Though – technically speaking – this leaves her in last place, I want to state the case for why she’s a true winner.
In the world of reality television, being first to leave may be considered a failing – but not for Hollie.
I can see why she was evicted: she just didn’t vomit, scream, argue, cry, fart or moan enough to take up lots of screen time.
The viewing public love a drama queen and Holly is the antithesis of theatrical.
British viewers also love an underdog story. Like Romans at the Amphitheatre, we revel in watching the contestant with the lowest chance of survival claw their way to victory. The public want to watch campmates transition from cowardice to courage because it makes us feel like we were somehow part of their journey.
But Hollie was brave all along, and she’s already completed her underdog story.
At the age of 14, Hollie Arnold was the youngest ever field athlete to compete in the Paralympic or Olympic games, which she did in 2008. She went on to win gold in Rio 2016, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.
Hollie doesn’t fit the stereotype of the ‘terrified woman’ we see each year on the show. The girl who screams the most in the first few days is usually guaranteed a place in the final… provided she conquers said fear by the next trial, that is. Scream too much and we’ll think you’re milking it (we’re fickle like that).
Arnold showed nothing but sheer determination with every obstacle she’s faced in the castle, which might not gain viewing figures, but it earned my respect.
Holly never tried taking centre stage. No showbiz stories, no romantic dalliances with princes or dance routines to teach to the group. Holly flew the flag for the introverts among us. The quiet types who keep their head down, muck in and get on with it.
One of Hollie’s most memorable moments was when she first introduced herself to the campmates as ‘Hollie Arnold…MBE’. The Twitterati were quick to mock her for using her full title, yet I bet none of them have letters after their name.
What is society’s issue with confident young women who are proud of their accolades? Even in Strictly this year we’ve seen Maisie Smith – a talented, capable and confident woman – end up in the bottom two for the past two weeks, despite being arguably one of the best dancers.
Do we expect women to be humble about their achievements? If I had been bestowed the honour of an MBE I’d struggle not to shout it from the rooftops.
Hollie says that when she introduced herself in full, she was doing so because her mum has always told her to be proud of her title.
I never assumed she was boasting, I figured she was probably doing her other campmates a favour by going some length to explain why she had a place on the show.
The moment she introduced herself, I fell in love with her, because I’ve been there.
There’s nothing worse than entering a room full of people whose faces you recognise when you’re scared they won’t have a clue who you are.
At literally any social event I have ever attended, I will introduce myself not only by name, but with my relationship to the person whose party it is, and reminder of the time we have previously met.
‘Hi I’m Nicola – Tom’s girlfriend, I used to live with Sarah in the flat above Superdrug. We met at Lisa’s hen do in Amsterdam at that bar on the corner with the weird taxidermy and the space cakes’.
I do it out of sheer anxiety. Getting half-way through a conversation with someone then realising you’ve met them before – but can’t remember when – feels like a slow death. As does – I imagine – having to ask a celebrity campmate quite why they are a celebrity.
I wouldn’t bestow it on my greatest enemy, so I go above and beyond to avoid any awkwardness (even if it means I sound like an obsessive fangirl).
I recognise a little bit of myself in Hollie, and it’s part of the reason she stood out to me from the off.
There’s no doubt the other celebrities in the castle have been great, and we’ve seen vulnerability in many of the campmates this year.
Jessica showed us her emotional side when she spoke of missing her daughter, Ruthie explained how she struggled to drop her ‘tough cookie’ façade and Jordan showed his physical vulnerability by spewing on the edge of a cliff face.
The campmates are – gasp – human after all.
But when Hollie left the camp and showed her disappointment at being first to leave, it was refreshing to see her show her true feelings, instead of putting on a brave face. She was visibly gutted, but I wanted to tell her that she needn’t be.
She didn’t have the advantage of a big voter fanbase like Eastenders, Corrie or consumers of Quorn mince to carry her through the show, so it’s no wonder she was early to leave.
But life isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about having integrity and getting stuck in – qualities that Hollie has in abundance.
Before she flew into Abergele on a helicopter, I didn’t know her name. But she left as my Queen of the Castle.
Hollie Arnold MBE, I Stan you.
Credit: Original article published here.