"I need to be able to explicitly and without any question trust who I'm standing next to that you're going to keep me safe and we're going to go get this bag," Mackins says. "It's nothing personal."
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Ayanna Mackins wants to the clear the air about The Challenge: All Stars 2's "braid-gate" with Sophia Pasquis.

Earlier this season, Mackins and Pasquis became friends and Pasquis asked Mackins to braid her hair. But when Pasquis became triggered at the style, noting that it was the type of braid that caused her to be bullied when she was younger, she broke down and the situation escalated into a fight. Later, when their team lost the daily challenge and Mackins used her Life Shield to save herself from elimination, she immediately swapped Pasquis into her place. Pasquis ended up losing that elimination against Jodi Weatherton and was sent home.

Pasquis told EW that the way Mackins threw her into elimination "was foul and it was cold and it wasn't cool," but Mackins is now ready to tell her side of the story. "Before we make somebody as the victim and this person is the perpetrator and foulness, let's give some credit to the fact that we're all dimensional people," Mackins tells EW. "We got levels."

Below, Mackins dives deep on the fight with Pasquis, why she made the decision to put Pasquis into elimination, how the rest of this season goes for her, and more.

THE CHALLENGE: ALL STARS
Ayanna Mackins on 'The Challenge: All Stars 2'
| Credit: James Dimmock/Paramount+

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start at the beginning. What happened between the two of you to sour your new friendship?

AYANNA MACKINS: I don't think you can talk about a person's choices without really knowing where they come from. The Challenge and The Challenge: All Stars, it's filled with these teachable moments. I'm a single mom of four from Washington, D.C., so walking into the Challenge house, my focus is laser. Why you're there in the first place flavors the interactions that I have with the cast members. I live in a neighborhood that the socioeconomic gap is wide. My last Challenge was 17 years ago. We're walking through this house where social collateral's built up for everyone. So I didn't take being in that space, the chance to win all this money, and not a grain of sand on the beach, for granted.

So to get into an interaction that you have with someone — she asked me to braid her hair. She asked me multiple times to braid her hair. She didn't give me any directions as to what she wanted. She didn't provide a picture or style that she wanted. And I think more notably, she didn't tell me about a 30-year trauma that was connected to braiding her hair. I feel like personally, it kind of leaves someone out there when someone goes into crisis and you don't know what to do. I'm not a trained clinician to break down a psychological outburst in that way, so I did my best to just try to be responsive. I didn't want to see anybody snottin' and crying, looking like not their best selves in front of everybody in the house. Because in the middle of The Challenge, that's not a good look.

To be straight, I'm a human being; you can't expect me to separate the moment, seeing someone just become undone over this braid, from being able to be confident in your performance, to be present in the game. I think it's unfair to characterize me as some villain just because here I am presented with this unexpected circumstance where someone has become undone in a situation where you're not supposed to be undone and not considering that as it pertains to moving forward in the game.

Did you two talk at all after that situation escalated, or was your first time talking when you swapped her in your place for the elimination?

Sophia did a lot of talking, but it wasn't to me. She told people that we were in a war and consistently inflated this moment. She alleges that she had this trauma that happened to her, but she didn't ever come to me about it. If you have a lot of people coming to you saying this person said and that person said, that's knocking your credibility down. I'm not far away, I'm not in some other city, and you don't come to me straight and you're having all these conversations with other cast members that I have to have a certain level of either a relationship with or I'm trying to build my relationships, I'm really reading it as you trying to drag down my name.

You're not trying to make a resolution or even give me the benefit of the doubt to try to explain what's going on with you. So I read that as being adversarial. I read it as being just not consistent. And I'm there for my kids. I'm there for $500,000. I'm not there to try to be anyone's psychologist. It may sound cold, but I didn't have a long-standing relationship with her to the extent that it will cause me to put my family at risk to try to unpack her trauma.

The Challenge: All Stars 2
'The Challenge: All Stars 2'
| Credit: Laura Barisonzi/MTVE

So at what point did you decide you were going to choose Sophia for the elimination?

We can't talk about that without talking about the actual challenge. There's a moment at the very top of the competition and for the men, they get a respite because Ryan volunteers to be the captain. For the women, it's imposed upon us that we're going to draw numbers and then the men are going to pull the number from behind their back and choose who the female captain is. I'll be candid with you, for me to say four and the number being four, I read that as, was this really random and I'm just the captain because I randomly chose the number, or is this game? Is this strategy? Was it always the intent for me to be the captain and wash the Life Shield? That planted a seed in me early that I need to read this a little differently. So that was on my mind as it pertains to the incident with the cast member that wanted her hair braided.

