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Where ‘The Circle’ Winner Joey Sasso and Miranda Are Now in Their Relationship After the Finale
When Joey Sasso first entered a small apartment complex in Salford, England for a new Netflix reality show, the native New Yorker had no idea what he was getting himself into. And neither did audiences when the show first dropped on the streaming service three weeks ago. Joey seemed like just another gym-tan-laundry type we’ve seen a million times on reality TV. But, like the show itself, Joey’s appearances were deceiving.
The Circle, an imported show filmed in the same building as its British counterpart, is a game of social media prowess. The players are locked in an apartment and only communicate with each other via a social media platform called The Circle. These seven contestants enter with the option to play as themselves or “catfish” others. Rankings decide who has power, and once you’re blocked, you’re out of the game. The last person standing wins $100,000. (By the way, the following post from here has spoilers for the final four episodes, including who wins The Circle. Read on at your own risk.)
That sounds like the seventh circle of social media hell, but somehow, The Circle ended up being nice. Like, really nice. In a game where you could play as anyone you want, the people like Joey who were fully, unabashedly themselves, ended up succeeding in this wild reality TV social experiment.
Upon watching the first eight episodes, I found myself charmed by this dude I had very incorrectly clocked as another prototypical bro. So I wrote about how wrong I was to judge him prematurely, noting just how lovable Joey Sasso really was. Then Joey slid into my Instagram DMs to thank me for that article, and suddenly I felt like I was on The Circle. Like many of his competitors, I was convinced that Joey Sasso is my ride or die.
In the final four episodes dropped on January 15, the same magnetism that swayed me ultimately made Joey the winner of The Circle Season One. But was Joey playing me like he charmed The Circle? Is he just that good at social media?
After the finale, I hopped on the phone with Joey to discuss how he approached the game, the lingering romance he formed with Miranda, and how we should all be conducting ourselves on social media. And the truth is, the Joey I met via social media, the one The Circle contestants and audiences fell in love with, is the real deal, folks.
Joey Sasso: Justin, what’s up buddy? How are ya!
Esquire: I’m great, man. I thought we were close after exchanging a few messages, but you forgot to tell me that you won the show!
It’s insane man! It’s so insane. I just don’t do secrets well, but this is the one secret I kept in. I was on the phone with cousins last night. [They were] crying at 4 o’clock in the morning like, “How did you not fucking tell us when you were home for Christmas?” Literally the only people who knew were my parents.
When you were signing up, what did you think you were getting yourself into? What did you know?
I was really unsure what [the show] was going to be. I’m an actor and live in Los Angeles. I’ve been up here since I was 18, and part of that is never doing stuff that isn’t scripted—you know… reality television. But this came up and it felt so right. The concept felt so fresh that I never really had to worry about making mistakes that would stick with me for 20 years. I went into it optimistic and hoped for the best. The one thing, now that everyone knows the outcome, is that I never once thought about winning the show.
In my head, I thought “there are so many factors that go into someone winning one of these things. If I go in with those motives, it’s going to make me second guess everything I do.” I wanted to be competitive and, God-willing, make it to the end, but winning was something I never thought of. It’s weird man. When it came down to me and Shuby (Shubham Goel), I blacked out on stage. I was there, but I wasn’t there.
Our generation spends a lot of time online, and it’s easy to get cynical. When the concept for The Circle came out, I thought, “This is going to be insufferable,” but it seems like authenticity really was the key all along. Does that surprise you?
With this type of show, it’s very easy to write someone off. What’s been cool is that to have so many people reaching out to me about not judging a book by its cover. It’s crazy that I was the person who hit that for a lot of people. From moment go, I just wanted to be myself. If you like it cool. If you don’t, sorry. I feel like people have truly gotten to know me—it’s overwhelming in the best way. I’m a very blessed man. I must’ve done something right in my life. People asked, “Did you ever think about being a catfish?” and its like, “Nah, man. I am who I am. I’m proud of that.” I’m proud of where I come from—the values and morals I was raised with.
I have to ask the important question—did you ever get that date with Miranda?
Yes, I did. It wasn’t a $100,000 winner date because at this point, the show had just ended. We weren’t allowed to follow each other on social media, but she came out to LA to stay with me. This question has come up a lot, but you’re getting more out of me than anyone else has.
Everyone wants to know, “are you together, are you not together?” The truth is that it’s kind of neither. We are in each other’s lives. We are incredibly close. I love that girl to death. We have an amazing friendship that is unlike any relationship I’ve had with anyone else except my ex-girlfriend, who I’ve been best friends with since I was a child, so this means so much to me. For both of us, we just know that the love we have for each other—we know relationships can change that. She has a life in Tahoe; I have a life in LA, but we see each other all the time. We talk all the time. The love there is so genuine and real.
Joey Sasso won the first season of Netflix’s The Circle, bagging the $100,000 prize.
One of my favorite parts of the game is that you took a lot of opportunities to flirt and be playful, but you were also never disrespectful of women. For some reason, a lot of guys struggle to grasp that concept, especially online, so you’re proof it can happen.
