From X Factor hopefuls to primetime TV stars and social-media superstars, STACEY SOLOMON has had an amazing career. Cole Moreton hears from her why she owes it all to the challenge of raising her son Zach – at just 17

Stacey wears shirt, Anthropologie. Earrings, Monica Vinader. Necklace and bracelet, Alex Monroe

Stacey rocks a shirt from Anthropologie. Earrings, Monica Vinader. Necklace and bracelet, Alex Monroe

 Stacey Solomon feels elated. ‘The birth was incredible,’ says the TV presenter, talking publicly for the first time about the recent arrival of her daughter Rose. ‘I knew deep down I would love to have her at home. That meant Joe could spend the entire time with me and my mum could also be there. She’s been there for every one of the boys being born.’

Stacey lives in rural Essex with her three young sons and fiancé, the actor and TV presenter Joe Swash, but they both knew he would not be allowed to be present if it was a hospital birth because of Covid restrictions. Then on Monday 4 October – Stacey’s 32nd birthday – events moved unexpectedly fast.

‘I felt strange but not in full-blown labour,’ she says. ‘I wanted to make sure everything was OK. We drove to the community hospital nearby, where I’d had my appointments with the midwives.’

Stacey had a long way to go before she realized it, but her midwives were kind enough that they honored her request for a homebirth. ‘They examined me and told Joe to pull the car around and they’d follow us home. It turned out I was 8cm dilated, so they broke my waters at home and after around 40 minutes of crazy contractions, Rose was in our arms.’

What did she feel the first time she saw her child? ‘I just felt on the biggest high. I haven’t always had that rush after birth – in fact, it has been the opposite. But I think there was something about feeling in control and being at home, and the sun shining through my bedroom window… it just felt so surreal. I couldn’t stop smiling.’

Dress, Anthropologie. Earrings and bracelet, Dower & Hall. Ring, Boodles. Boots, Russell & Bromley

Dress, Anthropologie. Earrings and bracelet, Dower & Hall. Ring, Boodles. Boots, Russell & Bromley

Stacey is smiling again now and quite right too, because as well as a new baby, a loving partner and a new £1.2 million home near Brentwood, she also has a flourishing career. The struggling teenage mum who sang in The X Factor final in 2009 may have only finished third, but she has amassed a £5 million fortune off the back of her hard work. Now she’s a social-media sensation with nearly five million Instagram followers, she had one of the fastest selling nonfiction books of all time with Tap to Tidy and has her own new BBC series called Sort Your Life Out, commissioned after the pilot was watched by four million people.

Stacey, along with her team, visit families who have become overwhelmed by clutter. The show’s star, Stacey, helps hoarders sort through their clutter and decide what they should keep or what they can sell, throw away, recycle and reuse. Imagine the ruthless approach of tidying guru Marie Kondo delivered by someone who makes you smile, laugh and has empathy for the people she’s with.

Sometimes, the show can go unexpectedly deep. ‘There was an Asian family who were so lovely, the Patels. As an outsider, you’d look in and say: “Why would anybody have so many Tupperware boxes?” But I grew up with a Jewish background and my family were exactly the same. All your boxes were empty, so you filled them up with chicken soup. Then you gave the food to someone who was in need. I get it.

People still think i’m dumb because of my accent. This makes me sad. 

‘My Nana, whose family had come from Poland, was so nervous all her life, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I think in some communities you almost inherently pass on this feeling you’re going to be kicked out of a country or something’s going to go wrong. A lot of people from different backgrounds, or who have felt suppressed at any time in their life, hold on to any possessions they have, because you just never know when you’re going to lose them,’ she says with feeling. ‘I really relate to that, and I see my own family and my own self through them.’

Stacey and Joe live with Rose, their two-year-old son Rex and Stacey’s boys from previous relationships: Zachary, 13, and Leighton, nine, in a mansion – that she’s called Pickle Cottage – surrounded by 2.5 acres of land. (Joe, 39, also has a son – Harry, 14 – from a previous relationship.) ‘I grew up in Dagenham so I’ve never experienced countryside like this. It would have been my dream to have a treehouse, to build stuff.’ But if anyone had told the young Stacey she would have this life one day, she would probably have given one of those big, life-affirming guffaws that are her trademark.

