sherm. "I honestly do not have regrets about it," she told us. "There were obviously uncomfortable moments, but there were so many lessons that I learned."

The List sat down with Cortney over Zoom and she opened up about everything from why she and Jason ultimately called it quits to her fairytale love story with Sherm. She also spilled some tea on what really goes on behind the scenes at Married at First Sight weddings. Spoiler alert: lots of interviews and alcohol. And she also dished on how in-depth the casting process actually is.

Here's our candid conversation with the Married at First Sight alum on finding herself — and love — again, this time without all the cameras. The new bride, who is now making plans to grow her family, is living her best life, and we are here for it!

At the altar, Cortney Hendrix was instantly attracted to Jason Carrion

What was going through your mind when you first saw Jason at the altar?

Well, so I didn't have any family there and I was walking down the aisle by myself. So I had to give myself these pep talks, and I mean, I did have two bottles of champagne that day and I wasn't even fazed. My nerves were okay but it was probably the champagne, but I mean, when I first saw him, I remember thinking he looked terrified. I thought he was cute. I was attracted to him, but I remember seeing his ears, and his ears were so red and I get something I call "hot ear." When I am nervous, embarrassed, or have anxiety, my ears look like you lit them up with match. They are so red and his were too. And I remember thinking, "This guy is so scared. We can't have two people up here freaking out about this. Suck it up, buttercup, and let him be the freak-out and you be the calm one."

So what were the best and worst parts of that day?

The best part was my best friends being there. I was really worried that, because I didn't have any family there... I didn't know what it was going to be like having family there, and if I'd have to cater to them, knowing that they didn't want me to do it. And I was also really concerned that whoever I was marrying was going to have a lot of family there and then I'd just be bombarded with questions of, "Well, why aren't your parents here? Blah, blah, blah." So it was good that it worked out that neither of us had family there and it was just our friends. I mean, it was one of the best days because it was such a great party. It was so much freaking fun, but then they dragged us away for two hours to do interviews, separate, together, and cooking the questions for both of us of, "Okay. Well, where are your parents?" And asking him, "Are you going to tell her where your mom is?"

And his mom was very sick with cancer and had just had a treatment the day before, and that's part of the TV thing. They want to get that aspect of it, but I remember us both saying to each other, "Well, we just missed two hours of our reception." So when we get back in there, our friends are bombed already. They were living their best life. But I remember after that, we messed up walking into the reception too. The wedding planner had told us multiple times, "Stop at the cake and cut it," and we didn't. We just kept walking and we were saying hi to everyone and then we sat up at the front and talked the whole time instead of eating. I don't think we ever ate until... No, I never ate that day.

How the Married at First Sight's experts determine matches

What are some of the questions you were asked during the casting process that you think the experts based your match with Jason off of? 

So the experts are different now than they were when I went through this. We had four different experts. I think they're down to three, but one of the things that stuck out to me was when I met with the religious expert. It was very important to me that faith and God be the center of a marriage. That was actually a deal breaker for me. Because if someone practiced a different faith than me, it wasn't going to work out. And I wasn't interested in trying to make that work out. So that was a deal breaker. They had to want to be a father because I want to be a mom and that wasn't something that I was willing to negotiate. 

And I feel like there was one more... Oh, something stupid about money. I said, "Oh yeah, I want him to make four times as much as I did." Well, that was unrealistic for me to say, but it didn't work out that way, but those were important questions. So Logan [Levkoff], the sexologist — she's not on there anymore, but I think it's more appropriate to call her a sex educator now — she really asked the things about gender roles which before that, I didn't realize were as important as they were because I've always been very strong and independent because I was raised that way. And I usually had the attitude of, "Oh, I don't need a man."

Well, what I realized is I might not need one, but I want one. And I wanted a partner, and there were certain things that I wanted the man in my life to take care of. And so that was another important thing, I wanted to be taken care of. And then the physical stuff, she straight-up asked — she said, "What are you attracted to? Say what you like, say what you don't like, and don't be a brat about it," I guess. Some of these people were like, "Oh, I'm not attracted to him." That's your own fault because you were asked, and if you didn't say the truth, that's your own fault.

I was wondering, did you give an example of maybe a celebrity you're attracted to, or you just give physical attributes?

Attributes, but then also they gave us a packet of paper that probably had 100 different pictures on it. And we had to go through and rate the people based on physical looks... I feel like it was a scale from one to five. And then they came back and said that all of our pictures were in there and that I rated Jason, I rated Doug [Hehner, from Married at First Sight's Season 1]. I rated everyone.

