No contestants on this season of The Bachelor have received more air-time, or more flack, than Cat Henesy, Romy Poulier and Alisha Aitken-Radburn.
The trio dubbed “the mean girls” and this season’s “villains”, who were sent packing by the Honey Badger this week (alongside intruder Brittany), raised questions over the validity of shows such as this in today’s climate – in the age of #metoo do we really need a show pitting women against women in the pursuit of a man?
And while the premise of the show hasn’t changed (and has always been questionable) these days there’s not only problems with the show from a feminist perspective, but now it’s also raising questions over bullying, gaslighting and mental health.
We chatted to the ladies about their time on the show and the backlash they've received, regrets, bullying and who will win the Bachie's heart.
How are you girls feeling after watching last night’s episode?
Cat: Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s a lot of hate form the public which is the hardest thing and the trolls, but we’ve got a good support network around us and we’ve got each other and we’re all here to help each other and lift each other up.
Romy: It was a really hard couple of days for me personally. I struggled watching those episodes I found it really confronting because I don’t remember it being like that, it’s a shock just as much for us as it is you guys.
Alicia: It was a long time ago, and it was 167 of filming for one episode, and so there’s a lot of stuff you’re not seeing and that really results in you really only seeing one side – which is the villainy side.
R: We were really great mates with the girls in there and that’s the hardest thing to watch, because that was the best part about the experience for us.
A: And we understand why, because they’re not going to show us sitting down and having really great yarns and sipping tea because that doesn’t really fit in with the story. They wanted villains and they got villains.
Do you accept responsibility for your behavior though?
C: Completely, we regret a lot of the things we did and we’re ashamed of them and we do apologise for offending people because I know we have and that’s not cool.
R: In the same breath, with the Tenille thing – it just didn’t go down like that and it’s been blown up as this big fight between her and I, but the whole house was upset, and they’ve just cut it to be her and I and that she’s run and I came back up to her and it just didn’t happen that way. But hopefully she will confirm that.
A: I don’t know if she will. Some of the girls are really relishing this I think.
Everyone is pretty tired of reality stars blaming the editing – you’re consenting adults you go on a show you know you’ve got a microphone and cameras on you.
C: Yeah it doesn’t mean we didn’t say the things, we did and we take full ownership of that.
A: More than just the editing though, what we want to share is that you’ve only seen one side of us and reality TV is not the place for complex narratives.
C: Call it editing, call it whatever you want but we did say those things, some of them were nasty – we also did say a lot of really nice things about people but it’s just a shame people didn’t get to see that, but it is what it is we put ourselves in these positions.
A: There was a lot of bitching in the house but some people were just more calculated and tactical about it and doing it off camera.
That’s a choice you make going on to these shows isn’t it, and you were happy to say those things for the cameras.
R: I gave an opinion, and I started conversations on camera, that were happening when the cameras weren’t there. It’s conversations that were going on without the cameras, we all signed on to this and it’s our part of the deal to give an opinion. It was amazing to see the people who would just flip and turn into wallflowers when the cameras were there.
A: I tried to keep Brittany accountable out when she called Brooke’s date tacky and inappropriate when she went over to the Bach pad in her pyjamas and she was saying these things off camera. We’re being made to be accountable for the things we're saying on camera but they’re not.
C: Look there’s no point trying to defend it, what’s done is done and we are sorry for offending them and there are more sides to our personalities and we hope people get a chance to see that.
This week we saw the fourth wall broken down and the producers in there amongst it more than ever, how did you feel about that side of things, did you guys feel the producers would manipulated you for drama?
R: We’re not really allowed to talk about that.
C: If you don’t say or do things there is a chance that you will go home and we have been told that. It’s very hands-on in there.
A: That being said I love the crew and producers and I think they’re very talented – what they do in these set amount of hours.
C: They’re there to do their job and their bloody good at it. We had fun, and obviously, it is a heavily produced show.
R: But still it is shocking to come out and watch, you think they’re going to cut you a bit of slack or show another facet of your personality. I was like who is this person on the TV – my friends and family were all like WTF.
C: My friends messaged me and were like I don’t even know who I’m watching that’s so not you.
A: Think about somebody like Ash, who wasn’t seen all that much. Think about her experience, she was in there almost as long as us and she’s had that whole experience in her life and now she’s watching it back – and there were lots of things to do with her individually – yet no one would really realise.
So you feel pressure in there to get the airtime?
R: You sacrifice so much to be there, and the process is huge – Cat moved countries, Alicia resigned from Bill Shorten’s office.
A: So I’m clearly going to try and make the most of this experience and if it’s not a connection with Nick then, of course, I’m still going to try and stick around – maybe I could go skydiving or something!
