Giovanna Fletcher is a best selling author, presenter, blogger/vlogger, columnist, mum of two and proud Essex girl. After launching the #iamanessexgirl petition, we sent Giovanna an email to make her aware of our campaign to redefine Essex girl in dictionaries and to encourage women to reclaim "Essex girl" in order to finally ditch the stereotype. Within minutes of sending the email, we had a reply and the support of this absolute superwoman. Between launching her new book, Happy Mum, Happy Baby, and her multitude of other commitments, Giovanna is one busy lady... we're so grateful that she made the time to answer a few of our questions here at The Mother Hub.
Were you aware that “Essex girl” was in the dictionary?
No, I had no idea.
What was your reaction when you found out?
I was utterly shocked, offended and mortified. We’re not talking about the urban dictionary here (it would still be horrifying but at least you could put it down to slang). We’re talking about the Oxford dictionary being one of the dictionaries involved. The definition given isn’t even the white stiletto wearing, blonde-haired stereotype I remember hearing about when growing up. It’s far more than that and it is completely degrading. More than that, it’s sending the wrong message out to young girls growing up in Essex who might think the rest of the population sees them that way.
Has the “Essex girl” label directly impacted you or someone you know? If so, could you tell us how?
I think whenever you introduce yourself to someone and say you’re from Essex you notice them give you a little look. I know growing up I definitely had that from guys. I would say I’ve had to work a little harder to show people I’m not what they’ve heard of through a stereotype. It had subsided for a while, but then TOWIE came along and reinforced what people thought – unable to see passed what the producers of a TV show wanted to convey for a storyline and ratings. That being said, the girls on that show are far more than big hair, glamorous make up and ridiculously high heels. They’ve turned their success on the show into successful businesses, which is incredibly clever and savvy of them!
Some people would argue that the “Essex girl” stereotype is just a bit of banter to be taken in jest… what are your thoughts on that?
I hate the term banter. If you’re being mean, you’re being mean. Plain and simple. Words hidden behind a laugh are still said to cause a reaction.
The petition is just one part of the campaign – here at The Mother Hub, we also want to publicly celebrate amazing women (like you!) who are from or living in Essex. What makes you proud to be from Essex?
I’m immensely proud of our beautiful county. I absolutely loved growing up in Essex, surrounded by the gloriously green countryside in Ingatestone. I’m not going to generalize and say ‘the people are friendly’, because there are plonkers everywhere you go around the world, BUT there really is a feeling of togetherness.
I must also say, whenever we travel and a hotel bring out their jars of Tiptree made Wilkin & Sons jam I feel a huge amount of pride. It’s so funny – I don’t think I’ve even been to Tiptree. Perhaps it’s just because their Sweet Tip Raspberry jam is the best I’ve ever had and I enjoy knowing it’s made near where I grew up.
You are a shining example of a woman from Essex who has gone on to achieve amazing things. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
To not care so much about what people think of me. It really doesn’t matter. It’s what you think of yourself that really counts, so spend more time focusing on that and less time being nice to those who really don’t deserve it.
Why do you think it’s important for Essex to reclaim “Essex girl” and finally lose the stereotype?
I think it’s important to lose the stereotype for the young women growing up in Essex who might be discouraged from pursuing the life they desire. But more importantly I want every young woman from Essex to realise they are not a stereotype. They are individuals with their own set of dreams and ambitions. I want them to head towards their goals – if anything, let this age-old, ridiculous definition give you the fire to succeed and be the best version of yourself possible.