Gemma has certainly provided multiple cultural moments. It’s been 10 entire years since Gemma Collins AKA The GC came onto our screens as the car salesperson on TOWIE.
Since then following memeable stints (expertly recorded on @loveofhuns on Instagram) on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Celebrity Big Brother, an infamous fall at the Radio 1 Teen Choice Awards and her own Diva-based reality TV show – both in and out of lockdown – Gemma has become the first lady of reality TV in the UK. Oh, and she’s the number one podcaster in the UK following her BBC Sounds aptly named, The Gemma Collins Podcast.
“Josh, I’ve been waiting to speak to you for a long time. I’ve been manifesting it. Lily Collins has done it, the GC’s got to do it,” Gemma Collins exclaims as I Zoom into her Essex home just before she darts off to film Celebrity Juice. Hearing that after watching such viral clips as ‘Your week told by Gemma Collins,’ I have nothing left to say except get that fire exit door, I’m off or am I ganna die? This is a moment!
But behind the infamous GC character, lies a very different Gemma, who has had to deal with the trolls, the fat shaming and the very public headlines. Here, in the latest episode of GLAMOUR UNFILTERED she opens up about her life behind the GC…
Everyone knows you as this incredible persona, the GC. Why did you feel like you had to create that character, did it feel like you as a person wasn’t enough?
My real friends – not my showbiz friends – will tell you that I’m actually shy in real life. I’m a lot more lowkey. I love doing the simple things. I love drinking tea, whereas the GC loves to drink champagne. I love to do family walks with the dog. I love doing me washing. Josh, I’ve got housekeepers, I’m not going to lie, but I still do my own washing because I like the way I do it. I like the way it smells. I love doing my hanging baskets.
I love getting in a bath and putting all me oils in. I’m just a very normal girl. It’s so weird because obviously people think I live this extravagant lifestyle every day, but actually I’m a country girl. Most people would get excited about a new bag coming out or a new fashion collection, I got excited to see conquers on the trees this week.
“Everyone must stop judging if I put on four pounds, let it go. Put on 10 stone and I need to be carried out me house by air ambulance, maybe let’s talk about it. We should not be shamed – fat shaming is not okay!”
I’m a very homely, I am easily offended. I am vulnerable. I do wear my heart on my sleeve, and that’s what makes it probably so difficult. I didn’t realise but there’s so many people that are jealous of me and what I do, but it hurts me. I’ve worked so hard at this job I do and when I see people be that way towards me, it really affects me. I have to go to me mother’s and have a cup of tea and discuss it with her. People can be cruel.
I turn 40 this year and I think since doing my show – I couldn’t hide myself in lockdown, I had no hair and make-up – I had no choice but to show the real me. I didn’t want people to see my vulnerabilities, my insecurities but now I have become more comfortable in showing that side of me. I ain’t going to be able to be the GC forever. I mean, 70 years old being the GC…
It must get so exhausting having to live up to that persona too?
It is exhausting! You know what it is? Everyday stuff still happens for me. I might be a celeb, but I’m not immune to heartbreak, illness, me hair dye going wrong or gaining a few pounds. I’m also at an age, Josh where I’ve not got to explain myself to anybody.
What has been the hardest thing tomentallyhave to deal with behind the scenes?
Going through break ups is really hard when you’re in the public eye because the press – they tag you in stories with your ex – and your heart is breaking just like theirs would be if they were going through a breakup. The biggest pressure is to look perfect every time and being so scrutinised. I think I’ve always done a good job of not kind of giving two hoots, but I am going to mess up. I am going to fudge up sometimes, and it is really hard because the more famous you get, your management team say, “you can’t be seen with that one. That one’s got a bad reputation, don’t go near them.” It’s a lot of pressure. I’m being honest.
With the fame comes the trolls, what have been a triggering experience for you?
There are obviously triggering situations that can happen, but I have therapy every week. We did get trolled a lot and it’s nothing but abuse. Do you know the really sad thing about it is, Josh? You could be doing your make-up, or you could be at a friend’s birthday or even in the best celebration and you almost have PTSD from it from the memory of someone saying something cruel to you. I can remember someone saying, “You’re too fat, we won’t work with you,” from this clothing brand. This agent, at the time, told me that. Well, sorry bitch. Look at me now.
That person knows who she is. You don’t realise when you say cruel things to people – and we’ve all been guilty of it, we’ve all run our mouths off a bit too much, I’ve done it – it does affect them. We’re living in times where you can speak out and talk about problems luckily. My friends will openly say to me now, “I’m not having a very good mental health day,” and we’re all there for them. It used to be a very taboo subject back in the day and it’s so liberating now because I can be so honest and open.