So this season and your narrative has brought to the forefront some pretty serious conversations about bullying, gaslighting and mental health. Mental health and reality TV is a real growing problem.
A: To be completely honest, I broke down in tears for three hours last night and had my first full-on anxiety attack in my life. And I mean I’m fine, and I’m sitting here with the girls and I know that they’re all strong and they’ve had their moments as well.
C: When you wake up in the middle of the night and you’ve got 100 death threats it’s hard.
R: It’s scared me off completely, I’m mortified of doing another reality TV show. I pretty much regret it. It’s dampened the whole experience, and especially the edit because there’s just nothing nice about it and that’s upsetting for me. I’ve been humiliated and I know I did start conversations and I was cheeky but you’d think I’d killed someone.
What message do you guys want to send out there?
C: You do things in there, and you don’t even remember half of it but it’s awful and I regret it, but to the trolls, it’s not ok. You’ve got to remember we’re people as well.
A: If society has decided that we have a fundamental problem with this sort of discourse, in that we’re portraying bullying and then we’re getting bullied, the fact of the matter is that people love drama. All of these shows are the ratings gold, so people need to turn off and stop watching if they’re not into it or understand that what they’re seeing is not a documentary.
What support are you ladies getting from the show after all this backlash?
R: None but I need some.
What about the support you ladies receive during the filming?
R: There’s a psychologist there at all times. They were actually great.
A: I felt really supported through the process. We all had her number and could call her anytime. And I called her 3 weeks before the show started airing because of how watching it back has put a dampener on the experience, so I rang her because I was nervous that would happen to me because I was so enthusiastic about the whole thing.
R: It’s just been such an anti-climax. I just don’t remember being like that.
C: All the girls #womensupportingwomen but all the girls who I thought I was close to, haven’t even reached out to me or said a word to me since it aired. It’s been hard.
A: I feel like there are particular girls that are unfortunately relishing the fact that we are engulfed in this bad girls scandal. And then you have Cat here who has been thrown under the bus because of her business, but there’s no women supporting women there. There were plenty of girls in there with businesses.
C: I just got completely targeted and I went on it for the challenge and the experience and I’ve come out of it with a whole new friendship group and of course I talk about what I do it’s my life and I’m proud of it – of course I wear my own designs.
Has your business been affected by the backlash?
C: I’m getting a lot of hate, I have people saying they hope I go bankrupt, rating my business 1 out of 5 stars, making up comments about the quality and all this awful stuff.
R: But you’ve sold more in the last month than you have…
C: Yeah sales are good, I’m trotting along but I’m on damage control, it’s been intense.
Romy, last night when you decided not to accept the rose, what was your reasoning there?
R: I know it appears that because Cat and Alicia weren’t going to be there, but to be honest I’m extremely impulsive, I don’t know what happened but my hand wouldn’t move it was the most bizarre thing and then I left and I was having some regrets worrying about my decision. And then that night my dad had a stroke and I had to go and say goodbye to him, he didn’t end up dying but now he’s brain damaged and can’t communicate. Had I not gone home I wouldn’t have had that last conversation with him. It took 24 hours for my decision to make sense but now it does.
Romy, you came out this morning saying you are an actor and were paid.
R: That was a misunderstanding, I just said as my trade I’m an actor and I got paid on the show – along with everyone else. But I wasn’t planted on the show by producers.
You then discussed how it organically became role, so just you decided to go with that?
A: I’m not an actress but I felt like you’re playing a character in there.
R: It’s the questions you’re being asked, and you’re mic-ed…
A: It was fun. But a couple of us knew the first few days we were in there that we weren’t going to develop anything super serious, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t going to give it a red hot go.
R: Today if a girl said to me I don’t kiss on the first date and then came back to me and was ‘oh I kissed on the first date’ I’d be like cool, but in there it’s different, its heightened. You’re in there and you have nothing else to do, nothing else to think about and it’s kind of Stockholm Syndrome and before you know it you’re completely engulfed in the drama and this character and it’s just bizarre.
A: The premise of The Bachelor is pitting women against women.
R: It’s not about love, it’s never been about love – it’s all about the drama. If people don’t like it they don’t have to watch it.
A: Start tuning in from now.
Do you guys know who wins or do you have any guesses?
ALL: We don’t!
C: I thought they’d tell us but the girls have kept it so quiet. I hope that he picks Brooke, she is the biggest legend, super genuine, down to earth and amazing and she deserves all the love she’s getting.
R: But I think Brittany is going to win.
Would you guys do reality TV again?
C: Bring on Bachelor In Paradise!
A: For sure!
Have any if you found love since the show?
C: V single.
R: Dating but nothing confirmed.