THERE was a point during lockdown that told you everything about the kind of person Stacey Solomon is.
It came when she took it upon herself to start sending handwritten letters to followers in need of a lift.
Stacey Solomon says she had the worst rows with Joe in lockdown
We’re not talking pithy little notes of one or two lines; these were long, thoughtful missives to complete strangers who had DMed her their details and which she then personally addressed, stamped and posted.
She might have nearly developed RSI in the process, but at a time when everything felt so devastating, it was a simple act of kindness that made a huge difference to the people she was writing to.
“I don’t know what it is about being an empath, but it’s probably not healthy,” she says today with a smile.
“I just felt really privileged the whole time – look at me with my garden and nice family. I’m not being abused. I have enough money to feed my children.
“I’d been writing letters to my mum when we couldn’t see her and then I thought: ‘What if you don’t have anyone to write you a letter?’ And that’s how it started.
Stacey started sending handwritten letters to followers in need of a lift during lockdown
“It was like therapy for me! I’d sit there at night and write to people and I didn’t have to think about anything I was worrying about, because I was trying to write to people about their worries.”
Stacey’s already hugely popular Instagram has taken on a life of its own over the last year.
Her immensely satisfying before and after Tap to Tidy phenomenon is now an official social media craze with its own Insta Stories sticker, while her endless crafting during lockdown led to a much-deserved book deal (“I can’t believe it, I’m so blimmin’ excited about it!”), which comes out next year.
Her stories are pure escapism, her delight with life is a tonic and her 3.8 million followers adore all her quirks – the addiction to Daim bars, her creepy toes, drinking Diet Coke from a champagne glass, the “fejka” (fake plant) obsession and her love of a thrush-inducing bath bomb.
They see the rough and tumble of family life and her devotion to her “pickles”, Zach, 12, Leighton, eight, and 18-month-old star of the show Rex, who really is the jolliest of toddlers.
Stacey says Joe is her best friend and she could tell him anything
And they laugh at the squabbles she has with partner Joe Swash, 38 (or Hoe as he is affectionately known thanks to a typo that stuck), who everyone knows is a big softie at heart despite the Grumpy Old Man act.
“Me and Joe get on each other’s nerves and we had some of our worst arguments during lockdown,” admits Stacey, 31.
“He gets so moody, and the more moody he gets, the funnier I find it.
“But he’s my best friend. I could tell him anything. I just feel like if we’ve got each other, then everything is going to be OK.
HUMOUR AND CHEMISTRY
“I know it sounds silly and a lot of people would say it’s not healthy, but I could sit and do a poo in front of Joe and it wouldn’t bother him.”
She laughs and insists it’s true. “And I can also be sexy for him as well…if I really have to be.”
Joe can do it for her, too. His window cleaning skills often make Stacey’s Stories, set cheekily to the Diet Coke break music while she accuses him of trying to get her pregnant again – anyone who watches them together can see it’s a relationship based on love, humour and chemistry.
“Yeah, I really fancy Joe!” says Stacey. “He wore a suit [on TV] the other day for some competition and I was like: ‘Hello, wear that one home.’
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“He’s a great dad and role model. And even when he puts the meat in the fish drawer I know he means well. I had to tell myself that a lot during lockdown: he means well.”
Theirs is a big, noisy, (mostly) happy blended family – Zach and Leighton are from previous relationships, while Joe has son Harry, 13, with ex Emma Sophocleous, 35 – but Stacey doesn’t try to pretend that everything is easy all of the time.
“There’s no guidebook on how to make it work. You’ve just got to hang in there if you really love somebody, even if it’s difficult with the children. Keep loving each other and keep loving the kids and that’s all you can do.
“It’s an ongoing challenge for us, but we love our children and even if they tell us that they hate us or don’t want us in their life, as long as we love each other and they grow up knowing that we adore them all – Rex, Zac, Leighton and Harry – then that is all that matters.
The pair’s big, noisy and (mostly) happy blended family
“I don’t think of any of them as this one or that one, I just think of us as a family. They are all just as special as each other and everyone gets treated the same.”
Life isn’t a permanent Instagram story, she says. There are plenty of ups and downs.
“Sometimes it’s really great and you think: ‘I’ve got it.’ Then two days later they’re having a meltdown. It’s hard for them to adapt, but they do.
“As a person who has lived through my parents’ divorce, I don’t feel lesser or that I’ve missed out. I didn’t become an adult and think: ‘My family really messed me up.’
Both Stacey and Joe would love to foster one day
“I had an even better upbringing, and I’m grateful for it. So you just keep going and keep loving them.”
Both Stacey and Joe would love to foster one day and haven’t ruled out having more of their own.
“Oh, I’m broody all the time, especially in lockdown when you’re all bored and you think: ‘Hmm, might as well get pregnant!’ I have to have a word with myself, like: ‘Calm down, Stace, you’ve already had three, and you’ve only just stopped breastfeeding the last one!’
“Rochelle Humes has just had the cutest baby ever. Have you seen him? He looks like Pharrell Williams! Every time I’ve clicked on her Stories I’ve had to quickly come out again, it’s too dangerous.
“I never want a child-free house. I always want to have children running around in the garden and so I don’t know what I am going to do with myself once they’re all grown up.
“They all love each other and I look at them and think that is my life’s work done. If that’s all I ever achieve I’d be so happy.”
Stacey is, without fail, always a joy to talk to. She’s utterly charming, genuinely cares about people and is as honest as she is naturally hilarious.
And contrary to the giggly scatterbrain “Stacey from Dagenham” reputation, which dates back to that first X Factor audition 11 years ago, she’s actually incredibly wise and level-headed, with her priorities in the right order and an outlook on life that means she never takes herself too seriously.
<div class="article-boxout"> <div class="article-boxout__header theme__background-color"> <h3 class="article-boxout__headline">Crafty business</h3> </div> <div class="article-boxout__content theme__background-color-rgba-20"> <div>
Who’s your craft icon?
My grandma, Gwen. She used to knit us all jumpers from patterns in a magazine and make animal snacks and houses out of biscuits.
What’s your favourite tool?
I can take on the world with a glue gun and a can of spray paint!
Where do you get your inspo?
Google, Instagram, Pinterest, but sometimes I just make it up as I go along.
What three words would you use to describe your crafty self?
Random, rugged and relentless. Bit of alliteration there!
Which creation are you most proud of?
My pink utility room. It only cost me about £100.
Which craft would you most like to try?
I would like to be good at macramé. I look at them in awe.
Biggest crafting disaster?
I glued a load of leaves to a jar and put candles in there. By the time I filmed them, the leaves had fallen off [due to the heat melting the glue]. I had to write in the post: “I wouldn’t put real candles in these, just so you know.”
Best shops for supplies?
Ebay, Amazon or Hobbycraft. Sometimes Poundland if you want to get homeware to upcycle.