Maya Benberry: The Ex Travis Kelce Met On A Reality TV Show

Before Swifties started tuning in to the Kelce brothers' "New Heights" podcast in hopes of getting an update on Travis Kelce's burgeoning romance with Taylor Swift, the E! network realized that the NFL tight end's love life could be a valuable source of entertainment. Thus, the reality dating competition "Catching Kelce" was born. The winner, Maya Benberry, would eventually find herself on the wrong side of Swifties.

On the 2016 series, 50 contestants — one from each U.S. state — vied for Kelce's affection. Before the eliminations began, Kelce commended the women for being fearless while talking to them like he was trying to get his teammates hyped ahead of a game. "The courage that it takes to come out here to try and pursue love, it means more than you can imagine to me. This is real life. I'm dedicated to finding the girl of my dreams," he said. But on "The Pivot Podcast," he confessed that the real reason he agreed to do the show was for the money. While chatting with "The Hills" star Kristin Cavallari on her "Let's Be Honest" podcast in September 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs player also admitted, "It was probably after the first or second day filming that I was like, 'Yeah, there's really nothing here, but we can make a show out of it for sure.'" 

Despite realizing that there was zero potential for a real love connection, Kelce still had to pick a winner, and Benberry hasn't let us forget that it was her.

She got bullied over her appearance growing up

On "Catching Kelce," Maya Benberry represented the state of Kentucky, but her birthplace is Wurzburg, Germany. One thing she had in common with Travis Kelce was her athleticism. "I've danced competitively since I was 3, ran track and field/cross country, cheerleaded competitively as well as high school cheerleading, played piano and the flute and sang in a symphony chorus," she told Sarah Scoop in 2017. Benberry also excelled in the classroom, saying that she made straight A's. However, being a stellar student didn't make her popular with her classmates, and neither did her appearance. "I guess you could say I was the ugly duckling with really thick eyebrows and a little mustache," she said in a 2016 Q&A video on her YouTube channel.

Benberry was targeted by bullies at school but would get her sweet revenge; she experienced a major glow-up that gave her a monumental confidence boost. "Things I'm obsessed with: me," she tweeted in 2022. Her good looks helped her land a job at Hooters, and she was even a contestant in one of the restaurant's regional bikini competitions in 2014. She also put her brilliant mind to use by studying elementary education at the University of Kentucky.

Benberry starred in Danny Worsnop's "Mexico" music video the same year she appeared on "Catching Kelce," and she told Sarah Scoop that she planned on doing more acting as well as modeling and launching a fashion line after her stint on the show. 

Maya Benberry didn't expect to catch Kelce

Maya Benberry decided to audition for "Catching Kelce" after learning about the series' casting call from an actor friend. However, she didn't plan on leaving the show with a boyfriend. "Girls like me never really make it far in competitions like that so I only packed a 1 weeks worth of things because I knew I would be going home," she told Sarah Scoop.

In her YouTube Q&A about her time on the show, Benberry revealed that packing too light wasn't her only problem. What she disliked most about filming the show was that contestants weren't allowed to have phones or other devices with internet access. "I don't like not knowing what's going on in the world," she said, adding, "I've never been without music, so that to me was driving me insane."

Benberry and the other contestants also weren't allowed to leave the house. "It's kind of like a jail in a way," she said. This rule intensified their rivalry not just because they were cooped up together with few sources of entertainment; the only way they could leave was if Travis Kelce invited them on one of his group dates. But despite what viewers at home saw, the contestants didn't just spend their time away from Kelce stirring up drama. "I was always in the kitchen, so I ate a lot of junk food," said Benberry. "... I drank white wine with Lexi [Noel], and we gossiped about our lives. Or I took naps."

Travis Kelce called her 'pretty arrogant'

There were some red flags that Travis Kelce and Maya Benberry weren't going to work out. In one episode of "Catching Kelce," Kelce decided that Benberry was starting to feel a bit cocky, so he leaned down as if he was going to kiss her — only to leave her hanging with her mouth hanging open. He later explained the kinda messed-up reasoning behind his makeout fakeout. "Her confidence has gotten a little too high, and it's getting pretty arrogant," he said in a confessional (via E! News).

When it came time for Kelce to choose between the final two contestants, viewers learned why Benberry's attitude bothered him so much. "I love your confidence, but at times it does get overconfident," he told her (via E! News). "It kind of shows arrogance. I have been attracted to women like that my entire life, and those relationships didn't work because of that. I don't want that anymore." At this point, it seemed as if Benberry's only remaining competition, Veronica Harwood, was going to win. But this is reality TV we're talking about, so Kelce had to come up with some reason to make the choice that viewers least expected. "I got to go with my heart," he said.

Benberry believed that the personality trait Kelce kept complaining about actually gave her an edge over the competition. "Realistically, Minorities never win things like 'Catching Kelce' and my confidence is what kept me around," she told Sarah Scoop.

