Although Gabrielle Bartlett is finding the lukewarm interest from Nasser Sultan, her TV husband on Married at First Sight, 'difficult and frustrating,' she tells WHO, 'It doesn’t affect my confidence at all. Nasser shouldn’t mistake my softness for weakness.'
That confidence has been hard won for the single mum, 44, who was just 11 when she first noticed her hair falling out, resulting in the alopecia she still suffers from. 'It’s like losing a limb, to lose your hair,' says Gabrielle. 'Certainly every woman can easily say how a bad hair day can affect your whole day. Hair for a woman represents femininity. The hair industry is a multi-million dollar industry for a good reason—because it means so much to us. It’s extremely life-changing when you lose it. Going through childhood and adolescence is hard enough on its own.'
These days Gabrielle manages her alopecia 'in the way that makes me feel best about myself, and for me that’s wearing a wig every day.' And although she has never physically revealed herself without a wig to a man, 'I’ve always thought that if a guy has a problem with it, he's not the guy for me anyway,' she says.
'I've always been someone who is happy with the level of attention I’ve gotten from men.' Indeed, at first Nasser lived up to that, showering her with compliments and affection. Although her initial thoughts were that he was “not someone I would normally be drawn to physically,” she tried hard to “think outside the square and have an open mind,” and their Samoan honeymoon was a turning point for her, when she told him about her alopecia. They later admitted they had a 'sexual connection.'
But that’s where real life and reel life starkly split, says the marketing coordinator and plus-size model, who lives in Sydney with her daughter, River, 11. Despite the onscreen romance seeming comfortable, offscreen it was another story. 'Nasser off-camera is a lot less affectionate—in fact, a lot less present,' she says.
This article originally appeared on WHO.