Former TOWIE star Frankie Essex tells Now why she’s finally taking control of her body battle…
Frankie Essex talks exclusively to Now about her body battle…
You’re a different person to when we last met…
I know. I was in a relationship then and so unhappy I couldn’t stop crying. It all feels like such a blur from last year and in my head I feel so much better.
So what was really going on? You spent the day crying…
I got put down a lot. I’d lost all my confidence. I had a really shit year, probably the worst year I’ve ever had, and I was really down. I lived with my boyfriend John and I had to move out. I didn’t want to be with him but I was too scared to let go fully. I finally ended it after my birthday last year as we were both so unhappy.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Not everyone has a happy ending. When I lost my confidence it wasn’t about him; it was to do with me. I needed to be on my own and find myself.
Why was your confidence so low with him, though?
I don’t know. He used to tell me I looked good but it wasn’t enough. In the relationship I feel like I looked after him, but I needed to be looked after.
You were unhappy with your body while you were in the relationship – but then you
got bigger and bigger…
Yeah, after we split up I went to Thailand for three weeks and didn’t tell anyone apart from my family. Running away from Essex – I couldn’t even drive down the high street alone, I was so filled with anxiety – made me feel better and being near the water made me feel calm. In Thailand nobody knew who I was.
So you were low about everything?
Yes, everything. I’d go drinking, then feel sorry for myself and eat, and I kept eating. When I came home it was Christmas and I was so excited I bought so much food. My cousin Chloe [Sims] and her little girl Maddie stayed with me for two weeks and we spent £400 on food and there was only four of us. I was still eating like it was Christmas at Easter.
Because it made you happy?
Yes. And drinking too. I’d drink until I passed out. In March it’s Mother’s Day and my mum’s birthday so it’s always a bad month and I work myself up about it. I miss my mum and then I eat – it’s like a vicious circle.
What would you eat?
Oh my God, just crap! I’d have cups of tea with four or five biscuits. I’d eat fry ups all day long and then go out for dinner. I was enjoying my freedom, but piling on the weight.
When did you realise what was happening?
I put on a jumper and I thought: ‘Oh no it’s shrunk!’ Then I realised I’d just put on so much weight. I looked in the mirror and just cried. My dad used to be 23st – now he’s 15st –and he told me I needed to stop eating crap. I laughed and thought: ‘You’re kidding!’ But when nothing fitted me, I knew I had to do something.
How did you feel?
I felt like everyone was judging me and people would say horrible things about me on social media – even Karren Brady, the vice chairman of West Ham and from The Apprentice [Karren, writing about Frankie in her column for the Sun On Sunday, asked: ‘What’s the point of spending £50 on a bikini when £49 of it is stuck up your bottom?’]
Yes! That was shocking…
What a bitch. Who the f**k does she think she is?! I was so baffled. I thought: ‘Do you even know me?’ Maybe it’s because I’m a Millwall supporter! She really upset me. I lot of people stuck up for me on Twitter and I was surprised. I looked at her social media and people were messaging her really horrible things – I saw that it was her birthday and I thought, ‘I hope you’re having a really shit birthday.’
What would you say to her
if you saw her?
I’d like to know the reason she said it, as it was so uncalled for. Obviously I don’t look good or feel my best and it knocked my confidence again. She doesn’t know how far I’ve come and it was like another kick in the face.
Do you think being on TV makes things worse for you?
Yes, because people look at you. As soon as you walk into the gym they’re all whispering. I went to Dagenham market yesterday and felt like I had to look half decent because I can hear them saying my name… I was in a Caribbean restaurant and this woman took a picture of me eating.
Some people have accused you of putting on weight and losing it for publicity to get money…
As if! The only people who put on weight on purpose are film stars. It’s ridiculous that anyone would think that.
Weren’t you embarrassed
being papped on the beach
in your bikini?