Travis Kelce and Maya Benberry's sneaky romance

While discussing "Catching Kelce" during a January 2017 appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show," Travis Kelce said, "No, I did not find love." However, he didn't dump Maya Benberry as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. Ahead of the premiere, he confirmed to E! News that he and Benberry were still happily dating. But because the identity of the winner had to remain a secret until the finale, the couple couldn't go out and have a good time together whenever they wished. "We have to be mindful of where we go, who we're going to be seen in front of with. It's a little difficult right now," he said.

The secrecy sometimes sucked the romance right out of being in a new relationship. "He would always have to go to dinner and then bring me leftovers," Benberry said in her YouTube Q&A. She and Kelce eventually decided to risk venturing outside together. "I wore a hoodie and sunglasses and baggy clothes," she recalled.

Benberry fondly reminisced about one outing in Los Angeles that began with dinner at Nobu. The couple's ride from the restaurant to a movie theater was even a fun part of the experience. "We had a singing contest type thing in the Uber," Benberry said. Their night ended with Benberry convincing Kelce to watch "The Invitation" even though he dislikes horror movies. "I think that was one of my favorite dates, because it was just full of laughter," she said.

She didn't love the way she was portrayed on the show

Maya Benberry wasn't always on her best behavior on "Catching Kelce." In one episode, she said of her competition, "There are girls in this house that I feel like are B.B.B.s — bland, basic b****es" (via E! News). When someone has enough less-than-shining moments like this on a reality show, a little clever editing is all it takes to make them fit into the classic villain mold, and Benberry believes this is what happened to her. "I'm not regretting anything about it, but I do kind of hate the fact that they only show that negative side," she said in her YouTube Q&A.

According to Benberry, there was plenty of footage of her playing nice with her fellow contestants that was left on the cutting room floor. She told Sarah Scoop that some of her most genuine romantic moments with Travis Kelce also didn't make the cut. These scenes possibly would have helped some viewers who disagreed with Kelce's decision better understand why she came out on top. However, Benberry said she was told by the show's producers that they didn't want viewers to see her win coming.

Benberry feared that the heavy focus on her worst moments would hurt her professionally. "It's frustrating. I went on the show initially to promote myself in a way, and my image on the show isn't how I am in real life," she told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Maya Benberry feels like Travis Kelce let her down

During her December 2016 YouTube Q&A, Maya Benberry said that she and Travis Kelce had called it quits. However, she revealed that they were still on friendly terms at that time. "I feel like right now our relationship is the best it's ever been," she shared. But when she spoke to Sarah Scoop two months later, she said their friendship was no longer intact.

Benberry explained that she had been bombarded with hateful messages from "Catching Kelce" viewers, many of which were racist in nature. In an example that she shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, one person also dropped the c-word and called her a "wh*re" multiple times. Benberry claimed that Kelce refused to defend her from the cruel trolls. "He didn't want his fans to give him backlash for addressing all of the hatred and racism," she told Sarah Scoop. "His response was, 'Maya you're a strong Black confident woman and America wouldn't care what my white a** would have to say.'"

Left to fend for herself, Benberry's course of action wasn't to shut the trolls up by shutting down all of her social media accounts. Instead, she used the platforms to do everything she could to change people's perceptions of her. "I [became] determined to work my butt off to rebrand myself," she said. Once she controlled the narrative, the brand ambassador was able to show companies that she was not the villain portrayed on "Catching Kelce," and she started getting job offers.

She accused Travis Kelce of being unfaithful

On "Let's Be Honest," Travis Kelce told Kristin Cavallari that his focus shifted after he met all of the "Casting Kelce" contestants. Instead of trying to find lasting love, he decided to "make the best of the situation" by doing what he could to make the show enjoyable to watch. But Maya Benberry clearly saw her victory as something more than a twist ending to get viewers talking. In December 2016, she was tweeting about how she and Kelce would make "the cutest curly headed ginger babies ever."

Benberry's dreams were dashed in May 2017 when TMZ Sports reported that Kelce had moved on with model Kayla Nicole sometime in November 2016, which is when the "Catching Kelce" finale aired. Benberry viewed this as evidence that there was some alleged overlap between Kelce's relationships with her and Nicole. "When you and your ex broke up 5 months ago but you find out via social media that he has supposedly been in another relationship for 6..." she wrote in a since-deleted tweet. She also claimed that Kelce had told her he was single in February 2017.

In a September 2023 TikTok video, Lexi Noel, another former "Catching Kelce" contestant, said that she and Benberry had remained friends for a short time after filming wrapped. But she wasn't buying her ex-pal's allegations. "I actually don't condone this Travis slander," Noel said, before going on to allege, "From what I can remember, very clearly, she actually cheated on him with a very well-known artist."

