Before filming began, Shay lost her fiance, Tamim. Together since 2011, the two met in America, travelled the world together and shortly after got engaged in Japan. The couple were living in Australia together when her fiance, 29, went back home to California.
‘He went on this trip to Mammoth Lakes in California and his cousin jumped into the river. It was August, so it was summer, but they were in the mountains so there were ice caps – the river was below zero,’ Shay explains. ‘My fiance jumped in, got his cousin out, but he went into hypothermia himself. His family saw it all and watched him drown. There was nothing they could do.’
Back at home in Sydney, Shay spent 48 hours after her fiance’s death believing he went missing.
‘For 48 hours, they knew he was dead, they just couldn’t tell me. I was in Coles supermarket when I got the call and I just dropped my basket.’
Shay flew over for the funeral, but her darkest days were still yet to come.
‘I came to a point very early on in my fiance’s passing, where I had to sit down with myself and say: 'Shay, either you stop living, because right now you’re not living.
Either you jump in the grave with him, or you live.” So I auditioned for Instant Hotel – that was my way of living.’
While she admits the show was a good distraction at first, the full force of mourning hit when filming wrapped.
‘I’ve lost so much weight since the show – about 10 kilograms. I look at myself on the show now and I think I look chubby, but the weight loss, it came from my fiance passing away,’ Shay reveals. ‘My stepsister also passed away in the same year and one of my best friends committed suicide shortly after.
‘I definitely have a loss of appetite. I work 13-hour shifts in my jobs. I work in the medical field, so I’m dealing with people’s lives and I forget about food. You remember to eat when you’re about to pass out.’
Despite online vitriol sent her way from some viewers, Shay says she’d love to stay on TV.
‘I want to stay in the spotlight. I’m like Tinkerbell, if I don’t get attention I die,’ she says, laughing.
In fact, Shay has her heart set on a dating show. One year on from her fiance’s death, she admits she’s ready for love.
‘I haven’t been with anyone since his passing. I wanted to honour him, but now I’m ready to fall in love again,’ Shay explains. ‘I would definitely love to be on a dating show.’
But she says her fiance will always be in her heart.
‘That love for him is never going to go away. The pain is never going to go away. But I’m still here. If he’s watching me, he’d be like: “Go girl!”’ Shay shares. ‘I know what grief and heartache feel like. I’ve experienced so much I feel
I can help the world. All these things I’ve gone through – it happened for a reason.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!