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TV HELL Tallafornia star Kelly Donegan was told 'I should kill myself, that I was an embarrassment'

"The abuse was relentless. I was threatened physically and online. I found the people in Tallaght were often the worst - people who I knew and who knew me personally"

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Kelly suffered abuse both in public and online.

Kelly suffered abuse both in public and online.

Kelly suffered abuse both in public and online.

Tallafornia star Kelly Donegan has revealed she struggled with suicidal thoughts following her time on the hit reality show.

The 31-year-old was one of the original cast members in the fly-on-the-wall reality TV series which followed the drama and lives of a group of twentysomethings living in Tallaght.

Ten years on since Kelly, Cormac Branagan, Phil Penny, Mark O'Neill, Dave Behan, Jay Abbey, Natalie Geraghty and Nikita Murray burst on to our screens, the author and health coach has broken her silence about the campaign of abuse she endured when the X-rated series was axed in 2013.

"The abuse was relentless. I was threatened physically and online. I found the people in Tallaght were often the worst - people who I knew and who knew me personally.

"There were times where I was thinking I'd actually be happy if I just didn't wake up tomorrow, that would just be the best outcome ever. And I would think that consistently over and over and over again - there were definitely suicidal thoughts, 100 per cent. We look at people that were in other reality TV shows that have taken their own lives. It happens."

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Kelly and the cast of Tallafornia

Kelly and the cast of Tallafornia

Kelly and the cast of Tallafornia

Speaking of the harrowing abuse she received, the former bodybuilder who uses her Instagram @itskellydonegan as a platform for wellness and positivity said: "There was one time I was coming home from the gym and lads from my area pulled up in a car and threw eggs at me. I cried the whole way home.

"Another time I was in a local nightclub for my friend's birthday and a guy came up to me and asked for a picture. While it was being taken a guy in his group came up behind me and pulled my dress up. Everyone turned around and laughed at me. It was just a practical joke to them.

"I told the security guards and they pretty much laughed at me too. I was walking out to get my jacket and another person threw a paper cup with alcohol all over me and told me I was a joke."

Kelly was also bombarded online with threatening and sometimes sexually explicit messages, at one point receiving up 20 to 30 abusive messages when the show hit its peak reach of over 2.2 million people.

"I was told I should kill myself, that I was an embarrassment and that I had a head like a melted welly. People really took aim at my appearance and some of the messages were extremely violent and sexually explicit."

Looking back at her time on the TV3 juggernaut, which hit the headlines for the contestants' "backstabbing, bitching and bed hopping", Kelly said: "I probably went in under false pretences and didn't digest the reality of what was to come.

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Kelly Donegan is hoping to kickstart a television career.

Kelly Donegan is hoping to kickstart a television career.

Kelly Donegan is hoping to kickstart a television career.

"I was just a young person and I expected it to turn out OK. I was extremely career hungry. I had a vision for where I wanted to be in my life and I thought that this would be a stepping stone and that I'd get more opportunity, maybe on TV, and it was the opposite.

"I don't know if it was classism but I didn't get any collaborations with brands. I didn't get any additional TV opportunities. If anything, I actually lost work. Any of the small kind of modelling jobs that I had been doing before that completely dried up."

After the show ended, the businesswoman was forced to seek unemployment benefit and was openly ridiculed for seeking job prospects.

"Someone would take a picture of me at an interview and then it would end up in a paper. I got to a place where I actually didn't even want to leave my house.

"I pushed all my friends away. I was embarrassed because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I was constantly lying to people about how good I was doing. A lot of people thought I was doing amazingly but in reality I was miserable and broke.

"My career dissolved from doing the show. I had all these high expectations for my career. I had this vision for where my life was going to be, I was almost grieving for what didn't happen."

Kelly, who has since sought counselling to deal with the emotional fallout from the exposure, said her life was realigned when she found fitness. "I was in a very dark place for a year but I'm so lucky, I have great friends and family. I had that support network. I made one small choice in my life to take up fitness more proactively.

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Kelly says working out helped her.

Kelly says working out helped her.

Kelly says working out helped her.

"Doing something completely new opened up a whole new career for me. It was a place to channel my anger, my frustration, my hopes and then it ended up becoming a career for me."

Having worked in the health and fitness industry since 2012, Kelly, who is now currently living at home to save for a mortgage with her boyfriend, feels it's time to talk about her reality TV journey, having previously opened up this month on the IT GALZ podcast about her experience.

"I'm in a safe place now to look back and now I realise how much people loved the show. It was probably just Ireland being so conservative that it didn't bring the opportunities that I hoped for but it didn't mean that people didn't love the show and that people didn't love me. It brought people joy and things to talk about during the recession time."

In the same week it was announced that Love Island will return to our screens this summer, Kelly said there is a space for reality TV.

"It's entertainment, it's escapism. In lockdown, TV has been so important for people, but I just think people have to be really conscious of how they treat people online. I definitely think when you put yourself out there you are going to get negative feedback to a certain degree. But I think when people make it really, really, personal that's where the line is drawn - there needs to be protection. I think people should have to register their passport, their ID to use social media."

Looking forward, Kelly is now hoping to expand her horizons and finally pursue a career in TV.

"I think from re-watching the show it reminded me that I always imagined myself being in media. I've always been outspoken and a little bit salacious and even after that experience I still like to say things that make people feel uncomfortable or cover topics that people are uncomfortable with.

"I'm just flirting with the idea to put myself back out there again and see what opportunities there are. I would love to create my own TV show. I think that this is kind of a rebirth."

  • If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact Pieta House on 1800-247247 or the Samaritans by telephoning 116123 for free

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