Big Brother runner-up Ashleigh Coyle has come home to a superstar’s welcome, but she said: “Don't call me a celebrity.”
The Derry beauty was back in Northern Ireland last week to model at Belfast Fashionweek after being beaten to £100,000 in prize money and the Big Brother winner’s title by former prostitute Helen Wood, who first found fame in 2010 after revealing that she slept with footballer Wayne Rooney.
Glad to be home after 10 long weeks on the Channel Five reality show, 18-year-old Ashleigh said she still can’t describe her experience.
“I can’t really put it into words — I don’t know how I feel because I haven’t had time to think about it.
“I haven’t digested what’s happened,” she said.
Blonde babe Ashleigh said she had been “worried sick” about the reception she would get in Northern Ireland following the show, but added that she’s “over the moon” with the support she’s received.
“The final was on Friday and by Sunday I was back in Derry — I had to go into town to get a dress and on the way I was nearly sick, I was so nervous.
“I wondered if people would be walking past saying, ‘There’s that t*** from Big Brother.’
“But every second person stopped me and said congratulations, that they really supported me and had voted for me, they were raging I didn’t win — I had the loveliest comments ever.
“The whole country has been
behind me, which I’ve been so shocked about.”
Turning her phone on after 10 weeks, Ashleigh was bombarded with thousands of messages of support across her social networking pages.
“It’s weird looking at that, or when people ask me for a picture, I think: ‘Why do they want a picture with me?’
“It probably comes across like I’m being rude, so I’ve practised it now so I look pleasant when someone asks me.”
But despite the fact she’s now getting stopped in the street by people who recognise her, Ashleigh said she still doesn’t consider herself to be famous.
“I’ve been out for lunch with my boyfriend and people are looking at me whispering.
“People are dead weird around me. I don’t feel famous, people say that I’m a celebrity now but I don’t want people to call me that.
“I’m dead normal, celebrities usually act like a**holes!
“I’m not a celebrity, I was on reality TV for 10 weeks, people will have forgotten about me by next week.”
Ashleigh also shrugged off the controversy surrounding her shock Big Brother defeat by Helen, with whom she had heated rows in the house.
The vote difference between the two is said to have been just 1.2 per cent, while more than 420 people have complained to regulatory body Ofcom about the result.
“The way I see it, 16,000 people applied to be on Big Brother and I came second.
“To even get into the house was a massive achievement, especially at my age,” she said.
“Of course it’s a bit gutting to come second, especially when she won.
“I could sit here and be bitter and angry about it but it won’t change anything, she’s still got £100,000 and she’s still the winner of Big Brother.
“I’m not going to waste my energy being negative.”
Reflecting on her time in Big Brother as “the strangest thing ever”, Ashleigh said she couldn’t wait to get home to boyfriend Sean and mum Mary.
“I missed them most,” she said.
“No matter what happens they are the first people I call to tell, and for advice.
“But in Big Brother, you are in an enclosed space with people you don’t like and who don’t like you — big characters, loud people, bullies, victims — every type of person is in that house, while Big Brother tries to cause divides and fights because that’s entertaining to the public.
“There’s a lot of tension all the time.
“You have nowhere to go when you want to be by yourself; I just wanted to speak to my boyfriend and my mammy.”
Ashleigh still hasn’t watched any footage from Big Brother and said she doesn’t plan to until the show is a “distant memory”.
“I have the wrap party in three weeks so I don’t want to be angry,” she said. “I left anything bad behind the doors of Big Brother, I’m not taking it outside.
“But if I heard something nasty I wouldn’t really give a s***.”
For now, Ashleigh wants to concentrate on her modelling career, but said she’d also consider presenting opportunities in the future.
She’s also been asked to go back to Channel Five to comment on the current Celebrity Big Brother contestants.
“Anything that’s offered to me I want to grab with both hands,” she said.
“I’m just so happy I was able to stay in the Big Brother house for the full time and get the full experience,” she said.
More than anything, the Derry teen wants to be a role model for younger people.
“I do hope I’m a role model, although maybe I shouldn’t curse as much as I do,” she said.
“I want people to know how to stick up for themselves and hold their ground.
“Lots of people have commented that at 18, I was the only one to stand up to Helen.
“I want people to look at me and think that if I can stand up for myself then they can too.
“I have no regrets.”