The Circle’s DeLeesa on Pulling Off the Perfect Catfish

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Prior to joining The Circle season two, DeLeesa St. Agathe was already well aware of how she could be perceived online, having run her own YouTube channel, Leesa Unique, for over four years. So when the 32-year-old “mompreneur” entered the Netflix competition series last fall, she decided to do so not as herself but as a catfish. Using photos of her actual husband, Trevor, DeLeesa pretended to be a single father whose big heart quickly made him a favorite among contestants and viewers alike.

But playing the hunky Trevor did come with its own set of unexpected obstacles. On day one, DeLeesa found herself in a flirty showmance with competitor Chloe Veitch, who fell head over heels for the #FunGuy she believed was on the other side of the screen. In the end, Chloe wasn’t the only one “Trevor” had completely fooled. After successfully evading catfish hunters all season, DeLeesa was crowned the winner in Wednesday’s season finale. We hopped on the phone with DeLeesa to find out how she pulled off the perfect catfish, where her relationship with Chloe stands now, and what the real Trevor thinks of it all.

You decided to play The Circle as a catfish. Why did you think you’d have a better chance at winning playing as Trevor than as yourself?
It took a while for me to decide if I wanted to do it as Trevor or as myself. I’m fun, I’m really social, I’m very outgoing, and I have no problem making friends. The thing is — it sounds bad, but I just know how girls can be at times. I also know how I’m judged on my social media, and I just didn’t want anything to hold me back. So I felt that if I could create this persona that’s kind of like my husband, kind of like myself, I’d just do a better job … and just watching Trevor and how his social media goes versus mine, and his dynamic with his friends versus mine, it’s a lot less drama. So I feel like if you want to make it kind of far in The Circle, you gotta go with less drama, right?

How did you manage to be friends with everyone when most people had their alliances and their adversaries?
I really didn’t have alliances. I had an unspoken alliance with Chloe, and that was just romantical, right? But I personally felt that I didn’t really have anybody that would necessarily pick me first all the time — or any time. I just never knew where I stood. For me, I was just being myself. I came in as a catfish, but I was being myself. And when I was speaking and having these private chats with people, I was really opening up to them and listening to them, just being a friend. And I think that’s what really took me … [to] the end, because they valued me as a friend as opposed to a competitor.
Did you anticipate putting so much of yourself into the catfish, or did your personality just naturally come out?
I came in being Trevor, but I can’t hold back my personality no matter how much I try. So I think that just flowed with the game — that just came out. I had a really hard time pretending I was a guy, though. It was pretty difficult because I was myself, but then I’d have to remember, Okay, I’m a guy. I have to make sure I sound like a guy because they can’t catch on to me. Because if they catch on to me, then I’m out of here.

What were the things you would change about the way you talk to sell yourself as a guy?
Based off social media, I guess I didn’t do such a great job. I mean, I’m very sweet, and I’m emotional a little bit, and sensitive, very endearing — I just have a lot of feminine qualities. So when I was talking to Chloe, I was trying to be a guy, but I did see me talk in more of a feminine tone. I was trying to talk to her as I would want to be talked to as a guy. And I didn’t want to sound like a creep. I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries. It was really difficult. I didn’t really know how to play it, honestly.

Chloe started flirting with Trevor on the first day, and the relationship escalated pretty quickly. How did your relationship with Chloe impact the way you played the game?
I’m so happy that she flirted with me because I think that’s what pulled me through to the end, because I just felt like I could always trust Chloe. She likes to flirt. She knows that since she flirted with me, she’s going to be my No. 1, and hopefully I’m the same for her … I didn’t come into The Circle wanting to flirt with anybody off the bat or being the first person to do so. But once she did it, I had to run with it, because I just know that you’re gonna protect your man! I know I would protect my man, and so I expected her to do the same.

What’s it like for Trevor watching the show and seeing your relationship with Chloe?
It is hilarious. We sit down and watch the show together, obviously. I think it’s kind of weird for him, but it’s just so funny … I need them to meet one day.

