Rebecca Olds

Yet another with no layout, so a thousand apologies. This was a funny chat with a girl who was the star of a weirdly formatted and short-lived reality-TV series from 2004. I think she had to pick out the one guy who wasn’t gay. Or was it the one who was gay? Didn’t work, either way.

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Rebecca Olds is television gold. The main attraction of Channel Seven’s twisted dating show, Playing it Straight, is a beautiful girl who doesn’t think she’s beautiful; a TV star who doesn’t really want to be on the teev and one of those rare girls with a fully malfunctioning gaydar. She got six weeks to sort out six gay guys from six straight ones, for a prize of 200 grand. So far she’s doing really badly… 

How does it feel being the star of an entire TV series?

I don’t feel like I’m the star of the show. I really feel it’s more about the boys.

Hmm. Guess again.

The whole thing is only starting to sink in now because I’m having all these interviews and there are commercials on TV.

Is there anything you can let us in on?

There’s a couple of things I can talk about. Things that happened on the show. For example, the boys had to compete for one-on-one time with me. Bull riding and sheep shearing, real country things.

Some of those guys seem a bit defensive about it all.

It was really funny – when we all met outside the show it was so obvious who was gay and who wasn’t. They really did play it straight so well. Some of them haven’t even come out to their friends and family – they’ve been playing it straight their whole lives. So to fool a girl for $200,000 is pretty easy, really. I don’t know how the show’s going to come across, but I hope it shows that you can’t really judge anybody.

How did you end up on reality TV?

I’ve done work for V8 Supercars a couple of years in a row, through an agency. The woman from the agency met the girl casting the show by chance. They flew me down toSydneyfour times for interviews. On my last visit they just took me out. They wanted to see how I acted in public, which was a bit strange. They showed me all the cool spots inSydneyand I showed them how I drink tequila. Then we rock up at this pub and there are three producers from Channel Seven team sitting there. We had a chat.

Did you feel you were being watched?

They were definitely listening to what I was saying. But to be honest I don’t think I realised what I was getting myself into. About two weeks ago I got a bit upset – I had a bit of a cry, because I just don’t think I’m ready for my life to change just yet. It sank in that things were not really going to be the same for a little while. But I am excited – it’s just a bit daunting.

What were the TV people looking for?

Someone who was just down to earth that everyone could relate to. They interviewed girls all over Australia. I didn’t expect any of this and I guess a lot of girls went into it expecting a lot – I don’t know.

There’s lots of people who want to be on telly.

I didn’t try very hard to get the job.

What did they ask you?

They sent a questionnaire first of all, with some horrible questions. “Why do you want to meet a man on a TV show?”…

That’s one of my questions as well.

Well, how do you answer that? Really, it’s so stupid. I thought, “I’m not going to do this” and sort of gave up. I got a phone call asking why I didn’t fill it out.

Why DO you want to meet a bloke on the telly?

(Laughs) To be honest I can’t meet a bloody bloke anywhere.

Things must be thin up in Darwin.

Oh, there are some great guys around, really. You never know, hey? I didn’t go in there thinking I was going to meet the man of my dreams. But I did it with an open mind and an open heart, I guess.

Have you got a boyfriend now?

(Laughs) Aha – I’m not going to answer that. Wait and see. You can’t really go in there thinking you’re going to make best friends with someone in three weeks, in such a controlled situation. I never really played the game of who’s gay or straight. I played which boy I was compatible with and which weren’t my type.

What did they tell you?

They didn’t tell me anything. The less I knew the more real my reactions were going to be. I thought it was going to be like The Bachelorette: I knew it would be cheesy. I missed my plane down to the show – I wasn’t going to go. I thought, “What am I doing?”

When the blokes introduced themselves on video, you were nice about all of them – was that natural?

They just told me to say what was on my mind. It’s hard at first because there are there are cameramen sitting around, the producer… and you’re sitting “alone” with a roomful of strangers saying what you think about a boy you don’t even know.

But you are really polite all the time.

These people are going to have their family and friends watching. I’d never want to say anything bad. I’d hate that.

But if it was actually reality, you’d be sat around saying how terrible people were.

You would. If I had my girlfriends and my family around I wouldn’t hold back.

Be great if everyone on these shows just said exactly what they felt.

I would love to have done that. And I look back now and think, God I wish I’d have loosened up a bit there…

It was your first go, but.

Yeah.

Plenty more reality TV shows left. Did the producers tell you how to behave? “No farting or shouting” and so on?

We had a pretty tight contract before we went on the show. But once we got on, there weren’t really any rules. Sometimes we had to delay what we wanted to do so they could set up.

Did you all get on, or were there catfights, the odd tanty?

No, we all worked together so well and respected each other. If we needed time out we’d get what we needed. We were so spoiled – we got anything we wanted.

Were you locked into the set?

We couldn’t leave the property. But we got time away from the cameras – and there was beautiful catering. I went off my food and told them all I wanted was lasagna and pavlova. It was great. And XXXX Gold – I asked for a carton of beer, as well.

