For a few months at the end of 2015, Betty Banks enjoyed a carefree escape to Bali where she lived out of a suitcase, jumped off waterfalls and did lots of yoga. "That was the moment I needed," says the lifestyle and fashion blogger, "just to give myself that love again."
Banks needed that boost when she returned to Sydney at the start of 2016 and headed straight to Sydney's western suburbs to care for her blind mum, Manisone Phathanak, 48. "My younger sister Grace got transferred to Melbourne for work," she says, "so it was like, OK, time for me to come home."
That journey is part of a greater one for Banks, 27, and her best friend David Vu, 32, the #justfriends competing in season 8 of My Kitchen Rules. "I always knew the fun, good-hearted Betty," says Vu. "That's why we connected. But just learning how she's such a strong woman and how much she cares for her mum, it's really endearing."
Each morning, before Banks hops on to her social media accounts and her blog to set trends and showcase the brands she works with, she makes breakfast for her mum and makes sure her day is planned. "I'm lucky with the fact that I can integrate my everyday lifestyle with my business," Banks says. "It's being able to share the love that I have for my life and being able to inspire and influence people with that."
But what about her cooking? Banks, who started learning how to make Laotian meals from Phathanak when she was five, is "amazing" in the kitchen, says her mum. "I can't believe she was born here but she can cook," Phathanak adds. "I can't explain it, but I'm so happy and so proud of her."
Vu, who has auditioned for MKR five times before, chose Banks as his partner because he thought he could help her care for her mum but also because he thought she could help him realise his dream of opening a restaurant. "When people started finding out I was going on the show, they were like, 'Bettina Banks? Can she cook?'" Vu says with a laugh.
Adds Banks, "No joke! I had a lot of people go, 'Oh my God! She's a model! She can't cook.' And I'm like, 'Hmm. You guys have no bloody idea."
For more on David, Betty and her mum, pick up this week's issue of WHO on newsstands today.
My Kitchen Rules airs on Seven on Sunday at 7 PM, and Monday to Wednesday at 7.30 PM.