No one was more surprised by TLC's 'MILF Manor' twist than its stars

If you're a fan of reality dating shows like "The Bachelor" and "Love Is Blind," you might have thought you've seen it all. Every premise of every dating show, exhausted.

And then came "MILF Manor." We haven't done a conclusive study, but it's safe to say there's never been a show like "MILF Manor."

The TLC show shocked viewers after it premiered in January. The set-up was already established: A group women in their 40s and 50s look for love with guys in their 20s and 30s, hence the title.

But there’s a catch: The dating pool is comprised of their own sons.

And the contestants, including Kelle Mortensen, 51, who appears in the show with her son Joey, 21, were just as surprised as you were, sitting at home — actually, make that way more surprised.

So, how did Mortensen react when she found out the Freudian premise of the show? And what was it like being on an intergenerational dating dating show with her son? The reality star is sharing her unfiltered thoughts with in this new interview.

Mortensen, 51, was 50 when
Mortensen, 51, was 50 when

When you first signed up for the show, what did you think you were getting yourself into?

At first, I was told I was going to be dating younger men, which I was totally on board with, and that Joey was going to come down with me and meet them and basically give me intel on who he thought would be a good fit for me and who he wouldn’t think would be a good fit for me.

In my mind, I envisioned me being in a house and Joey being in another house with the guys. Then I would meet the guys and maybe potentially date them and then he would say, "Oh, this guy is good for you or not."

The cast of
The cast of

When you actually saw your son was in the dating pool, what was going through your mind in that moment?

I thought it was hilarious. I couldn’t wait to see him squirming with older women. I wanted to see how well I raised him and how he was going to behave, honestly. And I feel like he did an amazing job.

Has Joey told you what was going through his mind when he first saw that you were in his own dating pool?

Well, the funny story is, we were the last ones cast for the show and we left three weeks after TLC found me on Instagram. So we didn’t have a lot of time to have a discussion about what was going to happen, but Joey did say, "What if I’m dating older women?"

And of course, I was like, "It’s not about you, Joey. It’s about me. Calm down." It's almost like he had this weird feeling inside based on how they were interviewing him prior to the show. He’s a very intelligent young man.

The moms shared a room with their sons while filming the show. What was that dynamic like as you were both dating?

I definitely say in the show, "This is weird!" only because (it was the opposite of) what I thought was going to happen with the guys being in a separate home. But staying in the same room was like when I would go on a holiday with my six kids and we’d all stay in the same room.

So I thought, "This is going to be fun because now I can chat with Joey in the night or when we’re getting ready or whatever and have an amazing bonding experience," which is what we used that time for.

Did you and Joey confide in each other about your potential love interests?

We actually do our own thing, but we do come back and talk to one another about different people that we’re dating, like who he approves of and who he doesn’t.

Did you and Joey get closer as result of this experience?

Yes, the show absolutely brought us so much closer. Joey is my youngest. He’s 21 now, but he was 20 on the show. I loved being able to spend a month one-on-one with him without his siblings, totally unplugged from the rest of the world.

He couldn’t go gaming, he couldn't be on his cell phone. He had to be present in the moment. So I love that aspect of the show and how close we actually got from it.

How did your other children react to the premise of the show after you wrapped filming?

They thought it was hilarious. They questioned Joey more so than questioning me. They were more excited to hear what he did than what I was doing.

What were you hoping to get out of the experience?

What I was expecting out of the experience was to potentially fall in love, which you’ll have to wait and see if that happens or not. I went there with an open mind and I just wanted to really be present in the moment. And I thought, what an amazing experience to be able to go on a show and potentially fall in love and then have my son with me so he would approve of the guy or not.

There’s often a double standard when it comes to intergenerational dating. Are you hoping that this show offers a different perspective for people?

That was another reason why I went on the show. I live in Orange County, California, and it’s pretty much the norm to have an older, successful guy be with a much younger woman in this town. I’m sure it’s like this worldwide, but I can only speak for where I live. It's frustrating that some women feel very insecure to show up somewhere with a younger guy.

So I definitely am trying to help change the mindset of society and show that age is just a number. Older women can date younger men if that’s what they feel like they’re vibing with. Everyone needs to just be more open-minded. People can fall in love with any age.

What it is about younger men that attracts you to them?

A lot of times, a younger guy goes over and above trying to impress a woman where older guys are just like, “Take it or leave it.” I’ve had more older men ghost me than younger men. It’s ridiculous. Just say, “Hey, we’re not vibing.” That’s fine. I will give you the same respect. But don’t try and reel somebody in just to play some sort of a weird game. I just don’t have time for that in my life.

The moment when the contestants learned that their sons would be in the dating pool. (TLC)
The moment when the contestants learned that their sons would be in the dating pool. (TLC)

Was it awkward dating the other moms' sons while you were filming together?

I was very receptive to, "Hey, we’re already here. Let’s just go for it and see if potentially there are connections going on here."

You can see from watching the show, not all the women came in with that same mindset. But that’s on them, not on me. Sometimes I wonder: "Why did you even go if you weren't really open to dating younger? You knew that was the premise of the show. You’re already committed to this, so you might as well just go for it."

What do you hope viewers take away from watching the show?

I really hope that they watch the show with an open mindset and realize these aren’t all 20-year-old men. Some of them are 30-year-old men. Nobody’s robbing any cradle here. Everyone came on the show knowing that they potentially would be dating somebody else outside of their age category.

We’re not dating our sons, there’s no weirdness going on.

Everyone had a great time filming. We all got very, very close. When you spend 24 hours a day living in the the same house with somebody, it's not weird for you to get a connection with them, even though their mom is in the house.

Are you happy with how things turned out at the end of the show?

I’m happy with the way I behaved because I’m always true to myself. I’m unapologetically who I am and I had a lot of fun. I’m not for everyone, which is fine, but I somewhat behaved. My son wasn’t mad at me, so who cares? Nobody else matters.

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