It wasn’t spiders, snakes or rats that truly terrified I’m a Celeb’s runner-up Emily Atack when she entered the jungle. It was… her makeup fading.
“That was the biggest fear for me,” she says, of her pre-jungle body anxiety, which was exacerbated by social media and saw her relying on apps to slim and perfect her appearance in photos.
“Being seen without my straight hair, my makeup or fake tan, being seen without my armour on, that terrified me.”
That changed, of course, when reality bit as hard as those pesky mozzies.
“I got to day two and the makeup was fading, the hair was going mad in the humidity. I just thought, what can I do about it? If I sit here worrying about it, I’m not going to have a nice experience,” she says, explaining she initially meditated through her anxiety (and hunger) in the camp before the isolation from the outside world began to help her; “In the world we live in today, it’s all about comparing looks on Instagram but we didn’t have any of that in there, so we got to learn beautiful things about each other that weren’t just physical. All the different personalities and characters in there- they became the beautiful things.”
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Emily’s journey towards self-love was, therefore, not just thanks to humidity and lack of concealer, but the absence of her phone. Although she (quite rightly) declares John Barrowman her “highlight” of the jungle, her favourite part of the experience was: “In the evening when we all just sat around every evening and chatted for hours,” she reminisces, “There are no phones in there, so all we have is conversation. It is so brilliant to go back to, learning what it is to really get to know someone properly again.”
In fact, her whole view of social media and phone use has changed dramatically since her jungle excursion; “I will now be very mindful about it and if I feel like I’ve been on my phone too much one day, I’m going to be more conscious of that and not be so obsessed.”
The sense of perspective the jungle gave her, was the best thing that could have ever happened to the twenty-nine-year-old actress. “Now it’s not going to bother me if people see me without makeup,” she says, “I have already faced that fear. I recommend any young woman struggling with body issues or anything like that, just go cold turkey with it all. You do feel amazing and liberated afterwards.”
Emily is now wearing her hair natural and curly and also publicly declaring she will no longer use slimming apps on Instagram. “I’m just learning to embrace myself more. Because, you know- everyone has seen what I look like now! There’s no hiding- I’ve been rumbled!”
Embracing her true self and proudly owning it, is not just a huge step for Emily, but something she sees as a responsibility to other people out there, struggling with anxiety about their appearance. After all, her new-found self-acceptance has won her legions of (nearly a million) Instagram fans eager to see what she’ll do next.
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“Just the shock of seeing how many people related to it and how many people said it helped them, I do feel like I now have a responsibility to keep that up.” It’s a duty she’s happy to take on – a message of self-love she is keen to spread: “It is something I feel passionately about. I am going to continue to champion that.”
“It’s especially important today, when we have so many apps that can completely change how we look. You can slim yourself down, you can airbrush yourself. But that’s what you look like!” she explains, “It’s dangerous that we can all paint a completely false picture of ourselves. It makes you feel nice for 5 minutes when you’re looking at it, because you’ve shaved a stone off your bum but it’s not reality. You don’t really look like that. It will only upset you if you see a photo of yourself and you don’t look like that. That’s such a shame, especially for young girls.”
Her next project is another fear conquering mission: the big 30. “I’ve always been frightened of turning thirty,” she says, the week she turned 29, “So I’m writing a show about it and tackling it head on. It will be called Talk Thirty To Me.”
It will be her debut comedy show, something that would terrify most people. But not Emily.
“What the jungle proved to me is that- even if you’re frightened of something you can still get through it. You can get through anything.”
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