Stacey Solomon: ‘My Accent Gives People Preconceived Ideas Of Who I Am’

In a world of ‘mumfluencers’, Stacey Solomon stands out for her brutal honesty and unfiltered take on motherhood. Here, she talks to Rhiannon Evans about keeping it real, social media traps and blended families.

Stacey Solomon

by Rhiannon Evans |

It’s 2020 and everyone loves Stacey Solomon – the Loose Women fans who tune in to hear her down-to-earth optimism, the three million who follow her on Instagram, and the thousands who send her messages of support. Mums love Stacey – I know, because several asked me to thank her for her often brutal honesty, which got them through tough times. I also know her reach goes beyond a ‘mum club’, because she once tagged me in an Instagram story when Grazia wrote an online piece about her,
and I got more messages about that than anything I’ve done in 13 years of journalism.

‘If people get anything from how I am, that’s a real bonus,’ says the Dagenham girl who found fame as a nervous and endearing X Factor contestant, coming third to Olly Murs and Joe McElderry in 2009. In an era when a large social media following can beget a full-time income – and we’re becoming more aware of the darker side of that #spon market – the incidental nature of her Insta-fame, a decade after she entered the limelight, is refreshing.

WATCH NOW: Stacey Solomon Plays 'The Last Time I...' With Grazia

Incidental, because the appeal of Stacey, 30, has a sad irony at its centre. Her
accounts show a non-filtered, imperfect life, and says to others that’s OK. But she ended up there by herself falling victim to ‘perfect pressures after the birth of her son Rex (with her partner, actor and presenter Joe Swash) in May 2019.

I wasn’t feeling the way some people feel after their baby. I just thought, what’s the point trying to hide it?

Rex is Stacey’s third child – she had her first, Zachary, aged 17 with boyfriend Dean Cox. Leighton came four years later, in 2012, with fiancé Aaron Barnham. Rex arrived three weeks early and, in the following months, Stacey posted about her battles with breastfeeding, anxiety, post- natal depression and lack of sleep. She won a legion of fans, formerly fed on a diet of celebrity bodies ‘snapping back’ and posts about the ‘magic of motherhood’.

‘There was nothing else I could have put out,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t feeling the way some people feel after their baby. I just thought, what’s the point trying to hide it? I’m actually really glad I went with it. Even though now I look back and think, “I can’t believe I said that.” But it was a massive help for me, because there were so many people out there struggling with breastfeeding, struggling with the way they felt after giving birth. It just made me feel I wasn’t alone.’

Stacey Solomon
Stacey Solomon ©DANNY KASIRYE

Stacey put her midwife on alert pre-birth, after suffering from post-natal depression with Zachary. ‘I said, “I don’t feel great, I feel really teary, I feel a little bit hopeless,” so she put me on the maternity mental health list, which meant as soon as I gave birth, I had a counsellor to talk to.’

Rex’s early arrival compounded things. ‘I was so paranoid about him not being ready to be in the world and I felt overwhelmed that I had this tiny life in my hands and I didn’t feel like I was doing a great job of nurturing it,’ she says. ‘For the last 10 weeks [of pregnancy] I was like, “I can’t wait to meet the baby,” and you almost wish it out. Then I felt really guilty. Sometimes, we set ourselves up for this perfect ideal scenario and when it doesn’t go that way, it’s hard to deal with. I wanted to have pictures with the bump and Joe – silly things that aren’t important. I gave birth and we were both safe and it was OK and that’s what I should have taken from it, but I missed my pregnancy. I just felt really funny.’

Stacey’s experience of breastfeeding was relatable for many. ‘It was something, again, that I’d set up in my head I was going to do There’s been a big push for breastfeeding and I don’t think anyone prepares you for if it doesn’t work. I struggled with that.’

While Stacey’s openness gave strength to others, she says they helped pull her out of the darkness. ‘You have a community around you that’s like a blanket – it just makes you feel like you aren’t on your own.’

