‘I was liv­ing a lie – now I’m happy’

Body demons blighted the former Made In Chelsea star, but now she’s on a mis­sion to change the way we all feel about our­selves


Once, you’d only know Ash­ley James for be­ing a Made in Chelsea re­al­ity star. The model, 30, orig­i­nally starred on the show as Ol­lie Locke’s love in­ter­est, but since leav­ing SW3 two years ago, things have all changed.

Now she’s pur­su­ing a whole dif­fer­ent ca­reer. Cur­rently pre­sent­ing be­hind the scenes for Hol­lyoaks (‘I love it – I lit­er­ally grew up watch­ing it,’ she tells us) she’s also a DJ at top events with BFF Char­lotte De Carle and, most ex­cit­ingly, she’s launched her fem­i­nist T-shirt line égali­tee.

With slo­gans like ‘Girl Gang’ and ‘Je Suis Femme’, empowering women is now what Ash­ley is fo­cused on and she’s keen to make sure that we all feel con­fi­dent in our own skin – she’s even im­posed a no-air­brush­ing pol­icy on all her pho­tos re­cently. It’s cer­tainly set­ting her apart from the crowd, and we want in. We grabbed her at her launch party for a chat…

Hi Ash­ley, we love your T-shirts! Why did you cre­ate them? I feel like there’s been a new wave of fem­i­nism and there’s still neg­a­tiv­ity around that word. I wanted to cre­ate some­thing around equal­ity, which is why they’re all uni­sex. Egal­ité means equal­ity in French. How did you come up with slo­gans? Dif­fer­ent slo­gans ap­peal to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Friends of mine in the in­dus­try all picked ones they liked and we put them to­gether. I like ‘Je Suis Femme’. I got them all to­gether to model them and also called them by my friends’ names. We have a Li­lah be­cause Li­lah Par­sons was my first mate in the in­dus­try and we’ve been through ups and downs to­gether. One’s named af­ter my house­mate Char­lotte [De Carle]. It’s blog­gers and DJS who sup­port each other. How did you end up as house­mates with Char­lotte? I met her three years ago. I had a spare room and she’d just split with her boyfriend. We started to DJ to­gether and be­cause we have com­pletely dif­fer­ent taste in mu­sic we started to mash up gen­res. It was a hobby that we got bet­ter at. What’s been your best gig? I still think our first gig in our lo­cal pub. We did it for free cider! The first gig means the most. It was funny. But then we also DJ for the Global Gift Gala Foun­da­tion. We’ve been all over the world and Eva Lon­go­ria usu­ally hosts. But I’ve yet to meet Vic­to­ria Beck­ham – that’s an aim of mine. Can you ever see your­self go­ing back to Made In Chelsea? TV is al­ways the dream and I have meet­ings all the time, but I’m do­ing pre­sent­ing now. I love work­ing with Hol­lyoaks – it’s sur­real be­ing on set as I used to have posters of Dun­can from Blue and Gary Lucy. What else would you love to present? Love Is­land, obvs. I don’t want to steal Caro­line Flack’s job, but I’m ob­sessed with re­la­tion­ships – maybe be­cause I’m so bad at them! Are you dat­ing right now? I’m not re­ally. I’ve been burnt so many times that I think I’m a bit hes­i­tant. I’m cur­rently read­ing The Five Love Lan­guages [by Gary Chap­man]. It helps you in­ter­pret re­la­tion­ships. Like right now I’m mes­sag­ing some­one who’s frus­trat­ing and it’s teach­ing me to be more vo­cal and com­mu­ni­cate how I’m feel­ing more. I down­loaded Bum­ble but I swiped the wrong way for ages! I’m bad at mes­sag­ing – I call peo­ple. You’re very vo­cal about body con­fi­dence – what makes it so im­por­tant to you? I’m re­ally into body con­fi­dence. When I was a model, I was Face­tun­ing pic­tures all the time. I lived a lie. I liked the edited pics more than the real ones. But the most con­fi­dent, pop­u­lar women are the ones em­brac­ing their bod­ies. If you go to the beach, you see all shapes and sizes and peo­ple are re­ally beau­ti­ful. I’ve got to the stage where I pre­fer some­thing real. I’d rather see a bit of cel­lulite. How did you fi­nally learn to ac­cept your flaws? Via self-help books and by tak­ing time out to fo­cus on my­self. With the no-re­touch­ing thing, I do it be­cause it makes a dif­fer­ence to others. Even if I reach four peo­ple, it mat­ters. I def­i­nitely want to keep push­ing body con­fi­dence for men and women – I ac­tu­ally get loads of men com­ing to me for ad­vice. I’d love to ex­pand in what­ever way. You have great style – where do you like to shop? Pret­tylit­tlething is amaz­ing. Oh and I’ve just bought that Gucci belt and train­ers. It’s the first de­signer wear I’ve ever bought my­self. I picked up the belt when I got my most re­cent pre­sent­ing job and friends keep say­ing: ‘Oh, you’re wear­ing the belt again,’ and I’m like: ‘Yes, I’m go­ing to keep wear­ing it be­cause it cost so much!’

Get Ash­ley’s T-shirts, £24 each with 10% of prof­its go­ing to Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, at egali­teeshirts.com

With fel­low DJ, BFF and house­mate Char­lotte De Carle

T-shirt, £24, égali­tee

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