We Had Tea With Runner-Up Abbie Chatfield To Debrief On Life After ‘The Bachelor’
We meet this year’s Bachelor runner-up Abbie Chatfield at Single O in Sydney’s Surry Hills. When she arrives, Co-Star tells me, “You could write a love poem to yourself,” and the noted Gemini gushes about how she loves that particular cursed astrology app.
Abbie is warm and chatty as she shares her future plans – she’ll probably move to Sydney in the new year, and go back to uni for the spring semester.
After spending the weekend with a friend in Sydney, where she met Paradise player Nathan Favro at a Bondi Boost event (they’re not together), she’s going down to Melbourne, where she’ll be met with the inevitable tabloid splash: ‘Is Abbie In Melbourne To See The Newly Single Matt Agnew?”
As we talk, about travelling alone through Scotland, about her exes, about what it means to become gossip fodder, Abbie is unapologetically comfortable with herself. She would have to be after spending much of this year as the undeserving subject of an Australia-wide slut-shaming effort, at the same time as she was trying to grieve the end of an incredibly public TV relationship.
Here’s what we learned having tea with the iconic Abbie Chatfield:
She took a 27-hour trip to South Africa to get dumped
To avoid paparazzi, Abbie was flown 14 hours from Sydney to Dubai for the final episode. After a nine-hour layover, she was flown to Johannesburg in South Africa, and then driven three-and-a-half hours to the finale location. Going back the same way after being dumped, she cried the whole way home. “I didn’t cry for a bit after that because I think I was all cried out about Matt for a little while, then it all came back.”
While in South Africa, she wasn’t allowed to open the curtains – again for fear of paparazzi spoiling the show. Her minder literally described to her a herd of elephants going by her window. Then, when she came back from being brutally dropped on camera, she returned to her room to find that baboons had broken in and raided the fridge.
“While we were filming the finale, baboons came into our room and ate all the food in our fridge. And that was the first time that I’d laughed, it was so fuckin’ funny. Like, what is my life?”
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The only way I can describe this moment is complete and utter shock. I was numb. I couldn’t and didn’t want to feel anything. I had felt for weeks that what Matt and I had was real and I trusted him wholeheartedly when he told me how he felt about me. From Hometowns, I forgot the cameras were there. It didn’t feel like we were filming a show at all, it felt like we had this real relationship built in a little bubble of “The Bachelor” and we would be out soon and able to live a normal life. Hearing Matt say “my heart is with someone else” reminded me that we were filming and that Matt had to make a difficult decision, and he did not see in me what I saw in him. I felt silly for ever imagining Matt would love me. It was like emotional whiplash. I was so confused and it felt like I was in a dystopian reality. The second the cameras turned off, I sobbed. I screamed. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t think think this would be how we would end. I spent weeks crying about this relationship that had almost no closure. I still haven’t fully healed from my relationship with Matt, but I know he and the gorgeous woman he is with are happy, and that’s all that matters. #thebachelorau
Getting over her Bachelor heartbreak took about five months
After the finale, Abbie found herself searching Dr. Matt’s media appearances for clues about how he felt about her. “I’d watch all the interviews if I was mentioned. I would watch his facial expression, to see if he hates me or he doesn’t hate me.” But the astrophysicist gave nothing away.
That’s about five months in total to fully process the loss – a timeline that was prolonged by public scrutiny of her personally, and of what she had with Dr. Matt. “I’m getting abusive messages: ‘You never cared about Matt, you’re a fucking bitch, it’s so clear you don’t even like him, you just wanna win.’ This is four months later and I’m still crying myself to sleep about this man. It did make it hard because there was this vast difference in how everyone was perceiving me and my emotions and what the reality of it was.”