I need to be able to explicitly and without any question trust who I'm standing next to that you're going to keep me safe and we're going to go get this bag. It's nothing personal to the extent that as it was implied that I was trying to personally destroy anyone. I think that it's unreasonable for a grown woman to think that another grown woman would set her whole family aside to try to unpack someone else's mental health concerns. It's unreasonable on the Challenge field, come on now. So I'll be straight, it's been hurtful to read the responses that have come my way to all of this, because you look at other people in the game and they had strategies to keep by them people who have shown them loyalty, people who have shown them strength and confidence. But when it comes to me, I'm expected to throw my family aside, my four kids aside, for a possibility of loyalty? Not Ayanna, that's not going to happen. You only got one, two, three times to show me that you're not going to step up to the plate.

We lost the challenge as a team. It puts us in an immediate space where we have to assess what's the next steps? We're put in the same position that we were put in at the very top of the challenge where the men are going to put their hands behind their back and choose a number about who's going into the elimination. I'm very strategic, I'm not going to just throw that awareness aside, so why would I hand over my autonomy? I've already had my Life Shield taken away from me because I'm the captain and we lost the competition. But now I'm going to hand that back over to the person with the hand behind his back and possibly have someone who I really want to be here get randomly selected and put in? No.

For me, it was very clear. Is Jodi going to go in? Absolutely not, because Jodi is so competitive that I can count on her despite whether I like her or not. She ensured that our team was neck-and-neck with the other team by pushing all the pieces forward. I couldn't let some random number being pulled behind MJ's back send her into the elimination. Kendal's already shown me that she's someone who I can trust and depend upon. That only leaves three other names: Jonna, Casey, and Sophia. In a very quick moment, I said this will be the test: Can Sophia get over this moment? For an extended amount of time she's undone over a braid, can she get over it, rise to the occasion, and be a champion? Once I say she's going into the elimination arena, the ball's in her court. It's Sophia in that arena against tic-tac-toe.

I was a Division I athlete and I won championships, and you can't pick who your opponent is and you can't pick when your coach throws you into a moment where you have to show up and produce. It doesn't matter what's going on in your head or going on in your life. That's the mindset that I went in with it, and it was read — well, I think my biggest mistake was I think I really underestimated how that mentality and how that processing will be read by the group. Reflecting on it, that's what I see in it. But I definitely am disheartened by the responses to that where it seems like it's a double standard where other cast members can make the same moves but they're categorized as strategist, they're categorized as being analytical, but because of a perceived alliance between me and Sophia, I get to be run under the bus. I just don't think that that's just.

But I'm not a perfect person. I don't have the social game everybody has, I don't have the history and the alliances that folks have. All I can do is follow the blueprint — who's ready to be great? And I'm not saying that Sophia don't have it in her to be great. But at that point in time, I think that she let things get to the best of her, and you've got to own that. Can't shift the blame to somebody else. If she wasn't in the elimination arena, who else deserved to be in there? That's my question I'm going to leave everybody with. If we're doing this argument of being a victim and all this other stuff, nah, this is The Challenge. Let's leave the victimhood for other conversations.

You know, my neighborhood? I think in D.C., 25 percent of the shootings that happen in our city happen like a block from where I live. Kids are getting killed like every other day, and when you talk about the demographic of people getting killed, my son sits in that number. Come on now, this is what I'm coming into The Challenge with. I'm not coming from palm trees and comfort and other Challenges where I'm sitting laid back, sipping on beverages, developing alliances and relationships. I'm coming off of quarantine and with my kids for a year and a half, I'm coming off of people who I know being gunned down in the street, I'm coming off of getting stopped by the police once when I was pregnant like last year. I could play around like anybody, but it offends my sensibility when you extract all of who I am, you can't say my name Ayanna without my backstory. When you extract all of that and then stuff it with these villainous ulterior motives, I think that is one-dimensional, and it does an injustice to myself and everybody that I represent.

I'm going deep, but at the same time, balance that out a little bit with the fact that I was having a good time! [Laughs] I got four kids, so to be able to just be on my own as an adult, joking around with people, watching Tina's pranks, and being able to just wake up in the morning and literally go to the bathroom by myself! Man, it was a gift. And I'll treasure it forever. And I do get why people are scared of the elimination arena, but I get off on it a little bit. It's you! Your biggest competition is you. I cherished it.

After your two elimination wins, did you notice people treating you differently now that you exposed yourself as one of the big threats in the house?

I think they think I'm a little off-brand. [Laughs] I can't dismiss the fact that other people have had adverse experiences in the arena. But especially after that experience, people can see why I'm here. I'm not flying by on being someone's pal or alliance. What's most interesting to me is seeing the conversations about becoming alliances that were happening while I was floating on a flamingo. I underestimated the power that those alliances bring to the game. I know for next time, I guess.

What can you say about how the rest of the season goes for you?

We have this introduction into the Challenge: All Stars universe of the Life Shield. Watch this concept of a Life Shield and analyze how it impacts the game and how people communicate with each other, relate to each other, and in many regards, strategize around it to the final. There's a lot to learn from it. So watch that Life Shield and how it plays into the sequence of events. And shout-out to Tyler for bringing the spice this season. Woo! Look forward to Tyler and Teck and other cast members coming out in unexpected ways.

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