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Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy DANIEL NADEL In­ter­view ADRIENNE TAM

ven if she wanted to, Ali Oet­jen isn’t al­lowed to re­veal whether or not she finds love at the end of her “jour­ney” as The Bach­e­lorette – which has fin­ished film­ing and will air over the com­ing months. But her smile may be a clue. “I’m feel­ing ex­tremely happy,” the 32-year-old tells Stel­lar. “Just re­ally ec­static. I’m glow­ing from the inside out.”

If a happy end­ing is in store, it can’t come soon enough for Oet­jen given the neg­a­tiv­ity that has fol­lowed her since her turn on Bach­e­lor In Par­adise Aus­tralia ear­lier this year. Af­ter be­liev­ing she had found love with fel­low Par­adise par­tic­i­pant Grant Kemp on the re­al­ity TV show, which brings past con­tes­tants of The Bach­e­lor and The Bach­e­lorette fran­chises to­gether, the two broke up not long af­ter film­ing ended. And it’s been a break-up fraught with scan­dal, with Kemp al­leg­ing she cheated on him while Oet­jen has cited dis­tance as the main mo­ti­va­tor of the re­la­tion­ship break­down [Kemp lives in LA].

Since Kemp’s out­spo­ken ac­cu­sa­tions, Oet­jen has stayed quiet on the sub­ject. “My ma­jor rea­son for not say­ing any­thing is that I don’t want to give him any am­mu­ni­tion or any rea­son to keep com­ing back in the lime­light, which is what he wants. He wants to keep on grab­bing those head­lines. It speaks vol­umes for who he is re­ally,” she says.

Her si­lence un­til now has led to a back­lash, with some claim­ing that Oet­jen doesn’t de­serve to be The Bach­e­lorette. “I just don’t think I have any­thing to prove to any­one. Ev­ery­one’s al­ways go­ing to have an opin­ion,” she says. “I think peo­ple who throw out th­ese com­ments [on so­cial me­dia and online], they ac­tu­ally don’t re­alise the dam­age they’re do­ing.” She has re­lied on her fam­ily and friends to prop her up. “They are the most im­por­tant peo­ple to me and their opin­ions mat­ter. I have enough self-love and be­lief in who I am.”

It’s a dif­fer­ent side to Oet­jen than the one au­di­ences first saw in the in­au­gu­ral The Bach­e­lor in 2013, where she fa­mously tried to steal a kiss from Bach­e­lor Tim Ro­bards at the very first cock­tail party. Given the chance, she wouldn’t al­ter a thing. “That’s who I was back then. I wouldn’t change who I was. That girl… was a girl. She hadn’t fully de­vel­oped to what I am now,” she says. “I am a woman who knows ex­actly what she wants. I feel like now I’m em­pow­ered by the ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had.”

Although she parted on good terms with Ro­bards and Anna Hein­rich, the woman he chose and his now wife, Oet­jen doesn’t keep in con­tact with ei­ther of them be­yond the odd so­cial­me­dia check-in. “I feel like your exes, who­ever they are, you can feel good for them and know they’re happy, but you should let them go.”

When the chance to be Aus­tralia’s fourth Bach­e­lorette came up, Oet­jen took time to think it through. She’d been left heart­bro­ken on both The Bach­e­lor and Bach­e­lor In Par­adise, and ques­tioned whether she’d find a man who wanted “to set­tle down and have kids”. Her mother was par­tic­u­larly wor­ried. “My mum es­pe­cially didn’t re­ally want me to do it. Be­cause she’s been there to pick up the pieces in the past. She was re­ally scared it was go­ing to hap­pen again and couldn’t un­der­stand why I was go­ing to put my­self through it,” Oet­jen says. “But once I ex­plained to her that this was the right process for me, then [the whole fam­ily] were all sup­port­ive.”

Oet­jen was re­solved not to re­peat the same mis­takes this third – and, she in­sists, fi­nal – time on re­al­ity TV. “I def­i­nitely man­i­fested and had lists of what I was look­ing for. It was re­ally im­por­tant for me to not wa­ver from the qual­i­ties and val­ues of what I wanted in a guy. I have wa­vered on them in the past,” she says. “I’ve al­ways com­pro­mised for oth­ers. And I wasn’t will­ing to do that when I was in con­trol of my own destiny.”

“I did think, ‘Is this go­ing to be worth it? Is it go­ing to be worth the chal­lenge, the fear? Is it go­ing to be worth the pain and the ef­fort?’” And the more she thought, the more she re­alised the an­swer was yes. “I look to what my par­ents have and I want that. I love ‘love’ more than ever.”

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