'Bachelor Winter Games': Meet the New Zealand Beauties Winning Over Hunks (Exclusive)
By Leena Tailor
Bachelor Nation is going global and so is ET! With reality stars from around the globe making their debut on Bachelor Winter Gameson Tuesday, ET headed Down Under to get to know the series’ New Zealand contestants. Getting candid over drinks in Auckland, 21-year-old media personality, snowboard instructor and high ropes course instructor Lily McManus shared how she was chasing winters around the globe when she got the call inviting her to join the ladies vying for Zac Franich’s heart on season three of The Bachelor NZ in 2017. She became runner-up and remains friends with Franich as well as fellow contestants like 24-year-old yoga teacher and relief teacher Ally Thompson, who also headed to Manchester, Vermont, for Bachelor Winter Games.
ET: What prompted you to enter The Bachelor NZ?
Lily: I’m not the kind of person who thinks going on TV to date one dude with a bunch of other chicks is a good idea, but they called and said, “Congratulations, you’ve got an audition.” I was like, “Who the f**k is this?” Mom didn’t tell me she entered me. I called back and turned them down, but I like to say yes to weird, wild, adventurous things, so two weeks later, I went, “This has smacked me in the face and I may as well give it a go.”
Ally: I moved to New Zealand from Worcester, England, five years ago and came to Nelson. Up in Auckland, the dating scene’s better, but in Nelson it’s a bit dry! I’d had a bad breakup and my friends said I should I enter, but I wrote the most weird, dumb stuff on my application, so when they rang I thought it was a friend pranking me. The Kiwi Bachelor didn’t work out for me, but I made some great friends.
How was your dating life between Bachelor NZ and Bachelor Winter Games?
Ally: Bachelor was the biggest co*k block for me! It was like living in a nunnery in Nelson. I only [attracted] creepy, weirdo guys. All my friends are married or coupled up and I was single pringle, thinking, “Am I going to die alone with 50 cats?” Then I got the call from Winter Games…
How was your first day on Bachelor Winter Games and who caught your attention?
Ally: I did make a good connection with somebody. I never watched the American Bachelor, so almost went in blind, which was good because I had no preconceptions of anybody. I saw Ben [Higgins] and thought, “Hello! He’s gorgeous!” Eric [Bigger], I thought, “He’s quite yummy -- gorgeous smile and gorgeous personality.” And I love Dean. He’s very cheeky, a charmer and gorgeous.
Lily: It was overwhelming at that opening ceremony because you’re shaking so many hands, but once we got back to the house and everyone started having a drink and relaxing, I gravitated towards someone in particular. I’m still trying to figure out how it happened because I had so many conversations, but that one was definitely my favorite. For me, it was all about one person and very much one focus -- I can’t be into eight guys at once!
How was the sporting element of the series?
Lily: My athletic background definitely helped because a lot of the girls had zero athletic background, so even if I hadn’t done something before, I knew how to move my limbs enough to do all right! I gave it my best shot.
Ally: I went in having never done any formal winter sports and I was very naïve thinking I’ll be all right. I’m a yoga teacher by trade, so I’m quite active, but you need practice for winter sports. Sorry, New Zealand for my sporting inabilities!
Was it easier to form connections on Bachelor Winter Games than the Bachelor?
Ally: Unlike Bachelor, we were with the girls and guys 24/7, so it was really intense. You’re with people through angry moments, tired mornings, big nights and every circumstance, so get to know them fast. Strong connections were made in a short space of time because you’re with them all day and have no contact with the outside world, so everything’s heightened. It was like living in a human snow globe with beautiful snow outside and intense action inside!
So, how much action did you get in the house?
Ally: You’ll have to watch to find out, but we did have a hot tub…
How was the dynamic between the female contestants?
Lily: It was so much more mellow than I expected. There was a lot of drama between couples, but there was a level of maturity amongst the girls and especially the dominant ones, so even if someone was going towards the catty side, they’d get shut down. I think having that male balance in the house calms a woman down! Jordan [Mauger] came in and the first thing he did was ask, “Who’s with who? I’m not cutting anyone’s grass,” which is a big Australian, New Zealand and Canadian thing. That cultural change and having internationals come in might have helped mellow [the women] out.
Lily, how was it being the youngest contestant on the show?
Lily: Half the people on the show didn’t find out how old I was until further down the line and they wouldn’t buy it. They said, “Can I see your passport?” Older people don’t threaten me, so it’s not a big deal, but I know it always is for viewers. It’s easy to throw out, “too young,” before you know someone, but hopefully people won’t group me into that category forever.
You’ve been photographed out and about with Jordan since you returned to New Zealand…
Lily: I think so highly of the man and we live in the same country, so we’re going to hang out. I can’t confirm or deny anything, but either way I think highly of him.
Did Team NZ introduce any culture or slang into the house?
Lily: I might have introduced a cultural delicacy into the equation -- the “shoey!” It’s when you take your shoe off, put a beer in it, then drink out of your shoe.
Ally: I can’t say too much, but there were some intense bonds and relationships formed and I’m heading back to the States to see how it goes. Saying goodbye to little Nelson and going on a little adventure!
Lily: I can confirm there is someone still in the equation!
How does it feel to be in that situation?
Lily: Insane. People go into these things thinking, “I’m going to find love,” but I’ve always been realistic. I’m fussy, independent and don’t feel I need to be with someone, so to go in and actually find someone is like, “Wow.” We get along so well and we’re so similar. Meeting someone like that makes you put everything into perspective about how you should feel about someone and how it should be from the start. I’m not gooey-centered at all, so for me to be saying all this … I’m gobsmacked. I’m constantly surprised by what this weird love cult TV show can do for me!
How will you make a potential long-distance romance work?
Lily: I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t make it work, it’s usually because you don’t like each other enough. It has nothing to do with distance and everything to do with how you feel about that person. So, this weird international aspect of the show is a good test for how much people really like each other because they’ve got this huge challenge ahead.
Bachelor Winter Games premieres at 8 p.m. EST on Feb. 13 on ABC, then continues on Feb. 15, 20 and 22. See more on the series below.