Elle Wilson never backs down from a shot at something new.
The Waverly Twp. native became known around the country this past spring as one of 20 women vying for the hearts of “Jersey Shore” stars Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio or Vinny Guadagnino on MTV’s reality dating show, “Double Shot at Love.”
Wilson, 25, who now lives in Philadelphia, nabbed the chance to learn how to perfect the art of “GTL” — aka gym, tan, laundry — with the self-proclaimed guidos by taking the leap of faith of a lifetime.
“I never liked to do what other people were doing, I always kind of did my own thing,” Wilson said during a recent phone interview from her home in the City of Brotherly Love. “This opportunity came right at the perfect time. I was young and I wanted to find love. I didn’t know what would happen along the way but I knew the opportunity was never going to happen again.”
Wilson’s beginnings involved her following her own path, with a heavy focus on the arts. The daughter of Jim and Maria Wilson, who also has a brother, Tom, stayed busy with sports such as volleyball and basketball throughout her time at Abington Heights High School.
“She was pretty fearless and a very independent spirit,” her mother said, adding her daughter, whom she calls by her full name, Eleanor, made friends with everyone and was never part of a typical clique. “She never cared too much about other people’s opinions. Her grandmother (Dolores Beardell) was her greatest fan. She would always say, ‘Eleanor is her own person. She’ll decide what she wants to do.’”
Where the young woman truly came alive was the stage, her mother said, and Wilson danced her whole life with DeVine School of Dance under the direction of Jaclene DeVine, performing in recitals and shows, and even returning to teach younger students.
“She would walk into the room and just light it up,” DeVine said. “She just had this big smile and this sassiness, even as a little girl. When she performed, she just lit up the stage. Being her teacher, I found her intelligent, kind and she just had this passion and talent for dance. She’s just wonderful.”
She spent lots of time at Waverly Community House, where her mom is executive director, and holds fond memories of attending its annual Comm Camp in the summer and hanging out with her friends at Waverly Deli across the street. Wilson also grew up drawing and painting and took classes with local artist Marylou Chibirka for years, whom Wilson cited for fostering a love of visual arts and creativity.
“It was that small-town life, and it’s such a good community up there,” Wilson said.
After high school, Wilson enrolled at University of Scranton, where she studied political science. Following graduation, Wilson knew she wanted to move to a bigger city but still remain close to home and her family. She made the jump with a friend to Philadelphia, found a place to live and began applying for jobs.
An athlete at heart, Wilson became a certified personal trainer. It was through her job at a Philadelphia gym that she got her first taste of working on-camera. Wilson was working in marketing for City Fitness, when news spread that “Creed II” — a “Rocky” sequel which centered on boxing champion Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis, played Michael B. Jordan — was going to be in town filming. On a whim, Wilson reached out to Jordan through an Instagram direct message, and let him know he was welcome to come to the gym for a free membership during shooting. The actor responded and accepted the offer.
Coincidentally, a friend reached out to Wilson around that same time that the film was casting for a scene that required ring girls, and suggested Wilson audition. She submitted her information for casting, and a few days later, Jordan and Wilson met in person through the gym. The two were chatting and she brought up that she sent her credentials to casting for the film.
“He said, ‘Do you want the part? OK, you go it,’” she said. Jordan even contacted someone to secure Wilson’s role on the spot.
“It’s so funny because they were separate things, meeting him and someone reaching out to me about (the role), but asking him about it, what’s the worst that can happen? You never know,” Wilson added.
During shooting, Wilson was treated as a Screen Actors Guild member on set and had her hair and makeup done each day. She filmed for several days, 12 hours a day, with a few other girls, for a scene that she said only makes up about 30 seconds of screen time. While some of her scenes were cut, Wilson said you can spot her in a gold dress ringside. The experience was worth it, though.
“We were right next to the action. Getting to watch the fight scenes being filmed and watching Sylvester Stallone come in, seeing it all play out firsthand was really amazing,” she said. “It was my first time being on a movie set and doing anything like that, and it was just the coolest experience.”
Wilson’s social media presence started to grow thanks to her training work as well as her fitness modeling. Later that year, someone from casting at MTV reached out to her via Instagram, saying the Abingtons native would be perfect for an upcoming show.
Wilson was skeptical but decided to go for it, and contacted another casting representative to set up a Skype interview. She answered questions about her background and where she came from as well as some about relationships and dating. Then, she got word MTV would fly her out to Los Angeles for a one-day interview with producers. Wilson still had no idea what the show was, other than it revolved around dating a celebrity, which Wilson assumed meant an athlete or actor.
