We arrived at Home House, a prestigious private members club in Central London on a sunny morning, I was greeted by a smiley and rather tanned Jamie Laing, in high spirits and fresh from his honeymoon. We settled into an opulent drawing room with soaring ceilings and glittering chandeliers. The venue was our choice and Jamie was in awe of its grandeur. Jamie looked up, taking in the decadence and said with a mischevious grin on his face, “How can someone own a place like this?!”
A lovable joker known for his Peter Pan personality, however Jamie is ready to start a new chapter. Jamie isn’t afraid to start over, he once bunked off from his wealth management internship and dived head first into the unchartered territory of reality tv.
He opened up about only managing a day in his first and only internship, Jamie recalled, “I remember thinking, this can’t be what life is about. For some people that fits, for me, it didn’t. I quit on the second day and I never told my mum. I used to wake up every day for a month, put a suit on and pretend to go to work.”
Despite his seemingly uncrackable smile, Jamie acknowledged his catapult to fame hasn’t always been easy to navigate. As he relaxed into an armchair, he explained, “It’s actually tricky work. I think when you are given something like a reality show, or you’ve been invited into the entertainment world you get given this golden ticket and you haven’t been to auditions or necessarily worked really hard. You’re just suddenly on television and you have this perceived success.”
He added, “If you become famous as a musician it’s great because you sell more tickets. If you become famous as an actor you get more movie roles. But when you’re famous for being a reality star, you’re just a familiar face. People just want to take your photo. There isn’t any obvious career path.”
He continued, “I always get asked by people for advice, if they want to go into reality and I say ‘well if you want to go and do a reality show, you really have to have a plan. Do you want to set up a business? What are the steps after? Have a plan otherwise you’re just some person who was on a show.’”
However, reality television has enabled Jamie to pivot his personal brand and expand into new ventures. From the birth of his multi-million pound vegan-friendly sweet company, Candy Kittens, to his podcasting empire Jam Pot Productions.
He disclosed, “What happens is that you get given this sort of success early on and you automatically think that’s going to happen again every time you start something, but boy does it not happen that way. You really have to work hard.”
He confessed, “I was perceived as this guy who lived on his parents’ money, who was a bit of a reprobate and just got drunk all the time. At the beginning, that’s all fun and everything but then you suddenly realise, holy shit, that’s what people actually think I’m like. You have to rebuild your own image from a young age and then that’s the much longer route around.”
Describing one of his most crippling experiences of imposter syndrome, Jamie recalled winning a BAFTA for his time on Made in Chelsea, “I remember getting on stage and being so excited, but I also remember standing and looking into the audience and thinking, shit, this is actually embarrassing. I saw so many people who had been striving their entire lives to be there and suddenly, these kids who were just on a reality show were standing on stage. I kind of had this impostor syndrome where I was like, oh God, I don’t just want to be a reality star.”
Jamie’s passion for podcasting led him to nurture a space that enabled people to get to know him on a deeper level. He explained, “I think podcasting is an amazing platform because there’s no other medium where you can get an hour just to talk about whatever you want. I think it’s so authentic and authenticity has to be the biggest thing now.”
With an appreciation for his Made In Chelsea roots, Jamie admits that the show was also a springboard for his startup Candy Kittens and became a perfectly timed marketing opportunity to bring his dream to life. Growing the brand with his business partner Ed Williams, they navigated an often difficult FMCG business, with tight margins and expensive processes.
Jamie added proudly, “It’s really hard to grow a business, but we’ve really grown over the past 11 years. I used to be nervous about admitting that, because every single time I spoke about it someone would imply it is because I must be rich. We started with £3,000, that was it and built it from there. We can proudly say we are one of the fastest growing confectionary companies in the whole of Europe, which is amazing.”
He continued, “In any business, it’s really important to try and find your counter person, mine is my business partner Ed Williams. Starting a business is very lonely and that is why 73% of businesses are co-founded. You’ve got to find the Yin to the Yang. What I am, he is not and what he is I am not. We’re like a triangle where we’re two different points and we meet at the same place. We never argue, never disagree and we trust each other impeccably which I think is really important.”
He continued, “Naively we always had this idea that we wanted to create the best sweet possible and that was our vision from the very beginning. So what that meant at the time was to be vegan because we wanted to remove all animal gelatin.”
He added, “We made sweets sexy and fun and exciting when everyone else in the market was putting animal products and things like that in their sweets. We just did it because we naively thought that that was going to work. I really think that naivety is your biggest weapon because when you don’t have an understanding of an industry, you do things that no one else is doing, by accident and actually, that’s the winning formula.”
As Jamie steps into a newfound sense of confidence and self-belief, he attributes a lot of that confidence to his marriage with Sophie Habboo.
He confessed, “I was very nervous about saying that things were successful because I felt bad saying it. Maybe now because I’m married, I’m more confident that actually what we’ve built for ourselves is quite good.”
He smiled warmly, “It’s not that I’m reinventing myself, it’s just that I now have the confidence to be like, actually, what I’ve done already is great.”
Federico Ghezzi at One Represents using Hair by Sam MacKnight and L’Oreal Mens Expert Skincare.