(originally published on April 9, 2018)
Love After Lockup premiered on WeTV on January 12th, 2018. The series describes itself as people that found love with prison inmates through prison dating websites. The show then captures the prisoner’s releases, the couples following engagements, and hopefully, the weddings that follow. But, I have known for a long time to take reality shows with a grain of salt, so I made sure to do that once I started watching. Let me tell you, I’m glad I did.
The cast had many fun people to watch. The person that I found to be the most compelling was a beautiful woman named Johnna Digrigoli. The show portrayed her as a very possessive woman who was in a rush to get married as soon as her boyfriend, Garrett got out of a six and a half year prison stint. In fact, their online bio on the official website says as follows:
A wine-fueled evening of looking for love online led Johnna to Garrett, who was serving a seven-year sentence for burglary, grand theft, and several other counts. While Johnna believes Garrett is committed to her, she’s having trouble convincing her father to meet him…let alone accept him. Johnna knows exactly what she wants…including a ring and wedding soon after Garrett is released. Is Garrett on the same page or will he be easily tempted by his new freedom?
Here’s the thing though, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Johnna told me that she had known Garrett when they were kids back in daycare, where her mom worked. As far as her checking for love online after drinking some wine, that’s somewhat true; but Johnna wasn’t purposefully looking for a relationship. In fact, when she came across Garrett’s profile, both Johnna and her mother were shocked that he was in prison because they had remembered him as a sweet kid and couldn’t imagine why he was in jail. So Johnna wrote to him out of concern. Through a series of letters and visits (including some accompanied by her mom with a therapy dog), they formed a five-year relationship prior to his release.
Johnna had been contacted by WeTV through Facebook about casting couples like her and Garrett for what she thought was a docu-series. It wasn’t until the camera crew and everyone else involved with production got there that she realized that it was actually a reality show that she and Garrett would be appearing on. Still, she didn’t know quite what she was getting into. But, how could she? You never know how producers will edit you.
Johhna told me that she got many comments from people demanding to know why she was so anxious about getting married as soon as Garrett left prison. Short answer, she wasn’t. Now the longer answer: the producers started pushing for an engagement as soon as filming for the two of them started. This caught them off guard, but they thought they’d roll with what the producers wanted as long as filming went on. The two didn’t know going into they WeTV actually wanted a wedding at the end.
For instance, the producers had it set up for Johnna and Garrett to go cake testing for their wedding right after he got out of prison. Yes, it looked like it was Johnna’s idea, but that’s the power of editing and you don’t see the things that happen behind-the-scenes of reality TV.
In fact, if it had been up to Johnna and Garrett, they would have happily waited to get engaged and spent their time getting to know each other better without a literal barrier between them. But, as I said before, WeTV had other plans. The show spent some time on hiatus from filming Johnna and Garrett’s segments because of the other cast members and working around their release schedules. During their downtime, Garrett decided to propose to Johnna only because he thought it would have gotten the producers off their backs. (Remember, they weren’t aware for a while that an actual wedding was expected.) So, Garrett called the producers and told them that he would be proposing, they flew down, and filmed everything. So, if you’re wondering, yes, that whole scene had been preplanned.
For those of you that saw the show, you remember Johnna and her father arguing constantly about the fact she was marrying a convicted felon and how her father didn’t approve. Now, that wasn’t entirely scripted. It’s true that in the beginning, Johnna’s dad wasn’t happy about her relationship. But over time, Garrett had developed a close bond with both of her parents. WeTV had filmed a scene with Garrett and her father playing golf together, but it wasn’t shown. To add more clarity, Garrett also had a key to her mother’s house and dog-sat for her on a regular basis.
If any of you are wondering how Garrett’s family felt about Johnna and why they didn’t appear on TV, here are your answers: First, Garrett’s family chose not to be on camera. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive, it was nothing more than the fact that they didn’t want to be on TV. Garrett’s family were not only very supportive of their relationship but Garrett’s dad had also offered for the two of them to stay on some rental property that he owned. They had turned it down because they wanted to get a place on their own, but they were appreciative. Also, in spite of the breakup, Johnna still has a good relationship with Garrett’s family.
When Johnna and Garrett first broke up, not only were her parents devastated, but her dad intentionally took Garrett’s side for a while, and even had lunch with him not too long ago! Now, this is no longer the case, but it goes to show you that they really were close for a long time.
