M-Net’s reality dating series, The Bachelor SA, was pretty riveting viewing as it dished up loads of drama, adventure and a little ‘Belle’ moment from Durban beauty, Michelle Reddy (29), who swooped the bachelor off his feet, earning her the coveted first impression rose. Bronwyn Forbes-Hardinge chats to her about the rose, the drama, life and love outside the luxury mansion.
It’s been a few weeks since the first season of The Bachelor SA came to an end, and viewers are still shocked by Lee Thompson’s decision not to give Michelle a rose during the most intense rose ceremony of the season. Despite being a favourite from the beginning, and having fans believe that the pair would make the perfect couple, Michelle had to say goodbye to the man of her dreams and her happily-ever-after fantasy after she was given the boot at the romantic LUX Grand Gaube in Mauritius.
Michelle believes her wit, poise and grace are what carry her through life’s trials and tribulations, and are undoubtedly what got her through the crushing blow that axed her from the show. As a customer and shopper marketing specialist at one of the most innovative FMCG companies in Durban, Michelle thrives on a career in which she gets to travel and experience various cultures across Africa. She has a healthy obsession for the beach which is matched in equal parts by her passion for the countryside and horse-riding. But there is more to this sophisticated and stylish socialite who admits that she is addicted to extreme sports. Jumping out of planes and river rafting are challenges she’ll never turn down for fear of getting wet or dirty or hurt, for that matter.
At home, you’ll find her dressed for comfort in her favourite pair of shorts, a tee and slops and more than likely nestled on the couch with a good non-fiction book and a cup of tea. If not there, then she’ll be in the kitchen cooking up a storm because she believes the way to any heart is through the stomach, especially when it comes to men.
And speaking of men and her search for love and a soul mate, Michelle has by no means thrown in the towel. Just because she got rejected by the dashing bachelor who had 23 other women vying for his heart, doesn’t mean she isn’t destined for a future with the man of her dreams. It just means that Lee wasn’t the one!
“It was the most exhilarating and emotional rollercoaster ride of my life but, without a doubt, I would do it again! I view my time on The Bachelor SA as a life experience – a part of the adventurous path I’ve had to venture down on my journey to love and self-discovery. If anything, it helped me grow and become a more confident me.”
“We all need love as much as we need air to breathe. I applied in the hope of finding happiness with someone who sees and appreciates me for who I am. I wanted to find that someone with whom I could build an empire, start a family and live the ordained fairy-tale that God had planned for me.”
On the show, Michelle attended fewer group dates than anyone else, and was the only one to be invited to two one-on-one dates. In a house full of women all competing for the attention of the same guy, this did not go down well and Michelle found herself on the receiving end of a lot criticism from some of the girls who questioned her connection with Lee.
As graceful and demure as she is, Michelle, who was still high on her first-impression rose, said she felt like a deer caught in headlights when things took a dramatic turn and she was confronted for her lack of authenticity.
“Real, fake or simply just misunderstood? I admit I wasn’t open to communicating much with the other women in the mansion, but the only reason for this was because my objective was to find love, so I chose to eliminate the thought of other women being in a relationship with Lee. I didn’t realise it would create the kind of drama that it did. I’m not a confrontational person by nature and, in that moment, I wanted to run. I questioned whether my being on the show and in that situation was worth losing a part of myself that I had fought so hard to build up.”
But, the couple clearly shared something special, and fans of the show openly agreed, taking to social media to show their support. From a following of 485, Michelle’s Instagram fan base skyrocketed to more than 24 000.
In the end though, as beautiful as she looked in that yellow gown that had her dubbed the ‘belle of the ball’ and in Lee’s opinion, beautiful enough to take his breath away, it just wasn’t enough. Michelle’s fans were as visibly shocked as she was when Lee told her that they just weren’t meant to be and she would not be getting the fairy tale ending she’d hoped for.
“I am so grateful for all the support I received during my time on The Bachelor SA. It was so uplifting and helped revive my spirit. And as for that yellow gown, it definitely showcased a graceful side of me – my red carpet style. It was a dress I chose together with the Just Tonight Josephine team who offer an extensive range of exquisite dresses for all occasions. There were so many to choose from, but I went with the one that reminded me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because every girl wants to feel like a princess, even if it’s only for a moment.”
In spite of her heartache, Michelle kept her composure and bade adieu to her prince charming with no regrets about being a part of a journey she shared with all those equally beautiful women from all walks of life.
“People often ask me if the show was scripted or if any of it was real. Everything we all went through was experienced by us and felt in that moment. We all shared a unique journey and our dates will no doubt be remembered forever. In spite of what the sceptics might think, there are some lasting friendships that come out of experiences like this. Sure, there were many moments fraught with drama, all of which was real, but there were also so many highlights, and I’ve chosen to focus on mine – being given the first impression rose on the first-ever The Bachelor SA. My rose has been pressed, preserved and framed and is now hanging in my living area as a reminder of where I have been and what I am striving for.”
With new-found fame comes opportunity, and for Michelle this has meant interviews at every corner, clothing brand ambassador offers, and invitations to VIP events including this year’s Vodacom Durban July that is just days away.
“I am looking forward to experiencing the cultural stance that this year’s theme will offer. Dressing up, I tend to rock a classic look, often keeping it simple with a signature edge, but recently I’ve opened myself up to bold colours and items that gleam, so for this year’s VDJ, I am going against the grain and taking a chance by designing my own outfit.”
For the rest, Michelle is intent on making the most of the last few months of her 20s and the opportunities that have come her way as a result of her journey on The Bachelor SA.
“I enjoy experiencing unique places and things Durban has to offer. There are some divine restaurants in Hillcrest and Ballito. I am a morning person, so visiting the Shongweni Farmers Market every Saturday with friends is an experience I hold dear. I love the vibe, the live music, the tasty food and the perfectly brewed coffee. What more could you ask for? Life after The Bachelor SA has become increasingly busy, but I am so thankful for every new door that has opened for me. I’m just hoping to create impactful footprints wherever I go. As for my prince charming – a gentleman who is intellectual, trustworthy and adventurous – I might not have found him yet, but he is definitely out there, waiting to be found.”
Photos by: Photos by: RavenFire Photography South Africa, Leslie and Michelle Venter – 071 365 4754 [email protected], www.ravenfirephotography.co.za
Clothing and styling by: Sita Harilal, The Style Network, 031 566 2269, www.thestylenetwork.co.za
Make-up by: Robyn Morris of Etre-Belle, 084 604 4633/ 065 357 4428, Instagram makeup_by_robynmorris
Hair by: Sandy Sanesy of Etre-Belle, 082 907 0800, Instagram sandy_sanesy
Location: The Square Boutique Hotel, Umhlanga