Joey Essex on dealing with pain of mother’s suicide while finding fame on Towie

Joey Essex has spoken of the pain he was feeling over the death of his mother at the same time he was rocketing to fame on The Only Way Is Essex.

The reality TV star, 30, was 10 when his mother Tina took her own life.

Essex said going through school was “tough” and his father thought he would end up working in the fish market.

However, his life changed when he was cast in a reality show about the lives of young people in Essex.

TRIC Awards – London
Essex with co-stars Gemma Collins, Sam Faiers and Cara Kilbey (Yui Mok/PA)

He said: “I was still a kid really, I had failed at all these jobs, and then it was like, boom, I was on Towie.

“So all that heartache and pain of not being able to work, I didn’t know who to run to, I had no money, nothing, and then the next minute, boom, everyone knew me in England, I was the most famous boy in the UK, everyone knew my name, I had loads of money coming in.

“It was crazy for me. And I was dealing with pain at that time, which no one knew about.

“It was still there, trust me. It was hard. It was overwhelming for me, I couldn’t believe it, and all I was thinking was, ‘I wish my mum was here. What is this? Why is this happening?’

“It was crazy. I always knew something like this was going happen to me. I always said this, I always knew that something was going to happen to me, but I just couldn’t work it out because my mum wasn’t around and although it was great, and it kept my mind busy, I was still sad, and I always have had this sadness in me.”

Essex, who has made a BBC Three documentary about his grief and the impact it has had on his life, said losing his mother at such a young age made him the person he is today, but also made him realise he had been playing a role of being tough.

National Television Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Joey Essex (Ian West/PA)

He added: “I’ve always seen life is like I’ve got nothing to lose anymore, nothing can ever hurt me.

“That’s why I’ve got this strong mentality which people don’t know because people don’t see that.

“What you see is some funny (person) with white teeth smiling on TV, pissing about all the time, but the reality of it is I’m very thick-skinned, I’m very tough and I’ve been brought up by a very tough family as well.

“Going into this, I had the same mentality, of, ‘It’s just another show, it will be fine’.

“And it’s so crazy, I’m not even lying to myself – that is my personality, ‘I’m tough, I’m this, I’m that,’ and that’s probably why I’ve never spoke about it.

“Then going into the documentary and taking it head-on, I think I’ve realised that I have been playing this role of, ‘I’m this, I’m that, I’m tough’.

“I had to open up about it, and I found that out, throughout the documentary, that sometimes your mind can play games with you.”

He continued: “I find it hard to watch the doc but you actually see me take a deep breath before I actually unload and open up to the therapist.

“And I think that was the moment for me when I finally took a turn in my head, to admit the truth, because I was on the verge of turning the whole show upside down at one point, the whole doc and running away from it.”

Joey Essex: Grief And Me is on BBC One at 9pm on June 3 and from BBC Three on iPlayer from 6am.