AS well as a six-pack and bright white teeth, what would be really “reem” for Joey Essex – his classic word for “good” – is having a celebrity girlfriend.
The star of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins is single after splitting from US model Lorena Medina in March, shortly before he was pictured leaving Rita Ora’s home in the early hours.
Joey has previously insisted he is just pals with the 29-year-old singer but acknowledges she is a “sort” and admits that dating a fellow celebrity would have its perks.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, he says: “I normally date girls because I’m bored, but I want to settle down now and I do wonder how I’ll find the one.
“I’m single at the moment and I need to date someone in the industry because they’ll know the situation that if we go out, there might be people watching. I’ve dated girls before who are not in the limelight and it feels awkward.”
Asked if fellow reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner is still his “dream girl”, he jokes: “No, I’m her dream boy.”
Joey, 29, will no doubt have racked up plenty of admirers on his way to the final of Channel 4 series Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, considered the toughest contest on TV.
On Monday night’s show he will compete with boxer Tony Bellew, actress Nikki Sanderson, Rudimental’s DJ Locksmith, Paralympian Lauren Steadman and former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, tackling the gruelling course that is designed to discover if they have what it takes to be in the special forces.
And by getting this far, Joey believes he has proved he is more intelligent than many people believe — even though he has made at least one classic Joey gaffe.
In the first episode, when a doctor warned of the risk of fungal infections and Lyme disease, spread by blood-sucking ticks, Joey then voiced his fears about “fungaling and getting limescale disease” — a condition suffered by kettles rather than humans.
Even so, he says: “To get to this part of the competition you have to control emotions and be mentally strong. The show is more about how you use your brain than being physically fit.
“People might change their opinions of me but the ones who call me thick on social media didn’t bother me anyway. I may not be academically clever, but I’m clever in lots of other ways.”
Joey impressed the show’s military instructors, including war veteran Ant Middleton, by his physical fitness and positive attitude to the tough challenges, which take place in brutal conditions on the windswept Scottish island of Raasay.
He has yet to shirk any responsibilities — an attitude drilled into him by his dad Don, a former boxer.
Joey says: “I always knew I would be able to do it. Everything I’m pushed to do, no matter how much it’s going to hurt and I’ll suffer, I’ll give it my best shot.
“I was brought up to be tough and to listen but the hardest thing was being cold. Me and cold weather don’t really get on.
“I caught hypothermia after one challenge and was put in an ambulance. They didn’t show it on TV.
“We were back at the base and I lay in a sleeping bag and couldn’t get warm. I couldn’t speak — I was almost in a coma.”
Joey entered the series in impressive shape, thanks to his rigorous personal training regime, which mainly involves skipping. But his drive wasn’t only to prepare for the SAS missions — he is afraid he’ll gain excess weight.
He says: “My family are all quite big and I’ve got the metabolism to get quite fat. I need to be careful as my dad was my weight and size at my age when he was a boxer, he was absolutely ripped.
“As he got older, he got really big, so I’ve got that in me. All my family are huge — my dad’s brother is called Big Greg.
“They weren’t on TV so they didn’t care as much. But for me, I get anxiety if I look at myself and don’t look as good as I looked two weeks ago, so I automatically start doing press-ups and skipping. I present myself as a good-looking guy, really ripped and very reem, I need to maintain that.”
Joey was raised by lone parent Don following his mum Tina’s suicide when he was ten.
He says the tragedy affected his schoolwork, which may have been a factor in why he wasn’t as academically blessed as his pals. After flunking his GCSEs he went into full-time work but developed a habit of getting sacked — by three stockmarket firms while trying to become a trader, and before that, by two fish markets.
Recalling his brief spell in the fish trade, Joey says: “I was a freezer boy and this guy put sweet-and-sour sauce in my gloves and told me to fetch some prawns.
“So when I dipped my hands in these gloves I got sauce all over them. I had no money at the time and these were my own gloves. They cost me £20. I refused to go into the freezer, so they sacked me.
“The next day I got a job in a salmon factory but I fell asleep in the changing room because I started work at 4am, so I got sacked from there too.
“I hated those jobs because I smelled like fish every day, and I wanted to smell reem.”
Then he began a career in reality TV, first in 2011 with ITV2 show The Only Way Is Essex, which spawned appearances in I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here! in 2013 and two series of his own show Educating Joey Essex. His new fame gave him the platform to launch his clothing brand, Fusey. For the self-proclaimed fashionista it was the perfect next step for his ambitious, trend-setting ideas, which have included wearing a watch on his leg, shirts with just the top button done up and trainers three sizes too small.
Joey admits he has splashed “far too much money” on clothes since finding fame, but his spending power could now be set to increase.
He says: “There’s a company that looks after Cristiano Ronaldo- branded products who I’m meeting with after lockdown.
“They do all his gym equipment and want to work with my brand Fusey. They’re really high-end.
“They want to do a more affordable range and bring out weight and gym mats. So that’s exciting.
“I’m going to be the new Ronaldo — and I’ll be up for modelling pants like him, too.”
- Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins is on Channel 4 on Monday at 9pm.
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