100 percent, that comes from my mother. She raised me to be a complete gentleman. From the time I was a little boy, I was an old soul. I didn’t play with toys; from the time I was young, I was into movies and girls. That was it. I still to this day blame Pamela Anderson, who will always be the love of my life. My mother raised me knowing that when I was a teenager, I’d be dating a lot and seeing women. She would always tell me, “You are going to be a mother effing gentleman. You’re going to respect women.” We’ve talked about being put in a box, and that’s a box I’ve been put in my whole life. People say, “Oh he’s just a player. He’s just a pretty boy,” where internally, I’m like—Dude, I’m not though.
That’s one thing I cannot stand: the type of guy who brags about his personal life to feel like a bigger man. Those are all the things people have thought about me. That [respect] goes to my mother and my grandmother, who passed away when I was 13, may she rest in peace. The respect I have for every single woman, I can’t put into words. Men are nothing compared to a woman and how strong a woman has to be.
In terms of strategy, the internet’s currency—starting shit, being creepy or rude, trying to be fake—all hurt other players in the game. Do you think that applies to game of The Circle, or do you think that perspective is cast-specific? As much as I love the show, I can’t imagine recreating that magic.
First of all, I want to just give so much respect and a shout out to Studio Lambert, Netflix, and the casting team. They did such an amazing job of making this happen—[letting] all of us know what we were getting into. They put a diverse cast together to represent every type of person that you could want in this show and got the best people for that. It’s so rare. We live in the world of #OscarsSoWhite. People take it the wrong way and think they’re being childish or throwing a tantrum, but I get it, man. I work in that industry…
To be included in such an amazing cast, it’s unbelievable. It’s incredible for people to feel seen. I agree that if they do a Season Two, it’s definitely going to be difficult to top the cast of characters they were able to assemble for this.
You had these great moments—specifically your talk with Sean and the relationship that you and Shubham formed. Do you feel like in your everyday life that would have come organically, or did the pressure cooker aspect of the game help?
You know, I think the answer is yes to both. It’s really difficult because when I talked to Miranda or Sean, you’re getting me being as vulnerable as the person who is being blocked. It’s still hard for me to watch some of those episodes, and I tell her, “I got your back,” and then I end up having to block her because in my mind, I was never going to be in the position to send her home. Then it’s a double-edged sword because in those moments, that’s when it becomes a game. You’re always aware that you’re playing a game, and it’s a show, but I’m always being genuine in my conversations without it being a “tactic.”
Courtesy of Netflix
For that conversation with Sean, it was edited beautifully, but for people who won’t see the unedited footage, that was the hardest night for me by far. That’s when I was just sort of done. I sat with her for a good forty minutes. It took me a solid hour and a half before I was ready to go talk to her because I kept thinking, “No matter what I say. No matter what I do, there’s no way she’s not going to believe it’s not because of what she did that day by outing herself [as a plus-sized woman].”
I left that conversation and went back and sat on the couch and just held my face in my hands. I was done. My producers came to see me and said, “We know you’re not a bad person. That was so courageous to make her feel good and talk to her the way you did,” but that was one of those times where I was like, “I appreciate it, but I just want to go to sleep right now because I’ve hurt someone and it devastated me.”
I can’t imagine. You guys were in there for, what, 15 days?
You know, man, to tell you the truth, I really don’t know because that’s part of the agreement when you sign up. You’re not allowed to know the day or the time. It sort of adds to the mental challenge of the game. Man, I felt like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank. I’m locked away, and I can’t get out! It all just kind of blended together in the end.
Courtesy of Netflix
I know you guys were physically isolated from each other, but you weren’t fully alone that whole time right? Were there conversations we didn’t get to see?
Oh yeah, absolutely. The one that comes to mind is that I had a conversation with Shuby on Day One. He and I really bonded at that point. I have all these people asking “Where are these conversations? When did you talk to Miranda?” but you’re dealing with a game where so much stuff has to happen in a 24 hour period, and you have to squeeze it into one episode. Inevitably, things have gotta go.
I was up last night watching the final four episodes, and there’s one conversation I wish could have made it. The day before the final ratings, I had a one-on-one with Chris. It was a really sweet conversation because I just told him, “Buddy, I feel like I’ve known you and loved you since Day One.” I’m a bartender at one of the oldest gay bars in California, and all my friends are gay, which people don’t expect when they meet me.
I’m a huge advocate for LGBTQ rights because so many of my friends have faced so much discrimination for being who they are, and I just told Chris, “Buddy, you’re one of the wittiest kids I’ve ever met, and that’s what threw me because I don’t feel like I know you or your story because it’s never gone past the wit. We’re so deep into this. I want to know you.” He opened up and revealed he’s been through a lot of stuff in his life that had really hurt him, but helped shape him. It was just a really sweet one-on-one that really meant a lot to me before those final ratings. I could really say my peace to him and say, “Friendship is about opening up and being vulnerable.”
I have to ask this to wrap things up: social media allows us to be whoever we want. You chose to be yourself, and it paid off. If you have one final thing to say about social media and how we conduct ourselves online, what do you say?
Don’t try to make yourself more beautiful than you are by the grace of God. Portray yourself in a way that your mother or father would be proud of—in a way you’re not going to be haunted by 10 years down the road. Stay true to who you are because I feel so many people try to be so liked based off insecurities. Who cares if they say you’re not good enough? As long as you go to sleep at night knowing you tried to treat everyone with the same respect, you’re doing alright.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.