‘I WOULDN’T HAVE OF WORK DONE. PEOPLE YOU FOR THE THINGS THAT AIN’T
person I have ever met who could say the words ‘I would rather have drunk pickle juice. I do like a gherkin’ and not have it sound like a double entendre.
Dani is the ultimate Generation Z girl, the one who’s got all the smarts and feels all the feels. She rarely gets the ’ump (one of her words) about anything. In a world dominated by plastic boobs and silicone lips at one end of the teen and early-20-something spectrum (Generation Z was born after 1994) and snowflakes and Twitterstorms at the other, she’s the 32B real deal.
She’s huge right now. She and her boyfriend Jack Fincham are still floating high in the celebrity stratosphere after winning this year’s Love Island. Their relationship managed to elevate the whole programme from a guilty pleasure, in which someone might have sex on telly, to the level of national conversation. She is in a West End show this Christmas, starring alongside her dad, the EastEnders actor Danny Dyer, and, together with Jack, has an ‘at home’ reality show launching next month. A new book, What Would Dani Do?, is coming out next year. Her Instagram account has a mighty 3.4 million followers with fans including bona-fide cool girls such as the Stranger Things actress and teen Hollywood superstar Millie Bobby Brown.
Dani can therefore legitimately claim to be one of the faces and voices of her generation and it would be an unwise Millennial, Gen X-er or Baby Boomer who didn’t take her soft power seriously. ‘It’s mad,’ she says. ‘Who would have thought I’d get all that? Actually I’m scared of my followers. I don’t know what to do with them. It’s been overwhelming, having people being kind to me for just being myself.’
Being herself is 22-year- old Dani’s superpower in an age when authenticity is highly prized. Her fame, now immutable, actually only dates back six months to Majorca in June when she tottered – groomed, glammed and bikini clad – into the Love Island villa. She coupled up with stationery salesman Jack, 27, and stayed loyal to him for the rest of the show. Unlike some other contestants, the couple refused to have sex on screen. ‘I wanted to be able to look Jack’s nan in the eye afterwards and know he could look my nan in the eye, too,’ she says. She wore his underpants at night in bed with him to preserve her modesty. Calvins? ‘Yeah, course. Roomy.’
Now it’s a chilly winter morning, many, many degrees cooler – in every sense – than those red-hot villa days and nights. Dani is warming her hands on a newly sweetened coffee having paused to ask if anyone would mind if she Dani with her mum Joanne and dad,
star Danny took a lump of demerara. Generation Z maybe, but pan-generational good manners are, in part, what’s made her the nation’s new sweetheart. ‘I’ll keep me coat on while we chat,’ she says. ‘What’s the worst that could happen, eh?’ The jacket is lovely, fake fur the colour of red squirrel, it looks as warm and cosy as a cuddle. It’s from her own clothing range. Another surprise. ‘I have to have class in my clothes,’ she says. ‘Sexy but classy. I don’t do trashy.’
And she doesn’t: what emerges is a young woman who doesn’t do ‘trashy’ in any aspect of her life. She’s modest by today’s standards, frugal with her new income and, given that she’s planning to move out of London next year with Jack and their French bulldog puppy Sandy (because she’s Dani, ‘like in Grease’), she sounds pretty wholesome, too.
For starters, she’s a real homebird. Her favourite night involves a takeaway chicken balti, a face pack and Netflix, wearing properly ironed pyjamas. ‘My favourites are my red and white Coca- Cola ones, even though they make me look like Where’s Wally?’ If she does have to go out to a celebrity party, she longs to be home by 11pm and when she gets back she always has a cup of tea and a handful of Galaxy Counters. Does she count them out like Elizabeth Hurley counts her raisins? ‘No, I stick my hand right into the bag. I can hear them, in the fridge, laughing at me if I don’t.’
She is very happy with Jack. He’s a man who looked at a tooth-whitening chart in the dentist’s and picked the shade marked titanium dioxide (the whitest white known to science) but, boy, she loves him and that eye-blinding smile. With his sculpted abs, trademark quiff and perma-tan, you might think she’d want to make more of an effort than the comfy cotton PJs – her other faves feature Elsa from Frozen – but she says not. ‘He has no great expectations. I set the bar pretty low.’ He’s The One, though? ‘Yes. There wasn’t anyone fit to tie his bootlaces on Love Island.’ That’s nice. ‘It’s true.’
The couple are currently living in their first home, a smart rented apartment in London’s Docklands. ‘Imagine if your mate moved in with someone after dating for five months. You’d say, “Are you insane?” but I feel like we’ve been together for years. People said Love Island was testing, but it was a bubble. Coming out, that was the real test.’
It’s one they’re taking in the full glare of the gossip columns with everyone desperate to know the state of their sex life since they didn’t do it in the villa. It’s not something Dani’s about to share – ‘that’s never gonna be a chapter in my book’ – but Jack did recently tell a newspaper that it had been disappointing at first but was now blistering.
Ooooh, she was cross about that. ‘He was talking sh**. People seem to want to know what we are getting up to of a night-time but this is our life, not some sort of sex- education class.’ Nor will she post anything louche online, aware of the perils of her digital footprint. ‘No, nothing nudey, no bits hanging out. That’s for Jack. And my own sanity.’
Social anthropologists believe Gen Zeds have more in common with their grandparents and great-grandparents than the generations that immediately precede them, so perhaps it’s not surprising Dani sounds almost old-fashioned in her attitude to relationships and sex. She is looking forward to marrying Jack and starting a family, though not right now: ‘I am 22 and feeling it.’
She’s old-fashioned in her attitude to money, too, a saver not a spender. The priciest thing she has bought since becoming massively famous is a belt. ‘A Gucci one. Expensive.’ But