REALITY TV sparked his career and that of his ex Jade Goody, but Jeff Brazier is determined their sons won’t follow the same path.
It’s a chat he has had with budding model Bobby “so many times”.
Bobby is signed to modelling agency Unsigned Group. He has appeared in fashion spreads in magazines and even made his catwalk debut for Dolce & Gabanna at last year’s Milan Fashion Week.
Asked how he would react if producers of ITV2’s Love Island came calling on Bobby’s 18th birthday, Jeff tellingly replied: “We’d have a good chat about it, let’s just leave it there.
“The thing that works against him is he has on his CV that he has walked the Milan fashion show for Dolce & Gabbana.
“My thing to him is, ‘You can’t do both. So which do you want to do? Are you going to show some patience, back yourself and ignore the offers that you are inevitably going to get?’
“Have I ever had a conversation with Bobby about what he’s going to do and completely fretted about the fact he might experience anything like what myself or his mum has done? Yeah. I’ve spent quite a lot of time worrying about that.
“I say, ‘If that’s all you’ve got going for you and you hadn’t done that modelling and it doesn’t look like there’s plenty of opportunities available to you, then go ahead. It’ll be a great experience no doubt and you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Or, [you could do] as I say . . . ’
“We’ve had the conversation so many times. It’s very obvious which one I prefer, but it’s not me making the decision. It would be scary.”
Jeff, 41, is well aware he might sound hypocritical. He first got noticed in Channel 4 reality show Shipwrecked in 2001, and in 2004 won Channel 5 series The Farm.
It led to presenting roles on BT Sport, This Morning and I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here Now.
Jade was propelled to fame by her 2002 stint in Big Brother. The former dental nurse, who grew up on a Bermondsey council estate with drug addict parents, managed to amass a £3million fortune.
But Jeff says Bobby and Freddie — who is signed to the same modelling agency as Bobby and posed for his first shoot in November — have more potential than either he or Jade.
He said: “I’ve always tried to impose on them that if they’re going to be known for something, let it be a talent, a skill, something you’ve trained in.
“Some people might feel that sounds quite ironic, me saying that. I’m very grateful for my life, my life experiences and career.
“But there are a lot of difficulties attached to being known in a certain way and we always want our children to avoid pain, obviously.
“A lot of kids look at influencers and imagine that is the best job they can have. But it’s a lot of hard work and you have to deal with a lot of trolls and a lot of slating.”
Jeff admitted that his boys have already suffered abuse on social media just because of their family and history.
He said: “Bobby’s pretty good with it. He’s able to ignore it. Freddie hasn’t quite had his moment of prominence, if you like. He’s still followed by a ridiculous amount of people for a kid his age but I don’t think he really uses it that much.
“Of course you worry about these things, but keeping the lines of communication open in case something unnecessary is said [is important]. They can share it and we’ll work it out together.”
No topic is taboo in the household, with Jeff having even spoken to the boys about the uproar sparked by the race row Jade was embroiled in on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
Jade made racially insensitive comments towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, 45. It led to effigies of Jade being burnt in India, and drew 44,500 Ofcom complaints plus condemnation from then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 70.
Jade subsequently apologised profusely for her behaviour in several interviews, and donated her fee to charity. In a bid to make amends she took part in Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, hosted by Shilpa, in 2008.
While there, she was told test results confirmed she had cervical cancer. It claimed her life at the age of 27 on Mother’s Day 2009 — when her boys were just four and five.
Jeff appeared in ITV show The Real Full Monty in 2018 to raise awareness of cancer.
In August 2019, Channel 4 marked the tenth anniversary of Jade’s death with the docu-series Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain.
She also featured prominently in vintage episodes of Big Brother on E4 last summer, and on the BBC series Celebrity: A 21st Century Story, in December.
Has it been hard for the boys to see more of their mum’s image lately?
Jeff said: “We don’t need triggers from the television or the media to remind us what is respectful and what we need to do for our grief.
“We’re running in parallel. Over here in real life you’ve got the day-to-day living with grief and the kids having to bring themselves through their childhood knowing they’ve lost the most important person in their life. So the two are really separate.