A few weeks later, Wilson received a call on a Wednesday that she was chosen for the show and needed to fly back to L.A. that Saturday, where she would remain for a month. Blake Garrett, supervising producer on “Double Shot at Love,” said Wilson was a perfect fit.
“Compared to all the other young ladies who auditioned for the show, Elle’s fierce and one-of-a-kind look with the brains to match set her far apart from the rest,” he said.
Producers sent Wilson a list of what to bring, including workout gear, bathing suits and club attire. Upon accepting the offer, Wilson needed to make arrangements to uproot her life in three days.
“I had to quit my job, buy new clothes, makeup, call my parents and let them know I wasn’t getting kidnapped,” she said, laughing. “It was the craziest time and it was all at once, but it I was excited about it. (It was) a new opportunity.”
Wilson’s mother felt taken aback when her daughter called to say she was heading off to a reality show and even though “a million different things” were running through her mind, she only wanted her daughter to know she had her family’s support.
“She’s pretty savvy,” Maria Wilson said. “She’s pretty realistic about some of these adventures. I always have confidence in her.”
The day filming started, Wilson was the first girl to arrive at the house by cab, a staple in the “Jersey Shore” canon, though Wilson still didn’t know who the celebrity in question was. Producers prepped her before she entered the house, but once she got in, it was nothing like she had ever known.
“I walked through the door and there’s 40 giant cameras and about 30 people in the room, and it was just dead silent,” she said. “I knew I had to act natural but I was freaking out inside.”
As the first night went on, the women found out whose affections they would be competing for and Wilson, who was familiar with the original franchise, was happy to find out it was DelVecchio and Guadagnino.
The cameras also became normal to Wilson as she and the other women in the house competed in challenges and went on dates with DelVecchio and Guadagnino. In weekly elimination ceremonies, the “Jersey Shore” stars each sent one woman home but Wilson made it to Guadagnino’s final two. The Abingtons native even had the chance to spend time with her mom and aunt on camera during an episode where the contestants’ family and friends were invited out to the house.
“She was so sweet and grateful (we were there,)” Maria Wilson said. “She even wrote me a card thanking me for being there and how much it meant to her. That (card) sits on my kitchen counter to this day. That’s just the kind of person she is, just grateful and loving. She’s the best girl.”
Contestants didn’t have access to phones, social media or news, and though it was technically a competition, Wilson and the other women became good friends throughout the process. While Guadagnino chose Alysse Joyner in the end, Wilson remains close with Joyner, and the two are in a group chat with fellow contestants Nikki Hall and Maria Elizondo.
“You end up forming deeper relationships with the other women,” Wilson said, adding that she hasn’t kept in touch with Guadagnino but will see DelVecchio deejay if he comes to Philly.
“It’s kind of a weird experience, and I think it really bonds you together. No one will ever get it like (the other women) will.”
Wilson’s outlook on the MTV experience remains positive. She admitted that while she probably wouldn’t do another dating competition show again, she’s still happy she got the experience. Though there are people who feel reality TV — especially dating shows — have a stigma around them, she doesn’t feel that way.
“It was actually really powerful, in my opinion,” Wilson said. “I was able to stand up for myself and have a voice. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it came at the perfect time in my life.”
Wilson continues to train in Philadelphia part-time while occasionally heading out to L.A., and is toying with the idea of making the move to the West Coast permanent. She’s also remains active on social media, where she initially was discovered, and recently landed paid contracts with fashion brands Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing. She also has begun frequently uploading videos to a YouTube channel. She hopes to work more in the entertainment industry and doesn’t rule any possibilities out.
Whatever her future leads, Wilson won’t be afraid to take a chance.
“I think about it like, what do I have to lose?” she said. “Opportunities might never come around again. You never know what could happen.”
Meet Elle Wilson
Residence: A Waverly Twp. native, Wilson lives in Philadelphia.
Family: The daughter of Jim and Maria Wilson, she also has a brother, Tom.
Education: A graduate of Abington Heights High School, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Scranton.
Claim to fame: A fitness trainer, model and TV and social media personality, Wilson appeared in the film “Creed II” as well as on MTV’s “Double Shot at Love” with “Jersey Shore” stars Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio and Vinny Guadagnino, where she was one of the final two contestants. Wilson, who recently landed paid contracts with fashion brands Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing, has a YouTube channel and aims to work more in the entertainment industry.
Social media: Follow Wilson @ellewilsonxo on Instagram, @ellewilson93 on Twitter or on YouTube.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT