The Real Jessica-Jane

Sheffield’s Jessica-Jane Clement, 24, made her name stealing wallets in BBC TV’s The Real Hustle and stealing hearts as Cindy Marshall in Sky One’s football drama Dream Team.

We caught up with her to find out how bullies helped to further her career, why she’d love to do Strictly Come Dancing and why she thinks there’s no better way to relax than giving a back wax!

Where in Sheffield are you from?

Ecclesall.  About two minutes from the city centre.

What was it like growing up in the area?

I had a great childhood.  I have great parents, a great family – I don’t know any different.  I wouldn’t say I was spoilt rotten, but I was very privileged, and I’m very grateful.  When I look back and compare it with other people I’ve met since I left home, I realise how lucky my brother and I are.  I’m very close to my brother, who is two years older than me – we’re always calling each other for a catch-up.

So you’re close to your family?

Oh yes, really close.  My grandma lived with us in a little granny flat, and when I was growing up my uncle and grandparents were always around.

How hard is it to live away from them?

It was terrible when I first moved to London, I hated it.  When I first started modelling, I spent a fortune on train fares and hotels because I didn’t want to live there.  But as time went on, and I was getting more and more work and spending more time down there, I began meeting people along the way.  Eventually it became obvious it would be cheaper to live in London, so my mum helped me buy my first little flat and I’ve been here ever since.  I still go home at least every six weeks, although I would prefer to go more often.

What does your family think about your success?

They love it!  They’re really proud of me, and very happy for me.

So how did you find it being a teenager living and working in London?

When I first moved down to London the only place I knew was Oxford Street, so when I wasn’t working I’d just go there every day and go into Top Shop, and I’d spend hours in there just trying things on.  But because modelling is quite a cottage industry, I started to meet the same girls in castings, and we’d be doing the same jobs, so I started to get to know people and I met a lovely group of people who are still my friends now.  But I still see my friends from Sheffield as often as possible – I’ve known Helen and Laura since we were two, and my friend Yvonne, who I met at college, is moving down here soon so I’m really looking forward to that.

So what are the differences between London and Sheffield?

I’ve been living in London for six years now, and the difference is amazing.  I didn’t realise how friendly people were up north in general.  I’m from Sheffield, so I’m used to it, but I’ve realised that it’s not just South Yorkshire, it’s the north.  Everyone’s got time for you, people stop and have a conversation with you when you’re just popping to the shop.  I love Eccleshall Road, I love the people; it’s such a breath of fresh air to come back home.

I used to come home twice a month, but I can’t always do that now, although I do get home as much as I possible can.  If I’m not happy I always go home – my happiness and health are very important to me.  I love my work, but if something makes me miserable I will drop everything and go home for a while to be with my family and friends.

Where’s the first place you go when you’re back in Sheffield?

As soon as I get home, I always head to Nonna’s with my mum.  It’s an Italian coffee and champagne bar and restaurant, and I absolutely love it.  I had my last two birthday parties there, and the staff made a cake without even being asked – they always look after us really well.

You went to High Storrs school – how do you think your teachers would describe you?

I was always conscientious – that word popped up all the time.  Very quiet, but that would depend on the teacher.  It’s amazing how a teacher can influence you – the lessons I did well in were the ones with the nicest teachers.  School wasn’t too bad, but college wasn’t such a good time for me.

What happened at college?

I was bullied really badly.  Some people just took an instant dislike to me and made my life really difficult, to the point where I didn’t think I could finish my course.  They’d steal my money, spread rumours about me; at one point there was no one who would talk to me because this group of people were spreading so many lies about me.

That must have been really difficult for you – how did you cope?

I told my mum that I wanted to quit, but she convinced me to go back in with my head held high.  I’d done nothing wrong, so why should I be the one to go?  She gave me such great advice and really made me believe I could do it.  And I did – I carried on going in, I didn’t speak to anyone and they didn’t speak to me, and I just got on with my work.  It wasn’t easy, but my mum told me to just be patient and in the end people would see the real me, and that the bullies would reveal their true colours.  And they did – after about three months people started talking to me, one after the other, and they realised that all the rumours had been just that – rumours.

That must have taken an incredible amount of strength?

It was all thanks to my mum.  She told me to just bide my time and that it would all come good, and she was right.  It’s made me a stronger person, and I learned so much about people, and it’s made me really good at reading people.  I can tell as soon as I meet someone how they’re going to be.  It was a tough time, but it’s given me a lot of strength and insight into how people tick.

