’90 Day Fiancé’: Juliana Custodio Opens Up About Her Troubled Past With Marriage and Modeling
Juliana Custodio of TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, now married to Michael Jessen, has opened up in the past about some of her complicated history.
The 23-year-old Brazilian model met her now-husband, a 42-year-old divorced father of two children, at a yacht party in Croatia.
Now, it seems Juliana and Michael are happy together in the U.S. But before that, Juliana said her life was more than a little difficult. She grew up in poverty in Brazil and was even allegedly trafficked by a corrupt modeling agency as a teenager before eventually being set up for an arranged marriage with an older man at just 17 years old.
On the Jan. 12 episode of 90 Day Fiancé, “Choose Me,” Juliana opened up about her past to an unlikely ally: Sarah Jessen, Michael’s ex-wife and the mother of his two children, Max and CeCe.
Sarah and Juliana discussed the young model’s past as an alleged trafficking survivor
At the start of “Choose Me,” Sarah asked Juliana how her first few months in the U.S. were going. “How are you adjusting?” Sarah ventured as she and Juliana shared a cup of coffee at Michael’s house.
“For me, it’s hard in America. Not doing anything. It drives me crazy,” Juliana said, adding that she wasn’t allowed to work for several months according to K-1 visa rules. “Right now I feel very useless.”
That’s when Juliana began to share more about her life story with Sarah, who listened sympathetically. “When I first start modeling, I was only 15,” she revealed. She went to the city alone, and things soon took a turn for the worse.
“It was a disaster,” the 90 Day Fiancé star confessed. “I was there alone. The girls were so mean to me. And even though I worked, I didn’t get paid….I didn’t have money, food, anything. It was the worst time in my life.”
The Brazilian model opened up about her troubled first marriage
After only a few months, Juliana gave up and returned home, only to join a deeply restrictive church in her area. “I think the church was a cult,” the 90 Day Fiancé star told Michael’s ex-wife, adding that members were constantly threatened with mentions of hell if they did something as simple as wear makeup or jewelry.
That’s where she met her soon-to-be husband, who was twice her age. “Me and my ex-husband, we met at the church, and we were introduced by the pastor,” Juliana told Sarah. “I was 17, and he was, I think, 34.”
The Brazil native claimed she barely knew her first husband before she married him. “They did this arrangement marriage,” she explained. “We marry after four months together.”
But on her wedding night, Juliana said, her husband became cruel and controlling. “The same day, he change,” the 90 Day Fiancé star remembered. “Got so angry.”
She added that he told her she was no longer allowed to work as a model, or in any other career, for that matter.
“He said, ‘You’re not gonna work now anymore. You have to stay in the house, clean the house,’” Juliana said. “He was crazy. I tried to talk to the pastor of the church. He didn’t believe me.”
Eventually, she left without warning, calling it an “escape.” “Didn’t sign divorce or anything. Just left,” Juliana told a shocked Sarah.
The 90 Day Fiancé star moved back to the nearest city to start modeling and returned to her hometown a few months later just to get her husband to sign divorce papers. Her newfound confidence allowed her to go through with it. “I was like, no one gonna bull**** me,” Juliana said.
Michael’s ex-wife was supportive of Juliana and said it wasn’t a ‘competition’
Sarah was supportive of her ex-husband’s fiancee, saying the pain she’d been through wasn’t “imaginable.”
“There’s so much more depth to Juliana that is so indescribable. It’s overwhelming to hear that any person has been through the stuff that she’s been through,” Sarah told 90 Day Fiancé producers.
The 90 Day Fiancé star cried as she told Juliana she was happy to have her as a role model for her children: “You have good values. You’re a hard worker,” Sarah said. “You’re intelligent. You value family.”
The mom of two, who is now remarried herself to hip-hop artist Sean Naso, told TLC producers that she knew others expected her to be jealous of Juliana because of her youth and modeling career. But, Sarah said, she wasn’t interested in competing with anyone.
“I could have chosen to take on the same sort of judgement and skepticism that other people have about Juliana, but this isn’t a competition in this life,” Sarah declared. “And by trying to take it away from one person, it’s not helping me.”
“I am really thankful that Michael chose you,” an emotional Sarah told Juliana. She thought for a moment, then added: “No. I’m thankful that you chose Mike.”
“And I’m thankful you are so nice,” Juliana responded gratefully as she began to shed a tear as well.