In my work I often come across people who are ready to blame anything and everyone for their own failures, faults and unhappiness. They walk around under a cloud and seriously wonder why positive things don’t happen to them.
It seems that dealing with ordinary, everyday life can be too much for them. So how do you stay upbeat when you are trapped in a tropical jungle for several weeks, being alternately starved, forced to undertake humiliating tasks and generally used as a plaything by the viewing public?
I for one don’t know. But the winner of this year’s “I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here” certainly gave us one clue as to how she succeeded, and to my mind provided advice we could all draw on from time to time.
When I heard another series (the tenth, believe it or not) of the reality show was about to be aired, I groaned. It is the same reaction I give every year. “How lowbrow can you get? “, I asked my husband, as once again he prepared to start watching the series. He didn’t answer, but just smiled. He knew I would come around. At first I told myself that I wasn’t going to watch a group of people enduring pretty awful conditions, and worse still, eating the worst the jungle has to offer for the public’s entertainment. But then curiosity got the better of me, I put down my iPad and started watching. I found myself hooked, not only on the main programme but also the discussion that follows afterwards.
Gillian McKeith was my first reason for watching. I couldn’t believe how annoyingly she behaved. She had a lot of phobias, many of which related to the insects, spiders and other animals that populated that patch of the Australian rainforest. I couldn’t help asking myself: why would she want to be there in the first place? At the same time I wondered (with some incredulity) whether she was really there to face her phobias, or if she was simply faking it for the cameras. I especially loved listening to Janet Street Porter’s unflattering comments about her in the discussion show. She was unconvinced about Mrs McKeith’s fainting episodes, believing each loss of consciousness to be a publicity stunt.
Yes, I found myself well and truly hooked. And asking around the office it seems I wasn’t the only one! It seems all those men in suits – people you would never imagine would spend their time watching the antics of a group of celebrities in the jungle – were also avid viewers.
Our new assistant solicitors were just as surprised that I watched the programme. I think it was a good reminder that the senior partner has a fun side too!
So why were we all watching? I don’t think it was because we desperately wanted to see a group of celebrities play silly games (the Royal family did an excellent job of that in 80s with “It’s a Royal Knockout”). I think it was the psychological trials that each contestant constantly underwent that made it so fascinating. It was a real insight into what makes people tick; how they think and act in situations that remove them from their comfort zone.
Gillian McKeith had her masterplan all worked out. She knew she was making great TV and no doubt it would (or so she must have thought) have increased her value in media terms upon her return from the jungle. All credit to her, but the public saw through it.
Nigel Havers didn’t fare well. He left as quickly as his celebrity status would permit. Under pressure and far removed from his normal life, he couldn’t hack it.
I thought the rest of them – even Britt Ekland – came over very well. They all gave it a go and good naturedly joined in. It must have been tough, because every one of them seemed to have lost a lot of weight by the end of the three weeks.
My favourite was definitely Stacey Solomon. I love her accent! She is a real Essex girl, and at times it is hard to make out what she is saying, particularly when she speaks quickly. But all the other contestants, who were far more worldly wise and sophisticated, vouched for her genuine charm. She never stopped laughing, took every trial in her stride and ultimately won out.
So what was her simple advice to viewers after winning? Two words: “Be happy”.
Quite simple advice isn’t it? This is the young girl who became an unmarried mum at 18, kept going to stage school to achieve her dream and then failed to find fame and fortune after finishing third in last year’s X Factor. But she still keeps going. She has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, a fanbase I would mainly attribute to her genuine and bubbly personality. She never stopped laughing, she never stopped being happy, and her fellow celebrities (who would have smelled a fake in seconds) all said she was for real.
In many ways I wish those people I come across every day would heed her simple advice. They often allow the “red mist” to descend and cloud their judgement. They refuse to consider that maybe – just maybe – it could all have been avoided. That perhaps the good fortune they enjoyed and threw away was lost because of who they are, not because of someone else. I believe that if you start taking responsibility for your own happiness, instead of blaming others for your unhappiness, then anything is possible.
So watching those contestants, irrespective of how much they got paid, having fun and making the most of it, not caring about how they looked and showing true British grit, was for me a celebration of all that is good about people. And ultimately Stacey, who has gone through so much in her young life but is still able to say “Be happy”, more than deserves to be Queen of the Jungle.