When Brightnye first laid eyes on her future partner James, she had no idea of the love story that was going to blossom between them.
During a fun night out at a casino back in June 2021, the 22-year-old biology graduate and model recalls how, in her drunken state, she decided to buy nine sandwiches to satiate her hunger.
In seeing this, 57-year-old James was impressed not just by her beauty, but by her spunk and confidence – and decided to strike up a conversation.
Despite their 35-year age gap, the pair quickly fell in love and haven’t looked back since – with the couple recently celebrating their one-year anniversary.
The loved-up pair are now blissfully living together in Queensland, and have decided to share their story.
“We actually met totally organically at the casino. I was the girl who bought nine sandwiches because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time” Brightnye laughed.
“He came up behind me and said that I should come talk to him, so I did.”
James added: “I thought anyone who is buying nine sandwiches was either starving to death or needed to be spoken to.
“And yes, she did share a sandwich with me.”
“From there, we just started hanging out, and all of a sudden we were dating,” Brightnye said. “It just happened really naturally.”
“Obviously it took a bit of time, because of our age gap it was a big problem for us at the start,” James said. “We kept thinking, this is crazy, we should stop this nonsense. But we couldn’t stay away from each other.”
“It was hard at first, because some of my friends thought, and still think, it’s fake,” Brightnye, who is originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, said.
“But we truly love each other, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
The pair said while they love going out and enjoying each other’s company, their age difference means that strangers often assume they are father and daughter.
“People think that he is my dad all the time,” Brightnye said.
“We’re not over-the-top affectionate, but we might hold hands across the table and get a sideways glance from someone.”
“Generally the default position is father-daughter,” James added.
“It doesn’t bother us too much; it’s more amusing than anything else.”
Brightnye and James said it was hard at first for some of their close family and friends to accept the relationship – but over time, have come around to the idea.
“Most people thought that I was only with James for the money, and that it was all just superficial,” Brightnye said.
“Some people don’t take us seriously and they think it’s a joke.
“At first my parents thought it was just a phase, but they are pretty open-minded.”
“I was married for 30 years and have four daughters,” James said.
“Brightnye has met one of them and that went well. The other one is OK with it, another is 50/50 not quite sure, and the other is not on board at all.
“They’re clearly very protective of their dad. Eventually they’ll either accept it or they won’t.”
Compared to their past dating experiences, the couple have said they much prefer the relationship they have now and admire each other greatly.
“I like that he was so driven and structured. I find that really attractive,” Brightnye said.
“For me, it was her free spirit that I admired and I loved her voice,” James said.
“It was very charming.”
“I dated younger guys before James, and I’d always have so much anxiety about it,” Brightnye said. “It always felt really shallow and just for show. I get along with James so much better.
“He is so much wiser about everything and he intellectually challenges me. I’m never bored.
“We’re always going out for dinners, we travel together and we even go out clubbing.”
“Dating Brightnye has been really exciting, honestly,” James said.
“After my marriage ended, I dated women my own age and they’re either raving alcoholics, deadpan boring or they’re just not open.
“Brightnye and I have a lot of fun, we get along well, and it just works.”
The couple decided to take to TikTok earlier this year to “have a little fun” and open up about their age-gap relationship.
The pair’s channel grew rapidly, gaining legions of fans.
“There are a lot of naysayers, but the TikTok channel has been quite interesting,” James said.
“I thought there would be mostly negative and hateful comments, but 95 per cent of them are positive.”
“We just wanted to make some funny videos and just be ourselves on there,” Brightnye said.
“But then it just kind of took off, and we were shocked. People watched us because we were being so real.”
“The comments do amuse us, especially when they’re funny,” James said.
“They’ll say things like, ‘You’re only in this for the money,’ ‘It’s not real love,’ or ‘You’ll be changing his diapers in 15 years.’ Or they’ll ask Brightnye if she is visiting me in a nursing home.
“But really that is just a small minority, and most of the comments are very positive and wish us all the best.
“Love is love at the end of the day. That is all that matters.”
While the pair are hopeful of a future together, they said they are just taking it slow and enjoying each other’s company.
“I do think we’ll get engaged one day” Brightnye smiled.
“But we will see how things go. We love each other a lot.”
“We will just continue to enjoy each other’s company, and the natural course of events will probably occur,” added James.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time.”