First Dates’ Olympia: ‘I’m a lot more than just blonde and posh’

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It didn’t work out with Hugo last night

The great joy of Channel 4’s First Dates is how real and uncontrived it feels. It has a light touch and it’s often pretty moving. 

But the best part is the characters who flesh out the show.

Last night Olympia Hetherington, 26, a Cambridge grad and trainee opera singer went on a date with Charterhouse-educated Hugo in one of the series’ most delightfully posh match-ups yet.

Olympia told us about what was left on the cutting room floor and explained how there’s more to her than just being blonde and having a nice accent.

What made you want to go on the show? 

Well, my housemate and I have basically been obsessed with it since we discovered it. We just watched it all the time. Obviously it’s reality TV but I don’t find it exploitative or mean, and in fact a lot of the time it’s actually very moving and incredibly funny.

So me and my housemate had a little pact together to apply for it. She didn’t get on it, but I mean who knows? She may do in the future. I got on it because I have such a crazy name.

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What was the actual first date like between you and Hugo? You seemed to find him quite funny? 

You’ve seen an edited version of it – I found some of what he said funny but it was partly hysteria at the situation because he is the loudest man on earth (and I come from a loud family). Everyone in the restaurant was looking over at him, as if to say “what the hell is going on here.”

So I think I was laughing out of hysteria more than anything, a slightly nervous laughter, a “what is going on” laughter.

I felt he was performing at me, rather than communicating with me. It was difficult because I felt I was dealing with something quite inscrutable.

Was anything edited out?

We spoke a lot about politics – Jeremy Corbyn had just been elected Labour leader. I told him that I used to work in Parliament. Hugo was like “the man is clearly mad” and I said “well actually I don’t think he’s mad and a lot of people don’t think he’s mad.”

I was quite pro-Corbyn and that shocked him a lot, I think. They didn’t put in any of the political stuff we talked about. Or the conversation we had about our families, we actually talked about pretty serious things – capitalism, the way the market is driven by fear. It showed a different side of him.

What annoys me is that I feel that I might have come across as a bit of “posh totty” who doesn’t have anything else going on. They didn’t mention the fact I have a degree for example.

I might have come across a bit blonde and bitchy and posh and rich – just because of the way I speak – when actually I’m nothing like that. But I guess caricatures do make good television.

They want a quick easy, digestible imprint of a person rather than a complex human being?

Exactly.

Do you feel like it was a bit of a set up? In the way that he went to the same school as a few of your siblings? 

The producers didn’t actually know about the Charterhouse connection. I think they felt that I was the girl to break through his facade. I think they genuinely do want people to like each other, maybe they saw his connection with Opera, maybe they genuinely thought it would work.

Ultimately i thought they slightly misunderstood what I’m about perhaps.

On the show you said you’ve never been in love, a pretty courageous thing to say. 

I maybe have a different definition of love to what other people have. Love is something profound, where you would put someone else’s happiness above your own.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I haven’t fancied people or been infatuated or been hurt. I’ve spent time crying over guys as much as the next girl. But even with those guys I wouldn’t say that I loved them – what was hurt was my pride, rather than losing them.

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I want that deeper feeling, because I’m a romantic, maybe I’m not the most realistic person in the world but I believe that the kind of love you can’t avoid – it exists in the world and it’s what I want. I won’t settle for something less.

Was the filming process organic or were you constantly aware of the cameras? 

I think they made Hugo a little nervous, so the performative aspect of him might have come out. Then again for all I know he might have been like that even if the cameras weren’t there.

I was conscious that the cameras were there but they were so well hidden, there’s no one there stick one in your face.

I was being myself as much as I could – frank, honest, open to having a good time.

Did you have a nice time?

I had a great experience. The people running the show were absolutely lovely. There was a moment where I dropped my microphone in the toilet, which was a little stressful and they really helped me out.

It was great fun, I highly recommend it to anybody.

Would you ever go back on the show? 

If they asked me to I’d be willing to. It’s important to say yes to things in life, to not deny experience. Why not? The guy they find for me might be “the man”. I’d be an idiot to pass on that opportunity.

What did your friends think? 

The response has been overwhelmingly supportive, I’ve been very touched by how nice people have been. People I haven’t spoken to for fifteen years have sent me messages!

There have been some very weird ones though from random people – some interesting adds on LinkedIn.

Did you ever watch Blind Dates with Cilla Black?

Oh my – do you know what? Cilla Black on Blind Date, that is my childhood. Saturday nights were never the same after it stopped, I felt like my life had come to some sort of premature end. I loved that.

What about Take Me Out? 

It is just a bit grim isn’t it? “No likey no lighty” [Olympia does a superb Paddy impression].

Have you ever been on a tinder date? 

Of course! Who hasn’t. In general they’re fine but I also end up, somewhat inevitably, disappointed. Tinder never reaped huge rewards for me. It’s a good way of meeting people but I think there are a lot of weirdos on there.

What about a blind date?

People have tried. But I’ve looked up the person before and haven’t liked the look of them. The sad thing is that I’ve played matchmaker for so many people, a couple married last year who I introduced to each other.

I’ve got a really good eye for matching people up but it never really happens for me.

How is your opera training going? 

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Hopefully I’ll be starting at college soon. I’ve loved it all my life and it’s something I always wanted to pursue. Before the election I quit my job and dedicated myself to pursuing singing. It’s obviously hard but it’s definitely worth it.

Is anyone else in your family musical?

My Dad’s a professional singer and every child in the family can sing as well. We’ve all been music scholars and choral scholars at university. We play instruments and stuff. My parents couldn’t afford to send us to the schools they sent us to so we had to get academic and musical scholarships to go.

Basically we had to be good at music – that was how we were educated. People always say we’re like the von Trapps but we’re so foul mouthed that I don’t think it works. We’re too vulgar and rude, more like the Fulfords than the von Trapps.

What was uni like?

I did classics at Cambridge, on the same staircase as Grace and Neil from Clean Bandit. I played the cello badly, Grace would cook breakfast sometimes.

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Neil sent a really nice tweet about you yesterday. 

Yeah he did! It was very sweet, I haven’t seen him for a while, we lived on the same staircase at Cambridge and had a great time, so it was nice of him to do that.

I had this little extra room attached to mine. Neil ran DJ nights and sometimes the DJs would stay in that room. One time James Blake stayed there and we watched Amadeus together and had a little kiss, which was great. I think I’ve still got his phone charger somewhere!

All the names in your family are cool though – there’s a Calypso, a Xavier – what are your parents called? 

My Mum’s called x, so that’s Oenone, which is Greek and the funny thing about it is when she gets letters in the post people always get it wrong. So she’s been called “Ernie” and “Onion” and “One One” and all kind of things like that.

Dad’s just called Hugh.

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