Big Brother

EXCLUSIVE: Big Brother star Saxon on fame, marriage and THAT rumoured romance with Gretel Killeen

The reality star formerly known as Saxon looks back on his wild Big Brother ride.

By Bella Brennan
The new season of Big Brother has made many Aussies nostalgic for the show's original incarnation and its famous faces.
One name that many viewers will remember is Saxon, the 19-year-old surfie from the Central Coast of NSW, who came fifth on his season in 2003 (which was ultimately won by Reggie Bird) and enjoyed a brief romance with the show's host Gretel Killeen.
This week, Now To Love decided to check in with season three Big Brother star Saxon, aka Daniel Small, to see what he's been up to since.
In an exclusive interview, Daniel - who went by his middle name of Saxon on the show as there was already another Daniel in the line-up - talks to us about his time on the show, his recent wedding and why Gretel was such an important person in his life.
The 36-year-old now lives on the Gold Coast and works in ecommerce as the head of digital for a large multi-brand retailer.
Dan tells us he's never been happier after recently marrying new wife Mareete just before the lockdown in March.
"This is by far the best year of my life so far. I have the dream job and am still living on the beach. I managed to sneak our wedding in just before COVID hit, so have just been enjoying quiet time with the wife at home," he says.
Mr and Mrs! Dan tied the knot to wife Mareete in March. (Image: Supplied)
While the couple sadly missed out on their honeymoon, the newlyweds have been relishing spending extra time together at home.
"We snuck it in literally one week before lockdown so we have had a super chill few months just hanging out at home. It's been really nice being together through these crazy times," the former reality star explains.
Dan says it was love at first sight when he first laid eyes on his now wife, before he popped the question in a very romantic setting in Avalon on Sydney's Northern Beaches in November last year.
"The first time I laid eyes on her I went weak at the knees. I'm certain she looked straight past me," he laughs.
"I hired a little water-front shack in Avalon, organised for my dad to hang some fairy lights and lay out a beautiful platter and I asked her to marry me with a family heirloom ring we designed together. It just felt perfect," the Big Brother alumnus reveals of his proposal.
"The first time I laid eyes on her I went weak at the knees," Dan tells us of his wife. (Image: Supplied)
"We turned the wedding around super quick as we are really excited about [having] kids," he admits.
"With my wife, one of the things that makes me love her so much is that when I look at her, all I can think of is making a mini version of her and thinking how beautiful that child would be," Dan explains of their exciting plans to start a family soon.
Then and now: "Saxon" back in 2003 on Big Brother and Dan on his wedding day this March. (Image: Channel Ten, supplied)
These days, Dan says he's fully embracing the low-key domestic life.
"I'm just moving into that part of my life where the main thing I want to do most is hang out with my wife and take it easy. Now it's socks and undies for birthday and Christmas presents and I'm really happy about it," he says.
"I really only get reminded about the Big Brother days by my mates occasionally when they want to knock me down a few pegs."
WATCH: Saxon and Jo chat on Big Brother. Post continues after the video...
Looking back on his 15 minutes of fame, the reality star formerly known as Saxon says he made the most of his time in the spotlight as he knew it would be fleeting.
"I travelled the country, there were free bar tabs, I met really interesting and talented people, I got free tickets to concerts. However I felt I had a no bulls--t relationship with the idea of 'fame.' I didn't win a gold medal at the Olympics.
"Nothing really prepares you for the fact you go into the house a normal 19 year old thats just out of high school, and then walk out of the house to see posters with your photo and name on it and people cheering your name. Equally scary is when people you have never met hate you and say hurtful things," he says.
Although he's not watching the new season of Big Brother, he takes his hat off to the 2020 contestants.
"I think reality TV these days is a million miles away from when I was on the show, mainly because of social media," Dan explains.
"You come out of the house with 100k followers, have nowhere to hide and I feel the world is a little more unforgiving and judgemental of those who take the plunge on the TV screen. You've got to be brave as hell or a little crazy, or both to jump in the ring these days."
Saxon and Gretel's big age gap at the time made headlines. (Image: Channel 10)
Shortly after Saxon left the Big Brother house, he made headlines for a rumoured romance with the show's host Gretel Killeen. All these years later, Dan says he has "enormous respect" for the star.
"Every housemate goes on that show super excited to meet Gretel, she is everyone's connection to the outside world while you are inside, so when you get evicted into a crazy world you don't recognise she feels like a safe zone for all of us," he says.
"I was more fortunate than most in working with her on a documentary and spending time with her and her family after the show. What I did see is that she is fiercely protective of her family, incredibly intelligent and obviously very successful in her career - all the while being a full-time single mum. The show died in my opinion when she wasn't in front of it," he muses.
As for which housemates he keeps in touch with, Dan and runner-up Chrissie Swan are still great mates.
"Chrissie is one of my favourite people on earth. We have a cactus style friendship, it doesn't take much water to keep it thriving. I would go as far as to say her friendship alone made doing the show worthwhile," he reflects fondly.
"Chrissie is one of my favourite people on earth," the 36-year-old says. (Image: Channel Ten)