BELOW DECK -- Pictured: Ben Willoughby -- (Photo by: Laurent Bassett/Bravo)

Below Deck Star Ben Willoughby Responds To Leigh-Ann Smith’s Claim He “Cut All Ties” With “No Explanation”

Having his say. Again. Below Deck Season 10 deckhand Ben Willoughby is responding to claims he ghosted a former lover. Second stew Leigh-Ann Smith made a statement to social media recently that Ben cut all ties with her and has not responded to her requests for an explanation.

It all started with Season 10 cast member Camille Lamb. She caught Ben’s eye and the two started a steamy boat-mance. But Captain Sandy Yawn separated the two lovebirds. The deck/stew was fired mid-season.

Leigh-Ann replaced stew Alissa Humber. Ben quickly recognized her from their Tinder-inspired meeting. It turns out the two had been sexting for the past year.

The deckhand spent the rest of the season trying to remind himself how much he felt for Camille. They even planned a vacation in the Dominican Republic once charters ended to “pursue” their “connection.”

RELATED: Below Deck Season 10 Episode 17 Recap: Farewell Captain Lee

Ultimately, Ben and Leigh-Ann did hook up. But matters stalled afterward. Ben insisted he owed Camille the courtesy of seeing things through with her.

According to Bravo’s The Daily Dish, a Below Deck fan asked Ben for an update on his relationship with Camille. He answered via a March 21, 2023 Instagram post. Their romance was labeled “a spark comparable to that of a primary school crush.” Unsurprisingly, the duo “wasn’t meant to be.”

But according to Leigh-Ann, just three weeks after Ben and Camille parted ways in the Dominican Republic, he “reached out to me to say things ended between them.”

“I happened to be in Miami at the time so we decided to link up,” Leigh-Ann wrote on Instagram. “We decided to rent an apartment and lived together for just over a month in [Florida] … I was there for him as he was getting through his breakup and was a shoulder to lean on. I did everything in my will to put a smile on his face every day even though it was killing my own mental health. We also spoke about working and traveling together and Ben possibly coming to [South Africa] with me.”

Leigh-Ann said Ben both relocated for work and maintained contact for some time. However, he soon “cut all ties with me with no explanation.”

Leigh-Ann said she pursued an explanation from Ben, but he refused to respond. “I’ve reached out to him on numerous occasions to find out what I have done wrong and why I deserve this reaction but yet he fails to reply. There is no reason to treat a person the way he treated me. What did I do to deserve this? After all I did to be a good friend to him,” she explained.

The South African native revealed that she has “come to peace with not getting an answer,” though she worked through some heartache to get to that point.

In an attempt to clarify his perspective, Ben quickly responded on his Instagram Stories. According to him, the romance with Leigh-Ann lacked authenticity.

“I had to cut her out of my life as my mental space was taking a toll. I needed space to actually have my own thoughts, make my own decisions [instead] of someone trying to force me to fall for them,” Ben wrote.

He continued, “I felt like I was gaslighted into thinking I was wrong for loving Camille and that’s not what someone who says they have [your] best interest at heart would do.” Ben concluded, “I followed my heart and am responsible for my own happiness. [Y]ou have to be selfish in those situations.”

No one would think Ben was selfless. Clearly, he needed to do some damage control, though.

Leigh-Ann has not responded to her former lover’s statement. Though she did confirm via Instagram Live last week that she and Ben haven’t spoken.


[Photo Credit: Larent Bassett/Bravo]