So, we’re starting to get a better picture of Johnna and Garett’s situation in real life. I couldn’t help but wonder if it bothered her that he was visiting strip clubs (as seen on the show). Johnna said that it did bother her to a point, but that wasn’t as big of a deal to her as it would be to some other people. In fact, Johnna understood that’s what Garrett’s friends liked to do for fun. Plus, Johnna didn’t mind so much that these strip clubs weren’t any of the “classier” ones out there! What really annoyed her was that he was not only out until the early hours of the morning consistently, but his friends were part of a “rougher” crowd, the kind that got him into trouble in the first place. So, when we saw her on the show getting angry with Garrett going to a bar until 11 pm, it wasn’t that Johnna was trying to be controlling. It was that Garrett was doing this consistently (as I said earlier) and she wanted him to act more responsibly. Not only was that perfectly reasonable, but we would have been allowed a better chance to see her side, but that’s not what the producers had in mind in the editing process! (Again, that’s reality TV for you!)
I asked Johnna if the plans to elope on the beach with just the two of them (and her asking to not go through with it) at the altar in the final episode were scripted. Johnna told me that for awhile the two of them didn’t think that an actual wedding would have to take place. But once they realized that WeTV wanted to end the first season with a wedding (or at least try to with each couple), Garrett had come up with the idea to elope on the beach since there wasn’t any time to plan a real wedding. But, just like we saw on the show, Johnna wanted a real wedding, so it was real when she told Garrett at the alter that she didn’t want to get married at that moment.
The relationship did continue for a little while longer though. It ultimately fell apart because Johnna saw that Garrett didn’t have any ambition and he knew that she expected more than that out of him; which was nothing unreasonable. Johnna wanted Garrett to get a good job and be a contributing member of society. This wasn’t something that she expected to happen overnight, despite what we saw on the show. Johnna did understand that it would take him some time to get readjusted to being out of prison, but his lack of ambition went on a lot longer than any of us saw. So again, she grew frustrated; and I want to make it clear that I don’t blame her at all.
The other issue is that Garrett ended up leaving her for another woman who is a lot like him. Now, Johnna made it clear to me that she doesn’t want to talk too much about his girlfriend because she has attacked Johnna on social media way too much, and Johnna wants nothing more than to move on with her life. However, she did say that his girlfriend is like him in the sense that neither one of them have any ambition. She was living in a motel when he met her, and they were using Johnna’s personal address so they could get a loan for a car! This was because they didn’t have a legitimate address at that time for mail to be sent to. Now, why they chose Johnna’s house and didn’t even bother telling her makes me think that they didn’t think what they were doing all the way through.
I asked Johnna what her plan is now and what her future looks like. In April, Johnna will be moving into an apartment in Austin, Texas. I asked her why she decided to move to Texas; if it was for a fresh start. Not too long after the show had aired, Johnna decided that it was time to leave Tampa. As far as a “fresh start” goes, that was partly it. Johnna did Google searches such as “Cities good for singles” and “Cities good for job opportunities”, and areas such as Austin, Nashville, Las Vegas, Los Angelas, and New York always popped up. Now, California and New York were far too expensive, but she ended up going with Austin because she was able to find a good apartment there and sign a lease within a good time frame.
The other reason was that she never truly liked living in Tampa. When they first moved to Tampa, Johnna had begged her father to let her apply to colleges back in their home state of Massachusetts. Even though her dad told her no, she’d planned for a long time to move back there. Ultimately she decided not to because the job market wasn’t very good, but she had always planned on moving. There was a point in time during her relationship with Garrett (while he was still in prison) in which they had hit a rough patch. At that time, Johnna almost moved back home. After Garrett got out, Johnna told him that she did not plan on staying in Tampa and raising their kids there. So, even if she had never even met Garrett, she would have still moved.
I asked Johnna what the job situation was looking like. Right now, she is looking for work in office administration. While she hasn’t landed anything yet, she is getting a lot of calls for jobs, so that’s a good sign. I asked would she consider giving reality TV another go or acting in movies? Johnna said that she doesn’t have a lot of experience with acting except for children’s theatre, but she’d be happy to do reality TV again. But it would need to be something related to the style of The Jersey Shore or Siesta Key, nothing competitive. (So, just in case any of you were wondering, Johnna, will not be going on The Bachelor!)
I asked Johnna if she has a P.O. Box where fans can send her fan mail. She told me that she would be getting one once she moves to Austin. (I’ll make sure to keep you all posted!) I also asked if she’s ever willing to do sponsored posts like a lot of reality stars do. She said that she has been sent some free stuff to show on her Instagram, but she hasn’t been paid for anything. If she were given the opportunity, she would probably take it as long as it didn’t have anything to do with hunting or harming animals, which I thought was wonderful! The bottom line is that she is still under contract with WeTV for a year, so anything she does has to go through them until the contract expires.
Johnna, thank you for talking to me. I enjoyed our conversation very much and I genuinely hope to see more of you on TV, and that you will also find happiness in whatever direction life takes you.