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This year has been a rollercoaster, more so than others. I’ve been lucky enough to be in love twice, but also had my heart broken as many times. I’ve had an insane experience that changed my life for the better in the long run, but also came with such deep lows that I didn’t think I would ever get out of. As I get older, I realise that things will come and go but the most important thing is that you appreciate the good, and try not to dwell on the bad. Some people never love anyone in their life, never find someone that excites them or makes them want to be better, but I have. I was lucky to be on a TV show that made me develop and grow as a person, during airing and during filming. At the end of the day though, I was strong enough to turn my pain into something really great for myself, and am so grateful to receive positive messages almost every day. All of the pain is worth it, I know am stronger each day and I am lucky to be here, and I know I life will continue to ebb and flow, but I also know it’s all a part of life, and the highs will always be worth the lows. With each heart ache I grow to love deeper for the next time, with each sadness I give myself room to laugh more, and with each set back there is a lesson learnt. (Image via @kellydaviesgreen)
By the time the show started airing, three months after filming finished, Abbie felt like she was over Matt. But about halfway through watching the season she realised, “Oh shit, I still have feelings”: “I was crying about it again and it all kinda came back ’til maybe two weeks after the finale aired.”
She stresses that the reason it seemed to take so long to grieve is that she didn’t get the kind of closure you can get from real-world relationships. “You leave the rock in Africa you got fuckin’ dumped on and then you’re like I don’t talk to you ever again.
“Usually in a breakup, I’m like, ‘Can I call you?’ four days later, ‘Can we just like talk about this?’ I could never do that. It was like, everything was perfect and then the next morning it wasn’t.”
Abbie is blunt when asked how she got over her TV ex: “I just went on like a dick spree.” Scared to see everyone she knew at home in Brissie, she came down to Sydney and went out a lot, adopting a fake name because no one was allowed to know she was single. “I slept with a few British people, so they wouldn’t know who I was. And my name was Annabel, because it had to be an A-name because of my A-necklace.”
Abbie Chatfield finally knew for certain she was over Matt when she was able to say ‘I love you’ to another man. She had finally stopped caring. “I stopped checking Matt and Chelsie’s Instagrams and wondering how they were going. I stopped rewatching my dates on YouTube.”
But there have been one or two times where she’s felt that ‘pang’ of heartbreak since when something reminded her of Matt. She laughs, “We didn’t have much content to go on, I guess. It was only three months so [the breakup] wasn’t as severe as other relationships that I’ve had.”
At the Bondi Boost event she saw the boat on which she first said ‘I love you,’ to Matt on their last date in Australia. “I got a bit of a pang then. I was like, ‘Oooh, that’s that boat.'”
She believes the public perceived her as a ‘man stealer’
Abbie notes the character archetypes she and her Chelsie fell into – shortcuts used to give the show a clear narrative, that dismisses the reality that every woman on the series is multi-faceted. “Insecurity is seen as a positive thing in women and being confident is a negative thing,” she begins. “Insecurity shouldn’t make someone attractive.
“I’m not being like, I’m the fuckin’ hottest thing in the world. But I’m happy with how I look and it’s taken me years to get to this place. From being 15 and eating one apple in an entire day, running nine kilometres every day with ankle weights on, I’m finally happy with my body.”
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Note to self: DON’T YOU REALISE YOU POPPIN? I get so many questions asking how I am so confident and proud of my body, but I struggle as often as a lot of you do I’m sure! I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, and have always felt unlovable because I’m not stick thin. I’ve never admitted it, but I suck in my stomach ALL. THE. TIME. Even when I’m at home alone, it’s not healthy and I still need to work on loving my authentic self. I’ve been travelling for around 5 weeks now, exercising when I can but eating out for almost every meal which has made me feel really sad about how I look. I had a big moment last night of self loathing and looking in the mirror thinking I was disgusting for gaining a little bit of weight, which I know is completely illogical, but my mind went there anyway. After being conditioned my whole life to believe that skinny = beautiful, gaining weight = ugly, my mind can’t kick those habits. What I can do, though, is put on a bikini and listen to @rickeythompson remind me that even if I don’t feel it, I still break necks 💅🏻 and show all of you what I look like not sucking in my tummy or posing. For me, body positivity isn’t about being confident in my body every day, but being able to still love yourself when you’re not feeling your best. There are so many people that preach loving yourself EVERY DAY and it’s FUCKING hard! Give yourself a little wriggle room today, confidence comes in ebs and flows, you just gotta know you’re worthy no matter how you look, even if you’re rolling around on an unmade bed listening to @amine (p.s my bikinis are from @omairaswim 🌟)
Audiences perceived her as a kind of ‘man stealer’, she says. “I have blonde, curly hair with big tits and blue eyes, and I laugh at shit, I laugh at dumb things, I make sexual comments, and I’m like a playboy in their mind. They see me as the high school bitch who stole their boyfriend. How can you be a ‘man stealer’ in the situation where the point of this show is to make the man love you?”