Her openness continues to help others
– for instance, posting post-birth bikini pictures showing stretch marks and cellulite. ‘If I’m on holiday I want pictures of all my kids, and they’re not going to stand there waiting for me to find the right light. I genuinely think I’ve got a nice body, I like looking at my body and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I don’t have time to sit down and airbush my lumps and bumps. I don’t want to either, because they’re all a part of my life and what I’ve been through and who I am.’

But amassing a community comes with responsibility, she says. ‘There are times when I think, “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. Is that going to put anyone in a vulnerable position?” It’s scary because it is all on you. It’s not managed for me. When you’re on social, you’re your own director, producer, editor, lawyer, so it’s a huge responsibility. People build these social media empires for advertising so they can make money. But very rarely will I do an ad on Instagram. I can’t tell you the amount of money I get offered for teeth- whitening, or teas that make you skinny or whatever. But I’d just never do it. I mean, I’ve got veneers and I’m not on a diet. I think that’s the irresponsible side of it and it’s not for me.’

Instead, Stacey recommends jars and labels for her organising habit. She’s found a new army of followers thanks to her ‘Tap To Tidy’ stories: she takes a picture of a messy room or cupboard, tidies it, then uploads both pictures to her stories, so you tap on the ‘before’ picture to reveal the ‘after’ tidy one. She now has an Instagram sticker, ‘hundreds’ send her their Tap To Tidies every day and Ikea sold out of products she used. It’s a phenomenon. But again, she says, unintentional. ‘Every day I’ve got to tidy some crap up, it’s just so mundane,’ she laughs. ‘It wasn’t for anyone else, it was for me to make it a bit more fun.’

Some people think because you’re happy, you’re not all there.

The trolls who taunt her on things such as her choice of bedding she laughingly calls out online. ‘It baffles me people have the time to comment on things like that,’ she says. ‘The other day someone said, “That Stacey’s such a tramp, she wears her clothes to bed, then gets up in the same clothes.” You’ve got to laugh. I probably am a bit of a scuzzbucket, but I’ve got three kids, two cats, a dog and a mortgage; what do you want from me?’

But some things do ‘get in’. ‘Things like I’m dumb and stupid – the things I’ve battled against all my life,’ she admits in her unmistakable estuary accent. ‘I think my accent gives people preconceived ideas of who I am and my intelligence level... even just being happy! Some people think because you’re happy, you’re not all there,’ she laughs.

Luckily for Stacey, social media wasn’t as prevalent when she was on The X Factor or when she won I’m A Celebrity...! in 2010. ‘None of us got that instant response people get now. Things were allowed to breathe – you were allowed to be on the show and wouldn’t know what someone thought of you so instantly,’ she says. ‘I don’t think I could handle some of the reality shows that are around now.’

After more shows, from The Jump to
Top Dog Model, Stacey became a Loose Woman in 2016. She believes the show doesn’t get enough credit for being fronted by ‘strong, kick-arse women’ of all ages
and backgrounds. It’s there, as well as on Instagram, that she talks honestly about the highs and lows of her blended family – Joe has a son, Harry, with a former partner.

‘We’re sold this ideal you’re going to get married, have kids and live happily ever after and it doesn’t always work out, not for nearly half of everyone in a relationship, so it’s weird that we keep pushing that same concept without thinking about the fact most people live in completely different circumstances,’ she says.

[My kids have] got great parents. We loved each other, it didn’t work out and it is what it is. It’s not always easy because there are so many different elements and people to please but, ultimately, we all love each other and we’re all family. You look at advertising and very rarely do you ever see baby milk or nappies being advertised by a man, or two mums or a stepmum. We’re always being sold these ideals from the 1920s and it’s so weird. It puts so much pressure on people and makes you feel like a bit of a failure when it doesn’t work out like that.’

Luckily for all of us here in the 2020s, Stacey isn’t in the business of selling ideals – and is all the more popular for it.

Follow Stacey on Instagram and Twitter: @staceysolomon

READ MORE: Stacey Solomon’s ‘Tap To Tidy’ Has Got Us All Obsessed – And You Will Be Too

READ MORE: Stacey Solomon Gets Brutally Honest On Instagram About Experiencing ‘Mum Guilt’

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