Lily McManus made a name for herself as the cheeky, laid-back contestant on The Bachelor NZ in 2017, but behind her charming smile the young star was battling a secret.
At the age of 15, Lily was diagnosed with a hearing impairment. She was told she would have to use hearing aids for the rest of her life.
But for three years, she refused to wear them and even now just talking about it brings a tear to her eyes.
"It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had something that I couldn't control or fix," explains the 22-year-old.
"When I was a kid, I thought I was indestructible. I was the biggest tomboy running around and then I was told I was going to be potentially disadvantaged my whole life and there was nothing I could do about it. It really hurt and it was a big blow to my confidence."
Lily first opened up about her disability in October last year after realising how much she could help other young people with hearing impairments.
Now she'll be shining an even brighter light on the topic as she's set to appear on Celebrity Treasure Island raising money for her chosen charity, the National Foundation for the Deaf.
She tells, "It's not easy to talk about your s***, but I need to. If I can help anyone by talking about it and making them feel more comfortable about wearing their hearing aids, then my job is done."
Lily remained tight-lipped about her condition on The Bachelor NZ and The Bachelor Winter Games, but when asked what her 15-year-old self would think about her big TV reveal, tears start to fall.
"Little Lily wouldn't believe it at first," she says.
"I don't think she would have thought we would have gotten here – she would probably think I'd be dead by now, honestly. I've already impressed her by being alive, so to actually talk about my issues in front of other people, I think she'd be pretty proud."
And while she fights her way through tough physical challenges on the upcoming TVNZ 2 show, Lily's comforted by the fact she'll be doing it for an important cause.
"This isn't for me; this is for something greater than ourselves, which is the most amazing thing about this show," she asserts.
Now somewhat of an expert when it comes to reality TV, Lily has earned the nickname of "The Veteran" by the Celebrity Treasure Island cast and crew.
But the star – who dated fellow Australian Courtney Dober after hooking up on The Bachelor Winter Games – says she's looking forward to focusing on her charity, survival skills and working with her team, rather than finding love right now.
"Dating is not going to be on my radar for this show and as a woman who's been on a dating show, I don't have to generalise myself to that stigma. I'm so much more than dating and I can impress so much more than dudes," she laughs.
"I'm not going to focus on finding love, but I'm always open to it. You have to be because you never know when it's going to come."
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