‘Tiger King’: Meet Joe Exotic’s Rarely Seen Ex-Fiancee

by Jacklyn Krol

Did you know that Tiger King star Joe Exotic almost married a woman?

Season 2 of the hit Netflix series debuted on November 17 and it already shed light on Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s personal life. In the first episode, viewers meet a woman named Kimberly Craft, who was previously engaged to him.

The former couple met in the late 1970s when Exotic was a police officer, long before Tiger King became a thing. He was just nineteen when he became the youngest police officer in Texas. Craft explained that she was the daughter of the town’s fire chief. She reported that she was a victim of domestic violence from her ex-husband. She left him and became a single mother of their two children.

Exotic and Craft began a relationship after he got a warrant for her ex-husband’s arrest.

“He was very good-looking and he ended up asking me out on a date, so we started dating,” she told the cameras. Exotic proposed to her on Christmas Day.

“Joe and I dated for quite a while,” she added. “I was at a point in my life where I had two children and no husband. It really made me feel special that Joe was a gentleman and wanted to wait to have sex.” She later admitted that she was naive and she really wanted to believe his words. In an interview from prison, Exotic confirmed that they never had sex.

The ‘Tiger King’ and His Doomed Relationships

Their relationship became rocky after he was spotted out at gay bars. “It was pretty funny, but I never looked at the bigger picture with Joe,” she revealed.

“Everybody had been telling me he was gay,” she admitted. “I didn’t want to believe it but he was.” She confronted him and he came out as gay to her. They broke off their engagement but remained friends. However, that wasn’t the only controversy during their rocky time together.

Exotic actually stripped for the town’s mayor and her friends. He claimed that he engaged in the striptease to make enough money for a new fire truck. Looking back at their time together, Craft can only laugh and found his actions “kind of hilarious.”

The two ended up becoming platonic friends and leaned on each other over the years. After their breakup, he later met his first husband Brian Rhyne.

“I met Brian when I was working security at [gay bar] The Round-Up, and he was a customer,” the Tiger King star shared. “We dated for a while and got married, and were together 16 years.” Exotic’s niece, Chealsi Rutman, added that “Uncle Brian” was the “glue of the family.” 

Tragically, he died from HIV complications and Exotic was devastated by his loss.