Reality TV

EXCLUSIVE: Simone Holtznagel admits she didn’t “fully grieve” for Charlotte Dawson until she went on SAS Australia

''Doing this show, I didn't realise how much it still affected me.''
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Trigger warning: This article contains discussions of anxiety, depression and suicide that may be upsetting for some readers.

Simone Holtznagel has spent eight years battling with the hole Charlotte Dawson left in her life, and her decision to continue talking about her mentor’s death.

The New Zealand-born model died by suicide in 2014 after battling depression and cruel online trolling, leaving a devastated Simone to pick up the pieces.

Now she has opened up about losing Charlotte once again, this time on SAS Australia, but Simone tells Now To Love that being so open hasn’t always been an easy thing.

“So many people love her and miss her and care about her… but sometimes I feel bad about still talking about it,” she says.

Simone Holtznagel broke down in tears as she spoke of Charlotte Dawson’s death on SAS Australia.

(Image: Channel Seven)

“I don’t want people to think that I’m still talking about it to have some sort of relevance, but the reality is everyone misses her and everyone feels a little, not responsible, but like we should have done more.”

The 28-year-old model acknowledges that it’s important to talk about the mental health and suicide prevention messages that have become so intwined with Charlotte’s story, but still fears judgement from people who have moved past her death.

“I sometimes worry about people being like, ‘shut up, it was eight years ago’. But that’s just me worrying about stupid things.”

It’s true that Charlotte died eight years ago, but the loss is as raw as ever for Simone.

In fact, it wasn’t until she embarked on her SAS Australia journey that she realised just how fresh the grief still was.

WATCH: Simone Holtznagel breaks down in anxiety attack over Charlotte Dawson’s death. Story continues after video.

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“Something that I really learned on this show is that I probably didn’t fully grieve properly,” she admits.

“I moved seven months or so after she passed away and kind of ran away from it. Doing this show, I didn’t realise how much it still affected me.

“I deal with anxiety and things like that … but I didn’t think that it was all still rooted from that [Charlotte’s death].”

Simone’s experience serves as a stark reminder that, as much as she and many others miss Charlotte, there are “lessons to be learned from her death”.

The model insists that it’s vital for people to continue speaking up about mental health and offering support to the people who need it most.

Simone shared her battle with anxiety publicly for the first time on the show.

(Image: Channel Seven)

It’s part of the reason why she chose to speak publicly about her own battles with anxiety for the first time ever on SAS Australia.

“Dealing with anxiety hasn’t been new for me. I’ve been dealing with it for a couple of years now, but I’ve never really publicly spoken about my own struggles,” she says.

“It’s been a tough for me watching it back because people seem to think I’m just a big cry baby. But I still did it, I still tried my best, and I think that’s like the most important takeaway.”

Her regular tears weren’t the only thing cruel social media trolls took aim at either, with many labelling Simone “annoying” or a “dumb blonde” on the show.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t care so much about those comments.

“There is like a certain kind of stereotype of the blonde model … I play into that a little bit and it’s worked out well for me, so people just need to get over it,” Simone laughs.

Her co-star Locky Gilbert has also been on the receiving end of some harsh Tweets, with many viewers accusing him of being arrogant on the show.

But Simone reminds us not to believe everything we see on TV.

Simone revealed fellow recruit Locky wasn’t quite as cocky as he appears on TV.

(Image: Channel Seven)

“We all know that he’s full of himself, but he really wasn’t that full on in person. I would say it might be a bit of a dud edit, but at the same time, he did say all those things,” she reveals.

She also shared a few other behind-the-scenes details, confessing that the recruits rarely see the DS outside of filming challenges and yes, she did indeed help clean the filthy toilets.

“Everyone’s having a bloody field day about me not wanting to clean the toilets, but who the ever wants to clean the toilet?” she exclaims after receiving backlash online.

“I did it every day with Barry [Hall], but I’m allowed to carry on about it if I want!”

Though her time cleaning toilets on SAS Australia has come to an end, Simone says we won’t have to wait too long to see her on our TV screens again.

“There is like a certain kind of stereotype of the blonde model … I play into that a little bit and it’s worked out well for me, so people just need to get over it.”

(Image: Channel Seven)

Typically she waits a few years between reality shows, but after the challenges she faced on SAS, this blonde beauty is up for just about anything.

Including a reboot of the show that started it all for her; Australia’s Next Top Model.

“I just love Top Model, it’s the best show. They really need to bring it back … I’m trying to get it to happen,” she reveals, so watch this space!

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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