We only see a little of your and Chloe’s conversation after you reveal yourself in the show. How much did you guys talk about everything that happened, and where does your relationship stand now?
We had a pretty decent conversation. She was very shocked. Although, I think deep down she kind of knew there was a possibility that I was a catfish. But we spoke about it a lot … We still keep in touch now — all of us, honestly. There was a point in time that we didn’t speak as much, and I thought it was because her feelings were a little bit hurt. But she did confide in me and tell me that she was dealing with some other issues, and although she was somewhat disappointed — and she’s not going to lie — that’s not the reason that we didn’t get the chance to catch up earlier on after the show was filmed. But we definitely speak, we video-chat. That’s my girlfriend still. Nobody take her from me.

I was so curious about the notebook you brought in with you. What was in it, and what sort of research did you do to prepare for this catfish?
Oh honey, everything was in it! Everything there is to wanna know about a guy I had in there. I had sports in there — and not just one sport. I had basketball, baseball, football. I had brands of cologne, brands of clothing he would wear, how to get a haircut, stuff about working out … I was not trying to get tripped up. I came to win. I knew I threw myself in for a big, big challenge and I studied hard. I wrote down everything. I tried to memorize the colors of different sports teams. I don’t know why, I just thought sports was going to be a major thing that came up throughout the show. But I didn’t wind up using my book that often. I did so much homework, and I only needed it once or twice, I think.

I think Jack could have used a binder like that on the show.
Oh, he needed to go to some classes. He needed to sit down with a female and learn how to do hair and makeup and really do some research.

By the end of the season, you really had convinced everyone that Trevor wasn’t a catfish. Why do you think you were able to fool everyone so well?
I think it’s because my personality was so genuine. I felt like, even though I wasn’t a single dad, I still had integrity. I still played the game as loyal as I could, and my bonds were real. I wasn’t out to get anybody. I wasn’t snaking anybody. I think people just thought, This is a really nice guy. I think they just trusted it. There was no reason not to, you know?

What do you see as the biggest difference between playing The Circle as a catfish and playing like a snake?
It really depends on people’s perceptions when they come into the game. There’s people that come into the game like, “I’m out to get the catfish because they’re not real.” For some reason, they think that if people come in as a catfish, they don’t deserve to be there, which I don’t understand … because we’re all there to win $100,000. Just because I came in as a different persona, that’s the game. [It] doesn’t mean I don’t deserve it. Then you have the players that come in that are just like, “I don’t care about the catfish because I can make them my alliance. I can be cool with them.” At the end of the day, it’s the person behind the screen, and they understand that … I think that’s what made this season so much fun, because everybody came in with some type of strategy and really tried to execute it.

You said you did The Circle to get money for your family. How has this experience and winning affected your and Trevor’s lives?
It changed our lives. We won, and everything was like I said: I wanted to win to get a house, and that money went to a down payment for our home. We were able to get some furniture. Basically, we live how we always wanted to for our children — well, child. Future children, hopefully. It’s just a life-changing experience. I’m very proud of myself. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish for my family, and this is something that we will cherish forever.

Fans were so inspired by you and your story, and people really fell in love with Trevor, too. How is he coping with his newfound fame?
I think he’s still in disbelief. He sees me more so as the one who did it and accomplished it. I’m like, “Babe, you played a big part in it as well.” He wrote the notebook with me, we sat down and we studied — he just supported me throughout the entire process. During the process, he became a single father. I was gone for what — four, five weeks … and he had to take on that responsibility as a single dad. And the way that I was portraying him is how I see him. So I knew that people were going to fall in love with him.

The Circle’s Winner on Pulling Off the Perfect Catfish https://pyxis.nymag.com/v1/imgs/9da/18e/0053524cd9a71de764e6aa03645f299dd9-TheCircle-silo-Deleesa-St-Agathe.png