Posh and pampered, educated at a £30,000-a-year boarding school and a paid-up, proud, pro-fox-hunting member of the Conservative Party, the Made In Chelsea star wasn’t exactly the archetypal People’s Champion viewers traditionally vote for (see: Scarlett Moffatt, Vicky Pattison and Kerry Katona).
“And with a name like Toff,” she says, “before I even open my mouth people already think I’m a bit of a silly so-and-so. And then when I do open my mouth and speak like this, people go: ‘Urgh.’”
Does she think she’s suffered from inverted snobbery?
“Oh my gosh, yes!” she says, eyes wide for emphasis. “Completely! I don’t care where people come from, but others are fascinated about where I come from. So, yes, top of my priorities was [getting rid] of some misconceptions.”
Which is exactly what she did. Over the course of the three-week show, Toff showed herself to be kind, caring, funny, gutsy and bright. She didn’t have any arguments, never badmouthed anyone, defended Iain Lee when the alpha males in the group ganged up on him and was universally liked by all her campmates.
“So thank god I did the jungle,” she says, “because it proved that you can speak like this and live on the King’s Road, but also be a kind person and fun.
“I just thought of myself as being a bit of a mess and quite scatty, so to come out with people saying really nice things about me was embarrassing, but also amazing.”
Since Toff was crowned Queen of the Jungle in December, life has changed immeasurably. She’s landed a presenting gig on This Morning, has several “exciting projects” to be announced this year, and is stopped for selfies wherever she goes – that, ahem, distinctive voice doesn’t really help her keep incognito.
“My voice is so recognisable,” she says. “I’m like a foghorn walking round shops on my phone. And particularly when I’ve had a glass of wine.
“If someone had said to me this time last year that I’d be on the cover of magazines there’s just no way in hell… so it’s been a real adjustment.”
She continues: “By nature I’m not very confident. Some people are made to be famous and do photo shoots, but I’m not one of them. I’m more comfortable in the library! I’m incredibly lucky that everyone is really nice to me. Maybe because I’m a very positive person, perhaps that rubs off on people.”
It’s true that she’s positive – but she’s no pushover, either. Toff, 23, might be super-sweet and lovely and all that jazz, but she has no problem whatsoever with asserting herself and is more than adept at getting her own way.
She absolutely won’t have her make-up done according to our shoot brief, and later gives an MIC publicist the heave-ho when she wants to sit in on the interview.
Each mini act of defiance is carried out firmly with no room for manoeuvre, but also with a massive dose of charm followed by lashings of praise for whomever she’s just blindsided (“Oh thank you so much, darling. That’s so sweet of you and I really do appreciate it”).
It’s rather impressive to watch. You wonder how anyone could ever refuse her anything.
She certainly doesn’t make any apologies about who she is or what she stands for, having joined the Tory party at “14 or 15” when a mock General Election at her school ignited a passion for politics.
“I love talking about politics so much because I think it’s incredibly important,” she says. “Whenever I go into the Commons or the Lords [for an event] it’s like the best moment of my life. I know some of the guys on security and when I’m going through I’m like: ‘Hi! I’m back!’ It’s so lame.
“But I love it when people have opposing views to me, because I don’t want to walk around being ignorant. There’s nothing worse than someone who doesn’t listen to other views on the spectrum, because otherwise how do you know what you think is right?”
Could she ever date a leftie? Er, probably not.
“It would be too exhausting, I reckon. Because I really do go on. But then again, I’ve got a friend who’s going out with someone who’s really left-wing, and she’s right-wing and they actually really work. So maybe… but I’d have to really fancy him!”
She considers this for a second. She’s currently single after splitting from jeweller Charles Goode and then telling polo-playing fellow MIC star James Taylor she was too busy for romance.
“You know, I always moan that the guys I date don’t challenge me in the slightest – which they don’t – so what do I need? Maybe it’s a left-winger!
A really, really fit one, though. Ha ha! After a few glasses of wine I’ll be all: ‘Hear, hear!’ Hmm, I’ve never thought of that.”
Her taste in men, however, does seem to be – let’s be polite here – unconventional. A recent interview saw her declare MP Jacob Rees-Mogg a “sex god”.
She groans at the reminder.
“As soon as I said it I thought: ‘Oh, why did I say that?!’ Next thing I know it’s front page of The Times. Then I bumped into his wife at this ball, and I was like: ‘Hi, Helena, I’m so sorry I called your husband a sex god.’
But she was like: ‘Oh, I loved it! I can’t believe someone else finds him sexy!’ And well, I don’t, really… but I just went with it. He’s quite classic, isn’t he?”
If you say so…
“I really don’t agree with a lot of his political beliefs,” she clarifies quickly – JRM is a dad of six who admits he’s never changed a nappy and who famously opposes abortion and gay marriage. “But I do think he’s a great personality.”
