Stacey Solomon has been on the public’s radar since becoming an X Factor finalist and Queen of the Jungle almost a decade ago, with her beaming smile, talent and energy winning the nation’s hearts and votes. But today, it’s her willingness to see the good in every situation and speak up for herself (and others) that makes Happiful love Ms Solomon the most.
As a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women, and a supporter of the mental health charity Mind, Stacey boosted our Christmas spirit levels as she got stuck in with the fake snow and fairy lights, chatting to us about self-acceptance, anxiety, fighting for what she believes in, and the importance of family
A collective cheer went up at Happiful HQ when we heard that Stacey Solomon would feature on our festive front cover. She’s universally loved in our office – her positive and honest personality is a breath of fresh air in a society that can be relentlessly cynical and downbeat – so we’re excited to meet her. Four hours of Stacey’s infectious enthusiasm, combined with a photoshoot boasting a large dose of Christmas spirit, fake snow, and a playlist of cheesy yuletide tunes, seems like a pretty wonderful way to spend a Tuesday morning.
When we meet, Stacey tells me about her previous week, which was a busy one, but full of happy moments. She recently celebrated her birthday with partner Joe Swash, and her two sons Zachary and Leighton, glamping in an aeroplane, spending time together on the beach in Tenby, Wales, where they saw dolphins, and visiting her nan who is “the best”. She’s also launched a collection in collaboration with Primark (including a T-shirt emblazoned with “Living My Best Life”, where a percentage of the proceeds go to the NSPCC to fight bullying), and is in the middle of moving in with Joe, creating a blended family unit.
Knowing that house moves can test even the most easy-going people, I ask how she’s doing.
“I’m excited. It’s stressful, moving is stressful – there’s always bumps in the road, and it’s a really long and agonising process – but we’re just focused on the endgame, and that will be such a huge reward that everything in between is manageable.”
This is the first of many examples that show how Stacey seems to be able to flip what could be viewed as a negative, into something joyful. I wonder whether this attitude of gratitude is something that comes naturally to her, or if it’s an approach that she’s worked on over the years?
Stacey suggests that it’s a bit of both.“I have such amazing parents, and I was brought up so well – that is my biggest privilege, and I will always say it. I wouldn’t be who I am, have the skills or mindset I have without them; they are a massive influence on my outlook in life.
“But I do work hard on my mindset as well. I work hard to remind myself all the time how lucky I am, and I make sure I spend time with people who haven’t been so lucky, and who haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had. That brings me back to reality, and that reality is I’m living my dream. That’s also a real privilege.”
Our chatter during the first 10 minutes of meeting confirms that Stacey genuinely has the positive outlook and warm disposition I thought she would. I’m aware, too, that she must also have drive, determination, and an incredible work ethic to have achieved all that she has to date.
Stacey first arrived on our screens almost a decade ago as an X Factor contestant singing ‘What a Wonderful World’, eliciting an immediate cheer from the assembled crowd, and high praise from the judges. She went on to reach the finals, belting out ‘Feeling Good’ accompanied by Michael Bublé, watched and voted for by millions.
Since then, she’s been crowned Queen of the Jungle after a sterling stint on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, presented and appeared on numerous programmes, and is now a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women. To have the CV that Stacey does takes stamina, skill, intelligence, and talent.
According to comments from her peers, Stacey also brings a large amount of loveliness to the table too. Described as “one of the brightest lights in a room”, “famously lovely, funny and priceless”, and “one of the most funny, genuine, beautiful people I’ve met”, it’s clear that she’s held in high regard within the entertainment industry, as well as by the public.
It was easy to find comments praising Stacey on Twitter. In August of this year, thousands of people took to social media to respond and protest to a cruel and unfair representation of her on a celebrity magazine front cover. They were scathing about the publication, and supportive of Stacey.
Stacey was no silent victim in the whole episode. Upon seeing the magazine, she tweeted a picture of it, noting it was “the meanest thing she had ever seen”. After the outpouring of support she received (including from Stephen Fry who told her he thought she was wonderful), she wrote a longer response adding: “The best thing to come out of this is that thousands of people disagree with this awful, bullying, insecurity-pushing journalism, and won’t stand for it.”
It was so heartwarming to know that people don’t want to hear that, they don’t want to read it, and they think it’s horrid
Stacey continues to be vocal about the disdain she feels for this kind of reporting.
“Those tweets showed me that the attitudes of most people are not reflected by certain publications. They are not reflected by gossip and negative narratives.” She smiles. “It was so heartwarming to know that people don’t want to hear that, they don’t want to read it, and they think it’s horrid.
“Obviously I was really excited to be supported by Stephen Fry – but I was equally excited by the fact that anybody would even stand up and say: ‘This is wrong.’ I then felt I had the power to say: ‘This is absolutely unacceptable, I won’t stand for it, and you won’t use my name to teach anybody who is reading your magazine that this is an OK way to treat women.’ I don’t want to be associated with that.”
As well as addressing negative media representations, Stacey is also keen to discuss how we talk about and treat ourselves. She has spoken out on many occasions about body acceptance, sharing natural and unfiltered photographs of herself on social media. She wants to show that it’s OK to be who you are.
“I feel really passionate about body confidence. It has been and probably always will be an uphill struggle for men and women to feel completely happy, because we are always being told who we should be, and what we should change.
“If there’s anything I can do to ease the tension for people who feel like they have to look a certain way to be valued, to be heard... I’d like to be doing that. What you look like doesn’t change who you are as a person fundamentally.”
Stacey reflects that her inner critic and struggle doesn’t necessarily centre upon her appearance. “Just because I don’t look at myself and say, ‘You’re ugly, gross and disgusting’, doesn’t mean that I don’t criticise aspects of my personality. I’m often thinking: ‘Did I say that right? Did I do that right? Am I working hard enough?’”
It’s not an issue Stacey believes is hers alone. “We’re all constantly asking ourselves: ‘Are we good enough?’” She pauses. “For me, I have to flip that dialogue on its head and say I am good enough. My intentions are always good, and we can’t always be perfect, so I’ll just carry on trying to be the best person I can be.”
To read more of Stacey's exclusive chat with us, pick up the December issue of Happiful in supermarkets from Thursday 15 November.
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