The Circle's Manrika on trolling: 'You're a woman of colour. It makes a difference.'

By Imran Rahman-Jones
Newsbeat reporter

Published
image copyrightChannel 4

If you've just been on one of the biggest reality TV shows of the year, you'd expect to be recognised on the street.

But for The Circle's Manrika Khaira, her "heart just drops" when someone calls her name.

"You've had so many threats you don't know if somebody is going to do something," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The 25-year-old came second on the recent Channel 4 show, but since it was screened, she's experienced death threats and abuse on social media.

"It's been very scary. My address has been leaked on Twitter, my address has been posted on Instagram pages," she says.

At one point during the three-week series, Manrika says the toll on her mental health was so bad she didn't get out of bed for three days.

"I just didn't have the energy or the life in me. And I ignored my phone."

Playing the game

The Circle was filmed last September, which meant the contestants had to wait months for it to air - and they could follow the reaction live on social media.

If you watched the show, you'll remember the point when Manrika sent her ally and friend Tally home - that's when Manrika says the trolling was at its worst.

If you haven't seen the show, players are isolated in flats and can only speak to each other by messaging in a group chat or private chat.

They vote on who become "influencers" which gives them the power to block or eliminate fellow players.

image copyrightChannel 4

From the start, Manrika was clear she would play tactically in order to win the £100,000 prize - but she says that might have been why she got a lot of trolling.

"I think a lot of people got mixed up with The Circle being a reality TV show rather than a game show," she says. "People saw it as snakey and backstabbing."

She accepts there may be some double standards at play too.

"A lot of people have said, 'If that was a man, we would have thought he was an absolute genius.' Those comments have come to me.

"My dad said to me numerous times: 'You're a woman of colour. It makes a difference.'"

The trolling has led to statements condemning the abuse from Channel 4, Manrika's own management team and a joint message from all the contestants in this series - who all say they've suffered some sort of online abuse.

The question of aftercare - psychological support given to reality TV contestants - has come up repeatedly over the past few years.

Tim Wilson, who was on the second series of The Circle, told The Guardian that The Circle has one of the best aftercare processes - but he still didn't think it went far enough.

"I loved the experience, but I hated what happened afterwards," he said.

"I was left feeling wrung out and abandoned. I have never been quite so miserable in my life."

Love Island stars Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon both ended their own lives, and there has also been suicides of reality TV contestants around the world.

'Some trolls have apologised'

For Manrika, the trolling "took a huge toll" on her mental health.

But she says she's been offered a lot of support since the show was filmed six months ago and can phone a psychiatrist 24 hours a day.

"I think it's good. It was good in the lead up to it and it was good while we were in there. I can't really fault them."

But, she adds: "As much support as Channel 4 is giving me, there isn't much that they can do about trolls or fake accounts.

"This is why I spoke to my management, and we wanted to make a difference."

The cast members from this series came together in a video encouraging people to be nicer online.

"Each and every single one of us has received some form of online abuse or hate, which is part of the experience that's not been great for us," says contestant Shabaz in the video.

"If there's anything we can learn from some of the horrifying devastations of amazing personalities in the past, it's that words can cut deep - even from people we don't know," adds Natalya.

The video goes on to show screenshots of some of the abusive messages they've received.

Manrika says the video has already "made a difference," and she's even had some of her trolls apologise for the messages they sent.

"I don't expect an apology from people. I expect people going forward to just think about things," she adds.

"I want to be able to say, 'Yeah, I've made I've made the world a little bit of a safer place'."

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