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I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

EXCLUSIVE: Maria Thattil thought her romance with Joey Essex was over in this terrifying moment on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

'''I thought, ‘Great, that's the end of Joey and I'.''

By Maddison Leach
There were no romantic goodbyes for Maria Thattil and Joey Essex as the model was ejected from I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! on Monday night.
Maria admits to Now To Love that it was "jarring" to be booted from camp so suddenly and she hadn't prepared for how emotional she got.
"I don't know that I said everything I would've wanted to say, to say goodbye properly," she says of her farewells to Joey, best friend David Subritzky and the other stars.
"You feel this sense of loss and you really do grieve the people you're around."
Maria Thattil and Joey Essex's romance has been a huge focus on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here. (Network Ten)
The grief was clear in David's reaction to Maria's exit; he fled the campsite in tears. Meanwhile, Joey – who had a romantic connection with Maria – was left speechless.
The model laughs when we bring him up, saying: "Joey's gorgeous and you know, we were attracted to each other from the get-go … we connected really quickly over very, very long and open conversations."
Maria and Joey also connected over the shared trauma of the boiler room challenge, which almost had Maria screaming 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!' to escape.
But she managed to find a silver lining in the terrifying trial, joking: "It probably expedited things [between us]. They did get a little bit more spicy having had that horrifying experience together!"
While some viewers claim the romance between Maria and Joey was all for the cameras, she insists "whatever they had in there" was rooted in a solid friendship first.
"It was [rooted] in banter and enjoying each other's company, being attracted to each other was just the cherry on the cake in that situation," she explains.
"It was nice to have somebody I could be close to and intimate with in that way. I'm so glad he was there to make those memories with."
One memory in particular stands out; the moment Maria thought her budding relationship with Joey was over for good.
"It was nice to have somebody I could be close to and intimate with," Maria says. (Network Ten)
"I don't how he didn't die, how he didn't break his neck on the way down," she laughs of the morning the Brit came crashing out of his top bunk half-asleep.
"I thought, 'Great, that's the end of Joey and I. He's killed himself in a fall, but it's been fun while it's lasted'."
All jokes aside, Maria is careful not to let too many details about her relationship with Joey outside the jungle slip.
She subtly reveals that they keep in touch but won't say anything about plans to reunite in the future, teasing: "I personally don't have plans to go to Essex, but I believe he's going to be at the [I'm A Celeb…] finale, you might see us."
But there is one romantic topic she's happy to speak candidly about; her sexuality.
WATCH: The moment Maria Thattil came out on national TV. Story continues after video.
Maria came out as bisexual to David – and Australia – on the show but admits she never planned to share that part of herself on TV until David created a "safe space" for her to open up.
"When I knew that I was coming out to Australia, I thought 'I'm really glad that it's during an intimate conversation with a friend that I love and trust'," she says.
Before the show, Maria feared she'd be outed after being spotted on dates with women and stressed about how she would address her sexuality to the public.
But that moment with David showed her "it really can be that simple and free of shame and stigma."
Having come from a religious, South Asian household, sex and sexual identity was long considered taboo for Maria, especially during her formative teen years.
Maria and her brother, who is gay, grew up in a religious, South Asian household. (Instagram)
It's an experience many South Asian-Australians can relate to, but one Maria hopes her on-screen coming out can help break down.
"Growing up, things would've been very different for me if I saw a sexually confident South Asian woman owning her sexual fluidity," she says proudly.
"I think 15-year-old Maria would've seen this and said, 'stuff the rules, I don't need to be anything other than myself'. And I think that's pretty cool."
It's crazy to think that Maria's biggest moments on I'm A Celeb… had nothing to do with creepy crawlies or gross tucker challenges, but she says she wouldn't change her experience at all.
Looking back, she's proud of every moment in the jungle and all the friends she made there, adding that it's been a total "love fest" among the cast since filming wrapped.
As for any love fests involving Joey, Maria's lips are sealed… for now!

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