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Yvonne & Melissa weren't 'U-Haul lesbians' before Amazing Race 36

Yvonne & Melissa weren't 'U-Haul lesbians' before Amazing Race 36

Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main on The Amazing Race season 36

The Amazing Race season 36 stars Yvonne and Melissa tell Out that they were “not at all the stereotypical U-Haul [couple]. And that’s going to be something that we talk about on the show.”

From San Diego, California, Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main are one of two LGBTQ+ pairs competing on season 36 of The Amazing Race — giving us even more representation on the long-running CBS reality competition series.

Yvonne, a 40-year-old global strategy and operations lead, and Melissa, a 38-year-old investigator for U.S. Navy special operations, have been together for a total of five years. In an interview with Out, however, they explain that they’ve taken things very slowly as a couple, joking that they do not fall under the “U-Haul” stereotype. And while they do find comfort in always planning their next steps, they also acknowledge that The Amazing Race can be a show about thinking on your feet, following your gut, and trusting your immediate instincts.

Keep scrolling to read Out’s full interview with Yvonne and Melissa — and tune into new episodes of The Amazing Race season 36 every Wednesday on CBS.

Out: It's always exciting to talk to LGBTQ+ contestants on The Amazing Race. I just love whenever we get more representation in reality TV, and I'm happy to see that season 36 has two out LGBTQ+ pairs competing this year.

Melissa: I know! We were very excited to see that as well. It kind of tripped us up. We were like, 'Wait a minute, we're not the only gay couple?' That's the first, as far as I know, on The Amazing Race… where they had two LGBTQ+ couples. So cool.

Yvonne: Well, to clarify, at least the first two LGBTQ+ teams that are out.

Right, that's an important distinction.

Melissa: It would have been a 'roommate' situation, back in the day [laughs].

Oh, yeah, a lot of roommates back then! What was your reaction to meeting Ricky and Cesar, the other LGBTQ+ team in season 36, when you first arrived to film the show?

Yvonne: It's funny because, when you first get there, you're not really talking to anyone.

Melissa: You're not allowed to.

Yvonne: Yeah, so you're just going off of vibes and what people look like. It was fascinating to get a clue when we saw another female team and one of them had a rainbow kind of accessory. Something like super rainbowy on her. So we were like, 'Oh my god!'

Melissa: We were so confused! We said, 'Wait a minute, there's another lesbian couple?'

Yvonne: I said, 'No, no. This is an all-gay cast. This is amazing' [laughs].

Y'all thought this was suddenly RuPaul's The Amazing Race!

Yvonne: Exactly.

Melissa: Right! We thought maybe Cesar and Ricky were a gay couple, so we were like, 'Wow, cool. There are two gay couples.' And then we saw the other female-female team wearing something rainbow, and we said, 'No way.' And then we thought some of the other people could have been, and we were tripped up.

Yvonne: We were projecting. We were just hoping that it was [laughs].

Melissa: It was really cool.

Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main on The Amazing Race season 36


Since you are a couple, people are going to be curious: when and how did you meet?

Yvonne: This was five years ago now. Time flies. Mel is from San Diego, and I had just moved to San Diego. And you know how we do… we try to get out, do meetups, meet new people. It's a new community, so we try to make friends and whatnot. There was a meetup for Spikeball, the beach game. Mel and a friend of hers were the coaches teaching girls how to play Spikeball. I had no idea how to play, so I just showed up with a friend of mine and they started showing us the ropes. And obviously, Mel, the 'coach,' was giving extra attention to me and a friend of mine. And I'm like, 'Okay.' So it was just funny… to this day I joke with her… it was between a friend and me. But the pheromones were going off. She's touching me here and there trying to teach me the game.

Melissa: It was all very stereotypical. The instructor paying extra attention to the person who was learning. And she says I was picking between the two, but as soon as Yvonne opened her mouth and I saw how good she was at a brand-new sport, I was just immediately focused on her.

Yvonne: She thought, 'Oh, she might be able to help me compete.' That was her, really. She's very competitive [laughs].

Melissa: Yeah, like she said, our pheromones started going and we knew we would be in each other's lives. We just didn't really know in what capacity. And then, unlike every other stereotypical lesbian couple, we actually took our time. We went really slowly.

Yvonne: Almost, like, anti-U-Haul. We did not U-Haul at all.

Melissa: We did not U-Haul.

Wow, no U-Haul here. Dammit, that was my next question!

Melissa: No, not at all the stereotypical U-Haul [couple]. And that's going to be something that we talk about on the show. You'll see unfold this potential journey of moving in and things like that… because we are just so slow. We like to take our time. We're very deliberate. And you'll also see how that plays out in the show.

Yvonne: It's scary to commit, so let's be real, too. That's also a thing. But we took our time and it worked for us.

Melissa: We wanted to be deliberate, and it's been working really well.

So when did you start actually dating?

Melissa: So after we met in June of 2019, we started dating in September because we continued to be at the same happy hours and the same hikes. Every time we would just somehow find the two of us going out for dinner or just talking after. So eventually, in September, I said, 'Hey, we should go on a date and make it purposeful, just the two of us.' And she agreed. We went on a standup paddleboard date. It was great. And I said, 'Okay, great. So now we're a couple.' And she's like, 'No, I'm going to go really slowly.'

Yvonne: It's going to take more than SUPing to lock me down.

Melissa: That's kind our journey.

Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main on The Amazing Race season 36


Were you both fans of The Amazing Race before meeting, or how did you both get into the show?