Oh, you rated the other male contestants from your season too. That makes a lot of sense. 

I don't remember seeing anyone in there. I feel like maybe I saw Vaughn [Copeland, from Married at First Sight's Season 1], but maybe not, and so they really tapped into every different type of person you could have. And so that was really part of the physical. I don't know if they do that anymore, but they did that with us.

For Cortney Hendrix, Jason is now just "someone that I used to know"

I listened to your YouTube Tell All where you said you have no contact with Jason whatsoever. Is that still the case?

Yeah, no contact. I was literally thinking about this before we got on here. It's literally to the point where it's someone that I used to know. I do feel that it's better that way especially... So I'm remarried now, he's remarried. Sherm and I have talked about all of this before because we have always just been very open because I was going through healing the same time Sherm was going through healing from his past, and it was just something we needed to talk about. And I just think it's probably better for Jason and his new life to not have anything to do with Married at First Sight. I think that's probably the healthiest.

Why Cortney Hendrix decided to divorce Jason

So can you talk about your decisions to separate and divorce?

Yeah, so I can talk about the things that I've mentioned before. I wasn't really in a healthy place for a really long time. Various reasons. I mean, I didn't react as well as I thought I would being a first responder's wife. Being at home... And it's not that I didn't know anyone because I did know people. I had all kinds of friends, but I also came to kind of a crossroads where I had friends who were single, I had friends who were in relationships. And the people in relationships and marriage aren't doing the same thing that your single friends are doing. And I had to decide, okay, the nights that Jason was at work, what is it that I was going to be doing with myself? Was I going to be going out to the clubs still? Was I going to be hanging out with friends?

And then also, I went through a very long phase where I was not working consistently because I was freelancing as a makeup artist. And it's tough. There's a lot that goes into it. It's a lot of hustle. And there were lots of times where we were back to how we were during the experiment of passing each other in the night. And it just really came down to — the things I wanted in life no longer matched up with things he wanted in life. And so I always gave an example, and I still give this example to people — if this is the pie and this is how you spend your time, you've got to pick what's important to you. You have to prioritize, and I was not willing to be what was left over, and I don't think he should have accepted what was left over from me.

And that's really what it all came down to and we were relatively young. I was 26 when I went through the experiment; he was 27. I know, in retrospect, that might not seem very young to other people, especially if they got married or grew up differently, but I'm completely different now than I was then. I've grown up a lot. I see the error in my ways, which was a tough cookie to handle. A lot of social media helped me kind of see that. A lot of the bad stuff especially, not during the experiment itself, but then during the spinoffs [Married at First Sight: The First Year and Married Life], when I had to answer for some of my behavior, I couldn't blame it all on editing. A little bit of it was some editing things, but I was never allowed to even say that because of the contractual obligations and things, but I had to accept my behavior.

I had to accept the criticism that I was receiving. And it took me a long time to be like, "Yeah, Cortney, you suck. These people aren't making it up. You need to reevaluate your situation." And I needed to reevaluate my relationship with God too. I was the farthest I've ever been away from Him during that. And slowly as I started to change for the better and get back to who I am truly as a person, it just really was, "It's time for this to end." We tried, we tried for a long time, we had lots of ups and downs, and it wasn't ever going to get better.

Although Cortney Hendrix ultimately healed, she wishes she would have asked for help sooner

I did watch the spinoffs and was rooting for you guys. And when you were talking about your different schedules, I remember the scene where Jason got up for work and you were in bed, asking him to come back and cuddle. And it was so sad because you guys were on totally opposite schedules. 

Yeah... I remember reading the book a couple of years ago about the love languages. He and I had very, very different love languages. And I'm a needy person. I need attention. I like to be touched. I like the physical touch. I want someone with me, and how I show my love is through time. I wish I had realized this then, but automatically giving up half of your time always and even giving up holidays and knowing because we didn't have children, that the people who did have children were going to get precedent. He was always going to volunteer to work holidays and it makes sense, but it was hard. And some days I was okay with it, a lot of days I wasn't. And you have to be okay with it. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. You have to be okay with it.

So what would you have done differently? What's one thing that we saw on the show that you would have changed?

I went through some traumatic events before the show happened and some things that I started remembering a year later. And when I knew that... I guess when I started remembering things, I wish I would have asked for help and not have been too scared. I was scared to ask for help because I had cameras in my face. And even though that was not something I was prepared to be on TV about... I had friends who gave me everything I needed to do to go and get that help that I needed. All I had to do is pick up the phone and call and show up. And it took me too long to do it.