Toff knows some of her own views are also unpalatable to many. Before last year’s General Election, the BBC current affairs show Victoria Derbyshire teamed her up for a “blind date” over dinner with left-wing campaigner Jack Monroe, and they clashed over the Conservative welfare cuts – which Toff described as “overwhelmingly positive” while dismissing disability benefit claimants as “lazy”.
She says today: “Jack said things that really upset me when I went home. Things like: ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be starving and want to die,’ and well, what can you say to that? No, I’m so sorry, I don’t know. And that did hammer things home. I was shocked because no one has ever said anything like that to me before.
“My point with disability benefits was that sometimes some people aren’t really disabled. And Jack said: ‘But there are people who actually are and it’s not their fault if there’s an idiot taking the mick out of the system.’
You forget that until someone like her reminds you. “What was particularly good was she listened and I listened.” Toff has no immediate plans to move into politics herself, although she wouldn’t rule it out in the future.
“When I first came out of the jungle, I thought: ‘S**t, I need to stop talking about politics.’ But I spoke to my agent and he was like: ‘No, don’t be ridiculous. It’s you!’ And I’ve always prided myself on being open and honest. That’s why I say what party I vote for.
“I’m a real lover of current affairs. I read the news before I go to sleep every night without fail. And I wish it was taught at schools. I met someone the other day who didn’t know what the #MeToo movement was.
And I thought: ‘What a shame for that person.’”
Back at the day job, she says she’s not sure how much longer she can stay committed to MIC, the show she joined four years ago after quitting a law degree. The cast fly to a glamorous destination every summer to film, which will clash with other projects.
“I don’t know if this will be my last series. It’s a massive part of my life and everything I’m doing is because of MIC. But I don’t think I can say two months abroad is doable at the moment.
“Even if I did take a bit of time off, I don’t think it would be the end, ever. I get itchy feet if I’ve not filmed for a while. It’s been a privilege to be part of such an amazing programme. There’s no greater joy for me than people sending tweets saying: ‘That was so classic,’ or: ‘That was so funny.’ I’ve found what I love doing!”
What would she have done if MIC hadn’t come along?
“Gone back to law and probably been really bored.
I don’t think I was made to be a barrister. I like bumbling around having fun. Although I suppose there must be lots of fun barristers out there.”
She certainly would have had the required powers of persuasion, which she used to cajole her campmate Stanley Johnson, 77, dad of Boris, into joining MIC for series 15, which is on air now.
Their friendship was one of the most entertaining aspects of I’m A Celeb! Despite Stanley’s initial prickliness, Toff won him over, and now MIC documents their wine-fuelled lunches.
“I kind of duped him,” Toff admits. “We were live on TV and I said: ‘Are you going to come on MIC with me, Stanley?’ and he said: ‘Yes, of course!’ About three weeks later I reminded him what he’d said and he said he was just being polite but he actually hadn’t heard a word I’d said. I told him we’d get to hang out, have a glass of wine and that’s it. And he said: ‘Well, Toff, I’m sold.’
“I think his grandkids think it’s cool. I’m thrilled he’s done it. Some people might think it’s a bit weird but he’s like a grandad to me. I hang off his every word. I talk to him about everything. I’m lucky to have someone like him in my life… Friendship shouldn’t be defined by age.”
I love Twitter as I can speak and rant. I’m not very good with photos.
Best Insta feed?
Tories of Bumble. It’s basically a load of Tories who have been found on Bumble.
Are you on Facebook?
Yes and not under an alias. I use it all the time.
From a fan. She said: “I love you Toff.” That’s quite sweet.
How do you take the perfect selfie?
Light in front and tilted up a bit so no double chins.
Social media – good or evil?
I find myself scrolling for hours and I hate myself. I was blissfully happy in the jungle without it.
Ask her what’s in the pipeline, and she goes uncharacteristically tight-lipped.
“I couldn’t possibly say if there’s a book coming out,” she says not-so-cryptically. “That’s a big dream of mine, though. I’ve just done some really cool things with Watchdog and Newsnight.
"I want to do my fun Toff stuff, but I also want to talk about things that really matter, because I’m in a really privileged position at such a young age with a big following and I could make a difference.
"So I’ve got to be very mindful of the people who follow me, and not just be flogging stuff on Instagram. I know I’ve got to make money, but I’ve also got a moral compass. I really want to choose things that I love and that I feel strongly about.”
Does she feel it’s harder to be taken seriously given her reality TV background, age and looks?
“I do feel like I’m on this never-ending mission to prove to everyone that I’m not just some blonde who walks down the King’s Road. But on the other hand, I do feel quite strongly about the fact that yes, I’m blonde, I pose in a bikini on the beach, I have hair extensions and fake eyelashes and that is a good thing.” Because, she says, it makes her relatable to a younger generation who aren’t necessarily interested in politics.
“You know, a girl might see that she’s got the same dress as me from Topshop and relate to that, and then think: ‘Toff’s thinking about politics. Maybe I should think about it, too.’”
- Watch Made In Chelsea, Monday, 9pm, E4.
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