Monday 22 April 2019

'Your 15 minutes of fame are thrilling for the first 12, but those last three minutes are hell' - Anna Nolan

Anna Nolan was a housemate on Channel 4 reality series Big Brother in 2000

The runner-up of British TV company Channel 4's 'Big Brother' Anna Nolan, celebrates by drinking champagne as she poses for photographers on the set of the show on September 16, 2000. Photo: Reuters/Dan Chung.
The runner-up of British TV company Channel 4's 'Big Brother' Anna Nolan, celebrates by drinking champagne as she poses for photographers on the set of the show on September 16, 2000. Photo: Reuters/Dan Chung.
Anna Nolan
Anna Nolan
Anna Nolan

Anna Nolan

I remember the first tax bill I got, after my time on Big Brother in 2000. Before being catapulted into the reality TV house, I'd worked as a PA in a bank and an office manager in a skateboarding company. In those jobs, tax was a number on my monthly payslip, taken at source and never placed into my grubby little hands.

After Big Brother, life was lucrative. I was invited on to television shows, asked in to radio stations, gave interviews to newspapers and magazines and was sent on photo shoots.

With each gig, the money went straight into my bank account (without the tax taken off) and straight back out again.

I was partying in this post Big Brother bubble, hopping from clubs to restaurants to weekends away.

Anna Nolan with Big Brother housemates Craig and Darren
Anna Nolan with Big Brother housemates Craig and Darren

I was living a totally unsustainable life, one that screeched to a halt when I got my tax bill, plus the bill for the accountant who worked out the tax bill, plus the bill from the agent who organised the gigs that earned me the money that landed me the unpayable tax bill.

Life after reality television is complicated. You can be the belle of the ball or the butt of jokes. You're invited to the opening of envelopes, but woe betide you if you wear the same outfit twice. Your 15 minutes of fame are thrilling for the first 12, but those last three minutes are hell.

The runner-up of British TV company Channel 4's 'Big Brother' Anna Nolan, celebrates by drinking champagne as she poses for photographers on the set of the show on September 16, 2000. Photo: Reuters/Dan Chung.
The runner-up of British TV company Channel 4's 'Big Brother' Anna Nolan, celebrates by drinking champagne as she poses for photographers on the set of the show on September 16, 2000. Photo: Reuters/Dan Chung.

Last week, former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis was found dead in a London park. He had taken his own life.

This is the second death of a Love Island contestant. Last year, Sophie Gradon, who was on the show three years ago, was found dead in her home in Ponteland, Northumberland.

Mike Thalassitis (Ian West/PA)
Mike Thalassitis (Ian West/PA)

A friend of Mike, Montana Brown, said he had been under pressure recently with a big tax bill. He was also seemingly struggling with the lack of work. He had appeared on a couple of television programmes after Love Island, but that had soon stopped.

Who really knows what was going on in the head of Mike Thalassitis? People are angry, saying there's an issue of duty of care for those who take part in these shows.

The producers of Love Island have said they're changing their support structures for contestants of the hugely popular series.

Instead of waiting for contestants to come and ask for help, they're going to provide psychological support after leaving the island, as well as help in how to manage social media reaction and their finances.

The night I left the Big Brother house, I stepped into a brand new world.

Life simply wasn't the same. Crowds were screaming my name, Davina McCall was telling me she loved me, my girlfriend at the time, Tanya, was whispering in my ear: "Anna, you have no idea. It's mental."

That evening after the eviction, I was brought to the psychologist for a quick chat. He asked me if I was OK. I said I was. He told me he'd be there at the end of a phone if I needed him.

I said thanks. Then I went to the after-show party, drank way too much champagne and knew it was time to leave when my girlfriend got upset. She'd had enough.

Of the 11 of us who went into that first Big Brother house, I would say everyone would agree the adjustment back to real life was tough.

Melanie, who I've been in touch with over the years, got a horrendous time from the press. Others found it hard to settle back into every day life.

Most from the house don't want to talk about our time there. I imagine none of us knew that a summer spent in a prefab, being filmed 24/7, would be with us for ever.

Contestants on shows like Love Island are set up so that the aud- ience at home form incredibly strong opinions about them.

Added to that, they have to deal with the venom on social media. I can barely read the tweets written about TV shows I work on. I can't imagine what it's like to deal with negative personal ones.

The producers of Love Island and future reality shows are right to change their approach to after-care.

The world these contestants step into as a result of a television show is fickle and cruel. Producers need to take some responsibility for these young people.

It's unfair to imagine they can cope with it all on their own.

Read more: 'Nothing prepares you for the s**t that comes' - Jennifer Zamparelli on fallout of taking part in reality show The Apprentice

Do reality TV stars need support in fame game? 

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