Influencer Reveals 'Horrible' Details of 'Wife Swap' Appearance in Viral Video

Influencer Heidi Mae has opened up on social media about the "terrible experience" she and her family endured as contestants on the ABC reality show Wife Swap. Her TikTok video, shared on Tuesday, has gone viral on the app, generating over 477,000 views, 97,000 likes, and 1,500 comments.

Each episode of Wife Swap follows the same general premise: two families, often exhibiting drastically different lifestyles or beliefs from one another, would "swap" their household's wife/mother for a two-week period. For the first week, the wife would try to live by her new family's rules—and during the second week, she could implement changes as she saw fit. The show originally aired from 2004 to 2010 and spawned several spin-offs.

As lighthearted as the show's premise may seem, Mae told Newsweek that the reality was far darker. "To this day my heart still races when I think about it," she wrote in an email. She described the experience as "being trapped in an exploitative hell of ten days of filming."

According to Mae, who was 20 when the episode was filmed in 2010, she was portrayed inaccurately as a "'sheltered and controlled' girl who had never been on a date."

"The show used extensive editing and cutting together audio to shape the narrative of a religious sheltered family who needed outside help to enter society and heal," she added.

In Mae's now-viral video, she begins, bluntly: "My family was on 'Wife Swap' and it was the worst mistake of our lives."

"They had us sign an NDA to be on the show. It's been almost 10 years now, so I decided, f**k it," she explained. "I'm just gonna talk about what happened, what it was actually like being on the show, and the horrible, horrible things that happened to me while they were filming."

"To be on the show, you had to take a 700 question psych [evaluation] and then have an hour-long interview with a psychologist," said Mae. "They phrased it as, 'This is what we need to make sure that you're mentally sound enough to be on the show.'"

The TikToker said that the psychologist went over several questions with her, including one that stuck out in particular: "What is something that really makes you sad, that makes you cry?"

Mae reportedly told the doctor that because she "[grew] up traveling full-time," she would "get really lonely sometimes."

"When I feel alone, it makes me cry. It makes me really sad," Mae recalled telling the psychologist.

Mae said in her video that her answer to that sensitive question came up early in the filming process after the first "conversation" between her and the new mom quickly devolved into a fight.

"She looks me dead in the f**king eyes and she says, 'You are alone. Nobody cares about you. You have no friends. I don't care about you,'" Mae recalled. "I just...broke down because this was my trigger."

"They used the psych [evaluation] to find my pain and then exploited it for television," she concluded in the clip.

In a conversation with Newsweek, Mae elaborated further on the incident described in her video. "When she said that [to] me I ran into a room and locked myself inside crying," she said. According to Mae, the only person who knew about her feeling of loneliness was the psychologist who conducted her evaluation—in a session that she believed would remain "private."

Meanwhile, Mae said that her mom, who was staying with the episode's other family, "was miserable...and was so stressed out that she wasn't able to eat."

"It wasn't until after four years of therapy and counseling that I finally felt that I needed to share my story of what my family and I had endured on the show," said Mae.

Newsweek reached out to ABC for comment.

Wife Swap
On Tuesday, a former "Wife Swap" participant went viral on TikTok after sharing details of her experience on the show. An image of "Wife Swap" producers at the ABC Summer TCA Press Tour, 2004. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images