Maya Benberry's other reality show appearance

Maya Benberry told Sarah Scoop that she was done looking for love on television after her experience on "Catching Kelce," but in 2018, she appeared on "Ex on the Beach." Viewers learned a lot about Benberry's relationship history when a trio of her exes showed up to see if they could stir up some old feelings — and one of them also stirred up a lot of trouble. The guy in question was Kareem Peterson, who used to play defensive back for Western Kentucky University. On the MTV reality series, Benberry learned the terrible truth that their relationship had started like the plot of a '90s teen comedy (or the One Direction fanfic "After"): with a bet. She also discovered that Peterson had told one of her housemates that she had an STD, which was just a vicious rumor.

Benberry apparently has a type; one of her other exes was University of Kentucky cornerback J.D. Harmon. The third was her college boyfriend, Perez Corothers. Instead of rekindling her romance with one of these former flames, Benberry found a new spark with "Are You the One?" star Malcolm Drummer. During the "Ex on the Beach" reunion special, viewers learned that their relationship got serious enough that they moved in together after filming wrapped. However, Benberry dumped Drummer when she suspected that he was being unfaithful. "I was just doubting the relationship," he said. "I'm not gonna lie. I turned her kinda into a little monster."

She denied poaching an NBA player from a friend

Maya Benberry's "Ex on the Beach" castmates included "Bad Girls Club" star Janelle Shanks. During a January 2019 Instagram Live, they revealed that they were actually friends before they appeared on the show together. But four months later, Shanks explained in another Instagram Live that they had a falling out over Benberry's apparent failure to help her plan a birthday trip. Shanks had been trying to get in contact with Benberry for days to discuss booking a hotel and decided to go to her home when she was unsuccessful. Shanks then claimed that an irate Benberry threatened to call the police when she showed up.

Fast forward to 2021. It's unclear if Benberry and Shanks ever made amends after the alleged birthday incident, but they certainly weren't acting like friends when they exchanged words on Instagram. At that time, Benberry was rumored to be dating NBA player Christian Wood. Benberry believed that Shanks was responsible for spreading a rumor that she had stolen Wood from a former friend, per Total Pro Sports. "I would never steal a man from a friend, just because I associate with someone doesn't categorize them as a friend," she wrote. She also accused Shanks of leaking some of their text exchanges as part of a smear campaign. "The obsession is borderline psychopathic," Benberry opined. In response, Shanks fired back, "Girl you lie so much it's disgusting and sad. Always trying to be a f***ing VICTIM!!!"

Travis Kelce's ex had a warning for Taylor Swift

After Travis Kelce was linked to Taylor Swift in September 2023, Maya Benberry swiftly decided to insert herself into that narrative. First, she reportedly liked and later unliked an Instagram comment in which an anti-Swiftie rated the pop star a 5 and described her as "a FRAIL GAIL." She then issued a warning for Swift via the Daily Mail: "Like the saying always goes, once a cheater, always a cheater." Benberry also did a little damage control after her seemingly shady IG like by claiming that she had Swift's best interests at heart. "Taylor seems like such a fun girl with a beautiful spirit so I wish her the best of luck but I wouldn't be a girls' girl if I didn't advise her to be smart!" she said.

Benberry scored another interview with "Inside Edition." Evidently, her honeyed words had done little to assuage the outrage of Swifties; she underestimated who she was dealing with and wasn't going to get off that easily. "Swifties are aggressive. Very negative, very hypocritical," she said. "It's really crazy to me that someone that I think is positive and really nice has such a negative and angry fan base." Benberry insisted that she wasn't bitter about Kelce and Swift's relationship but had to remind everyone, "I had him first." She didn't badmouth Swift, but she likely still had Swifties seeing red when she attacked Kelce's character. "I feel like Travis is a narcissist. So, most narcissists don't change," Benberry said.

Maya Benberry defended her decision to speak out

As of this writing, Travis Kelce hasn't directly responded to Maya Benberry's cheating claims. However, one source claimed to Page Six that the "Catching Kelce" co-stars "weren't even together long enough for him to cheat on her." Despite Kelce's silence, Benberry was convinced that he was trying to provoke her. "I feel like you're mocking me," she said of her ex on "Inside Edition." She also accused him of trying to make her seem "delusional."

Benberry stated her belief that Kelce's decision to speak publicly about Swift was an indication that his relationship with the singer isn't authentic. She's also found it unfair that Kelce hadn't faced the same amount of scrutiny she had whenever he'd talked about his experience filming "Catching Kelce." She tweeted, "It's crazy how this man has been doing interviews and podcasts about the show for YEARS but when I make a comment about it, I'm wrong? The hypocrisy is real. If he can speak on his experience, why can't I?" 

While Benberry — who now works as a life coach and night club manager — denied that she was chasing clout by speaking out about Kelce, she did share another tweet around this time that she had a new show in the pipeline. Benberry didn't reveal whether it was a dating series, but she seemingly hasn't given up on love after fumbling Kelce.