When I finally did, I was very, very grateful and I'm grateful now that healing has been able to happen and I've been able to move on, but I didn't ask for help soon enough. And I remember going back and watching the season and people even writing online, "She looks depressed. She's not taking care of herself." But I wasn't. Something as simple as washing my hair, brushing my hair, I wasn't doing that. And little things like that people started to pick up on and I was like, "I didn't realize that how I felt on the inside was coming out on the outside." I didn't realize it.

Cortney Hendrix met her new husband, Sherm, while scrolling through Instagram

To pivot totally, how did you meet Sherm? 

So I met Sherm off of Instagram, basically. I have a friend from my sorority who's actually three years younger, and we were still connected on Instagram. And I was just sitting on the toilet, looking on Instagram because I went through a period of time where I wasn't drinking at all. After I had been home in North Carolina and I had definitely been drinking way too much, and I lost a good amount of weight in a short amount of time from changing my drinking habits. But I started only drinking vodka, which isn't a good coping mechanism. And I got hurt, and that's why I have a scar right here. I fell at my friend's wedding, or the day before her wedding in London.

Wait, were you drinking straight vodka? You were mixing it, I hope.

With a little club soda, but definitely not too much. And I was in London and all that happened and I used it as a wake-up call, like, "Girl, you've got to get your life together." So I just stopped completely. And I guess it was a month into that because I was sitting there in the bathroom and I'm just scrolling, and I see this guy on my friend Casey's story. And they were on vacation with a big group of people and he's sitting like this at a bar. I think he was passed out and he actually had nice arms. And I was like, "Oh, who's that?" She was like, "Aren't you married?" And I was like, "Well, I'm separated. It's just not common knowledge yet." And she was like, "Oh, okay." So she ended up telling him that I thought he was cute.

He stalked me on Instagram a little and then messaged me. And two weeks later we went and got a drink, and we were friends for about a month and then he took me on a cruise that... I was a space filler for someone else and we went on a cruise for New Year's Eve with two of his other friends. And we've basically been together ever since. That's when we told each other we loved each other, that soon. It was perfect.

I'm in a sorority as well... we're always thankful for our sorority sisters. She came through for you.

Yeah, she pulled through, and she didn't even know she was supposed to.

Just three weeks after meeting Sherm, Cortney Hendrix knew he was The One

So you said, "I love you" that soon, but when did you know that he was the one that you wanted to marry?

So three weeks after I met Sherm, I was going through a lot, and he was going through a lot, and he had said to me one day, "This just really isn't good timing for me." And so we decided... I don't know... I guess he decided and I tried to respect it for a day, that we couldn't talk anymore. And I could not stop crying. I was a freaking mess and I was with my sister and she was like, "Do you love him?" And I was like, "I don't know, but I think this is... Something's wrong, something's wrong." And, basically, after that, I told Sherm, "Look, if we can't be romantic, okay, but we're going to be... I want to be in your life. I want to be in your life in some sort." And so we ended up taking it from there and healing together because he was going through a divorce too, or he'd already gone through it, but the feelings that come with it, they last for a long time and all those phases. And so we did it together, but... I don't know. I want to say like three weeks I knew that something was special, and something was different, and I wanted to throw up constantly when he said he couldn't speak to me. I was like, "This is not right." And then I won.

As for her experience on Married at First Sight, Cortney Hendrix has no regrets

Going back to Married at First Sight, how did being on the show and also your marriage to Jason change the path of your life? Do you have any regrets about going through the process?

I honestly do not have regrets about it. There were obviously uncomfortable moments, but there were so many lessons that I learned, just these huge life lessons. And people tell me, "If you got divorced, that means you regret it." And I don't see it as that because I really view it as we were in each other's lives for the season we were meant to. There were certain things that happened that I helped him get through, certain things that happened that he helped me get through. And we really balanced each other out. And we fought for each other and fought for our marriage for a really long time. 

But how my life has changed... Growing up, I wasn't like, "Oh, I want to be a makeup artist." Growing up, I wanted to be an actress and I wanted to be on a soap opera. Back then, reality TV wasn't a thing. I never really thought I'd be on reality TV. I also didn't realize the feeling of being yourself on TV versus other people playing a character on TV. I personally could not separate real life from TV. I act the exact same way on TV as I do in real life. I didn't play things up; I wasn't a persona. And so I think that that was good for me because I stayed true to who I am. There's nothing that happened or that I did or that I said that I could be like, "Oh, that wasn't actually me being authentic."

