Candy Lane’s bittersweet Celebrity Treasure Island tell-all

The dejected dancer couldn't put a foot right with her castaway co-stars

For the past two months, Candy Lane has been battling it out on Celebrity Treasure Island, facing not only gruelling physical challenges but the shocking ageism of her own teammates.

And now that she’s one of the final six players left standing, the 61-year-old ballroom champion can talk openly about how blindsided she felt when her fellow competitors left her on the sidelines because of her age.

“That was a lonely feeling,” confesses Candy in an exclusive interview with the Weekly.

“I get on really well with people of all ages, so it was unexpected to be dismissed by the younger group.”

Capable Candy was ready for a challenge on the reality show

The hit TVNZ 2 show saw 21 Kiwi celebrities stranded on a remote beach in Northland, where they faced the elements, sleeping in huts and living off nothing more than rice and beans, unless they were lucky enough to win a food challenge.

Going into the reality competition, Candy suspected that being the oldest female contestant might lead her fellow competitors to underestimate her, but she never imagined just how quickly they would count her out.

Her standing was made clear early on when, despite saying many times that she would be great at that day’s challenge, her team ignored her and decided she would sit it out.

The mum-of-two, who once leapt from a helicopter into the ocean for a bootcamp-style reality TV show, became visibly upset and admits it’s the first time in her life she’s been disregarded because of her age.

“I thought they would just take us as they found us,” explains Candy. “It was really surprising. I haven’t come across that before and it was a real eye-opener.”

As she finds herself to be one of the few players left, the Dancing with the Stars judge can hardly believe what she has achieved.

Candy and Anna on the naughty stools!

“It was lonely at times because I didn’t really have any allies,” she smiles. “So I’m proud that I’ve got this far basically on my own.”

Watching the final cut of the show at her home in Auckland during lockdown, Candy laughs as she sees how much strategising was happening behind the scenes that she was completely oblivious to.

“Buck and I weren’t doing that as much as anyone else, but it hasn’t affected us,” she points out. “We’re still here! I’ve always said, for me, it’s about keeping my head down and knowing when to pick

my battles.”

In fact, ending up with former All Black Wayne “Buck” Shelford, 63, by her side, after a team reshuffle, was the best thing that happened to Candy during the competition – not only did she finally have someone in her corner, but Buck’s wife Jo is her cousin.

“I haven’t really spent any time with him, so it was a great opportunity to get to know him, talk about family and hear all the old stories. That was a real bonus,” she enthuses.

Despite the blindsides and deceit that happened throughout the game, Candy holds no ill will towards her competitors.

Candy with her beloved mum Mary. “She knew how cherished she was.”

“They’re just young and you can’t put an old head on young shoulders,” she says philosophically. “I don’t think they saw it as being as bad as it was.

“I admire everyone who was on the show. Well, almost everyone – and I’ve had some great chats with the people who have been eliminated.”

Candy’s only regret is that she didn’t speak up for herself more, “But you’ve got to do what you feel at the time.

“I’m actually not a quiet person, so a lot of friends have watched the show and said to me, ‘How did you hold your tongue, Candy?’ It would have felt a lot better to give everyone a real mouthful and put a few people firmly in their place, but it’s just something I didn’t want – especially not on national television!”

Candy with daughter Jaz (left), wife Leesha and their son Augy.

Watching the show each week, Candy says it’s been hard to relive some moments, but the support she’s received from friends and fans alike has been incredible. And most importantly, her daughter Jaz, 27, and son Zac, 24, are proud of how she conducted herself.

“They’re never surprised because they know I’m always up for a challenge,” laughs Candy. “They said they love how honest I was and that I’m playing with integrity, and to me, that’s important.”

Out of everything she’s done on the show, Candy says she’s most proud of winning a charity challenge, which brought home some money for Endometriosis New Zealand.

Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. It’s a cause close to Candy’s heart because she’s seen how much it has affected her daughter Jaz.

“She’s really proud and was really happy that I chose Endometriosis New Zealand, because it really did have a big impact on her growing up,” explains Candy. “She’s had three operations for it, when she was 15, 18 and then 21.”

Her gorgeous mum was always a big fan of showgirl Candy.

Having endometriosis has also made it difficult for Gold Coast-based Jaz and her wife Leesha in their efforts to give their adorable son Augy, three, a sibling.

“Leesha lost a pregnancy in February and has been diagnosed with endometriosis as well,” shares Candy. “So, unfortunately, it has touched us a little bit too much.”

It was painful for Candy to only be able to support her daughter from afar due to the pandemic travel restrictions.

“It was really sad. They had the photo of the embryos and were like, ‘This is what we want for Christmas.’ It’s hard not being there when they need you.”

Candy was, however, able to see her grandson in June due to the short-lived opening of the trans-Tasman bubble and it appears he is following in her talented footsteps.

“He’s dancing already – he does ballet!” smiles Candy, who first represented New Zealand in dancing when she was 10 years old. “He puts a rocker jacket on and he loves his tutu. My daughter wasn’t really into dancing so much, and neither was Zac, but Augy’s loving it.”

Their happy reunion, however, took a sad twist when Candy received a distressing call from her mum’s doctor back in Auckland saying they didn’t think she was going to survive the night.

The star will marry Ricky when lockdowns lift.

Mary celebrated her 100th birthday last year, and a distraught Candy and Jaz made the dash back to New Zealand to be by her side. Luckily, “as only Mum can do, she pulled through and the doctors just couldn’t believe it”.

In the end, Mary’s final days earlier this year were spent surrounded by family, with Candy and her kids never far from her side. And thanks to the trans-Tasman bubble, Candy’s brother Brett and his children were also able to fly from Australia to say their goodbyes.

“My partner Ricky and I stayed with her 24/7 for the weeks leading up to her death,” recalls Candy. “She knew we were there with her.”

They had a small family funeral and Candy takes comfort in the fact that her mum knew how cherished she was while she was still alive.

“It was quite lovely,” she confides. “Little needed to be said about her because everyone who was there knew her so well, and we got to say it all to her when she was living. To me, that’s the most important thing.”

And even now that Mary is gone, Candy feels her mother’s presence every day.

“My house is full of photos of Mum and I do feel like she’s still with me, even though I can’t visit her.”

With Celebrity Treasure Island coming to a close, Candy is looking to the future with a degree of uncertainty as she and fiancé Ricky Hancock, 48, can’t even think about planning their nuptials until New Zealand opens up again.

“We’re really happy and to me, having the wedding is not going to change a lot,” she admits. “But it’s really hard to plan anything at the moment. I’ve got my brother and my daughter in Australia, so we might have to wait until we’re out of this lockdown.”

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