Before I went on Gogglebox, I could never have imagined how hard it is for women in the public eye. I thought celebrities lived in a different world, I took everything the tabloids printed as gospel, and I barely even used social media. But in 2017, three years after Id been catapulted into the public eye, I was in the darkest place of my life, feeling completely alone and often ringing Samaritans when things got really bad.
I never planned to be on TV. I was 23 and working in Asda when my friend Tommy asked me about Gogglebox. He worked on the show and couldnt find anyone to audition in the north east so asked if Id do it, to help him out. I went down to the auditions and my mum came during her lunch hour, too. The next day they said they wanted us on the show and we had two days to decide. Its 50 and a free takeaway, whats the worst that can happen? I remember thinking.
When the show aired in 2014, we got Twitter so we could chat to people while it was on. Immediately, I started getting really horrible messages about how ugly, fat and stupid I was. All of a sudden, all of these people that didnt even know me were forming opinions about me from five minutes on a half-hour show. It hit me hard. I thought about quitting, but back then Gogglebox wasnt as big as it eventually became and I didnt want other peoples comments holding me back.
As I started to get more TV opportunities, I chose to look for the positives and go for it. I was being offered things that people from my little town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham could only dream of.
Two years after that, after I came out of the jungle after winning Im A Celebrity, everything was good. I felt very lucky. Looking back, at that point I realise I had been put on a pedestal. In the press it was just nice story after nice story, and then with Ant And Decs Saturday Night Takeaway I was a co-presenter for a time it was the same thing. But I quickly noticed, the more popular I was getting on TV and in the press, the more unpopular I was getting on social media. I was getting trolled way more with people attacking the way I look, speak, dress you name it.
Scarlett went through her social media and picked out comments that she receives daily by trolls Suki Dhanda
I remember after the second episode of Saturday Night Takeaway aired, there were thousands of comments about how bad my teeth were. That got to me most because I was so insecure about my teeth as a child. Id smashed them in an accident and had ill fitting caps put on as I was too young for veneers at the time and had to wait until I was 21 to have them properly fixed. Seeing people pick apart something youre already so aware of made me not want to go in for the next show.
Around the same time early 2017 I was under immense scrutiny for my fitness DVD. My DVD is my one biggest regret, not just because of the terrible reaction, but because I put my name to something I dont even believe in. My sister is 13 now, and when I think about her obsessively trying to lose weight or looking at before-and-after pictures, it really upsets me. But back then, I was so nave, I had no idea how damaging it would be for my mental health as well as other peoples.
I was approached to do the DVD in 2016. I had no representation, I didnt even know what an agent was back then, in fact the offer came through to my Hotmail account. It was sold to me as a dream with no warning of backlash or detriment to my health. At the time, I thought it was a win-win: Id lose weight, get healthier and with the money they were offering, I could put a deposit down on my own house.
The company wanted me to lose around four stone, but about halfway through following the exercise and nutrition plan my body just stopped losing weight. It was as if it was just like, No, this is what youre meant to look like. I remember trying to soldier on but thinking the whole time, I actually really dont want to do this at all. But Id signed a contract, and when I tried to get out of it they told me that I would owe them loads of money if I dropped out. I didnt have anything close to the figure they wanted, so I had to go through with it. In the end, I was never actually paid a penny.
When it was really bad, I would ring the Samaritans, give a fake name and rant for 15 minutes. Talking to someone who didnt know me or judge me, helped.
Things only got worse when it came out. I got trolled really badly for being too thin, people telling me Id gone too far and was a bad role model. I understand now why people wouldnt want me to promote weight loss, but at the time it just felt like a wave of cruelty from every angle. Looking at the before and after pictures, I wasnt any happier in either and I quickly realised how awful this whole thing had been for me mentally. I ended up rebelling, putting all the weight back on in the hope that the comments would stop.
Thats when everything spiralled out of control. All of the trolling overwhelmed me. I stopped leaving the house, spending hours on Instagram reading nasty messages, searching hashtags of my name and reading the comments under online articles. I believed everything said about me. I felt I wasnt good enough for anyone. If I went on a date and posted date night on Instagram, Id get messages about how they were only with me for fame. So then Id sit on the date thinking, Well yeah, Im this big fat mess so why would anyone be with me for me?
One of the worst times was when I went on Aftersun on Love Island. I wore a low-cut dress and felt amazing at the time, but when the show aired I mustve had over 3,000 messages telling me I was fat and to put my boobs away. I remember Iain Stirling ringing me to see if I was OK, telling him I was fine then going home and crying for a week.
My family and friends never knew any of this. I wouldnt leave the house for days on end, but as soon as my mum texted me to say she was stopping by, Id clean up and act like everything was fine. I never wanted to see her upset or burden anyone with my problems. After all, my job was amazing, I just wanted them to see the positives.
I was at the point where I wanted to stop everything, quit TV, delete social media and move to a country where no one could have an opinion on me. But I couldnt do that. So I just wanted to disappear, I didnt know where I wanted to disappear to, but I needed it to stop everything felt out of my control.
When it was really bad, I would ring the Samaritans, give a fake name and rant for 15 minutes. Talking to someone who didnt know me or judge me, helped. Eventually, I broke down in front of my mum and told her how I was feeling. I ended up seeing a therapist for a year. Now, I have coping mechanisms to take me out of that dark place.
Ive grown a lot as a person since then, too. Not just with handling trolling, but how I feel about my body as well. A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of myself in a swimming costume something I wouldnt have done without a photographer even when I was thin and it felt amazing. I want my platform to stand for something different, to show people youre not just the sum of your parts or what you look like. Whenever anyone is on Love Island, I message them and say, If ever you need to talk to anyone, you can message me thats what I needed at the start.
And despite everything thats happened since Caroline Flacks passing, its clear that sadly nothing is going to change anytime soon. But that just tells me that we need to keep shouting. Sometimes, you feel like youre screaming at the top of your lungs and no one hears you. Thats why I wanted to speak to Grazia, because the more we open up, the more we can hopefully put an end to trolling once and for all. I feel lucky it didnt have tragic consequences for me because it truly could have.
Anyone can contact Samaritans free at any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number wont show up on your phone bill. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Samaritans.org to find the nearest branch, where you can talk to a trained volunteer face to face.
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Scarlett Moffatt: Ive Had To Ring The Samaritans Because Of Years Of Trolling - Grazia