The Circle champion Natalya has admitted she felt sick and guilty after winning the £100,000 prize by pretending to be a man named Felix.
The 30-year-old military police officer, from Surrey, triumphed in Friday night’s final after adopting a fake identity – known as “catfishing” – for the duration of her time on the show.
The Channel 4 reality programme, now in its third series, sees players communicate and compete with each other online while housed separately in a block of flats and was pre-recorded months in advance due to the pandemic.
Following her win, Natalya told the PA news agency: “How I felt back then was sick. I literally felt like, ‘What?’ I honestly did not expect it would be me.
“I think you can see by looking at me. I was like, ‘You have got this Manrika, you have absolutely got this’. When I saw Felix’s bloody weasel face (on the screen) I was like, ‘Oh God, this is it’.
“Obviously it is an amazing feeling but you do have a bit of guilt that comes with it as well. I feel good now because I have had seven months to process it. I feel a lot better now than I did then.
“Back then I felt like this fake character had won it but now I feel like I won it. It is good that I have had that reflection, that time to sit on it, because it has really helped.”
Natalya tied with 24-year-old recruitment consultant Manrika, from Birmingham, but won out after earning the most first place votes across the series.
She said she hoped to buy a house with her winnings after living in shared military accommodation for the last few years.
“It is really boring, I want to buy a house and then I will give some to my family,” she said.
“Because I live in the military we all live in university accommodation and it is one shower for six to eight people so it is quite grim in a sense, so I would like to have my sense of space.
“I am 30 years old and I don’t have a home. It’s quite sad. ”
Natalya joined The Circle in episode five playing as 29-year-old soldier Felix.
On two occasions, Felix was voted by his fellow contestants as “influencer” and avoided a double-blocking twist, but ended up last in the ratings during one important vote.
However, he was carried to the final by a strong bond with players Manrika, Andy and Dorothy.
Natalya said she based Felix on the men she worked alongside in the military.
She said: “I am surrounded by guys at work and of course I feel safe and happy, there are a lot of women in the military and all the barriers have lifted, but you do hear that lad banter.
“Everyone was watching and were like, ‘She is not speaking like a boy’ but I think I was telling everybody what they wanted to hear.”
Natalya joked she was “nicer, obviously” than her male colleagues in the military, adding: “I didn’t bring the horrible chat. I was the sweet guy on there.”
In 2018, Alex Hobern scooped the cash prize after pretending to be a woman to the other players.
The Circle is available to stream on demand on All 4.