No, but some fella did call me a ‘chunky monkey’ to my face. I was getting a massage on the beach and he said: ‘Look at that chunky monkey rolling around.’ I thought, ‘Who are you judging?’
You’re losing weight now. How did you get your confidence back to take control?
I’m confident because I want it now. When I’m unhappy it always takes me back to being the 13-year-old girl who lost her mum.
You said you were low…
I felt so sad I’d lock myself away and stay inside and eat. One time I didn’t leave for three days. I didn’t need to, as I had the food. I’d use any excuse not to go out.
What was your lowest point?
I think I’ve always had a low point in me because of losing my mum. My mum suffered from depression and committed suicide and it does scare me – I worry that I’ll fall into that hole. I do get my low days.
Oh no. How are you doing?
I did think about wanting to die. I’m on a six-week waiting list to see a counsellor and in the meantime I’m on antidepressants. If it wasn’t for Chloe, I don’t know where I’d be today. When I left my ex I moved in with Chloe for a month. I’d tell her: ‘I don’t know what to do, I feel like I’m stuck.’ And I told my dad: ‘I think [suicide] is the only way out…’ I’d get freaked out for thinking such crazy things. I’d never do it, I don’t think. You’ve got to think about the people you’ll leave behind. When you start thinking those things, you have to snap yourself out of it.
Are you getting any other help?
Yes. They offered me group therapy, but Essex is a small place. I don’t want to be on antidepressants but they’re helping me. I’m taking vitamins too. I had really bad psoriasis, because of the stress of everything, on my head and that stressed me out so much. If I was wearing black I’d be covered in dandruff and my scalp was covered in scabs, which I’d scratch until I bled. This week they’ve disappeared, so the antidepressants have helped. I used to panic all the time about something.
How do you stop that now?
I clean every day. When I wake up the first thing I do is go to the toilet, put the kettle on and then mop the floors. It makes me feel better – I don’t know why. Then I spend time with Chloe and Maddie. My happiness comes from helping other people out; then I can forget about me.
But you need to take care of yourself…
I’ve only just started realising that I don’t look after myself. I need to lose weight and be the old Frankie again. I’m 30 next year and I want to be at the highest point of my life.
What’s your goal?
I want longer hair and I want to lose some weight and tone up. I have a shopping addiction too – a bad one. I have a room full of clothes I’ve never worn because I buy things that don’t fit me thinking I’ll get into it.
What size are you?
I’m 12-14 but I want to be a 10.
How are you losing weight?
I’m doing gym classes. Talking about things and doing this photo shoot has helped me prove to myself that I can do it.
What’s your least favourite part of your body?
My belly. I hate it.
Would you ever have surgery?
I did want a tummy tuck when I was 21 but I wouldn’t do it now. I’ll always have a saggy belly but I accept that now. I can wear Spanx or a swimsuit. And if I have a baby I’ll get a saggy belly then anyway!
What about your brother Joey
– has he been supportive?
Yeah. I tell him things here and there. He says: ‘Come to the gym with me!’ I’m like: ‘No, I can’t go with you!’ He offered to pay for my gym too, but I can’t take help. He bought me a Louis Vuitton bag the other day. I was over the moon!
Do your friends know what you’ve been through?
I haven’t told them, so this will be a shock. I think they’ll say: ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’
Has it affected your sex life?
Yeah, I don’t have one. I didn’t even sleep with my ex… not in the end. I didn’t want to.
And you haven’t had
No. We split up in September and I haven’t had sex since. I’m not in that zone now. I still miss him sometimes, but at the moment I don’t need a man.
When you’ve had professional help, do you think you could
get back together?
No. I’ve already gone back before and it didn’t work out.
You’re very happy for us to see you in a bikini. If people wonder why you’re doing this today, what would you say to them?
I’m ready to sort myself out and prove to myself I could do it and be honest with everyone. I just want to shut all the haters up, like Karren Brady, and prove them wrong. They can watch this space!