Married At First Sight's Melissa Sheppard has opened up about the enormous backlash she has received both online and in person following her controversial ‘edit’ on this year’s season of the reality show.
The 41-year-old was heavily criticised while the series aired on TV earlier this year, with viewers referring to her as the ‘horny bride’ due to her sexual confidence and desire to be intimate with her on-screen ‘husband’ Josh White.
Melissa, who describes herself as a “strong, confident person”, tells Yahoo Lifestyle there’s no way she would’ve been able to prepare herself for the amount of hate she has received on social media.
“What was most hurtful is like, I'm reading these messages about myself regarding a character I feel like I was playing with a script that I never read before, and these people are coming for me that has the face, has the body, has the voice of this person that I'm not,” she shares. “That was hard.”
The hairdresser reveals she was completely blindsided when watching the season air on TV and realising that all aspects of her personality had been removed besides the fact that she owns her sexuality.
“For me personally, all that I saw was this character, this sexual person that was super hypersexual and I was with my match that was not, and it was just really, really enhanced,” she describes.
“The things that I had said, the things that I had done, the things that they had asked me to say or repeat or do, it was shocking to me. So I can absolutely understand for a viewer that was watching my character on the TV, they can totally get this perception of this is the only thing that she's all about.”
Melissa says one of the “scariest” parts of her MAFS experience was when she began receiving disturbing emails to her salon after the show featured her business’ full name in an episode.
“It was a snippet, but that was long enough for the trolls to know where I worked,” she details. “So I had over 10 to 12 different emails, sexual emails, of men and actually women coming to me offering their sexual advances.
“The biggest memory for me of that was a man that was 64, he had a penis pump, and he was happy to take me away for a weekend and pay for the dirty weekend and use a penis pump so that I could, I don't even know, have sex with him as long as I needed to. I was shocked.”
'Dangerous' incident at her work
She also recalls one alarming incident where two men and a woman came to her salon on a day she wasn’t working and demanded to see her.
“They just stormed into the salon and asked if the ‘freak in the sheets’ was there,” she says. “Thank god my clients and the community that I live in are so phenomenal, they looked at this gentleman and said, ‘Get out’ and he fumbled his words and he left.
“The gentleman wanted to meet the ‘freak in the sheets’ and he wanted to basically have sex with the girl on TV, the girl that's made up, the girl that’s ready to have sex with anybody. But that's not why I was on Married At First Sight. I was there to have sex with my husband, I was there to be intimate with my husband. It wasn't a free for all for the public to think that I would have sex with everybody else.
“I was shocked. I had never had a gentleman or a guy or a woman say anything like that pre-show to me, but maybe because of my edit and the way that they kept showing this sexual side of myself, these people thought that they could approach me like that.”
Following the incident, Melissa filed a police report and contacted the show’s producers, who offered to put security outside her salon.
“I said to production, ‘Gosh, you go on reality TV and now I need security to be at the front of my business? I'm trying to trade as normal, I don't want this big bouncer out the front of my business just so I can go to work nine to five’,” she says.
“That impacted me greatly and I actually stopped working at the hair salon. Since filming I was just like, it's too dangerous, it’s not good if I’m there, it’s just best if I don't go to my own place of business. It's only now that I'm back, just a little bit.”
Melissa's message to the trolls
Since MAFS finished airing a few months ago and she’s regained access to her Instagram account, Melissa admits the majority of her encounters with viewers are now positive.
“People have been great,” she shares. “They come and embrace me now and give me a hug and say, ‘We love you, we love your personality, please don't dull your shine’.
“I’m a curvy size 12 sexual person and I'm trying to empower people with that. I'm trying to lead, I'm not trying to intimidate people. I don't want to offend anybody or trigger their insecurities by being a positive, curvy size 12. I really want to work with people to be positive, not to make this a negative.
Although the fan reaction towards her has turned around, she acknowledges that there are still trolls attacking her fellow season 10 cast members online.
“The trolls have got to be careful because if they keep going for people's mental health, they could push someone to the edge to end up harming themselves or doing something really dangerous, and who's accountable for that?” she remarks.
“What I would say to any of the trolls that troll myself or any of the other cast members, please remember, be kind. It's not always what you think that it is, so please be kind because we don't deserve it.”
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