reality tv

'My stomach just dropped.' Why Tully Smyth's long-waited return to Big Brother didn't go to plan.

Tully Smyth first entered the Big Brother house back in 2013.

If you didn't watch her season or need a refresher, while in the house, the then-25-year-old started a relationship with her fellow housemate Anthony Drew while she was also in a relationship on the outside. It was reality TV gold.

But there's a lot more to Tully than that one story.

Tully is a writer, podcast host and influencer; and yes, she's returning to the Big Brother house next week, nine years after her first appearance. 


Video via Big Brother AU.

When a producer called and asked if she wanted to come back, she agreed without hesitation.

"I had absolute confidence [I would say 'yes']," she told Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast The Spill.

"'[Lisa, the executive producer] said, 'Look obviously you'll need some time to think about it based on what happened last time. Take some time, sleep on it.' And I said, 'Nup, I'm in'."

Listen to the full podcast episode with Tully and Laura on Mamamia's The Spill here. Post continues after audio.


Based on the trend where reality TV series - like MasterChef: Fans and Faves and Survivor: All Stars - bring back contestants, Tully had an inkling that would be the format for this season.

"They weren't able to confirm nor deny anything, but I had basically figured out that it was either going to be a whole bunch of ex-housemates and we would just go head to head, or perhaps half-half - half ex-housemates, half new housemates," she told co-host Laura Brodnik.

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But despite knowing there would be familiar faces in the house, Tully had no clue Drew would be there. 

In fact, she was certain he would turn down the opportunity.

"Absolutely not," Tully said when The Spill's co-host Laura asked her whether she knew Drew was cast.

"I didn't doubt that [the producers] would try for it, but he's always said publically and privately to me that he would never do the show ever again," she said.

"That you couldn't pay him enough money in the world to do it, that he's moved on, that he's kind of embarrassed by the whole thing.

"So I knew they'd try, but I had faith that he'd not do it ever again."

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Tully explained that despite there being a mix of new and old housemates this season, every contestant was paid the same amount. 

With prize money of $250,000 up for grabs for everyone – including those who have won it before – there was no "exorbitant amount of money" offered to bigger names.

And for that reason, she was certain Drew would say 'no'.

"When I figured out we weren't getting paid a big sum of money, I really, really, truly did not think he would be in that house," she said.

If you're watching this season, you'll know that Tully arrives later than other contestants. She found out Drew would be inside moments before she entered the house.

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"I actually heard he was there before I saw him," she told Laura.

"I had a producer standing next to me, about to push me into the house, and in his headset I heard: 'Camera on Drew. Camera on Drew.' 

"My stomach just dropped."

Tully had mixed feelings about the two of them being in there together.

"I think there was 50 per cent [of me thinking] 'Okay, [I've] got another familiar face, maybe someone I can work with'. And then 50 per cent [of me thinking] no one wants to see their ex at a party let alone realise they're about to live with their ex. 

"It's not ideal."

Having appeared on the show before, Tully knows how reality TV works and how things can look different once aired.

So, she was "very acutely aware" of what her face was doing while being filmed.

"If I cry now is that going to mean x, y, z? Are they going to paint me in a different light? It felt sometimes like I couldn't be honest with my emotions or my frustrations in case it was twisted," she said.

She also had to be respectful of her new partner, Daniel.

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"I have a beautiful new boyfriend Daniel who I've been with coming up to a year, and I was also acutely aware of him, how it would look to him and being respectful of him," she said.

"So I had a lot going on in my head and I couldn't even vocalise that because they would take that audio and use it.

"It was tough."

This season, the reality TV star hopes viewers have grown and will treat the contestants - when they do cry or show emotion - with a little more empathy.

"I hope that [in] 2022, we see people showing their emotions and being vulnerable... not as something you should be ashamed about or hide from," she told Laura.

"I am unapologetically myself, I always will be. I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad. I cry for other people, I'm an empath," she said.

"We'll have to wait and see but I really hope that this year my emotions aren't considered a weakness or something to laugh at, and people can appreciate that I am who I am."

So, why did she come back for another season?

"I came back to play my own game," she said. "I got sidetracked last time, I forgot what I was doing. I want a redemption arc."

"I'm back and I'm here to play harder on my own two feet and to have my ex-boyfriend be put in the house is a hard pill to swallow and I struggle with it, for sure."

Big Brother returns on Monday at 7.30pm on Channel 7.

Feature image: Instagram/@tee_smyth

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