Barbara Kendall on her surprise at being portrayed as a villain on Celebrity Treasure Island

Barbara says she's proud of how she played the game, though.

By Kelly Bertrand
Barbara Kendall has had many labels throughout her illustrious career − Olympic champion, record-breaker, national treasure.
But villain? That's a new one.
It was among many firsts the legendary boardsailor experienced during her time on Celebrity Treasure Island.
With the series finally finished, Barbara is lifting the lid about what really went down, including enduring sickness, petty squabbles, regrets, and confronting her own insecurities and fears.
"Well, it's been a fascinating journey, that's for sure!" she laughs.
"It's been really confronting, actually. I had to hold up a mirror [to myself] and have a look in."
She ruffled feathers but Barbara's only regret is not winning the $100,000 prize. Image: Supplied
As soon as she stepped on the tropical island, Barbara − or Queen Barbs as she was dubbed − took on a leadership role, with her naturally competitive nature quickly emerging. But almost instantly, she was dubbed a "villain", she tells.
"Eric [Murray], Sam and I were put into the villain thing. That's because some people can't handle forthright women who say what everyone else might be thinking!"
Barbara's main source of conflict was a 'mercy card', which she won after a challenge.
It gave her the power to save a player from elimination − but in an effort to be transparent, she told her teammates she'd only use it to save 'physically strong' Shane Cameron (41) or Moses Mackay (26), angering fellow competitor Matty McLean (32), who went on to utter the now world-famous-in-New Zealand-line, "I don't have to prove myself to Barbara Kendall!"
So, did our favourite weatherman ever go on to do just that?
"He never had to prove himself to Barbara Kendall!" the 52-year-old says with a laugh − but also with a touch of exasperation.
"No-one has to prove themselves to Barbara Kendall, or anyone else," she insists.
"That was quite funny, but I didn't really know what was going on… When I look back now at some of the things I did in the game − I was trying to be upfront and honest − I should have told them I had the mercy card, but been diplomatic with how I used it. That's what ate him up, that was a mistake on my part.
"People thought the only thing I could see was physical strength, it wasn't. I'm not that thick! I've been around for a long time. It kind of hurt a little bit when they were like, 'Oh, Barbara's just seeing strength.' Oh my God, I'm not that dumb!"
Competition got fiercer as celebrities were eliminated from the game. Image: Supplied
Not that she's complaining about her on-screen portrayal. It's a reality TV show, she nods, and Barbara's tried her best to laugh along with everyone else.
She explains, "They're making entertainment. Of course they're going to focus on the bits that create the drama or the prickly bits. You just have to laugh knowing that's what they're going to do.
"When we had a debrief with the producers before we went on the island, their line was, 'We want you to be who you are, because that's why you were chosen − but be more of who you are.' I don't think I was more, but what they've done is pull out the parts where I seem to be 'more'… that can be quite uncomfortable. But you need to be accepting of that."
Seeing herself onscreen − and her fellow competitors' confessionals − has been really tough, Barbara admits.
"It's been hard watching it, I have to be honest. You see these comments, 'Barbara can't help but take control over the situation.' You see how it's supposed to be done! And to see yourself with wrinkly, spotty, sun-damaged skin, and you've got all of these beautiful creatures around you… But you are what you are!
"I keep forgetting I was 51 when we filmed that, and a lot of the other competitiors were in their 20s and 30s," she continues. "I was winning medals at that age. I was old enough to be some of their mums! Moses' mum is the same age, and Athena [Angelou] has a mum younger."
"I was getting worse every day, physically and mentally," tells Barbara. Image: Supplied
Watching some of the younger contestants was also quite amusing, she tells, especially main antagonist Sam, whom she affectionately compares to a child having a tantrum.
"He's a great sportsman, but he's never competed at a high level, or learnt how to win or how to lose. He's friggin' funny, and he's the best entertainment on the whole show, you can't help but love him and hate him. That's what Sam was, he was like a child in a competitive environment.
"If you watch kids competing and they don't win… and they're competitive, little tantrums happen."
Although she was dealing with her own hardships − a combination of a lack of food and an enduring stomach bug − Barbara's proud of how she played the game and how far she got. But on the day of her elimination, she knew it was time to bow out.
"I woke up that morning and I just had a loud voice in my head saying that it was time to go. I was getting worse every day, physically and mentally. I didn't self-eliminate − I tried my a* off. But when you have malnutrition, the first thing to go is your brain, and I couldn't stop shaking."
Barbs found Sam Wallace's game play very amusing.
Barbara − along with the rest of team Mako − struggled with no food. Failing to win the majority of the team challenges, they relied on rice, but that didn't cut it for
the athlete, whose metabolism was too fast to cope.
"Everyone's going, 'Oh, the big men need food!' But how about the skinny little metabolism girl who has had diarrhoea for 13 days!" she laughs.
"When we finally did win a challenge, it was a couch and a bottle of wine – we got absolutely no food!
"I know they were playing the game to starve us to get the reactions… but around day seven or eight, we were all laying around doing nothing and they felt sorry for us, and they did give us each a banana a day. None of us were doing anything funny or active − we didn't have the energy, so it was like, 'Bugger that!'"
Barbara went home lighter than when she landed on the island, with her memory taking two weeks to return to normal.
"My daughters thought I had lost my mind, they were laughing at me and were like, 'Mum, you've gone nuts!'"
Her family, including husband Shane and daughters Samantha and Aimee, are incredibly proud of her − with the girls holding viewing parties for each episode.
But in true Barbara fashion, she has one regret − that she didn't win the $100,000 for Surf Lifesaving New Zealand.
"I'm an athlete and I would have liked to have won. But the kids have told me, 'Mum, you did good' − so that's amazing."

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