“I have therapy every week. We did get trolled a lot and it’s nothing but abuse. Do you know the really sad thing about it is? You could be doing your make-up or you could be at a friend’s birthday and you have PTSD from the memory of someone saying something cruel to you.”
Now I wish the trolls well, because if they live with that anger, that nastiness inside them, Josh, that’s so sad for them. I’m free of it. I’m free of pain. I’m free of anger. Everyone’s entitled to be on their journey in life, whether that’s me or Kim down the road, everyone’s free. No one should be judged.
I was at an airport recently, this guy kept trying to take a picture and he was filming. He just started chanting, “fatty, fatty, fatty.” Who behaves like this? He thought it was bothering me, but it wasn’t because I’ve heard it all before. I just thought, gosh, how awful that you live with this feeling inside of you. I sent him love and wished him well, mentally. Not got time for bad karma or nothing bad in my auric field, I’m not interested. If you feed something energy, it’s going to keep breeding it so it’s almost best not to give it the energy.
You’re actually arguably the most famous plus size woman in UK, which is incredible isn’t it…
Isn’t it nice that people start accepting me for me, because the talk about my weight it does get on my nerves. I saw a headline say, “Gemma Collins gained four pounds eating Tiger loaf bread and butter.” I said in lockdown, although it was amazing for me in the end, there were times where I tucked into the Tiger loaf – like everyone does. It becomes the major headline, but that’s what people want to read: make-ups, break-ups, weight loss and weight gain are the big sellers. Everyone can have a good run on a diet, and you can slip off the bandwagon. Self-shaming, self-loathing, self-hatred is not good for anybody.
I even had someone say to me the other day, “Do you still hang out with all your gays?” How disgusting is that? I was so shocked by that comment, because one, why are you so interested in who I’m hanging out with? And two, do you know how awful that is for someone? I felt like I was almost being picked on for having such amazing gay friends. Someone else I know, has said to me before, “Why do you hang out with so many gay people?” And I’m like, “Huh? How dare you talk to me like this? These are my friends.” I hate it. The trolls don’t hurt me anymore but that hurt me. It’s affected me. I will have to speak to my counsellor about it this week. Everyone is still judging everyone.
At an airport recently, this guy just started chanting, “fatty, fatty, fatty.” He thought it was bothering me, but it wasn’t because I’ve heard it all before. I just thought, gosh, how awful that you live with this feeling inside of you. I sent him love and wished him well, mentally.
Let there just be love and peace. Let everyone be free, like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. As long as I’m not hurting you, don’t worry about who I’m hanging out with. Everyone must stop judging and even the press to a certain point, if I put on four pounds, let it go. Put on 10 stone and I need to be carried out me house by air ambulance, maybe let’s talk about it. We should not be shamed – fat shaming is not okay, and people are out to shame. People still don’t realise the damage is can do to people. We should just all be a lot kinder and I’m really realising that now myself, as well. You just cannot go around, picking on people left, right and center because it can have detrimental effects.
Everyone’s just got to be a bit mindful and everyone is extra sensitive at the minute, even me. I’m a night owl, so when the 10 o’clock curfew come in… I’m not at the age where I want to be a spaghetti Bolognese at seven o’clock and settling down for the evening with me electric blanket on, Josh. I need to be out.
Me neither, babe. Me neither….
I’m going to be honest; we all know I’m claustrophobic. I found it claustrophobic. When lockdown first started, oh my God, it affected me. I don’t know anyone that just breezed through it. I’ve never really been an anxiety sufferer, but in the pandemic, I definitely suffered from it. I can control it now.
How have you learnt to gain that control of yourself?
The two key things in life for me are accepting yourself and knowing your inner strength and voice. In the lockdown, I suddenly thought I’m not going to just sit in bed, watching Netflix. No, I’m rolling my sleeves up. I literally transformed my business because I had to shut my business. So that kept me really mentally stimulated, because I’m a person that needs mental stimulation.
With everything you have been through mentally and with yourbody image, if you could go back in time and be a friend to yourself when would it be and what would you say?
I probably would take myself back to about five years old. I would have said, “Be kind to yourself,” because I do think we are all so hard on ourselves. I’m listening to that little girl now, and if I need to rest, I rest. If I’ve got a really busy day at work, I find my inner strength and I do it and I’ve also found the power in saying no to people.
Learning to say no is such a freeing feeling isn’t it?
I get hundreds of requests every day, I’m just one person and simply, the answer is no. They shouldn’t be offended because it’s not personal. We need to be more accepting of the word no.