The Circle winner Natalya hasn't spent ANY of the £100k prize on herself – but bought her sister new teeth instead04/21/2021
SHE is a beautiful blonde in the Army who loves to glam up when she's off-duty.
But The Circle's Natalya Platonova wanted to experience just how different life could be as one of the lads.
After fooling her fellow contestants into believing she was a hunky paratrooper named Felix, the 30-year-old left Channel 4's social experiment £100,000 richer.
In doing so, she broke down barriers for teenage girls watching, who say they've since been inspired to join the military.
Incredibly, Natalya – a military police officer from Surrey – is yet to spend a single penny of the prize money on herself.
Instead she's renovated her parents' home – and bought her sister new teeth.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Natalya – who was born in Uzbekistan – said: "I haven't bought anything for myself, I haven't got round to that yet.
"I've given quite a big sum to my family. My parents have just renovated their house so I paid for that and my sister wants her teeth done so I helped out with that.
"I sent some money back to my Russian family, because it's only my mum, dad and sister who live here in the UK, everyone else is still back in Russia."
Selfless Natalya hopes to put the cash leftover towards a deposit for her first home, but for now is living in the accommodation at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.
"It's a beautiful camp, but the accommodation is ridiculously bad – we don't have any hot water at the moment," admits Natalya.
"I haven't got round to buying anything for myself yet but I have lots of things already – I'm good at thrifty buys. It's such a tiny room, so there's not much space for more things.
"I want to save up for a house, but they're actually more expensive than I thought, so I might have to go on another game show… watch this space."
With both her brains and beauty, it's clear Natalya has a bright future ahead following her first go at reality TV.
Despite being a catfish, she came out on top after winning the heart of co-star Manrika Khaira who helped secure her number one influencer status.
The pair faced an awkward reunion at the final when Manrika realised the man of her dreams wasn't real.
Despite carrying the guilt of her lie throughout filming, Natalya believed that going in as a man would mean her identity would never be questioned – and she could flirt her way to the top.
She soon realised she'd need to bring her emotional, human touch to the role if she wanted to stay in the game – but admits the "f*** boy" character she went in as was based on some of her male colleagues.
"It's a shame because I don't think I could have lasted in there as myself," admits Natalya.
"I think everyone is on such high alert about who's real and who's not that it would be too obvious – a female in the military dressing up as a girly girl.
"So I thought how much fun it would be to be a different gender for the day, I had a real life opportunity.
"My point at the start was that men have it easier and I bet as a man no one will bat an eyelid.
"I had notes written out about Felix's career, but no one cared. It proved my point that going in as him, no one questioned me.
"But it wasn't as one dimensional as I thought it would be. It's not just 'hey babe, I fancy you', that didn't work – it lasted for one day and then everyone was like 'Felix is a f*** boy' so I had to stop that.
"It was harder because you have to be human, emotional and real. No one was going to bond with me unless I put my own personal touch to it.
"So it ended up that behind this perfect male character was this powerful woman driving it.
"It was the women's intuition that got there in the end – the six-pack coupled with the woman's brains – and when you merge that together you have the perfect person."
Natalya is yet to face Manrika again in person since the series was filmed seven months ago, but hopes the whole of The Circle gang will meet up when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Keeping in touch in a group chat on WhatsApp, the stars have launched a campaign challenging online abuse after getting death threats on social media.
Natalya's love interest Manrika was hit the hardest – admitting she couldn't get out of bed for three days after "vile, racist, sexist abuse" from sick trolls.
"I think Manrika has forgiven me," says Natalya. "We laughed about it and things have been absolutely fine. I can see us meeting up 100 per cent, I'd love to.
"We've all been supporting her over the online abuse. Nothing you do on TV justifies getting death threats. I don't see how people got so bothered about it.
"Everyone got their own individual online abuse and because we were watching it live we weren't protected by it like you would have been on Love Island.
"It affected quite a lot of us so we thought we'd come together and spread a nice message."
Natalya has attracted a huge fanbase from the show – and even a few celebrity admirers – with 65,000 Instagram followers.
She says she's been bombarded with messages from young girls who claim she broke down army stereotypes and inspired them to sign up.
"I think it's busted a few myths and perceptions away," she says.
"People think we act a certain way, but just because we have a serious job doesn't mean we can't dress up and have fun.
"Hopefully it's a been a positive promotion for the Army.
"I got back to work and no one's said anything," she laughs. "I haven't been fired yet."
She added: "I'm not a social media influencer, I'm a British soldier. I didn't expect anything to come of this, anything that has has been a positive and a bonus.
"My job is so active, I love the buzz of it and I'll always stay in the military. All of this was always going to be something to do on the side.
"But there are always going to be perceptions. A lot of girls in the Army are like me, girly girls. Not all of them of course, there are some tom boys, but it attracts such a range of people.
"I think since Our Girl was filmed with Michelle Keegan… they see someone who doesn't fit the mould and they can relate to that. I think people need to see someone who looks like them to give them the confidence to go for it."
Alongside her military role, Natalya says she has some exciting plans in the pipeline – and could be tempted by another reality TV appearance if it was a physical challenge.
"I want to do something challenging," she adds.
"I'm quite strong, I'd like to test and push through my boundaries."
- Catch up on all episodes of The Circle, available on All4 now.
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