Melbourne couple Dani Wales and Dan Reilly learned about more than just renovating on The Block All Stars, writes Holly Byrnes
DANI Wales still hasn’t picked the putty and dirt from beneath her chipped fingernails and the pale streaks flecked through her glossy mane are paint, not hair dye.
But there’s no sign of the devil horns critics of The Block All Stars contestant would have you believe this 27-yearold earned last year.
Falling unhappily into the role of villain in the 2012 series, the former business consultant turned TV renovator admits the vicious campaign waged against her by a small, vocal group of the show’s fans took its toll on her family — but, in the ultimate revenge, has only managed to strengthen her relationship with carpenter boyfriend, Dan Reilly.
It was the couple’s explosive feuds that fuelled a venomous public backlash, with cyber bullies targeting Wales on the show’s fan forums and other media websites.
Rather than put Wales off returning for the All Stars series, which premieres on Nine next week, she says it provided motivation for the pair to push harder for the win.
‘‘ If you watch the first three weeks of last series, I was just as normal as everybody else. Then as the sleep deprivation kicked in, everyone went a bit downhill from there,’’ Wales tells Switched On.
‘‘ There’s always going to be the villain, that’s all there is to it, and I think everyone fought just as much but we were the ones that copped the brunt of the backlash from the public.’’
Speaking frankly from the finished heritage cottage she and Reilly revamped for auction in March, Wales says: ‘‘ Some people see me as a strong woman, other people see me as plain evil. It can be so hurtful and people are very, very quick to judge. But often the things they’re saying about you, they’re actually doing themselves. They accused me of being a bully and they were being bullies by writing such awful, negative comments on-
People are very, very quick to judge
line.’’ Defending Wales, Reilly says he has no time for the haters.
‘‘ Why would you change for these low-lifes? I’m not changing for anyone,’’ he says.
And, in a warning, he adds: ‘‘ To be honest, last year I may have bitten my tongue a bit more. This year, I haven’t.’’
Hinting at the fireworks viewers can expect, the couple says the four teams given another shot at the hit reality series — including Amity and Phil, Mark and Duncan, and Josh and Jenna — ‘‘ started out all getting on like a house on fire’’.
But as the six-week challenge progressed, tension mounted. ‘‘ For at least half of it,’’ Reilly says, ‘‘ everyone was such good friends.
‘‘ Then people started getting tired, especially the girls, and then some silly comments were made here and there and that was it. It got a little bit involved.’’
But Wales says she learned to keep her nose clean this time around.
‘‘ I was ostracised a bit last year by the group and people judged Dan and I from how we were in that scenario. It was really unfair.’’ Then there are the show’s real judges, who apparently threw more grenades into the Bondi construction zone with their weekly room appraisals.
Reilly admits he was ‘‘ very critical of the judging this year’’, accusing real estate expert John McGrath, stylist Shayna Blaze, magazine editor Neale Whittaker and new judge Darren Palmer of ‘‘ inconsistencies’’.
‘‘ Every week, it just confused the hell out of us to work out what they were trying to say. Every week. They would choose a room and just go with that. They wouldn’t think about what they had said the week before . . . from one week to the next, it completely changed,’’ Reilly says.
It’s this don’t-hold-back attitude that polarised people last year, when the couple finished second (pocketing a $448,000 profit) to 2012 winners Brad and Lara, who won the $100,000 prizemoney and $506,000 above the reserve for their development of a South Melbourne Federation terrace.
This time, heritage rules play havoc, with all couples forced to work to a ‘‘ bible’’ of bylaws the size of a telephone book.
For the Melbourne-based couple, the series’ move to Sydney also posed early problems, finding local tradies and bartering with suppliers for owner-builder discounts.
Older and wiser the second time around, Wales says they felt more prepared when it came to working with the show’s story producers.
‘‘ When they ask you to talk about something or someone, you wonder if there’s an ulterior motive behind it or how they are painting this story? I think you only learn those things after doing (the show) once.’’ The Block All Stars, Channel 9, Monday, 7pm.