Make Them Suffer’s Booka Nile Dishes on Time as Reality TV Star on ‘Married At First Sight’
The appearance as a contestant on the mainstream show was born partly out of boredom amid a worldwide pandemic and subsequent shutdown and partly out of loneliness, an emotion that heightened as touring was ripped out from under her and, partly under the guise of, "Well, why not?"
The furthest thing from Nile's mind was projecting the metalcore band she joined in 2018 to the mainstream consciousness. It was actually quite the opposite — she was terrified the band would receive backlash from the metal community and even told her bandmates she was willing to quit the band if the fans began to revolt.
Instead, Australia's metal fans rallied together in full support of one of their own searching for love on television and her first line on the show, "Have you ever listened to, like, metalcore?" was even turned into a popular meme as she instantly won everyone over and dodged the dreaded "sellout" accusations.
Nile's experience on the show, however, was quite rocky and did not end in marriage nor true love. Admirably, she clung to her personal core values and pushed back on issues related to sexism and misogyny, ultimately leaving her partner, Brett Helling twisting in the wind.
So, in the early morning for us and the evening for her, we jumped on a Zoom call with Booka Nile to chat about her time on Married At First Sight, what went on behind the scenes, what the deal with Brett was and the unexpected support she received from Make Them Suffer fans.
I actually spent a lot of the last year watching a ton of reality TV, so I feel well equipped for this conversation that we're about to have.
Well, I'm not! [laughs] I haven't really watched reality TV except for the one that I was a part of just because I had to. I don't know much about it personally.
Is it something that you've always detested? I did for forever, but somehow topped that mountain, and I suppose now I'm on a backslide in my life.
It’s been an inconsequential thing that's existed.
When I was 11, I watched the first Australian Idol and the first Big Brother with my family in 2011 and then I never watched reality TV again. I heard of all of these other shows, but I have never had a TV in my house since I have been living independently, which has been the majority of my adult life.
I'll watch Netflix or something on my laptop or my phone, but I haven't watched television since I was a child. I had no interest.
I had heard of the show Married at First Sight when I ended up going down that road, but I had never actually watched it.
What was your first impression of the show? Are you a believer in the concept of love at first sight in general?
I'm a believer in the science behind being able to match somebody based on compatibilities and the scientific theory.
I studied this at university when I was doing my science degree on things that tend to have a higher than average correlation between certain things. [Compatibility with other] people. For example, if people have similar sounding names or names that start with the same letter, there is a higher than can be explained, purely by chance correlation between them.
I don't believe in the science behind the techniques used on Married at First Sight.
Judges are the experts used to match people. I think we all know that there are a lot of couples that are not matched with any intention that they work because that doesn't make great TV.
Was your interest in signing up for the show primarily a scientific one to see how these factors are considered and play out?
I had been on tour in Europe [in the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak] and as we were on the way to the airport going to a U.K. tour, all of a sudden we're getting emergency flights home to Australia.
I am then shoved into quarantine upon arriving home and I am all by myself and no one knew what to expect in the future. I literally kissed goodbye to my music career. I'm all alone, and I don't even have that anymore.
I was scrolling on Facebook one night — super depressed, everything's misery and lifelessness — and I saw somebody's ad for Married at First Sight. I think that I was just in a state of boredom that I was pretty much looking to do any activity, so filling out an application seemed like a really fun thing to do.
But also, at this stage, why not?
Then they contacted me the next day and wanted to speak to me. They just kept contacting me. I was like, "Well... fuck it. Worst case scenario, I go and have a crazy life experience and if I don't say yes to opportunities that present themselves, like I did with Make Them Suffer, then I will look back and I'll regret it.
So, I said, "Let's do this. Let's go marry a stranger on national TV and see what happens."
At the very least — it may not have been your intent to do this whatsoever — but it's not bad promotion for the band either.
I didn't even think about it. I thought the Married at First Sight demographic had no crossover there. But turns out that metal fans really come out and show their loyalty to the musicians in their music scene when they know that they're going to be judged by the mainstream society. It's crazy.
I think, too, it was somewhat exciting for the Australian metal scene to have someone who they could identify with in the mainstream spotlight and someone who represented their community.
My friend made a good point that the very essence of being punk rock is going against the norm and rebelling. Surely there's nothing more punk rock than going against what the norm within the metal scene than going on a reality TV show.
Having a background in the science of correlative probabilities, do you feel like they made an honest effort to pair you with somebody in hopes of facilitating a successful relationship? Or did you feel that you were intended to be some good TV arc?
It's really hard to tell what the thought process was when matching us as strangers was.
After the wedding that we had together [Editor's Note: in Australia, it is illegal to marry a partner you have never met, so the marriage on TV is not legally binding], they were like,"Yes, these two going all the way. They are our golden couple."
They really did want us to work, but I don't know whether they had always wanted us to work or whether they just saw us get along so well [at first].
I think that I was paired with somebody who called themselves a feminist to appear to be like a woke dude, but when it actually came down to it, I found him to be quite problematic, kind of homophobic and sexist at times.
In my audition tapes, they asked what the deal breakers are for you. I said prejudice attitudes. Just feeling like I was seen as an equal and not having to cop sexist jokes or whatever it was just from my partner — this is all I was asking for.
