Abbie Chatfield: ‘I was the most hated person in Australia’
When astrophysicist Matt Agnew picked Chelsie McLeod to be his partner in the series finale of The Bachelor Australia, fans of the Network 10 dating show sent social media into meltdown.
But it wasn't so much the (short-lived) couple who whipped viewers into a frenzy as much as his rejection of runner-up Abbie Chatfield - to say nothing of the dramatic way she handled it.
Spurned and angry, Chatfield did not follow her predecessors' lead by graciously wishing Agnew the best before quietly slinking away. Instead, she stared Agnew down and assertively demanded "Why?" before - fed up with his mealy-mouthed apology - she stormed off.
It may have been unprecedented behaviour from a runner-up, but Chatfield's feistiness was evident throughout the series, garnering love, and quite a bit of hate, from the audience.
In an exclusive interview with Stellar, Chatfield discusses how she dealt with the barrage of negativity, the reason she is willing to risk it all again on sister reality television show Bachelor In Paradise - and why she still believes in love.
It's been six months since the finale of The Bachelor Australia. How are you feeling about it now?
I'm much better. The weekend before the finale aired was really rough. I was getting cyber-bullied intensely, and had to be reminded I wasn't with Matt. But ever since then I've been received well in all of my social media, and by people who didn't like me before - now they like me a bit more.
Are you and Matt in contact?
No. Matt hasn't contacted me. I think he could have called me, but whatever. I mean, what can we do?
How did you deal with online trolling happening while the show aired?
Probably not very well, to be honest. I had my friend say to me, "Don't look at your DMs [direct messages]." A lot of my friends, we talk only through Instagram, so I would go onto the app when I wanted to talk to friends and I would see hundreds of comments about how I was a sociopath or manipulative.
It got to a point near the finale where I was having very serious suicidal thoughts because your online experience becomes your reality.
And it isn't realistic when people say, "Just don't go on social..."
Particularly when all of Australia's speaking about you! To say just don't use Instagram at all is unrealistic for a 24-year-old woman.
Whether or not you know it's negative, you want to try and find that one good comment, or one nice DM, which would kind of get me through to the next day.
So if I just left it and just thought about what people were saying about me, I would go insane.
I was getting all of these death threats - they're still in my inbox. People were just relentless. I was never bullied in the flesh, so to go from being pretty well-liked from my friends and family, to feeling like I'm the most hated person in Australia is really hard to deal with.
S ince the show ended, you have been very open about everything from having an abortion to the toll that being body-shamed took on you. Why is speaking out important to you?
After the show, I had the opportunity to say things in my own words, which is a huge relief. But I think the reason I was able to speak out about so many things - abortion, depression and anxiety, and being body-shamed - is because everyone hated me anyway.
So if I made one person feel a bit better if they had been slut-shamed, or told they're fat, ugly, or had an abortion, I'm fine to be a sacrificial lamb.
Everyone says I'm so real and so open, but I literally just don't have a filter. If something is annoying me, then I'm going to post about it.
Given what you went through, do you still believe in love?
Yeah... yes. [Laughs.] I mean, I'm a little bit scarred from Matt. It's confusing when you believe everything someone's saying, and then you turn around, and you're like, well, what was true or wasn't true?
So you just don't really trust your own instincts anymore or believe what anyone says. I believe in love. But I'm a bit more cautious.
You're in the new season of Bachelor In Paradise. Why do this again?
It can't get any worse. I already went through the worst of it. It's another experience, another opportunity and there are positive things that can come from it. And I genuinely did fall in love on The Bachelor.
When you go through that experience when you're in an environment where you can fall in love with someone and you don't think you can - because I didn't believe I would - I'm just like, "Why not?"
Who are you excited to see in Paradise?
The only person I'm really excited to see is probably Ciarran Stott from Angie [Kent]'s season. Ciarran's hot. He's funny, he's cool, he's got banter. I don't have anyone else on my hit list. I'm just going to go in and see what happens.
You have a degree in property economics and are obviously very articulate. So do you find it funny or annoying that the joke you made on The Bachelor about being a Gemini [her response when Agnew told her he was an astrophysicist] went viral?
It's all right. It's funny. I have friends in America who I speak to and they're like, "Oh, you're the Gemini girl."
I mean, it's a mark of some sort, but I'm just glad I didn't go home the first episode and have that be my legacy. There's a lot more to me.
Bachelor In Paradise is coming soon to Network 10.
Originally published as Abbie Chatfield: 'I was the most hated person in Australia'