TV

Zero to hero! How these former reality TV "villains" turned their reputations around

Talk about a redemption arc!

By Alana Mazzoni
When it comes to the chaotic world of reality TV, there are few guarantees.
But one trope that never gets old is the good old "villain".
Whether we love to hate them or simply can't get enough of their drama-inducing antics, at least one controversial contestant is bound to emerge on a reality TV show.
Over the years, we've seen our fair share of questionable characters find their 15 minutes of fame on Aussie shows like The Bachelor, Married At First Sight and Big Brother.
What's more rare though is villains who have gone on to repair their image and come out on top.
Whether it be through public apologies, a social media overhaul or simply time, we love to see a villain redemption story.
Keep scrolling to see the best reality TV villains who have had the last laugh.
Abbie Chatfield has amassed an enormous fan following. (Image: Instagram)

Abbie Chatfield - The Bachelor

With a hit podcast, 400,000 Instagram followers, a hosting role on Love Island Australia, a national radio gig and more fashion collaborations that we can name, it's easy to forget that Abbie Chatfield was actually so-called "villain" of The Bachelor's seventh season.
Back in 2019 during Abbie's reality TV debut, she was portrayed as a ditzy blonde who famously told Matt Agnew that she was a Gemini in response to him stating his career.
But as the season rolled on, Abbie's edit got progressively worse and she was fast labelled the "villain".
"I was the stupid, bitchy villain. It was like, 'She's manipulative and young'," Abbie told Mamamia in April 2022.
Abbie also faced a barrage of abuse from viewers who slut-shamed her for her sex-positive attitude, which culminated in her telling Matt she was "really horny", making national headlines at the time.
The season seven runner up has her own national radio show on the Hit Network. (Image: Instagram)
But three years on, Abbie is having the last laugh. While the 26-year-old can be polarising at times, there's no denying she's the most enduring and successful contestant in Bachelor Australia history.
Not only is she laughing all the way to the bank, but Abbie has managed to cash in on the very thing she was previously slammed for: owning her sexuality.
Abbie collaborated with sex-toy company Vush, selling a special range of $150 vibrators. The venture was so successful the profit and business deal afforded her a $1.45million Byron Bay home.
She regularly uses her platform to speak out on issues of racial injustice, toxic beauty standards for women, and sexism.
Bryce came under fire from his co-stars, the experts and the Australian public for the duration of his stint on the show. (Image: Nine)

Bryce Ruthven - Married at First Sight

While the word "villain" is usually somewhat subjective, it's universally (well, nationally) agreed that Bryce Ruthven did not come off as an angel during his time on MAFS' eighth season.
And that's putting it lightly.
In fact, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) even received an influx of complaints about Bryce's behaviour, though Channel Nine was eventually cleared of any breaches to the Commercial Television Code of Practice.
Issues cropped up when viewers claimed that the relationship between Bryce and his now-fiancée Melissa Rawson was "abusive" and showed signs of "gaslighting" behaviour.
Bryce came under fire from his co-stars, the experts and the Australian public for the duration of his stint on the show.
The 2021 MAFS groom proved his critics wrong. (Image: Instagram)
The 32-year-old was slammed over the infamous "honesty box challenge", where he ranked Melissa fourth in order of who he thought was the most attractive bride on the show.
But two years on, Bryce has managed to reform his once-tarnished reputation.
Since proposing to Melissa and having two twin sons, Bryce has earned himself hordes of fans for rising above his ill-fated reality TV stint.
It also helped that viewers predicted his and Melissa's relationship would implode within weeks, however, they've proved their critics wrong and are still going strong after three years.
Martha is a bona fide beauty influencer now. (Image: Instagram)

Martha Kalifatidis

MAFS season six had its fair share of villains. From Jessika Power and Ines Basic to Sam Ball and Dan Webb, there was no shortage of drama.
But no one has managed to move on from their MAFS edit quite like Martha Kalifatidis.
During her time on the show, Martha was blasted for her complicity with then-bestie Jess' affair with Dan. Co-stars and viewers alike questioned Martha's morals over her eagerness to keep Jess' secret.
She was also slammed by viewers for infamously pouring red wine on nemesis Cyrell Paule, who was a hard-and-fast fan favourite at the time.
Three years on, Martha has well and truly left her villain status behind, managing to pivot away from the world of reality TV and into the lucrative fashion industry.
Not only has she solidified herself as a successful fashion influencer, she's also become a bona fide beauty guru who regularly rubs shoulders with Sydney's elite.
The season six bride is engaged to her TV husband, Michael Brunelli. (Image: Instagram)
In November 2021, Martha was announced as as the latest Australian ambassador for popular fast fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing.
The 33-year-old had reportedly already signed a five-figure deal with the e-commerce brand in February of 2021.
While most MAFS stars spruik products in the months following their stints on the show before fading back into obscurity, Martha has proved the longevity of her name.
Like her season eight counterpart Bryce, Martha has also managed to prove her critics wrong by going the distance with her now-fiancé Michael Brunelli.
The pair got engaged in October 2021 and haven't looked back!
Keira Maguire is one of The Bachelor's original villains. (Image: Instagram)

Keira Maguire

Keira Maguire is one of The Bachelor's original villains. She earnt herself the unwanted title thanks to her acid-tongue and no-holds-barred approach to confrontation on Richie Strahan's season back in 2016.
Never shying away from speaking her mind, Keira famously feuded with Alex Nation, who ultimately went on to win Richie's heart.
One headline at the time even read "Kiera is one bitchy comment away from morphing into Regina George". Now that's a certified villain!
However in the years since, Keira has managed to steer away from her "mean girl" status while still remaining in the limelight.
Viewers warmed to Keira on Bachelor in Paradise. (Image: Instagram)
In 2018, not long after first finding fame, Keira got back in viewers' good graces through her Bachelor in Paradise romance with Bachie sweetheart Jarrod Woodgate.
The couple dated on-and-off before ultimately calling it quits in August 2019.
During her romance with Jarrod, viewers got to see a softer, more vulnerable side to Keira; making it the ultimate redemption arc.