Do you get more and more, er, curvy as the series goes on?

(Laughs) Yeah, a little bit, because I realised they couldn’t make the show without me! No, I tried not to have an attitude, because they all worked so hard, it was incredible.

I’ve got a helpful press release here that describes you as “outgoing, funny, friendly, cheeky and energetic”.

(Laughs) I don’t know if I’m cheeky…

I guess those producers found you fairly cheeky.

I am after a couple of tequilas.

It’s obviously what they wanted.

I don’t know what they wanted. When it comes to gay men I’m so clueless and they would have picked up on that because it helps the show. I do get to do things that help me figure out who’s gay and who’s straight. I can go through their rooms and through their bathrooms – pretty much anything I wanted.

What were you looking for?

Anything stereotypically gay, I guess. Nice clothes, how many shoes have you got…

Straight guys are getting their act together a bit, aren’t they?

That’s true, and I think the show does end up proving that you can’t really judge people.

What other signs did you look for?

Gay guys are a bit more considerate, more thoughtful and gentle.

This is a bad lookout for heterosexual man.

I know, but for the show they got gay boys who acted straight and straight boys who were a little bit feminine.

Some of these shows are cut to show all the flesh and sex – will this be like that?

I don’t think this is that sort of show, to be honest. They won’t get any of that from me, anyway. On one of the first days I had to go swimming with the boys in the pool. It was so daunting – there were all these boys in the pool and all the crew… I couldn’t get into my bathers. I had to put on my board shorts and top. And I never get embarrassed about that sort of stuff – I always walk around half-naked. But when it’s a bunch of complete strangers, it’s really intimidating.

How naughty does the show get? Do we get to see any action?

No, there’s nothing like that. Every now and again the boys would ask me something a bit dirty or naughty about my sex life or something – but I wouldn’t say anything because I knew my mother and my grandmother would be watching. I kiss a couple of the boys.

That’s something.

But I was so embarrassed about it.

Did you just go with it, or feel there were lots of people watching?

That there were lots of people watching. It’s awkward, but you can drink a couple of glasses of champagne and sort of relax a bit.

With alcohol, you can do anything.

That’s exactly right.

Has your self-image changed?

I never thought I was beautiful or thought I was the type of girl to be chosen for something like this.

On the show you say a guy’s confidence makes up for him not being attractive.

Yeah, appearance isn’t really important to me. I just like guys I’m able to relax around. With a confident man, I’m able to sit back because I know he’s in control. I like a man’s man, hard-working…

You like a Darwin man.

Yeah, maybe the man of my dreams is in my backyard. I used to think I was a little homebody who wanted to settle down, but in the last year and a half I’ve been partying with people my own age who were travelling and starting to think, “Maybe not.”

Do you fancy a bit of a modeling career?

I did vet-nursing for four years, then I did bar work, and just before the show came up I knew that I couldn’t keep doing bar work. It’s not a long-term thing. I definitely need a career-change. I’m open to any suggestions at the moment.

What did you think of our shoot?

Oh, I rang up my mum and told I got a bit raunchy and took my top off. She said, “That’s OK – as long as you left your pants on.” It was such a crack-up. I’d never done anything like that. It was a bit daunting as well. I don’t think I’m very photogenic.

Of course you are. They didn’t choose you just for your inner beauty.

Well, I’m just an ordinary everyday girl.

Are you still working at the pub?

Yeah.

What will happen when the show’s on?

I think things might change a bit.

Yeah, reckon. Now you’re in the celebrity club what famous people are you looking to root?

Does Heath Ledger count?

Yeah, you could start with him.

But I like Naomi Watts too, so…

What, sexually or just as a person?

(Laughs) No, just as a person. I don’t want to upset her.

I thought I had a story there. “Lesbian vet-nurse admits lust.”

(Laughter) Maybe I’m the gay one at the end of the show.

Cripes: how to screw with viewers’ heads. Is fame shallow and pointless? Or is it just great?

It’s shallow. You’re kidding yourself if you think it’s not. I know who my real friends are and I’ve got great family. I liked working with animals so I’ll probably go back and do that one day.

What does vet-nursing involve, exactly?

I worked at the small-animal clinic. You assist in surgery…

What, sewing up a mouse or something?

(Laughs) No. I helped scrub up the animal and prepare it for surgery.

What sort of animals?

Mostly dogs and cats. Mainly de-sexings and things that get hit by cars. We got a lot of wildlife.

I’m trying to imagine scrubbing a dog. Or even de-sexing a dog.

You clip it first, then you scrub the clipped area…

Stop. What’s the weirdest operation you were involved in?

A cat got brought in – an abscess had burst under its throat. When we lifted up its head all its skin had been eaten away and there were all maggots and things.

Fark.

Yeah, we put that one to sleep.

Give me a happy animal story.

A cat was attacked by dogs – we had it in intensive care for three days. It didn’t have a home so I kept her. Her name’s Duchess.

Is television a false god?

I’ve thought about that. Is being on TV the ultimate job? It’s such a fake industry. Maybe it is a false god.

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