Friday 24 January 2020

Siobhan O'Connor: Tallafornia's Nikita seems oblivious to all the damage she's done to her reputation

The star of the reality show may have had her 15 minutes of fame but, having met her, Siobhan O'Connor wonders if she knows the price

'Repulsive and compulsive," remarked Senator David Norris on the subject of TV3's answer to Jersey Shore, Tallafornia. He's right: we were appalled by TV3's latest offering, but it's hard to switch off.

In some way, are we attempting to feign disdain, taking the moral high ground because many of us are from a different socioeconomic background than those who participated in the programme?

My heart felt heavy when Tallafornia's Nikita came into 98FM for a chat last week. Before she entered the building, there were many whisperings as to what she'd be like in the flesh. Would she be half-naked? Would she use the 'C' word or the 'F' word, as she had so often on the show.

Yes, we all like to judge, but when the 19-year-old slip of a thing stood in front of me, what I saw was a little girl oblivious to the fact she had let herself down on television.

She is the latest pawn in the ever-cruel world of reality TV. She was used, abused and spat out by the lads in the Tallafornia house -- and all for a bet. The show has been a rollercoaster ride of cheap TV thrills, a dumbing down of sorts. But so many of tuned in, even Senator Norris.

Over the course of the show, we've seen Nikita throw herself on Phil, who sees her as nothing other than a laughing hyena, an easy girl who he took advantage of. Tallafornia came to an end on Friday night, but will Nikita ever live it down? Her 15 minutes of fame is over, but what of her reputation? She tells me she doesn't care. "You only have one life, so live it," she giggles.

On the second-last episode, Nikita was seen giving housemate Phil a lap dance. She exposes her flesh, and her thong leaves little to the imagination. Yet, when I quizzed her about how she felt watching the episode back, she laughed uncontrollably, oblivious to how her actions have marred her reputation.

Her only concern was her physique. "When I saw it I was, like, I need to go to the gym, because I look a lot fatter on TV than I think I do now, that was my only concern."

But was she not conscious of the cameras filming her every thrust? "I was naive about it, but if someone wants a lap dance that, ya like ya might as well, get stuck in there for the night," she said.

During the same episode, Nikita is advised by housemates Kelly and Natalie to find a nice guy in the nightclub they attend. She meets a nice English lad and snogs him, brings him back to the Tallaght camp, but she still has the hots for Phil.

Housemate Cormack challenges Phil to steal Nikita away from the English dude -- all for a bet. Phil calls Nikita upstairs, tells her he really likes her and then swiftly Nikita ditches the English dude, searches for a condom in her bag and heads upstairs to "The scoring room" to be with Phil. The TV3 camera films the whole sordid thing as the pair have sex under the duvet.

I asked her how she felt seeing herself having sex on TV -- and all for a bet. "It's just a blanket moving. You don't actually get to see us doing it."

"But we heard you, and so did the cameraman," I said.

Defending herself, she said: "Everything I done Irish girls do, the only difference between me and the other girls is there's a camera on us."

More shocking is the fact Nikita's mother had a good laugh at the episode.

"I watched it with my mam, my sister and my aunt, all my family are supportive they know what I'm like, I'm 19, young and single. My mam just laughed it off," she said.

Tallafornia was shot last summer and for the entire month it seemed like the six housemates were on one big drinking session. Did Nikita feel she was plied with alcohol so she and the other participants would let loose and bare all for the cameras?

"The first week started off normal, you just have your few drinks in the house and when you go out you have a few more, but I was the only one that might get up in the morning and have a Jagermeister and Red Bull for the simple fact I can't stand the smell of food. I thought it was a smarter option, but it wasn't like we were lashing the drink in 24-7!"

Since leaving the show Nikita has had bottles thrown at her in her neighbourhood of Clondalkin. Ironically, kids have been throwing rubbers at her. Was her 15 minutes of fame really worth it? She says she's gotten used to it, but what about the death threats she's received?

"Everyone gets the haters and there does be awful things said on twitter and facebook, there's people telling me to go kill myself and it gets really annoying."

Despite all the haters, Nikita seems deluded, choosing to ignore the jibes and abuse hurled at her daily. She was off to Mantra nightclub to get paid for an appearance and partying. Has she learnt anything from her reality TV stint?

"Yeah, not to be so naive and trusting," she told me -- adding that she would go back for another series if TV3 had the budget.

"The thing is, it's a reality show and it has to be taken with a bit of fun. I'm not worried about what way I'm perceived because I am who I am."

As she headed off to another nightclub opening, I was left pondering why was I so disgusted at her actions on the show?

Surely we've all been worse for wear, fallen out of nightclubs and disgraced ourselves after one too many?

But we weren't followed by cameras, nor did we consume lots of alcohol in view of the watchful eyes of producers seeking good ratings. But filming a young girl having sex ... has TV3 gone too far?

But I concede I am one of the many hypocrites in Irish society. I find the show vile but at the same time fascinating. I will tune in for the next series, like Senator Norris. One can always be a voyeur, as repulsive as it may seem from the confines of one's settee!

Sunday Independent

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