Your ability to read people must come in handy when you’re filming The Real Hustle?

Definitely!  I do have a lot of emotional intelligence – eye contact, confident body language – I’m a good communicator.  And it probably all stemmed from my time at college, my fascination with people and how they act and interact with each other.

That’s why I never rehearse any of the scams on Hustle – just let me do it and I’ll find out how this person reacts to me.

That must be quite scary!

Not at all – I never get nervous. Well, not anymore anyway!  I suppose I used to when I first started doing the show four years ago – there were a few sleepless nights.  But when you get into it and do it the nerves just disappear, so I thought if the nerves disappear when I start why be nervous before?  It’s unlikely that anything will go wrong, and if it does I can usually talk my way out of it.  If we weren’t 100% confident that we could get away with it, we wouldn’t do it.

So what happens behind the scenes when people realise they’ve been scammed?

The producer goes in, tells them what’s happened, and tries to get them to sign a release form.  There have only been a couple of occasions that people have said no.  They usually just laugh it off!

What’s your favourite hustle?

I’d say the very first one I did.  I walked into a shop, bought a necklace and paid in cash.  Then the boys walked in pretending to be undercover cops, saying I’d been buying stuff with fake cash, and then took the cash and the necklace as evidence.  We spent weeks rehearsing it, and had a different plan for every eventuality.

You almost missed out on your role in The Real Hustle – why was that?

I was involved with the show when the idea was first being developed, but then I got offered a part on Dream Team, Sky One’s football drama.  Because it had been my ambition to act ever since I was a little girl, I felt I had to take the part, even though I really wanted to do The Real Hustle.  So I chose Dream Team and started work on that, but then the producers of Hustle called me and said they’d fit in around my schedule, so it meant I could do both.

Dream Team and The Real Hustle are two very different shows, and two very different characters.  Which would you say most resembles the real you?

The Real Hustle definitely.  There are no similarities whatsoever between me and Cindy Marshall, my character in Dream Team!  When I first started the show she was a bitch, a real gold digger, and I remember saying to the producer I wanted to show a softer side to her – I didn’t want her to be a stereotypical Wag.  I was familiar with that whole scene, even though I’d never been a part of it, but I knew those girls had problems and put on a harsh exterior.  I was only supposed to be in a few episodes, but because the producers developed the character and showed a different aspect to her I ended up staying for two series.

So what are your thoughts on the whole Wag culture?

Oh, I could write a whole book about it!  I think it’s scary that girls are growing up with aspirations to be a Wag instead of a teacher, or a vet.  It’s like a religion, and it scares me.  It used to be that if you had a great talent and worked hard, you could get somewhere.   Now, it seems that talent is irrelevant and people just strive to be famous, but without any idea of what they actually want to do to get there.  I’m a great believer that fame, if it comes, should be a by-product of a great talent, or hard work, or as recognition for something you’ve achieved.

You were in Celebrity Scissorhands at the end of last year – how was that?

They contacted me in 2007 and asked me to do it, but I couldn’t because I was working in Las Vegas.  So when they asked me again last year, I jumped at the chance.  It was an honour to be involved in such a huge and well-known charitable cause.  And I absolutely loved it – even the back, sac and crack waxes!  I had to do one on my first day, for someone who’d been sponsored by his friends.  He tried to chicken out at the last minute, and I said, ‘Mate, you’ve got a cheque for £3,500, you have to!’

I made really good friends on the show, I learnt new skills, and I loved doing the treatments, they really calmed me down.  I don’t like getting massaged or pampered myself – I just can’t relax enough to enjoy it, and I’m always really conscious of how the other person is feeling.  But I find it really relaxing to be the person doing the pampering, and giving facials or waxes.  I’m not squeamish at all, so I’m just happy to get the gloves on and get stuck in!

Have you kept up the haircutting?

Well, funnily enough I met my boyfriend, Lee Stafford, on the show, and as he’s an amazing hairdresser I haven’t needed to!  We got together shortly after the show, it’s going really well, we’re very happy.

Would you consider appearing in another reality show?

Not just for the sake of it, no. Although I’m a confident person, I’m also very private and I wouldn’t be comfortable just being on TV at any cost, being watched having conversations and confrontations.

