Australian-born Lily McManus burst onto our screens as the most memorable contestant from The Bachelor 2017. Since then, one thing has led to another from The Bachelor Winter Games to Celebrity Treasure Island and now she's appearing on screen in The Bachelorette.
My mum would describe me as a rebel with a cause, because I was always doing the wrong thing, but for the right reason. One time, my friend got punched in the face at school but I got in trouble because I was the one who stood up in class and threw stuff and made a scene. My action came from a good place, but I didn't know how to handle that energy and I often put it in the wrong places.
I was about to go to Canada when a woman with a Kiwi accent called and said, 'Congratulations you've made it to the final round of The Bachelor New Zealand'. I was
dumbfounded and said I'd call her back. I called mum, who lives in Wellington now, and said: 'Muuuuummmmm! How dare you enter me in a reality dating show and not tell me'. She was like: 'I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd get in'. I called the woman back and told her it was something my mum cooked up, so thanks but no thanks. When I told a mate I'd been cast, he asked why wasn't I doing it. I said it didn't seem like a very 'me' thing to do and he pointed out that I do random crazy things all the time.
Ten days later I flew to New Zealand. At first I wondered, what is this shambles? As a free-spirited person, it was hard being told what to do, but then I got interested. Not only could I see how genuine Zac [Franich] was, I learned how TV worked.
When making The Bachelorette, I told the boys: 'If you don't want to do something, don't do it. Don't say anything you don't want to say. You're not an actor or a character, and everything that comes back to bite you, comes back to you as a person.' The producers were like, 'Lily could you please stop telling them that'. But the best thing is, just to be who you are. I'd rather be hated for who I am than someone I'm not.
When the producers asked me to be on The Bachelorette, I wasn't sure I wanted to do it, so I gave it a lot of thought. You have to be emotionally healthy and in a good space. Do I think the producers have cast people good for me? They have to. For this show to work, the franchise is fuelled by success, although I won't pretend I feel something for the sake of a TV show. They also knew I wasn't going to be a soppy, fairytale, love story princess. A lot of the time they look for that in this franchise, but I'm more rough around the edges.
Unintentionally, my personality has led me to live a very condensed life. I just turned 23, I've done four reality TV shows and lived in eight different countries. Because I've travelled a lot, I think I'm a good judge of character. You meet all sorts of people on the road, and you have to put your eggs in different baskets, to figure out when you can trust people and who is sketchy. Since being on TV, I don't feel my personality has changed, but it has evolved. I used to think I'd be this 40-year-old nomad with no kids who never stayed in one place for long, but now I know I actually want a relationship and I also want kids one day.
On Instagram people are terrified of being hated. But I don't give a f*** what people think. I'm solid in who I am, so I can be honest and outspoken, vulnerable, raw, funny or crass. I don't think it's healthy for young women to only see perfect, well-mannered, elegant, lady-like women. What even is a lady? I don't get that concept.
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I have very thick skin which probably comes from growing up with older brothers and being a bit of a tomboy but I am human. Reality television can be challenging, everyone has an opinion and it's not always positive. Social media has created an outlet for people to voice negative opinions about people they don't know and the best way to deal with haters is to avoid reading anything they have to say. The people who know me like me for who I am; as for Karen, Gary and Sharon, I don't care what they think.
Fame is not a concept I've put in my mouth and chewed on. I would never think of myself as being famous. And I don't want to end up with someone who is fame-hungry. I want them to have genuine feelings for me. What you see on TV is an accurate version of me, but it's also just this small slice of crusty bread at the beginning of the loaf — but there is a lot more bread here.
I'll probably do a hundred different jobs before I die. Maybe I'll be a story producer on a reality show, or I'll farm alligators in Peru. Who knows? This life I'm living, it's all just a big coincidence. I never meant to be here, I don't really know what I'm doing here and I think not knowing, that's part of the fun.