It’s so hard to believe that we’re 9 weeks into the journey with The Bachelor SA and that there are just 4 ladies left! This past week the tension was evident at that final, awkward cocktail party. Lee had shared a fun day out with everyone on a group date at Gold Reef City but early on in the day, people were already feeling the pressure, and feeling excluded. One on one time followed, first with Gina and then with Michelle R, who arrived back at the mansion with a rose.
And talking about ‘excluded’ … let’s get to the social media reaction surrounding Lee inviting Jozaan AND Nontombi for a chat, and then proceeding to chat exclusively to Jozaan. Talk about causing a Twitter storm.
You could have cut the tension with a knife. When that final rose ceremony began it felt like everyone was holding their breath. Lee himself needed a moment to compose himself before presenting that very last rose, and when he did, it was Jenna and Nontombi who were empty-handed. I chatted to the two of them last Friday.
I didn’t want to beat about the bush, so the very first thing I mentioned when I spoke to Nontombi, was to ask her how she’d felt about the whole incident and the audience reaction, general consensus being that she had been disrespected and that she should have walked out of that mansion immediately and not even have waited for the rose ceremony. Well, she didn’t do that, and in true Nontombi style, when she didn’t receive a rose, she said goodbye – when it was time – and walked out with her head held high, like the lady she is, and has been throughout the show.
Nontombi says that while she doesn’t really know what Lee was thinking by wanting to chat to her and Jozaan together, she thought that maybe he felt that as the two girls were so close, maybe they’d feel more comfortable – the atmosphere in the mansion was incredibly tense by then. Regarding audience reaction, she’s extremely relaxed about it, saying that people respond from their own personal perspectives – they see what they want to see – and this is a theme that prevails throughout my conversation with both her and Jenna: the fact that the audience doesn’t really get the entire picture, only parts of it, and that’s what they’re basing their opinions on.
Jenna tells me that from the minute she stepped out of the limo, the impression she got of Lee was that he made every one of the ladies feel like she was in a safe space. But walking into the mansion, she never expected that she was walking into a situation where she’d be meeting people who just a few weeks later she’d be absolutely heartbroken to leave.
She’d entered The Bachelor SA because having always been so focused on her career, she’d never made time for relationships. But she admits to being old-fashioned and quite early on had realised that maybe he wasn’t the right guy for her. However, being a determined and resolute soul, Jenna continued to reason with things and gave it a full chance. She’s most proud of the fact that she remained 100% true to her character and I’m sure everyone will agree that from start to finish she never diverted from being truly authentic.
Jenna acknowledged that on that last group date she knew that the whole situation just wasn’t right for her. She was emotional and teary and was feeling that enough was enough. In fact she says the entire series has been an emotional journey… however it’s taught her so much about herself and it’s been more positive than negative. She knows that Lee would have liked to see the fight in her, but it’s just not who she is, and as we’ve already said, she stayed true to herself. She also correctly points out that the right guy will love you for who you are and that we’re all different – that’s what makes us unique.
When it came to strategy, Nontombi laughingly (and repeatedly) tells me that maybe she should have watched at least one episode (or maybe a season) of one of the overseas versions of The Bachelor before going on the show! That’s right people, she’d never watched a single one. She didn’t know about home visits, didn’t know about the proposal at the end, which she philosophically says would mean that it would make sense that he’d need to meet your family and friends beforehand right?
With regards to why she entered, she says it’s not entirely about the end goal: the man. One needs to bear in mind – and keep in mind – that the bachelor is not a prize, he’s a person! Being a part of the show doesn’t mean that Lee gets to sit back and have 24 women fight over him, which is often the perception, he’s also part of the process. Jenna describes how difficult it is for him to allocate time for each of the ladies at the cocktail parties, which leads to strain and friction amongst everyone – for example, he might have had a one on one date with one of them, but then inadvertently wouldn’t immediately greet her at the next cocktail party, greeting someone else first. This would lead to huge disappointment and anxiety.
Nontombi resolutely reminds us that what you see on TV might be reality TV but “it’s not real! It’s like commenting on social media… so easy, but if you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t say it online!” While you’re on the show, if you wouldn’t do something in real life, don’t do it here either.
And is there anything they would have changed, or done differently? Well, Nontombi would have watched the show previously. But then she thinks about it and says that she thinks that this may have changed her authenticity, so she’s actually happy she didn’t. Jenna too, says she wouldn’t change anything and adds (reflectively) that when you look back on aspects of your life you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself and you should be kind to the you that you were in whatever situation you were in.
Does being on The Bachelor SA change peoples’ perceptions of you… do your family and friends see you in a different light? Jenna tells me that her family and friends were immensely supportive and that that the feedback that’s made her the happiest is that they’ve told her how happy they were to see she came across exactly as she truly is.
Nontombi describes the experience as both overwhelming and refreshing. Due to her mom having a pre-existing health condition, she wasn’t able to tell her that she’d be on the show, which was difficult as she would have loved to be able to share the news with her. However, her other family members and friends were supportive.
We’re wrapping things up, and inevitably we get to discussing the bonds that have been formed with the other ladies in the mansion. It tell them that it’s funny that in all of my previous chats with the other participants, we talk more about this than we actually talk about Lee. He doesn’t seem to come up in conversation much. The truth is, they remind me, that everyone spends very little time with Lee, but a lot of time together, so it’s understandable that such strong friendships are created. Take that, together with the fact that you have no connection to your usual support networks, you’re bound to form strong ties in a short space of time.
It’s Jenna who tells me that it was certainly not her intention to go in and create friendships – in fact, if she had a strategy, she’d say that was it! The biggest and most unexpected shock for her was to absolutely love these girls and to make such close friends, and then have to leave them! “I never prepared my heart for that!”
And Nontombi pipes up: “Babe! They’re not dying!”
Banter like this only exists where true warmth and friendship live. I guess some things on reality TV are real after all!
The Bachelor SA is screened on M-Net Channel 101 every Thursday evening at 19:00 and is also available on Catch-Up.
Fans can visit www.mnet.tv/thebachelorsa and follow all the breaking news and conversations around the show on Twitter @MNet #TheBachelorSA and on the official M-Net Facebook page.