Finding the beauty
I wrote the memoir Silver Linings to give a fuller picture of my life and, I hope, to inspire others to find the beauty in their own lives. When you’re a reality TV star, however long your back story is, it always gets condensed down. I think I was so used to people having one set image of me that I just wanted to write everything down and have people understand me a bit better, but more than that I wanted to show people that at any point you can turn your life around. No matter what hardships or troubles you face, I believe you can pull a silver lining out of it. So, I suppose that was my main goal: to just help younger people or people going through some hard times in their life to find the beauty in it even though sometimes you can’t always see it.
Modelling was definitely a way for me to feel like I was doing something with my life. Before I got into modelling, stage school was always my way of getting validation, but when I left to look after my mum, I was no longer “Jess doing well at theatre school”; instead, I was “Jess the drop-out.” I had a really difficult time during my GCSE years – my baby nephew died of meningitis and my mum went blind. I struggled with all my GCSEs and I lost validation from others – it felt like I had nothing anymore. And that’s how I stumbled into modelling. Trust me, I wasn’t thinking that my aspiration was to be on Page 3 or do Zoo or Nuts, but it gave me a sense of having something to show for myself and show people I hadn’t failed.
My face on the front page
When I saw myself in the magazines, sometimes I’d think ‘Oh, this is cool I’m on the front’ but actually my heart would sink because I’d trained all those years and was a scholarship student and it wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do. I was using it to prove that I could do something and be someone, because behind that I felt like I was no one. Still, I felt it was all I had so I just had to go with it, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life – and it’s not something you can do forever either.
The book that changed my life
I think my journey in self-development started when I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It felt like every single page I turned was a lightbulb moment in my head. It just related to my life so much – about living your dreams and how we put important things off and how other people can trample on our dreams. I must have been about 27 when I started reading it and I remember having this clear realisation that I’d let so much go ahead of what I wanted. With my PTSD I was always on red alert and concerned about everyone else, it was as if my wellbeing didn’t matter. I started to really ask myself why didn’t I matter to me? I knew I didn’t want to live like that anymore – on this loop of temporary fixes that weren’t making me happy. I knew that if I started to fix the longer-term problem, however uncomfortable that might be, the end result would be a lot better than just drinking and going out with my friends and continuing this awful cycle.
Divorce was the best time to find myself
At the time I was so distraught, I thought my whole world had been ripped apart, but little by little things started happening for me. Two weeks after leaving the marital home, I went straight out to LA to film and I had a thought that ‘this must be the making of me’. It was actually a really healing time – I took lots of books with me and kept on reading, meditating and writing down my gratitude and my pain. Yes, it’s an awfully painful thing to go through but I found what I was capable of. I didn’t know I had that kind of power or strength in me, and that’s why I say a seed has to break to become a tree.