And I think because of that, now as it's transitioned into my life, yes, I do have a high Instagram following; I do have that community. I have had doors open for me for work, for a little bit of monetary things. But other than that, I'm so boring and so normal I think, which I'm thankful about. I think that being on the show too made me realize that I belong behind the camera and not necessarily in front of it. Which really made me love — and now I miss it even more — being on set doing makeup for film and television. I really miss that. I don't need to be the talent, but I like to work with talent.

A part of something that I am very thankful for is because of the spinoff show, I was able to pay off my student loan debt. I was able to do that at a young age when my friends weren't able to. I think I had a 500 credit score at that time because I had defaulted on my student loans for so long. I remember that was a storyline, but no one ever said that it was student loans. It was just, "Cortney's got debt." And Jason was like, "Yeah, you've got debt; I've got savings." And I was like, "Oh, no." I wanted to fight on TV.

What Cortney Hendrix wants future Married at First Sight stars to know

If you had to give advice to the current people who are on the show or future contestants, what would it be?

In the beginning when you're applying, to be truthful about everything. Do not go on the show to get famous, because no one on this show is famous, in my opinion. No one. Yeah, I'll just leave it at that. No one is famous. And also when you see yourself on TV, own your behavior whether it was right or wrong. Acknowledge the stuff that you did wrong, apologize to who you need to apologize for or to, forgive yourself, and then also learn from those mistakes. There are a lot of people... Sometimes I watch the show, sometimes I don't. But there are a lot of people that I see on the show, you can read right through them, you know their intentions and they think they're being slick. Nobody's a Slick Rick. Nobody's out to get you. Own yourself. Own your mouth, have accountability, and then if you're an a*****e on TV and that translates, change your behavior and don't continue to be one after.

I really liked you on the show and I think that's partly because I'm from New York; I say what I mean. And I guess that's why — now that you said how you were totally yourself on the show — I related to you because I thought that you were really real. And I think everyone had sympathy for you on the show because we really felt like we were going through it with you. And also because it expanded to the spinoffs, and we really got more of a sense of you guys. You were very true to yourself and I think it showed on TV.

Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I think you're right though, too. Because I've even talked to my dad about this. He was like, "People do know you because you were the same on TV that you are in real life." And he was like, "And you have to remember that people went through this with you." When I was crying, people were crying watching it because... And there were so many things that happened that were so relatable because people went through the same thing, losing a loved one, trying to pick up pieces, losing a job and trying to figure out and navigate life at a young age and oh, money. Talking about money on TV is horrid. I will say that.

Married at First Sight's Cortney Hendrix hopes to expand her family "any day now"

So congratulations on your wedding. I read in People that you guys, for COVID precautions, had people wear wristbands. Can you explain that?

Yes, so we got these wristbands on Amazon and kind of did a stoplight system. So green would mean that you tested negative for COVID and that you were okay with being around people without a mask or closer than six feet. Yellow meant that you didn't want anybody closer than six feet to you, and red meant that if you came near them you needed to have a mask on don't touch, don't hug. That sort of thing.

I saw it on The Knot's Instagram and so that's where we got it from. But our wedding was pretty small and that wasn't a COVID thing. We decided we didn't want it big even before COVID had happened because we'd been talking about it before. But then the people that didn't get to come were autoimmune compromised and grandparents and that sort of thing. And they were able to join via Zoom, which was nice.

But most of the people that were there, it wasn't necessarily a concern. Now there were obviously some concerning things going on, but we asked people to get COVID tested beforehand, at least a week before, or to quarantine for the two weeks before. And then the same thing when you go home... Everybody that was there agrees with the mask mandate. Not mandate, but the things like when you're out and about, you need to have a mask on. So that was a comfort. There wasn't anybody coming that we were concerned about either, in terms of them bringing it because they were being dodos outside. Everybody respected it the two weeks before. And so that was a relief.

So I saw on your Instagram that you want to grow your family soon. Do you have any hope for when? Do you want a big family?

Well, I hope that it's any day now. We're actively trying. No one really talks about how emotional it is because we're using ovulation sticks and making sure I know when we're ovulating and that sort of thing, and trying not to obsess about it. But if it would be today, I would be happy with that if I found out today I was pregnant. But we said we wanted two, but I would like to have twins, so one and done. But then I also look up on Instagram how big your belly gets, and I just don't know if it's possible. In an ideal situation, we would like a boy and a girl, but I'll take healthy over anything.

Catch Cortney and all previous seasons of Married At First Sight on Lifetime. New episodes of Season 12 are now airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.