Having your heart broken on national TV and feeling your hopes, dreams and world shatter is not for sissies … it takes true grit to keep it together while the cameras are rolling and walk away with dignity intact and head held high. We caught up with the gorgeous Bridget Marshall while she was spending lockdown with her folks in Durban, to chat about that break-up and her journey on M-Net’s The Bachelor South Africa.
“It suddenly stopped. All the butterflies, fireworks, my heart and my words froze. I didn’t know what to say. How do you put into words how you’re feeling when everything just comes to a grinding halt?” These words are just the start of the emotional message Bridget posted to her Instagram account after walking away from Marc Buckner when he gave her the boot in an intense 60-miute finale The Bachelor South Africa.
Bridget’s superpower is without a doubt her ability to light up any room. When we meet her at the fabulous Valdior Guest House, she’s barefoot in black three-quarter jeans and a comfy Tee she’s dubbed her lockdown gear. She’s already done 22 media interviews, but nothing like the dress-up-and-play date we’ve arranged with her and a few show-stopping Kathrin Kidger designs.
Although it’s been more than six months since she walked off the set of the finale held in the picturesque Kapama Game Reserve, and she laughs and jokes and has lots of naughty stories to tell, there is a subtle sadness that surfaces when she relives those final moments on the set of The Bachelor like they occurred yesterday.
“Being in that moment was tough, but watching it playback was even harder. It took a lot of courage and strength to put my heart on the line and risk it all for the chance to have it all.”
A self-dubbed travel queen made in Durbs and living in Cape Town, Bridget is excitable and real. She’s an expert in the travel industry, a straight-shooter who tackles problems head-on (something she was often called out for on the show), she’s game for anything (except for eating peppadews because she’s allergic,) and wants a partner in life (or crime) who is loyal, loving and into the great outdoors.
“I’m vulnerable but guarded, moody but dependable, and terrified of change but extremely adaptable. I’ve got layers… and though you may not guess it when you first meet me, I love hard. My parents have been married for 45 years – they have the kind of love everybody wants at the end of the day. It’s powerful. They’ve been through everything and come out stronger. When I marry someone one day, I want that to be it for me – a match made in heaven.”
About her journey on The Bachelor, Bridget says it was a wild one. From most hated to season favourite, nothing could have prepared her for the ride.
“When I signed up for The Bachelor, I’d been through the ringer. I’d just moved to Cape Town for a fresh start after being broken up with on Valentine’s Day, and was trying to find my feet, let alone myself. I joined Tinder in search of love, but it just wasn’t working out for me, and then a friend suggested I sign up for The Bachelor. It was the last day for applications. I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t believe that it was possible to find love on a reality show (how wrong was I!)”
Bridget submitted her application and never gave it another thought until she received a call to say she’d made it onto the show.
“I was so unprepared. There were girls who had dresses made in anticipation of the rose ceremonies, and then there was me – one suitcase with the basics and very little faith that Marc would even hand me a rose on the first night. By the time of the hometown visit, it suddenly hit me hard that I really liked Marc, that I’d fallen for him and there was a chance I could be the one he chose in the end.”
Bridget’s Durban upbringing, like Marc’s, also meant they had something special in common. Following in the footsteps of her entire female bloodline, Bridget attended Durban Girls College, and enjoyed a happy life as a tenacious teen, filled with great gatherings in their Currie Road home.
“Never mind the people, we had dogs, hamsters, a pig named Rodney, a guinea pig named Fenwick (don’t ask me why), chickens named Ned and Meg and rabbits – mine was called Amos. I’m an animal lover, so it was a lot of fun living in that house, I won’t lie.”
After school Bridget packed her bags – leaving all of her beloved pets behind – and moved to the UK to travel and experience the world. She’s always on the go, whether it’s going to gym, to the beach, hiking, walking on the promenade or shopping with her friends. She lists these activities as some of her favourite, and includes amongst her top Durban haunts the Oyster Box Hotel – she is obsessed with the Lighthouse Bar; The George Bar And Restaurant; The beach – a must-do for any sunny day in Durbs and Circus Circus Beach Café because it’s her favourite place to have breakfast with her parents on a beautiful morning.
“I love Durban – the vibe, the people, the weather, this is home. My fondest memories of this city – apart from my home and many years spent swimming and as a lifeguard on the beach – involve my granny. She was 98 when she died in July last year, but she’s always been there for me – every gala or event I participated in, she was there! She was my world, and I wish she could have been here to see me brave reality TV.”
Going into the final ring ceremony, Bridget says she thought she and Marc had had a solid, stable connection, but she also knew there was a 50/50 chance he might choose her rival, Marisia van Wyk.