It was filled with love, but not much money. ‘I loved my childhood. I didn’t know Dagenham was a poor area, it was just home. Mum only sold up about six years ago.’ Her mother Fiona was the child of a vicar but converted to Judaism to marry David Solomon. Stacey was born to the couple in 1989. They split when Stacey was just nine years old.

After attending a Barkingside modern Orthodox Jewish school, Stacey planned to take her A-levels to study musical theatre and then audition for every part. ‘Singing was my absolute passion.’

Things didn’t quite work out that way. ‘I was at college, just 17, when I met Dean. Then I got pregnant, but I didn’t find out until really late on.’ Her explanation is hilarious. ‘I’ve never been a super-skinny girl and I worked in a chippy so I was eating a lot of saveloys. I finished them up at the end of my shift so they didn’t go to waste. Genuinely, I just thought: “God, I’ve got to lay off the food.”’ She really didn’t know? ‘At that age I wasn’t tracking my periods. I didn’t even click.’

Her stepmum worked it out when Stacey got nauseous at the smell of onions that weren’t there. It turned out she was 24 weeks pregnant. ‘I could have had an abortion. My options were discussed at the clinic. It was definitely something I considered, because I thought my life would be over,’ she says. ‘That sounds awful and I feel guilty about it every day because Zach’s incredible, but it is what it is. I wouldn’t judge anyone for going through with it.’ She chose not to have a termination, though. ‘It was just something I couldn’t do.’

For the 17-yearold, birth was very difficult. ‘I’d never had any sort of injury to even slightly prepare me for the pain. Zachary came when I was still a child. It was like being a superhero. All of that went away immediately when I gave birth,’ she says. ‘I felt vulnerable, like I could die at any point. That played a huge role in the anxieties I had from then up until now, really.’

Are they still available? ‘Yeah. However, these anxieties have made me more vigilant about my own health and I make sure to get checked up on a regular basis. I was motivated to succeed and care for my family because of them. If I hadn’t had Zachary, would I have pushed myself as hard as I’ve done over the past 13 years? I don’t know that I would. So, ultimately, that decision to have him has made my life.’

Stacey with Joe and, from left, Zach, Leighton and Rex at home in March

Stacey, Joe, Leighton, Rex, Zach and Leighton at home in March

Stacey was really struggling after Zachary was birthed, but. ‘For a long time I felt I was being cruel to him. I beat myself up about the fact I wasn’t financially stable. I went back to college as soon as I had him, so he went straight into the crèche and hardly saw me, which I felt terrible about. Then after college I worked in the fish and chip shop.’ Some of those around her disapproved. ‘A lot of people would say: “You’re bringing a child into a world who’s going to have nothing.”’

Dean, his father? ‘Yeah. It was difficult. They were both children. I don’t speak much about their dads [she split from Leighton’s father Aaron Barham in 2014 after four years] because I don’t think it’s right for [the kids] to read it.’

Stacey’s life began to turn around when her mom took her along to The X Factor auditions. Three times she went, and her renewed post-baby determination was what got her through. ‘I was the last person in the room. There was Zach, me and some baby sickness on my foot. I’m not joking. The producer came out and said: “It’s been a long day and the judges are really tired. We might not get around to you.”’ She protested and changed their minds. ‘The lady in charge had had a child at a really young age and she made them stay. I’m eternally grateful to her.’

Stacey was thrilled to appear on the program. ‘You can’t imagine what it was like to have had a baby at 17 and felt everyone tutting at you on the bus, then to be standing next to Whitney Houston.’ Her idol was now her singing mentor. ‘It was just the weirdest thing.’ Her parents were hugely supportive. ‘They both said: “Go and enjoy it, Stace. Graft your ass off and see where it takes you.”’

And that’s what she has done, building a sliver of reality-show fame into something more lucrative and lasting by sheer hard work and force of personality. She made an album after The X Factor then moved on to presenting, but it was I’m A Celebrity… in 2010 when people began to see past any prejudices they had about this Essex girl.


