Tully Smyth reveals why she would never do MAFS and the reason she joined Big Brother
Controversial reality TV star Tully Smyth has admitted there’s one show she’d never do while sharing the devastating reason she joined Big Brother.
Speaking exclusively to NCA NewsWire, the 32-year-old said producers “couldn’t pay her enough” to go on Married At First Sight, claiming while the show started out sweet, it had changed over the past few seasons.
“For me, I think originally it was a great concept, but over the years, it’s kind of transformed into a different kind of beast and it’s just not something I can get behind,” she said.
Smyth rose to fame in 2013 when she joined Big Brother, making headlines when she cheated on then-girlfriend Tahlia Farrant with fellow contestant Anthony Drew on national television.
Now an Instagram influencer and travel blogger, Smyth says while the fallout was massive at the time, she and her former partner were able to rekindle a strong friendship, and that most of her social media following “doesn’t even know I was on Big Brother”.
Smyth and her girlfriend had actually auditioned for the show together, with the Melbourne woman revealing her mother Kay’s early-onset Alzheimer’s, diagnosed when Smyth was only 15, had pushed her to take the leap of faith.
“Me losing mum so early on(to Alzheimer’s), but also mum losing out on the best years of her life has made me more open to jumping at crazy, fun experiences,” she said. “Before mum got sick, I was a bit more reserved and a bit more careful and cautious.
“Then with mum’s illness, I thought f***, you know? I wonder if mum got to squeeze in everything she wanted to do before she got sick, if she travelled everywhere she wanted to go, if she bungee jumped, if she ate all the crazy food she wanted to eat.
“She had so much of her life stolen from her because of Alzheimer’s, and so I’ve always been a lot more willing to say yes to things I might’ve said no to beforehand, because you just don’t know how long you’re got.”
Going on the show allowed Smyth a platform to talk about her mother’s illness – one often erroneously thought of as an “old person’s disease” — and how it had affected her growing up.
She explained that, as a teenager, she would help care for her brothers, and later help her father care for her rapidly deteriorating mother while becoming essentially his main confidant.
For Smyth, school was an escape, and she chose not to speak about her mother’s illness with friends, not to let them come over to her house, because the six hours, five days a week she spent with her classmates was the only time she had to live like a teenage girl.
“(Mum) was acting bizarrely at home, and she wasn’t herself – she wasn’t the mum that I knew … I didn’t want to have friends over to see her like that,” she said. “I was embarrassed, I was ashamed, but I was also protective of her.”
It wasn’t until Smyth had appeared on Big Brother, where a clip of her crying about her mother’s regression was aired in the first episode, that many of her friends had any idea what had been happening.
“I had friends from high school watch me talk about it on the show and just message me out of the blue saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I had no idea what you were going through,’ and I had to be like, ‘It’s OK, you know, we were kids,’” she said.
Smyth said she was keen to use her time on the show to talk about her mother’s Alzheimer’s because she knew she would have a national platform however long she was in the house.
“I thought, bare minimum, if I can use my airtime to talk about dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s and my mum and raise awareness, and I’m happy with that,” she said.
Since then, Smyth has gone on to speak widely about her mother’s condition, in the hopes it encourages others going through similar issues. She ramped up her advocacy and fundraising for Dementia Australia after Kay’s death in 2019, explaining: “I got angry, and then I got busy.”
She will address Hammond Care’s International Dementia Conference, which starts on Monday, and share her experience as a young carer.