“The day was packed with interviews, photoshoots and preparing for the finale. Iinsecurity is something I have battled with all my life, so I was exceptionally anxious and by the time I walked up to Marc, in that gorgeous gown by Just Tonight Josephine (and no, she didn’t get to keep it), I was exhausted and emotionally drained. I tried to prepare myself for how I wanted to exit the show if the worst happened, but we are never prepared enough in reality.”
“While he was talking to me, there was a baby hippo in the background making a noise. I was trying not to be distracted. He talked, I listened, and everything was going okay until he uttered that one little word, ‘but…’ – I was like a meercat in bright lights. Mentally, I blacked out.”
Bridget doesn’t agree with Marc’s explanation, saying she felt he didn’t want to be honest with her in order to avoid hurting her.
“We had such a great relationship and then he broke my heart and it sucked even more because it was on national TV. Sometimes, in the long run, it’s just better to tell the truth from the start than prolong the agony. I had to remind myself that there was nothing wrong with me. That I just wasn’t his person. I couldn’t be angry with him and I couldn’t blame Marisia – I’m genuinely very fond of her, but it still hurt. In spite of this, I knew I had to walk away dignified, which I think I did pretty well. It was the moment of which I was most proud.”
Leaving the set after her exit interview however, Bridget says was done a little less gracefully.
“I won’t lie, I fell apart. What also made it harder, was the overwhelming affection I was shown by the crew who seemed to share my heartache. There was little that could comfort me at the time though, not even the room service, chocolate or crying out loud while watching my favourite movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
When asked how the whole experience affected, influenced or changed her life, Bridget’s responds, “How has it not?”
“We spent the better part of two months cut off from the outside world – no access to phones (something most of us rely on heavily) except for a few hours on Sundays, and we were all competing for the affection of one man. There were serious personalities to contend with, not only in the mansion, but in the public eye, which are the hardest to handle. But, we had a great support system through M-Net and the crew who went out of their way to ensure that mentally we were able to cope.”
Even though the contestants are warned about the harsh realities of social media haters, and offered counselling and coping skills to deal with negative publicity and social media slandering, Bridget says the first three weeks the show aired were her worst.
“I’ve never been in the public eye, so being scrutinised and picked on by public haters was probably soul-destroying. I cried buckets because of what people were saying about me. Yes, I tripped on the first episode when I arrived to introduce myself to Marc, but in my defence I was wearing shoes that I didn’t own; even though I jumped in the end, the bungee jumping was still an awful, cowardly moment for me, and the fishing episode and wearing that rod holder was just…. urgh!, but I was being myself.”
By far the most embarrassing moment for Bridget when she looks back was when she packed her bags and threatened to leave the mansion. At that stage most of the women who made it through the original selection had either shared a passionate kiss or had a one-on-one date with Marc. All Bridget had under her stylish belt was a handful of stolen moments at the cocktail parties.
“It got to the point where I wanted to leave because I was convinced he didn’t want to be with me. But what I felt inside, and what the viewers saw probably wasn’t the same thing. It didn’t matter to outsiders that I had come from a place of huge insecurity and that I just wanted to be loved genuinely. I was called fat; told I was the most disgusting person ever, people posted memes and screenshots with nasty comments to my social media pages. It hurt. When the cameras are rolling, you don’t realise what you are saying and when you do, you can’t take it back. But, I have no regrets. Loyalty, honesty and being real are three qualities I own. I don’t always land myself in good favour for being dead honest and real, but that is me.”
Would she do it all again?
“In a heartbeat! If not for the possibility of a lifelong romance, then for the joy of finding self-love. We can all afford to grow more within ourselves, and I certainly did. The most important lesson I learned was that I am human. We all are. We all make mistakes; we are born to be real, not perfect. It is completely okay to be vulnerable and feel happy, sad, anger, fear, regret, love and loss. It makes us who we are. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful to the people who hated me for forcing me to believe in myself and stand by my convictions, and I have been made stronger by the support of those who saw me as I was and cheered for me until the very end. I like to think that some hearts are just too big to break, because I still believe in that breath-taking, passionate, fairy-tale love and that my Prince Charming is out there, somewhere.”
Photos by: Penny Katz Photography, pennykatzphotography.myportfolio.com, e-mail [email protected], 083 214 0692
Make up by: Nancy Edmunds, 0724252764, @Nancygirlbabes, Facebook: Beauty by Nancy Edmunds
Dressed by: Kathrin Kidger Designs, @kathrinkidgerdesigns, www.kathrinkidger.co.za
Location: Valdior Guest House, Umhlanga Rocks, 031 561 4346