Build­ing Blocks

Mel­bourne cou­ple Dani Wales and Dan Reilly learned about more than just ren­o­vat­ing on The Block All Stars, writes Holly Byrnes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

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.

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