Earlier this week, we told you about 25-year-old Azel Prather, Jr., who started a successful GoFundMe campaign to surprise and "chaperone" his 22-year-old girlfriend Marissa in Miami, where she'd gone with her friends for spring break -- and where, he explained, "the sun just melts all the morals."
MTV News readers were more than a little concerned for Marissa. Here's just a sample of the comments our story got:
"He's insane I would have left his ass. That's just plain stalkerish."
"This guy is a nutcase. That girl needs to run away......... fast."
"Run girl!! While you still have the chance. This the type of dude that will stalk and probably kill you if you left. So leave now , to a place where he can't find you!!"
Marissa (who asked that her last name not be published) called us earlier today, along with Azel, to insist that this whole thing was a joke that got out of hand.
MTV: How do you feel about all these concerned comments?
Marissa: [They're] definitely misplaced. Those are the most comedic comments I've ever seen in my life. He's the best dude I've ever been with. To say "run" is kind of crazy -- I wish people knew who he was. They don't know who he really is.
My friends from high school, who I don't even talk to anymore, are calling and texting, 'Are you OK?' I'm like, 'I'm OK -- I'm not getting abused or anything like that.' I knew [he did this in a] joking manner; it's all out of proportion. ... I thought this was one of his jokes, 'You're being annoying' ... and then it spiraled into this big thing.
Prather: Some people say ... I'm crazy or I'm stalkerish. Nah, I think she enjoyed it. ... She didn't run away -- she loves me, she's still with me.
MTV: What happened when Azel got to Miami?
Prather: She didn't know [I was coming]. ... She was half-asleep. ... I knew her hotel, I was talking to her all week. I was in an Uber -- once we got on Ocean Drive, I was telling him where to drop me off at.
Marissa: First of all, I'm half-asleep. So I'm thinking, 'Am I dreaming right now or is he really outside?' ... My friends are like, 'Are you serious?' I know my boyfriend is being serious. I ran out the door and he was definitely in the lobby waiting for me.
MTV: How did the rest of the trip go?
Marissa: It was a great time -- I really enjoyed myself. I never thought this [controversy] would come out of it. ... I had a good time. That had to be the best day of my Miami trip, to be honest.
MTV: You said 'I miss my friends' in an Instagram video. Was that just you playing into the joke?
Marissa: Not really. My friends were out shopping; we were just having alone time. I knew we'd get together [with them] later that afternoon ... but I definitely felt that way.
MTV: Some people thought you might be playing the public for a vacation together.
Prather: It's a true story. ... She really had a spring break -- it was her spring break, we argued about it. I'm like, 'You're not going on spring break.' I won't tell her what she can and can't do, but she knows how I feel about Miami. ... She was already there and enjoying it; I spent not even 24 hours with her there -- it was the last day [of her trip] when I finally got there.
MTV: How is it that you trust her in your city, but don't trust her in a different one?
Prather: When you think of Miami, you think of sun, you think of beach, relaxation -- it's the total opposite, dude! Miami in spring break is party, party, party, 'wear your bathing suit but don't go to the beach.' It's too loose! ... I do trust her. I trust her. She trusts me. It wasn't her; it was Miami I didn't trust. Anyone who has a girlfriend and knows Miami feels the way I do.
MTV: What ratio of comments have been positive versus negative?
Prather: When it first started, it was like 70%, 75% [saying] I'm some bad, bad person. As the story grew, I got a chance to tell my story, then it turned probably 60/40 who still think I'm creepy. I gotta let people know, I did it for love. It was spontaneous, that's how it works.
MTV: Marissa, what did you think of Azel worrying that Miami would melt your 'morals'?
Marissa: He's being firm on his Miami beliefs. He is not the first guy I've heard say that -- a lot of my friends were like, 'Your boyfriend is going to let you go?!' It gets a little filthy in Miami. I only knew what people tell me -- I know I'm not that crazy girl, but I can understand why a guy who has a girlfriend would be a little iffy about it. But I'm a good girl!
MTV: What's been your reaction to all the viral media attention?
Marissa: The negative comments bother me sometimes, but it's a joke. I sit back and laugh.
Prather: It's fine -- I get to spread my love story; I get to tell 'em about love. ... I can teach [negative commenters] how to love. ... If they need advice or help on how to spread this love, they can contact me. ... I like to consider myself a love connoisseur.
MTV: So are you two going back to Miami for spring break next year?
Prather: No Miami! This one took a lot to put my heart out on GoFundMe. We had a great time, it ended up being a great thing, she had fun. Hopefully we'll be able to do something next time -- go out, take a trip and not use GoFundMe.