Then they paired me with someone who literally loved sex jokes.
Did they know that beforehand? Or did they think that he was a woke dude? Because that's what I thought when I first met him. I will never know.
What was it like having potentially vulnerable conversations on camera, knowing that everything was being recorded and anything can be used and edited? Did you actively try to be more selective about how you said things or did you reach a point where you didn't even notice that the cameras were there, and you were just your true self?
I feel like you reach that point [of not noticing the cameras] quite quickly.
It's like that world that you're in becomes everything and this is reality now. One thing that I was always really careful of what is what I would say about other people behind their backs. We were always prompted to talk shit on other couples and I'd never give them what they wanted.
I've always been a pretty open book, so that was quite easy for me to just be really open.
It got really weird towards the end though, and I basically snapped at one point. I had been given a task to make dinner for my husband. I took it in a weird way and got a bit creative and quite passive aggressive because I was really mad at him.
I definitely did start to lose any kind of concept that there was a show that was going to be viewed by people later. To be fair, I could have been done so dirty with the shit that I did on that show. I actually copped a really good edit.
Did the fact that the marriage is not legally binding help lighten the whole mood and your willingness to go do this?
I don't know that I would have done it if I had to legally marry somebody I don't know.
If you look at the percentage of couples that have been successful out of all the seasons that preceded the one I was on... you've got more of a chance of balancing love when you're marooned on a desert island. Sometimes people do get lucky though.
Was Brett familiar with your band at all?
Brett hated metal.
He listened to two of my band's songs after a week of us being together. He said that he felt like his ears were being assaulted. He felt anxious and said that it was horrific.
It's only my entire life and what I've dedicated my entire livelihood to, but that's fine — let's talk about it and describe it as horribly as we possibly can with metaphors...
So, that definitely put a bit of a shitty taste in my mouth. You could just do what my mum does and say, "It's a bit hectic for me, but I like the parts with the girl singing." And I say, "The part of me singing, mom? and she says, "Yeah."
There's ways to soften the blow a bit if you're not into metal. He didn't soften it.
Make Them Suffer, "Erase Me" Music Video
There's always this 'honeymoon' phase with a new relationship — everything is just fantastic all the time. Then you settle into a relationship and you begin to understand your differences and navigate that. At what point did that first phase wear off?
I was shocked when I met him — we get along so well. He was super funny and confident. But on the honeymoon, he made this joke about how women can't help but emotionally overreact to everything and how we can't drive an automobile without crashing it, basically.
I tried to explain that later that day that saying it really grinds my gears when people make jokes like that about women. He's said, "Well, I'm going to be grinding your gears a lot."
Because of the work that I do, and being the only girl and feeling different to all of my peers, and all the people that I'm on tour with, I had to work really hard to be taken seriously and respected by fans and other musicians in the scene.
I would try not to make a big deal out of it because just by addressing that, I'm literally the butt of the joke about women overreacting. I hated that.
The more he told me I had to get over it, the worse it got. The real breaking point where we just couldn't come back from it was when I shared some really personal stuff about my life with him in the second week of moving into our apartment together. His response was super awful.
I definitely stopped seeing him as the funny charismatic guy who I first met.
Although the relationship didn't work, what you learned about love, relationships and yourself after this experience?
I definitely learned that if something feels wrong, if someone is not listening to you, and you feel you just have to basically scream at them and they're just not hearing you that it's not working and you need to bounce.
If someone's core values aren't fundamentally the same and you don't have the same ethical and moral outlook on the world, then it's not going to work!
That's a really important thing to recognize early on.
Now, the real dirt. What did your bandmates think about you going on Married at First Sight? [laughs]
Sean was not stoked. He didn't want to become a gimmick band or to be defined by Married at First Sight.
But I was also scared as hell about what this might do to our reputation. This is my life's work and Make Them Suffer is Sean's baby. He is the founding member of that band and has been doing it for 10 years, so that was terrifying for him.
I was scared of getting a villain edit and everyone would hate me. What if it then bleeds into the band and the band's reputation?
I promised that if it went pear-shaped and it's looking like people are going to hate me and actually boycott the band or it's going to affect the band's reputation, then I will step away and I will take that risk.
Everyone was quite scared and biting their nails over it. Then while it was airing, we see this sea of metalcore fans from across Australia band together as a community on this Facebook group like a unified social club. I was a member of this club just to witness it all.
I got made into a shirt after the first episode, because the first line that I said on the show as my introduction — the first sentence I uttered on this show — was, "Have you ever listened to, like, metalcore?"
It was so unexpected, and it was obviously a huge relief to my bandmates. I realized at that point that people were making memes and if I got a bad edit, they were going to riot and climb the gates of the Channel Nine news station.
It's hard for a band during the pandemic. We released this album and we have never even been able to play one song onstage together from this album. So, keeping your band active and somehow still relevant is hard and, in a really weird way, this helped.
Now a bunch of white, middle-aged housewives across the country know the band Make Them Suffer.
Thanks to Booka Nile for sharing her experience on 'Married At First Sight.' Follow Make Them Suffer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify and get your copy of their latest album, 'How to Survive a Funeral,' here.