Yvonne: Definitely both fans. I mean, I had seen it growing up, but there is a distinction between a fan and a super fan, which is what Mel is. Melissa is a huge super fan. And I think that's been a common story, right? That people during lockdown were binge-watching things and one of those things was The Amazing Race. So again, in our competitive nature, we're sitting there and we couldn't just watch the show like normal people. We would sit there like, 'You pick half of the teams, I pick half the teams. And we get a reward for whoever gets top 3.'

Melissa: We were like, 'Who's going to win on this challenge?' We couldn't help ourselves. We're both fans independently, and then we said almost immediately after we were dating that we'd probably be a pretty good couple on The Amazing Race. And then once we started watching it together, we said, 'Okay, yeah, we're definitely going to do this one day.' I can't believe this came to fruition.

Yvonne: Yeah, it's still a little shocking.

I've already picked up a few cues and I was writing them down, which is why it's so interesting to interview couples from The Amazing Race. So y’all mentioned that Melissa is very competitive, and Yvonne learns very quickly. How did you two prepare before going into the show? Did you devise any strategy like, 'If it's this challenge, you're doing it.' How did you go about it?

Melissa: So I used to be a federal agent. I'm currently an investigator for the government, and I'm super analytical. So of course I did a whole spreadsheet of, statistically speaking, the physical challenges are 53% of the time quicker than 47% of the time for the mental ones. And you'll see how that plays out on the show as well… but I don't know if that [analysis] was more detrimental. Sometimes I would look at other teams that maybe aren't as analytical and they were just going off of a gut feeling. And which one's better? We're not sure.

Yvonne: Overthinking… it's not great sometimes.

Melissa: But yeah, we did a lot of prep work. I took us to a sushi restaurant and I had the chef tell us 10 names of fish in Japanese. And I would ask Yvonne, 'Say them back in that exact order.' And I specifically went to the restaurant to do that.

Yvonne: And I just ate the sushi, that's it.

Melissa: We also did things that we hadn't ever done before together, like a dual kayak where we both had to kayak at the same pace. We've both kayaked separately, but we had never kayaked together. We did a lot of planned stuff like that for us. And, of course, we were already running hills and stairs every Friday. The exercise thing, we already had worked on in our regular lives. But we definitely did some specific Amazing Race type of prep work.

Yvonne: The kayak practice was fun for us because we were like, 'Okay, who's taking the lead rowing, which side?' We were able to get some practice on who was going to set the pace.

Melissa: We're both sort of jack-of-all-trades, in some ways. We both like to take the lead. We don't have a strong alpha, we kind of just both can figure things out together and trust in one another. You'll again see how that plays out as well, with picking challenges. It's a good dynamic that we have in real life. But on the Race, it's interesting how that can play out.

It's funny to hear that y'all weren't stereotypical 'U-Haul lesbians' when you started dating. But it's also funny that every single gay couple I've ever interviewed for The Amazing Race comes up with that spreadsheet when preparing for the show. Like, every single one. Always with the spreadsheets and the Notes app.

Melissa: [laughs] How funny. Oh, how funny.

We, as gay people, just love spreadsheets… I guess?

Yvonne: I wonder what percentage of straight couples are using spreadsheets.

Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main on The Amazing Race season 36


What do each of you consider to be your biggest strength and your biggest weakness for a competition show like The Amazing Race?

Yvonne: I'll start with weakness. If there's a body of water and I cannot see the bottom of that water, I will freak out. Naturally, I'm just not comfortable. I learned to swim and took a class in college to give you a sense of it. But it just wasn't a priority. I've just never been comfortable. Even in a pool, I'm fine, but I'm holding onto the railing. I'm not a swimmer.

Melissa: When we went to the dual kayaking, I said, 'Okay, jump out of the kayak, get in the water,' and I kayaked away. She was panicking and said, 'Come back.' I said, 'No, you come to the kayak.'

Yvonne: I've been doggy-paddling all my life and this one's trying to make me swim. I started taking lessons and trying to get more comfortable, but to this day, I'm still not comfortable. So I knew going in the water was not a comfort for me.

Melissa: I think a weakness for me is potentially overthinking things and getting in my head with practicing things. I can kind of get stuck on how I practiced it. And like I said, for my job, I do a lot of analysis after doing interviews of people and I can tend to get a little in my head.

Yvonne: A lot of prep work, typically.

Melissa: Yeah, a lot of prep work. You might think [my job], with the TV shows, is like running and gunning every day, busting down doors every day. Well, that's a part of it. We knew who was in that house for the five days leading up to it. But we weren't just going into that house.

Yvonne: Stakeouts.

Melissa: Yeah, so it's this idea that you can think on the fly. Actually, my type of job, federal agent type of job, you need to have that piece as well. But more often than not, you're doing best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and most-likely-case scenario. You're analyzing everything well before it happens. That's why this show was going to be a challenge for me: you have to think on your feet very quickly. Some people have jobs that are more conducive to that, where they're just used to not having a lot of time to plan things out. And that's what the Race is.

Yvonne: For strength, I will say that I'm very optimistic. Even if something isn't going right, I'm just going to continue to think positively and just try to get through it. I travel quite a bit. I love to travel. It's one of my favorite things to do. So stepping on foreign land is where I am most comfortable. Seeing a foreign language sign or some other things, it doesn't really freak me out. I mean, getting lost, it's going to happen, right? But not feeling that fear and desperation, not getting scared because you're in a foreign place… I already had a little bit of comfort in that. So that, for me, was a strength.

Melissa: A strength for me is that I love puzzles, like actually doing jigsaw puzzles. I haven't done official competitions, but I've gone to a bar [competition] and figured out who could do a puzzle the fastest. I really do enjoy puzzles, and I think it was a strength that I brought in.

Yvonne: And is that bar just in your house…?

Melissa: [laughs] No.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.