My Kitchen Rules is nearly upon us and we are counting down the hours until we can yell, "WHERE IS THE SAUCE?!" at the TV.
If you've seen the trailers like we have, you may have noticed one distinctive feature about one of the contestants, Ash Keillah, who wears an eye patch.
The Byron Bay local, who is competing with his fiance Stacey Allen, is nicknamed 'The Friendly Pirate' but it's no costume.
"The patch has definitely become part of my identity and it started from something kind of tragic," the 34 year-old confessed.
10 years ago, Ash was at a party when two men started fighting. Though Ash wasn't involved in the fight, he tried to stop it by pushing everyone apart and calming the situation down. But unfortunately, someone threw a glass in an attempt to get someone else and the glass hit Ash.
Ash who is a keen surfer told Now To Love, "After the injury I had an operation to re-attach the retina and that didn't stick and then they gave me another operation to re-attach the retina and that wasn't working either. So the doctors were telling me I can get a bunch more operations which could take a couple of years and I'd have a chance of getting my eye sight back or get my eye removed and I could be back in the water in a few months and pain-free."
"I didn't want to drag it out any more. I didn't want to go from operation to operation and honestly just wanted to get back in the water and get over it."
Though there were a few people, including doctors, who questioned his decision to remove his eye, Ash has never looked back (pun intended).
"I couldn't get that operation done faster!"
"It showed me in a way that I can get through anything, you know, and I like the idea of being there for other people that are struggling and have gone through a lot of bad stuff to come out positive and happy and putting that example to everybody else. I kept sort of believing it until it was happening I guess."
WARNING: Graphic content below.
In a deleted scene from the show revealed on Thursday, Ash lifted his eye patch for his fellow contestants to see what was underneath, adding he's "not fazed" by doing so.
One competitor even asked, "Can you cry out of the eye?"
"If I cry, it cries first," Ash replied.
The Friendly Pirate said he was expecting there to be a lot more negativity about his eye, but on the contrary, he's been getting heaps of support. Plus, his fiance Stacey has made it very clear that the eye patch will be worn on their big day.
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Ash and Stacey, 27, met six years ago when they slid into each other's Instagram DMs but were friends for five years before anything romantic transpired.
"We were 'friends' because I had a giant beard and so she kept me in the friend zone," Ash told Husskie in 2018.
"We had a little date. I was living overseas at the time and we caught up for a coffee – it wasn't even a date, it was a catch-up. I was meant to be moving back overseas the next week and I got a call to say my job had fallen through and I was like: 'Guess what, I'm staying,' and she was like 'Guess what, I'm going to Melbourne for the week,' and I was like 'Guess what, I'm coming down.'"
Loved-up Sydney local Ash says he was taken with her Lara Bingle-esque looks while South Australian Stacey fell in love with Ash's positive attitude and blonde curls and within two months, the couple moved to the idyllic town of Byron Bay, the same place they first met.
The couple made it official last year when Ash proposed to Stacey at Rae's on Wategos Penthouse Suite in Byron Bay, where the couple had one of their first dates.
Speaking of that date, Ash told Wild Goat Events, "Stacey surprised me with a fancy little seafood lunch in their intimate, open-air restaurant, overlooking the beach. From then we both absolutely fell in love with the place, so I knew that had to be the spot!"
Last year, the MKR couple shacked up in their own love nest, a two-bedroom cottage in Bangalow and are keeping themselves busy with wedding preparations.
"We have a date planned for September 21st," Ash told Now To Love. "But we're still bouncing between a couple of venues."
"Stacey's got her dress sorted, she's got the most important bit sorted, so she says!"
And there may even be some MKR guests at the wedding too.
"Definitely top of the list will be Blake and Amanda, but we'll wait and see over the next few months."
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