She was the so-called “cocky bitch” of the series, a counterpoint to winner Chelsie, who was reduced to this “insecure meek little thing” that she isn’t. It plays into cultural ideas around a male ‘saviour’ complex, that “you need a man to fix you”.
In the wake of a horrible breakup last year, Abbie resolved not to let herself “rely on a man to make [her] happy”. “You should be a whole person yourself before you get with someone else. Like RuPaul says: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?'”
Thanks to her experience on The Bachelor, Abbie also realised that her feelings of unworthiness after her bad breakup were unfounded. “Matt was an extraordinary person, and we had an amazing connection. I think that added to my self-worth a little bit, realising that there are normal men out there.”
Abbie Chatfield ended up with a platform to help other people struggling to feel less alone
To protect herself from the negativity of people online during the season, a friend took over her Instagram, monitoring messages and comments. Still, there were times where she got sucked into Googling her own name to see what people were saying about it. “It got to a point where I was like, ‘This isn’t helping anyone. The articles are out there, the comments are out there. You can’t do anything about it, so I’ve gotta focus on my real life.’
“I hung out with my friends more and put my phone away and just tried to do things I enjoy. I tried to go to the beach and travel a bit more and see my friends who are in different cities and focus on things that weren’t based around the show.”
While the show was airing, Abbie would’ve said that given her time over, she would not have done The Bachelor. But now, with the benefit of a few months distance, she says it was worth it. What she learned from her experience is that people are “gonna hate you no matter what you do”, so fuck it, do what you want.
“Before I went into this, I was very scared of what everyone thought of me… I’ve learned that all I need to care about is making myself happy and the people that I care about happy.”
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So I uploaded my last post a few hours ago, honestly, because I liked how my body looked. I chose those photos because I thought I looked the “hottest” in them. We all do it, subconsciously or not. Everyone on Instagram posts with some element of vanity, but looking back from my photos taken today, these are my favourites. I was having such a good day at the beach, having a laugh, with my sunburnt and peeling head, cheesy smile, acne scarring, cellulite and stretch marks. I used to hate the way I looked when I laughed in photos, I thought my nose was too big and my teeth stuck out too much, but seeing these makes me happy. I want to make more of an effort to post content that makes me feel happy, so I can look back and think more than “I looked hot”. I still am empowered by posting photos of myself that I think I look BOMB in, but I also want happy photos to sometimes take the spotlight. So here are some happy snaps from today 🥰 If you feel like you use Instagram in a similar way to me, then have a crack at posting photos of yourself looking HAPPY, even if you don’t think you look your “best” and tag me so I can see!
Going into the series she thought that even if she didn’t get the guy, the experience might give her a platform to talk about social issues that are important to her – around fat-shaming, slut-shaming and even abortion.
“I’ve been able to do that. When I chose to speak about my abortion, I really just wanted people to feel like it was OK if they had an abortion as well, because I didn’t feel like it was OK for ages, because no one talks about it.
“If these are controversial topics people are gonna hate someone for, they may as well keep hating me, and then maybe one person will feel a bit better about being fat-shamed or having an abortion or being slut-shamed.”
Now Abbie Chatfield gets messages from fans saying, “‘I used to hate you, and now I really like you.” After spending the season being accused of being dumb or having no interests, she’s since been able to use Instagram to talk about those issues and reveal herself as something more than a ‘villain’. The haters were proven wrong. “It was really satisfying and really good being able to just be myself, and I think that’s why people responded to me so well.
“People have had this incredible bounceback, and I think they have realised that I’m not who they thought I was on the show, and maybe that’s more interesting. Everyone loves a redemption story.”