But if I was given the opportunity to work towards something, like I did with Celebrity Scissorhands, I’d jump at the chance.  If I could do one show, it would be Strictly Come Dancing.  I absolutely love to dance, and although I stopped having lessons when I was 16, it’s still something I really enjoy.  I appeared in a couple of pop videos when I first moved down to London, and I still enjoy having a boogie with my lovely boyfriend!  But if I was able to take that further and actually learn a craft and a skill, I’d be thrilled.

So what’s in the pipeline for you at the moment?

It’s a very exciting time for me right now.  Over the last six months I’ve realised that I don’t have to chase a career just in front of the cameras, and that realisation was a great release for me.  I just woke up one day and thought, ‘I’m chasing dreams I’m not bothered about achieving’. I realised that I don’t have to stick to the plan I made when I was younger.  Things change, and now I’ve accepted that, I’m a lot happier with myself and my life

I haven’t found my niche yet, but I can feel myself getting closer to it.  I’m a lot happier and more content, and I love my job but there’s something else out there and I definitely feel close to it.

I’ve been given some amazing opportunities and I’ve been incredibly lucky.  I’m starting to focus on how I can develop those opportunities now, and move on to other things.

What sort of areas do you want to move into?

I’ve had a lot of interesting and exciting experiences while I’ve been working on The Real Hustle, and also some experiences that weren’t so good.  In one particular show, I was in a wheelchair and as soon as I sat in it, it was like I became invisible.  It was a very upsetting experience and really opened my eyes to the way people discriminate without even thinking.  I write about everything I do, I have notebooks all over the place, so I’m developing some ideas with people at the moment on how we can take that further.

I’m speaking to a lot of people about a lot of things at the moment.  I’m setting up meetings, networking, and generally just annoying the hell out of people!  And it’s working – I’m shortly going to be shooting a film in Liverpool, although I can’t really say much about that yet.

How about the modelling work?

Yes, I’m doing lots of that at the moment – I’m going to Ibiza for a photo shoot soon.  I stopped doing it for a while, and I wasn’t sure if it was the right direction for me.  But I enjoy it, and it helps me to get out there and meet people.  I know it won’t last forever but right now it makes me happy and while it does that, I’ll carry on.

Career-wise, what would you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?

Probably doing the show for four years and sticking at it.  There was a point I was doing Dream Team every day of the week and Hustle at the weekends, and I started to get really ill and I got a stomach ulcer.  I’m very young to get a stomach ulcer, but it was caused by stress.  I was getting all sorts of physical symptoms, my eyes were really sore, everything was just breaking down.  I got to the point where I had to miss days acting, and I’d never done that before, so I just had to accept that I couldn’t carry on working as hard as I had been.  It just wasn’t worth it to my health – I realised that was more important.  That’s why now if I’m ever upset or feel myself getting ill, I just stop and go home to Sheffield for some time off.  Your health is far more important than your career.

Is there anyone you aspire to, either in your career or your personal life?

No. I don’t aspire to be like anyone, you have to set your own goals. I will never say I would like to be like anyone, because everyone’s different.  If you set out to emulate someone else, you will never achieve it because it just isn’t you, and you’ll end up disappointed.  I believe in inspiration, not aspiration.  My mum inspires me, people around me inspire me, the world inspires me.

Have you ever met anyone who you’ve been star struck by?

Not really!  I’ve met a lot of people in my work, and you realise that they’re all just people.  The only person that I think I would really be in awe of is Bette Middler – I love that woman.  Everything about her is wonderful, her singing, her acting, the characters she plays.   But I find that most people these days are so accessible -there are so many celebrity magazines, people are all over the internet, it takes away any air of mystery.

So you’re not a fan of social networking sites?

I’m glad you asked me that, because there are so many fake sites out there from people pretending to be me!  I am on Facebook, but it’s set to private and it’s for my friends and family only.  I’ve had conversations with people on Facebook and Myspace where I’ve asked them why they’re pretending to be me, and they write back saying, ‘No, I’m Jessica Jane, why are you saying these things?’  I just find it all so strange.  What are they trying to achieve?

I’d just like to make it clear once and for all that I don’t have an official website yet!  There are so many out there, which is very flattering, but they have incorrect information on them and it can be quite damaging.

I’m hoping to get an official website up and running soon, and it will be called jessicajaneofficial.com, but until then, they’re not the real me!