By Katie Wright, PA Fashion and Beauty Editor
Gemma Collins is slightly late logging onto our Zoom call – not because the self-confessed Diva Forever (as per the title of her reality show) has just rolled out of bed, but because she’s been urgently attending to her thirsty plants on one of the hottest days of the year.
The former The Only Way Is Essex star, aka The GC, developed green fingers during the pandemic, and now watering her wild meadows (“lovely for the bees and butterflies”) and vegetable patch is her top priority of a morning.
“I went to Chelsea Flower Show this year,” she begins in that instantly recognisable accent. “Amazing as it is, my garden gives it a run for its money. You know? I’m just being honest.”
So what’s sprouting in the queen of memes’ Essex garden?
“Peppers, carrots, courgettes, beetroot, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, cauliflower, spring onions, onions,” she reels off. “You name it, the GC’s growing it.”
The 41-year-old – who has appeared on a range of other high-profile reality shows, from Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… to Dancing On Ice – is now a firm fan of Gardeners’ World – and a certain swoon-worthy presenter.
“My dream is to meet Monty Don,” she says. “I’m obsessed. My dream would be to do a TV show [with him], or even just stroke his arm. I watch all his shows. I sit there and I’m like, ‘Rami, be quiet, I’m taking notes’.”
In 2021, Collins reunited with partner Rami Hawash (48), who originally proposed to her in 2013. Despite being photographed wearing a ring once again, she insists the couple haven’t set a date.
“That ring he bought me years ago – I’ve always kept it. If we’re going somewhere nice I’ll put it on,” she explains. “He is my partner and we love each other, so it will happen, but there’s no rush. Jason Momoa might put a call in yet!”
Currently working with much-loved hair brand Aussie, Collins says her previous desire to be “the blondest person on the earth” left her with dry, damaged locks, but the Antipodean company’s moisturising products came to the rescue.
“It was very damaged by the bleaching, but my hairdresser the other day said, ‘Oh my God, your hair is so thick now’. And I was like, ‘Yes, thank you, finally’.”
Has being blonde helped the TV legend’s career success?
“Do you know what, I think any hair colour… I would have made it work. I was a very determined individual.”
After more than a decade in the spotlight (and reportedly achieving millionaire status), the reality star advises any wannabe GCs to work hard and grab every opportunity that comes their way.
“Just keep cracking away, and also try to put a positive message out there whilst you’re working, you know? It’s not all shopping and lunching, you’ve got to have a purpose.”
Celebrating self-acceptance is part of Collins’ purpose now, a message she regularly shares with her 2.2 million Instagram followers, even though she’s not entirely enamoured with the social media site.
“I find Instagram an absolute bore off now,” she says. “Everyone looks the same. I mean, please, where’s the individuality? You can’t just go out and have a picture with your mates. Everyone wants to check it, perfect it, you know?”
Not the GC, though: “I don’t care if I do a video and I’ve got back fat. I don’t care if my belly’s hanging out, because that’s me, hun. That’s me.”
The “very spiritual” celeb is a big believer in the power of crystals and positive messages. She says: “We have to be kind in what we say to ourselves. Like, if you say, ‘Oh, God, I’m ugly’ or ‘I’m fat’… Your body’s taking on that vibration and that message. I’m just permanently trying to raise my vibration.”
Turning 40, going through the pandemic and settling down has helped Collins – who used to play up to her diva reputation – embrace a more quiet life.
“I do think he brings out more of a grounded side in me,” she says of her partner. “He goes out with Gemma, not The GC.”
Now, she’s happier pottering with her plants than posing on the red carpet.
“I just feel like you get to a point in life and it’s the wholesome stuff that’s more important,” she says, wrapping up our chat.
“Listen, it’s all different stages in life. I don’t know, I just have nothing to prove anymore.”