<i>The Shire</i>'s Sophie and Vernesa: We're not bimbos!
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*The Shire*'s Sophie and Vernesa: We're not bimbos!

<i>The Shire</i>'s Sophie and Vernesa: We're not bimbos!

There’s more to the outrageous reality stars than meets the eye.

In the space of a week Sophie, 28, and Vernesa, 26, have gone from unknowns to Australia’s most controversial new reality TV stars. Following the premiere of Ten’s “dramality” The Shire last week, the girls faced a barrage of vitriol over everything from their looks to their ethnicity.

Things got worse when, in the midst of the backlash, Sophie’s grandfather passed away after a long battle with cancer. “They raised me,” Sophie says of her grandparents. “It’s so weird to see someone pass away in front of you that’s given me my whole life.”

It’s enough to send most of us to ground. But far from hiding away, Sophie and Vernesa handled things the only way they know how: head-on. “It does not bother me one bit – if it did I wouldn’t be sitting here,” says Vernesa of all the criticism they’ve copped. “I’m very thick-skinned and that does come from life. My whole life experience, and Sophie’s life experience, has made us this way.”

“Life experience” as they put it, is an understatement. Born in Sarajevo, Vernesa literally grew up in a warzone. Her father passed away when she was three, leaving her mother and grandmother to raise her. “You see people die around you but it does make you a lot stronger,” she says. “They tried to start schools but they’d get bombed. People were being murdered left, right and centre.”

Read more about Sophie and Vernesa in this week's Woman’s Day on sale Monday July 23, 2012.