It’s hard to imagine Casey Donovan not winning I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!
She was the bookies’ favourite for weeks. She was consistently the happiest, funniest and warmest contestant in the camp – except when she got grumpy searching for Lisa Curry’s contraband vegemite.
And on Monday night, Donovan beat popular ex-AFL player Dane Swan and actor/singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte to be crowned “Queen of the Jungle”, winning her second reality show after topping Australian Idol in 2004 when she was 16.
It was a tough finale, with the top three having to swim through a tank to find stars – getting steamrolled as they went. Then wading their way through a cornstarch substance, which saw them stuck solid until rescued by hosts Julia Morris and Chris Brown.
“Doing a hippo,” laughed Donovan as she was hauled out of the tank.
With few exceptions (Tom Arnold and Keira Maguire, for example), this has been a happy series and the final three spent a hilarious night gorging themselves on oysters, steak and a tray full of desserts – laughing at what a ride it had all been.
Swan recalled the little laughs that he loved the most. Bassingthwaighte said she pushed herself when she needed to for the physical challenges. Donovan said she learned to be herself.
From the start of I’m A Celebrity, Donovan smashed her anxieties facing up to challenging, and sometimes mean, tasks.
Donovan said she learned how to be herself in the jungle – and Australia loved her for it.
On the show’s ‘Jungle Radio’ segment with Steve Price, she revealed she came from a “broken home”. Her biological father left when she was two and her stepfather took over.
Donovan recalled how she auditioned for Idol at the insistence of her stepfather Norm, “to shut him up”.
“I wore shorts under my gut. I looked like a fat little boy.”
“I still find it hard to accept I won because I’ve always been the second placegetter, the one who just does things but never to where I want to be. Who’s good but not good enough.”
Donovan has now proved, again, that she is indeed good enough.
She may have quit the “Gross Food Train”, shaken and upset, unable to sit in a carriage while she was driven through a series of dark chambers, confronted by wildlife.
But she ate through the Sushi Pain – managing Curlifornia Roll, Tongue Pura, Dreadamame and Very Yucky Chicken Roll, while coughing and laughing, saying “I think I wet my pants a bit”.
And she was the camp musician – improvising songs. Who could forget her performance in the “showing your teeth today” song?
In the finale Donovan revealed that, in the outside world, she runs from problems.
“I run from stress. I run from things. I’ve been treated like a kid since Idol, but here I’m allowed to be me.”
And that’s why Australia fell in love with her. And that’s why she is the first woman crowned “Queen of the Jungle”.
Her charity the Starlight Foundation – which helps seriously ill children – will receive $100,000 for her efforts.
“It takes a special kind of person to do that (work), to be happy, light up these kids faces with joy and excitement. I take my hat off to them.”
Australia takes its hat off to you, Casey. Maybe now you can give up your Uber driving and get back on stage where you belong?