When Elyse Knowles’ face graced the screens on The Block‘s Sunday night premiere a few weeks back, she wasn’t the kind of reality star who was new to fame nor attention.
Granted, the TV kind of fame was new, but the bright lights of the camera and the keen eye of loyal fans certainly weren’t.
Knowles, who has carved out quite a place for herself in the Melbourne – and, well, international – modelling scene, has 643,000 Instagram followers at last count. Her followers know her face and career well. They aren’t, however, as in tune with her personality, or her real and genuine knack for renovating.
They may be now.
The model and her carpenter boyfriend of four years, Josh Barker, first applied for The Block a few years ago, and despite her considerable profile even then, didn’t manage to make it through the audition process.
“When we previously applied, we hadn’t renovated our own house yet. So we found it hard to show what we could do, even though we knew we could do amazing things,” Knowles tells Mamamia.
“Three years later, we tried again and showed our talents, and we were very surprised to have made it.”
If there was one thing Knowles is clear on, it’s that she and Barker weren’t given a free pass on to the show, just because she has a considerable social media following in her wake. The audition process was rigorous, she says. They had to “really work hard”.
Fortunately for the young couple, skeptics needn’t be skeptics for long. Photos of their own home renovation were shown on the show to an overwhelmingly positive reception, and the first bathroom reveal saw the couple take home the very first week of competing.
You can read Mamamia’s recap of The Block bathroom reveals, here.
Knowles said she had no doubt that before being able to show their skills, many Block fans would be “judging a book by its cover”.
“It’s fine it happens, but winning the first week proved why Josh and I were there and I really don’t think people knew what we could do. We are the youngest in the competition.”
More than anything, it was the stress and the intense nature of the competition that floored Knowles the most. There’s not a lot, she says, that can prepare you for that.
“The amount of stress you put your body through, I had never done anything like it before. The mental strength you need is crazy, and your body needs to be healthy.
“If we weren’t doing it together, we couldn’t have done it otherwise. Our relationship helped us get through, because we could always rely on the other one to pick you back up. We always said, if we could get through a renovation, we can get through anything. But The Block was ten times harder than any renovation.”
Knowles says there’s a lot the viewer doesn’t see behind the scenes.
“Essentially, seven days is squished into four days of airing, and there are five couples to split the time. So there is a lot you don’t see, but especially the whole sleep situation, there’s a lot the camera doesn’t catch.
“Also, people put on a lot for a camera. We stayed the same throughout the whole thing, and we were a bit quiet on the first couple of weeks. We are not there to be prancing around the camera the whole time. We pride ourselves on that, and that’s why we are probably quiet in the very beginning. We aren’t creating drama or craziness. Because of Josh’s hard work, we don’t have a lot of drama and issues.”
Naturally, being a model with a social media fanbase bigger than some small cities, Knowles knew exactly what she was in for when she put herself in the limelight. But in comparison to a social media account, where she is the only one pushing every button, this time, the power was taken from her hands.
“I was a bit worried about the way they edit you, because they have complete control over that. But I thought, if we are ourselves the whole time, what have we got to lose?”
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If there’s one thing Barker and Knowles want from the experience, it’s probably not fame. After all, Knowles has a pretty good taste for its trappings and its benefits already. Instead, after this is all wrapped up, they have every intention of staying cleanly in the renovating sphere.
“I definitely want to stay modelling because I love it. I have done it since I was 10 and I am not going to stop now. Josh and I want to continue renovating, and we are starting our own business called JE projects, where we will work on high-end homes. I’m really excited about that – to put on show more of our design ideas.”
And with little over two weeks of aired footage under their belts, we’d hazard a guess loyal Block fans are just as excited to see what’s in store.