Brooke! We really felt for you in that finale. Did you watch it back?
No, I just knew it would be way too triggering for me. I don’t think I would’ve been able to get out of bed if I did watch it. I will watch it back when I’m ready. Even the steamy pool episode on Wednesday night, I couldn’t watch that because it was just too triggering being in the moment with him. You’re reliving those raw emotions still so it’s confronting when it’s right in front of your face. With your ex-boyfriend who’s dumped you, it’s like ‘I never have to see you again’ but with this experience it’s so weird. You’re following the relationship and you’re looking for those doubts and red flags of where he was thinking and feeling and you’re sort of assessing it as well. That along with everyone’s opinions and comments too!
It must feel like a relief now it's all over though.
It is. It feels like I can close the book now which is nice. They were the best three months of my life, filming it and living it. Doing the whole thing with him was so much fun but then coming down off it and watching it back and all the things from your family and friends and all the opinions going on out there, it’s so different. It’s a whole other experience and I wasn’t completely healed from the finale so I suppose it’s been a rollercoaster. It’s a really hard secret to keep too, especially as I love talking about my relationships with my girlfriends.
You said you have no regrets about coming back to the mansion after your grandfather passed away. Do you stand by that?
Yeah absolutely. When I came back home, I dropped everything with the show and Jimmy and my sole focus was my family and my grandpa. Jimmy would check in here and there – it wasn’t like what people think with those flirty and romantic chats. I’d known this guy for six weeks and I was bawling my eyes out to him on the phone, it was hard. It wasn’t until the send-off with my grandpa, I got closure from that and I started thinking more rationally. I sat down with my mum and she said, ‘If you don’t go back Brooke, the what if will kill you for the rest of your life and I know that will kill you more than any heartbreak.’
When I came back in I just wanted to have a good time and forget about what had just happened because it was a really tough three weeks being at home. It’s not what people think – the girls called it a reset but it was really hard. I could see my confidence but I could also see my façade. You miss out on hearing about dates and who’s formed connections and girls were territorial over their connections and it wasn’t the same and that instantly put me on the outer. The only person who really knew what I’d gone through was Jimmy, he became my best friend right till the end.
WATCH BELOW: Brooke Cleal returns to the Bachelor mansion. Post continues after video...
How did it feel to get the 'stage five clinger' edit? Do you think the show was an accurate representation of yourself?
It’s funny because as soon as you start standing up for yourself, having an honest opinion and chasing someone that you want, you’re a stage five clinger. No, I’m a woman who knows what I want and I stick up for what I believe in.
When I came back in it put me on the outer and it was hard to watch how the girls were acting. They know who I am and the kind of girl I am – I never do anything maliciously or to hurt people. I think people can gauge for themselves about editing. The whole stage five clinger thing has really annoyed me because as soon as a woman speaks up for herself and says ‘Yes I’m co-dependent in relationships’ and I’m honest about that but they’re the chats we should be having if I’m trying to formulate a relationship. Why shouldn’t I be able to mention those things?
What’s funny is all my work colleagues have said to me that a lot of people don’t realise that they are co-dependent in relationships and they’re the ones that say things like ‘You’re a clinger!’ when really I just know what I want and I’m self-aware. I didn’t want to lie to Jimmy and say it’ll all be fine because it won’t. I said co-dependent and people ran with that and it’s true. I like quality time and being close to my partners - I don’t want to find that I’m doing this distant, weird relationship, I want to make it work.
You said to Jimmy in the finale that you want someone to take risks with. What have you learned about what you’re looking for in a relationship in the wake of your Bachelor experience?
When I came back into it, I was taking a risk for him. That was me putting myself out there and being vulnerable for him. I threw everything into this and in the end I was willing to move. It was enough for me to know that he wasn’t the right man for me. There were too many unknowns, like he said, and that for me was like ‘You’re not my man’. They’re the qualities I look for in a man – I’ve dated risk takers and a lot of my exes have been a little narcissistic but also alpha males who know what they want and they’ll tell me straight out so that’s what I was used to. He wasn’t willing to go that way with things and that’s totally understandable but he’s not the right man for me. He had so many other qualities that I loved about him and it does suck.
Do you maintain there weren’t too many unknowns between you and Jimmy?
I thought we cleared a lot of them. I thought in those in-depth discussions we had, I really thought we mulled it all out (or nutted them out as he kept saying!). He kept saying ‘We’ll nut this out’ and I thought we’d sorted it all out so when it came to the finale I was convinced it was me. I was like ‘We’ve literally overcome every conversation that we’ve had so surely we’re continuing this fight and the relationship out of this,’ but it obviously was a lot for him.
Did you reach out to Jimmy and Holly after Alice Springs or did you just cut ties?
Cut ties, that’s the way I’ve always been in any relationship. Every ex-boyfriend stays as an ex-boyfriend!
I’ve never stayed friends with an ex but out of respect for Holly I just think it’s appropriate that we don’t speak at all and move on. They obviously have something so wonderful between them so it wouldn’t make sense for him to reach out anyway. Focus on you two, I’ve closed my book now and I’m moving on. I’ve had people say ‘Don’t you have questions?’ and I’m like no because I talked about everything I needed to on the show as much as it made me look like a clinger. I was honest with myself and him. I’m happy if he’s happy and they make a beautiful couple.
There's a Bachelor fan theory that whoever wears the lighter dress is the winner but you mentioned on Instagram that the finale dress you wore had a special significance for you. Do you get any say in what you wear?
When I did the styling with Kim and we tried on some of the things for the finale, she showed me this Indigenous style and explained the meaning behind it and I said that I want to wear a dress that represents resilience and nurture because that’s exactly who I am. We were also convinced on the purple, we loved that as well. I had a little contribution to it all but at the end of the day, Kim knows exactly what she’s doing and she chose for me.
You said earlier that this was the best three months of your life. What was your ultimate highlight?
It was definitely a roller-coaster and the best three months. Number one was meeting very strong empowering women – I have never met so many beautiful, independent, strong women. I was gobsmacked, when I walked in I was like ‘Oh god I’m going home!’ But also the whole ride, right from walking down that red carpet, was pretty surreal. I always wanted to know what that feels like and I’m still lost for words with it because it was such an unreal feeling. I think I teared up a bit when I started walking!
I think it was the whole thing mashed together. The highs of going on these beautiful dates and having so much fun with the girls and Jimmy and then the lows of people going home. Staying in that mansion was pretty damn cool as well!