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Love on the air

Fans of the second season of The Longest Date saw local hotties Julia Petersen and Kaelin Govender take on gruelling challenges in an attempt to find love and win R100k.

Binge-watching is one of our favourite pastimes and dating shows are no exception. From First Dates to a glut of new Netflix releases, TV continues to woo us with a constant stream of couples dating, breaking up and sometimes marrying.

Take The Longest Date – the second season of SABC3s reality show filmed at Oribi Gorge on the KZN South Coast, where we watched 16 singles trying to find the perfect mate in unlikely – and dangerous – places.

Grouped into couples according to their on-paper compatibility, the featured singles were dubbed the most diverse, interesting, engaging, vulnerable and relatable cast on television at the time. Extreme tasks ranged from shark diving to mud-rallying and were designed to take contestents way out of their comfort zones. As game shows go… at the end of each episode, the lowest-scoring couple was eliminated until only one couple was left.

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Filming took up to 12 hours a day, and we know you’re curious … the only thing that’s scripted is the host, Christoper Jaftha. For the rest – it was real stories and their journeys … nothing was recreated post-production.

Two of those in the show were Durbanites Julia (a 30-year-old model and influencer) and Kaelin (a 25-year-old sales representative and brand ambassador). While both were separately eliminated before the finals, Julia and Kaelin had already become fan-favourites and friends.

For Julia, who hails from Greenwood Park, being forced out of her comfort zone was the real reason she entered the reality show. ‘I love adventure and I wanted to overcome my fears, one of them being heights. The show made me realise my faith is bigger than my fears.’

What got her eliminated?  ‘Lack of communication with my partner. This was a lesson that a relationship involves two people and when external factors get involved it can cause challenges. I also learnt that friendship first is important because that’s where love, trust and respect develop. I may not have found love but I did meet incredible human beings and have made other friendships for life. I’m also working on being the best version of myself so I can be a great partner.’

For Queensburgh’s Kaelin, exposure was the ideal goal behind his entry and ‘it wouldn’t have been such a terrible thing to find love and jump off cliffs while doing so,’  he says.

‘The experience was life-changing. My whole perspective on life and how I wanted to live it changed drastically. Being without our phones and almost cut-off from the world made me look at moments differently. The experience was exhausting, mentally and physically, but I conquered fears and pushed myself to do things I was too scared to do before. I’ve never felt more free in my life.’

His elimination was because of the re-coupling ceremony. ‘Everyone had an idea of who they were choosing. The girl I really connected with had just been eliminated at the ceremony and the girl I was partnered with definitely wasn’t going to choose me – there was a lot of drama between us – so I guess it was my time to go. I’m not sad that I didn’t find love on the show because my goodness did I find friendships.’

When it came to the challenges, Julia and Kaelin agree that abseiling off and bouldering up the gorge’s rocky cliffs were great accomplishments for different reasons. Julia because of her fear of heights and Kaelin because of the physical challenge.

‘My worst was the obstacle course. It was the challenge that sent us home and we ate live worms for nothing!’ says Julia. ‘But, I loved the raw and emotional side of the whole experience. South Africa got to see us for who we really are. Being a model, my followers sometimes only get to see the ‘alter ego Julia’ but the show revealed the vulnerable side of me.’

Humbled by the mental and physical exhaustion, Kaelin says pushing through the injuries and setbacks and finishing every challenge meant more than winning them.

‘They tested a different part of our minds and enabled us to dig deep and motivate our partners to finish. The kissing challenge, however, was definitely not one of my best moments!’

Challenges and eliminations aside, back at the villa, both say there was a ton of fun and laughter behind-the-scenes.

‘There are too many stories to share them all, but I would definitely do this again if I had the chance. I met and learned from some amazing, open-minded people on this exhilarating experience,’ says Julia who’s moving to Qatar for another exciting adventure and chapter of her life.

As for Kaelin, it’s upwards and onwards on his mission to find the next thing to tick off his bucket list.

‘I will live this life to the fullest. I want to experience everything good and bad. The trick is to keep moving all the time. Even if you are moving at one per cent, that’s all that matters.’

Details: If you missed The Longest Date, you can watch it on the SABC3 YouTube Channel.

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