‘There is the odd occasion when that really gets me down. People think I’m dumb because I don’t always pronounce my Ts,’ she says. ‘Or even just that I’m happy. Some people just don’t believe that it’s OK. They think it’s insincere or it means you’re air-headed or there’s something wrong with you.’ But that can go two ways, she says. ‘Half the time I battle with my accent and where I come from, because I do feel like I have to work harder; but the other half I feel it’s an advantage, because people expect absolute rock bottom from you. So I don’t have to do much to turn that around!’

Lately she has gained confidence from her social-media campaign Tap to Tidy, in which Stacey posts pictures of her own rooms before and after she’s sorted them out. It’s simple, but it is addictive for millions. What is the source of this need to be tidy? ‘When I had Zach I had to become more organised. There was absolutely no margin for error. This helped me to forget about the worries. Even now, if there’s something making me anxious, the best thing for me to do is to focus on a task. Then the intrusive thoughts don’t get a chance.’ Tap to Tidy became a bestselling book that topped the Amazon charts. ‘I’m at the point where I feel like I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody.’

The time has come to Sort Your life Out. So what are the three things she couldn’t let go of herself? ‘I made a little rock family,’ she says, laughing. ‘It’s just a load of pebbles. They went to a beach. I brought them back, glued them together in the form of a family, and added the date and location. I can’t let go of it.’

Stacey’s chuckle is infectious. ‘Second thing is, I’ve got the kids’ memory boxes, which I will never let go of. My 13-year-old is like: “What the hell is that, Mum?” It’s got his umbilical cord in it… I love to go through them.’ The third precious item is her mother’s wedding ring, and soon it will be her turn. ‘I met Joe in the [I’m A Celebrity] jungle in 2010 when I was with Leighton’s dad, so it was completely platonic. After we had laughed and said our goodbyes, that was all. I didn’t see him for another four or five years. He invited me to join him on the show that he was producing and we became friends like family. We have similar values, similar families, similar personalities; we find the same things funny.’

With baby Rose, who was born last month

Rose, the baby girl who was born in last month

He was initially resisted by her, however. ‘I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all, because when you’ve got children it’s so difficult. It wasn’t worth my while having a fling. I couldn’t be bothered.’ Joe was persistent. ‘He said: “I’m older. “I have a boy.” This isn’t something I would usually do either.” For almost a year we dated without the kids knowing. They would go to sleep, I’d ask Mum for help and then we would have dates. We got to know each other slowly and fell in love.’

Why did she decide to marry him? ‘He’s such a good dad. I think that’s probably the most attractive thing about him. I also think he’s just normal. Sometimes it’s hard to find authenticity in relationships in this industry, because you never know where you stand and what somebody’s end goal is.’

Joe was responsible for most of Rose’s childcare. ‘I’ve been working a lot more than him lately and he has held down the home and the family.’ They plan to get married in the garden next year. I don’t want to sound harsh, but after working so hard for independence will there be any prenups? ‘It’s definitely something we would discuss, but our finances are already separate.’

What did the boy’s reaction be to this baby? ‘Rose was born at 3.15pm, so about 20 minutes later the boys were home from school and jumping into bed with us. They are so in love with her. They’re loving boys, we are so lucky.’ Who does she take after? ‘She’s hungry and sleepy, that’s all we know about her so far. She smells like rainbows and has the softest skin in the world.’

Stacey had a miscarriage prior to this pregnancy, and believes that the baby they have now will be their last. ‘We have to live within our means. We strive to be the best parent we can. And when we were trying to have this baby, it wasn’t the process we thought it would be, so we were just so grateful to even get pregnant. I don’t want to push it any more. This is enough.’

It’s hard to think of anyone more grateful for her good fortune than Stacey – a smart, determined woman who had already worked her way to a happy place before her daughter was born. Are you ready for the next chapter? ‘We are so blessed.’

 Sort Your Life Out is on BBC One on Thursdays at 8pm and on catch-up on iPlayer. Follow Stacey via Instagram at @staceysolomon

 Holly Elgeti is the stylist

 Make-up: Emma Osborne at One represents. 

Sven Bayerbach hair at Carol Hayes with Drybar.