‘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