Beauty not just skin deep for Toff

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By Hannah Stephenson

Bubbly party girl Georgia 'Toff' Toffolo, darling of the jungle in 2017, regular on Made In Chelsea, and newfound reporter for ITV's This Morning, would seem to have the world at her feet.

Yet recurring skin problems, which have left her with permanent scarring, have at times left the 23-year-old struggling with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.

"I've had terrible acne for the past seven or eight years. It comes in cycles - sometimes I wake up and it's fine, but I've still got really bad scarring and red marks. There are pits all the way down the side of my face," she explains.

"A day like that for me, when I've just got the scarring, is a brilliant day. Yesterday I woke up and I had two of the most enormous, hideous yellow spots. I thought, 'Today's a bad day'. But there's nothing I can do about it.

"I've tried everything through the years. I've been on really strong medication, I've tried topical creams, antibiotics, lasers - everything. I've got to the stage where I have a really strong skincare routine, lots of water.

"I've tried to curb my dairy intake because I'm sure there's a connection between my spots and dairy. But I've never actually properly cut it out."

Speaking to her today, she's upbeat, chatty, likeable and very open - it's no surprise she won the hearts of the nation while taking part in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, making a lifelong pal of Stanley Johnson - father of Boris - whom she sees as 'a grandfather figure', in the process.

She faced cockroaches, snakes and other critters in the jungle - yet her biggest fear was having to go in without make-up. She did take her concealer with her, though.

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"The night before, I was so upset," she recalls. "I'd done so much telly before the jungle. On Made In Chelsea, there's a yellow hue which filters everything. The viewers didn't know how bad my skin was.

"There's so much you can do with good lighting and good foundation. But I've done a U-turn on all of that, particularly post-jungle, because now I get thousands of letters from people saying, 'Thank you so much, I admire that you went make-up free and bared all'."

She writes about her skin issues, along with other challenging experiences - being cheated on, having her heart broken and other dilemmas - in her new book, Always Smiling, a semi-autobiographical guide to life, which includes chapters on dating, beauty and wellbeing.

She admits that for every message someone sent about the difference she was making in showing her make-up-free face, she'd get a cruel troll calling her 'pizza face' and talking about the 'craters' in her complexion.

Earlier this year, she opened up about her acne on This Morning, taking her make-up off in front of the cameras, visiting a dermatologist, and getting a little emotional when talking about her skin problems to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

"I needed a push from This Morning. Their vision was that I'd help people who struggle with their skin, but I had to get over this irrational fear of taking my make-up off on camera. I thought, 'Man up and do it' - and it was the best thing I ever did. Now, I've got nothing to hide.

"If I get papped and I'm having a terrible skin day, I've already shown everyone how bad it can be."

She says of the book: "It was quite important for me to share and be quite open about my insecurities. Sometimes in the celebrity culture, people look up to celebrities and think they are these all-perfect beings with no worries and no faults, and it's just so far from the truth."

Unlike some of her MIC pals, Toff, an only child, was not born into a millionaire lifestyle. Born in Torquay, her parents split up when she was a baby. Her father, Gary Bennett, has a background in the scrap metal trade, while her mother Nicola set up a property development company.

After going to private school, she went to the University of Westminster to study politics, but dropped out to follow other ambitions, and joined Made In Chelsea at 19.

2018 has been a hectic year for Toff, with her job at This Morning and the book, so she didn't go to Croatia with the MIC crowd for the new Made In Chelsea Croatia summer series.

"I still live in Chelsea and all my best friends are still on the show, so I haven't left, but I'm having a bit of time off. I want to be filming when I feel fresh and raring to go, not at the moment, but probably again."

She's currently "very happily single".

"I've been working so much - I haven't had much time. It's work first, family second, boys third at the moment," she shares.

Winning the jungle crown has raised her profile and given her many more opportunities, she agrees. She's still trying to manage the additional attention she gets when out and about.

"It's not a normal situation - people videoing you constantly and people staring and people shouting out of car windows. However, I do pinch myself because people come up to me and say the kindest things.

"You've got to carry on doing normal things. I don't think my life has changed apart from my work. I still hang out with the same people, I still go to my local pub, I still pop down to Tesco in my jim-jams. If you start to change with it, it would make you go mad. And my family are amazing. They keep me very grounded."

She remains friends with jungle pals Stanley Johnson, Rebekah Vardy, Jack Maynard, Jamie Lomas and Vanessa White.

She says of Johnson: "He's 77 and a tech wizard. Have you been on his Instagram? It's amazing. I call him Instagram-pa. He uploads three or four times a day. He hasn't quite grasped the concept of Instagram stories yet, it's a work in progress.

"Why do we get on so well? I have a thirst for knowledge. Stanley is a highly intelligent man who's quite old and he's done it all. I'll ask him questions and he'll know the answers to everything. I just hang off his every word. I see him as a grandpa figure."

She wants her career in TV presenting and writing to continue, although she's also dabbled in politics and is a member of the Conservative Party, but calls it a hobby rather than a vocation.

"I'd never run for MP. But I'm passionate about the fact that it's a great privilege for us to have a vote. I want young people to vote whenever there's an election.

"I don't care who you vote for, but go and have your say," she adds. "Politics is more important for people my age. We are going to be experiencing repercussions for the rest of our lives."

Always Smiling: The World According To Toff by Georgia Toffolo is published by Quercus

 

Catherine Devane