“We as a family will do what we need to make sure she’s remembered and we’re looking after ourselves.
“Teenagers don’t love opening up about anything, let alone grief. It just means you have to step in and adapt your role slightly.”
Jeff has been open with his sons about his own flaws after starting a process called re-parenting. It encourages him to confront rejection and abandonment issues stemming from his time in foster care as a child.
He has launched mental-health podcast Only Human after retraining as a life coach and grief counsellor.
He said: “I’m very open about the fact I’ve been having therapy the past three and a half years.
“It’s been life-changing to get rid of your limitations and understand the things that hold you back are often just echoes of things you’ve experienced as a child.
I’m very open about the fact I’ve been having therapy the past three and a half years.
“I talk my kids through what I learn each week, and they’ve had grief counselling, so that subject isn’t stigmatised in our house.
“That is something I’m really, proud and grateful of because if my kids ever hit trouble in their adult life they’ll always know what to do about it and not feel embarrassed about the fact we might not navigate life perfectly.”
Jeff has also not shied away from admitting that his marriage to PR expert Kate Dwyer, 30, ran into serious difficulties a year after their 2018 Portugal wedding.
On what he learnt from their troubles, Jeff said: “It’s a sign of great strength to be in a position to discuss things that are not necessarily attractive or going the way you wanted them to.
“I used to use positivity as a means not to feel things I didn’t want to. I’ve completely flipped that now and I’m the first to say ‘that was rubbish’ or ‘this is difficult’, and as a result it makes me a lot more human.”
Jeff’s honesty has inspired Bobby to talk to his 162,000-strong online fanbase about his own mental health — and it’s making a difference.
Jeff said: “He did a few videos and I had parents messaging me to say ‘thank you so much for bringing up such a wonderful son who has said things about his own mental health; my daughter who has struggled, all of a sudden she’s going out and exercising’.”
Jeff, however, wasn’t as confident as Bobby that he would be taken seriously as an authority on mental health, in part due to his reality TV background.
He said: “I always wanted to do a podcast on mental health but I’ve never really had the courage.
“Coming into the industry the way I did, I’ve not ever known my value. A lot of my career has been spent being guided by the offers people wanted to give me. It took me until I was about 37 to begin dictating what I wanted to do, as opposed to gratefully receiving whatever other people thought me worthy of.”
Like the rest of the nation, the family’s mental health has been put under strain by Covid restrictions.
Jeff believes the strength the boys showed following Jade’s passing has helped them weather the pandemic.
He said: “Their resilience does come from their tragic experience of losing Mum. They’ve had to develop that resilience, that patience and that sense of, ‘right, what can I do in order to keep myself busy’ which they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
“Those skills, those traits might come in handy later. It’s the hardest time for a teenager. With Freddie doing his GCSEs, how on Earth is he supposed to knuckle down and know what he’s meant to be doing?
“And Bobby has to deal with the frustration of the fact things were really starting to fall into place for him with modelling.
“When they’re able to socialise and mix with their friends properly I’ll be so pleased for them — and all kids, really, because it’s hard on everybody.
Their resilience does come from their tragic experience of losing Mum.
“This is their childhood. Imagine when they’re 20, 30 years older and their main memory of childhood is the 10-11 months they spent literally doing nothing. It’s very sobering.
But with a roadmap back to normality now announced, Jeff is looking ahead to a promising future for his sons.
He said: “Bobby’s getting up at 5am, he’s meditating, training, reading all the self-development books that I never expected he’d be remotely interested in.
“And you look at him and think, ‘yeah, there’s no reason you can’t achieve whatever you want if at 17 you’re invested in yourself that much’.
“I would love to see him mentioned as Bobby the model as opposed to Jade’s son Bobby. Both are true statements but ultimately he has the right to be known for his own achievements.”
- Jeff Brazier – Only Human is available to download every Tuesday from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the Absolute Radio app, absoluteradio.co.uk, and all mainstream podcast providers.
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]