Joey Essex and Frankie Essex in April 2013 [Rex]
He’s fast becoming the standout star (and our absolute favourite to win) on this year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! thanks to his unfailing good humour, silly faces and ‘Joey-isms’. These include admitting that he doesn’t know how to tell the time or blow his own nose and thinking that his water canister was a man bag. So you would never in a million years imagine that behind Joey Essex’s cheery exterior is a hidden tragedy that The Only Way Is Essex star battles with every day. When Joey was just 11, his mother, Tina, committed suicide. In this week’s issue of Grazia, on sale today, Joey’s sister and fellow TOWIE star, Frankie opens up to us about the tragedy.
‘I brought Joey up with my dad and we’re so proud of him in the jungle,’ she says. ‘[Our mum’s] death affects both of us still to this day. There isn’t a day that goes by when it doesn’t.’ Joey and Frankie’s mother took her own life in 2000, after suffering from candida, an imbalance in the digestive system linked to yeast that can cause depression and long-term pain.
‘Joey was a real mummy’s boy and she’s still watching over us,’ adds Frankie. ‘Her passing has given us both a real drive. However, I talk about it all day long but Joey holds his feelings in, like a lot of men do.’ On the first episode of I’m A Celebrity…, Joey, 23, admitted that he couldn’t tell the time and wore his watch as a fashion accessory. He was ridiculed in the press and one newspaper implied he was stupid.
‘Joey wasn’t shy to admit that he can’t tell the time [to fellow campers],’ says Frankie. ‘I got upset when people were horrible about it because around the period when Joey would have learned to tell the time, our mum died. We didn’t have the chance. There were more important things going on in his life.’
Joey Essex as a young boy [ITV]
Frankie is confident Joey can see the show through to the end. ‘The drive that was instilled in Joey following our mum’s death will make him win. He’s gone in there a boy and will come out a man.’
To read the rest of our exclusive interview pick up a copy of this week’s Grazia, on sale today.