real life

EXCLUSIVE: Cassie Sainsbury discovered her sexuality in a Colombian prison.

Prison life wasn't something Cassie Sainsbury became accustomed to overnight. 

Between 2017 to 2020 she was in Colombia's notorious women's prison, serving time for smuggling six kilograms of cocaine in her luggage at Bogota Airport. 

The prison was filled with hundreds and hundreds of women. Some of the female inmates even had their children with them, the mothers allowed to have their baby stay with them behind bars until around the age of four. Most of the women in the prison were from Latin countries or parts of Europe, and very few spoke English.

Sainsbury learned many life lessons in prison. And being in an all-female environment meant she could finally explore her sexuality in a way she'd never allowed herself to before.

"When I was younger I knew I liked women. But I was too scared to come out," she tells Mamamia's No Filter.

Watch: Cassie Sainsbury opens up about her story. Post continues below.

Video via 7News Spotlight. 

Before being arrested in Columbia, Sainsbury had been engaged to an Australian man.

In the early days of her prison time, they remained a couple. But Sainsbury felt the relationship became more strained with each phone call.

"I would call him wanting to have a normal chat about life, and he would pile on all his outside problems onto me. Eventually it almost felt like he would call me because he felt like he had to, not because he wanted to. It had been coming for quite a long time. Even before Columbia, you know being gay, I never actually wanted to marry him."


The pair split in early 2018. 

Still serving out her sentence, Sainsbury saw firsthand how common it was for the female inmates to have girlfriends or partners inside the prison.

Listen: How 'Cocain Cassie' Really Survived Three Years In A Colombian Prison.

It wasn't just a sexual thing, says Sainsbury. It was more about having someone to confide in and make your time behind bars a little easier. Sainsbury wasn't quite ready to dip her toe into dating women, though. 

"I kept it to myself for at least another year, because I figured I couldn't be the new girl who suddenly was a lesbian. I figured I would be picked on. But then I just let it happen eventually," she says. 

"I figured I already had the worst reputation [outside of prison] so what could be worse. Coming out actually helped boost my self esteem. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders."

Being with a woman felt different.

"I hated having sex with men. I hated it. It was just purely having boyfriends for an image," she says.

Although Sainsbury says she didn't have a lot of sex in prison, she was proposed to. 

"We were friends, although we did casually kiss from time to time. I remember coming back from exercising in the yard, and there was a huge poster that said, 'Will you marry me?' Everyone in the yard had literally come to watch this. I can't think of anything worse than a public proposal. I had not considered marrying this girl," says Sainsbury.


"I said yes, because I didn't know what to do. When we were in private, I then told her I didn't want to marry her. She said that was fine, just to wear the 'promise ring' and go along with it for the looks."

But eventually, Sainsbury says, the woman became "toxic" and "quite physically violent", so she ended things.

In April 2020, Sainsbury was released from prison to serve the rest of her sentence on parole in Bogota. It was during this time that she met her now-wife Tatiana. 

Cassie Sainsbury with her wife Tatiana. Image: Instagram.


Initially it was a friendship, but it turned into something more. And after their first kiss, Sainsbury said the chemistry was instant.

"From that point on we realised that we both liked each other. I told her my whole history, basically giving her the option to leave if it felt like too much. Because it is a lot. But she said, 'Everyone has a past, so I can't judge you on that. The only thing I can judge you on is what you do from now and forward'. I breathed easy. We knew we wanted to marry one another."

Fortunately, this time around it was a private proposal.

The pair married in Columbia, all of Tatiana's loved ones present, as well as Sainsbury's mother and her mother's partner, who flew over for the wedding. Now with the pair settled in Australia after Sainsbury finished her parole period, the couple are setting up a new life for themselves - a fresh start. Sainsbury has even set up her own business, Luxe Body Contour.

"I don't want my past to define me at all. One day when I have children, I want them to be able to Google me and feel okay about it and say 'Yes she stuffed up. She did own it publicly. And now she's showing that we're all capable of moving forward, no matter how bad we have stuffed up'," she says.

"It's an experience that changed my life. I don't think there's one person out there that's perfect. Of course there's different levels to how we do stuff up. But it's how we manage to pick ourselves back up and keep going."

Feature Image: Supplied.