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From Love Island to Made In Chelsea, we’ve watched Zara McDermott’s private life and relationships play out on our screens.
But as well as the highs, there have been lows, as viewers saw when the 24-year-old and her boyfriend Sam Thompson temporarily split after she admitted to cheating on him.
However, when new magazine catch up with the reality star, she’s keen to set the record straight and tells us they’re stronger than ever since reconciling last November.
“We’re so strong and solid. A lot of people won’t be able to believe that and will think I’m just saying it, but I’m the one who has to live it,” Zara tells new. “We wouldn’t be together if we didn’t make each other so happy.”
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Viewers will get to see much more of this grown-up side of Zara thanks to her BBC Three documentary, Zara McDermott: Revenge Porn.
The one-off programme explores Zara’s experiences after she was a victim of revenge porn at school aged 14, and again at 21, after she entered the Love Island villa.
As she meets with other women who have found themselves in similar situations, Zara opens up on how she felt when the explicit images were leaked and how it’s time to tackle the problem once and for all.
Here, Zara talks to new about how her past has shaped her, how she and Sam, 27, have overcome their issues, and why she’s decided to quit Made In Chelsea.
Hi Zara. Why did you want to make this documentary?
I’ve always felt very strongly about this topic. There’s such a social imbalance in how it’s dealt with, and how victims are blamed so heavily for the crimes that other people commit towards them. It has made me determined to make a difference and, if I can use my story to be pivotal in that change, I will.
You open up about how low you felt at 14. How bad did it get?
It’s all a bit of a blur, but I was so low. I hope and pray I will never be in that place again because I would never wish those feelings upon my worst enemy. I felt like I had no one. I felt I couldn’t turn to my family as I’d embarrassed them, and nobody wanted to be my friend. I felt like a general disappointment to everyone around me. And it went on for so long. People still didn’t want to be my friend when I was 18. It dented my entire schooling life.
Then it happened a second time just after Love Island…
It was a massive punch in the gut. I was so upset and devastated from the one where I was 14 that when I was 21, I was more angry. I thought, “How can you do this to me? I don’t understand why you think you’re entitled to share my body.” I realised, “Wow, you can’t trust anyone.”
Zara McDermott confirms she has quit Made In Chelsea after two years
Made In Chelsea’s Zara McDermott hates people bringing up her cheating past and wishes fans would let her and Sam Thompson 'move on'
What’s the reaction been like to the documentary?
Completely overwhelming. I have had so many messages from so many different people, all saying it has helped them. A lot of women (and a fair amount of men, too) have opened up to me about their experience and I was blown away by the sheer number of people who have been victims of this crime. The documentary has allowed people to have those often-difficult conversations. Not only that, it’s made victims feel as though they are not alone.
How has that affected you?
I have been extremely emotional, reading all the lovely messages and seeing how many people have taken the time to watch it. I am beyond grateful. I know I am a small voice in a huge world but knowing that I have been able to make a difference to some people’s lives is the best feeling I have ever experienced.
What does Sam think of it?
He was so excited to see it. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner and team-mate. I couldn’t have done some of it without him. It was emotionally challenging at times, especially when trying to find the courage to confront the men that shared my images. But he was always in my corner, encouraging and motivating me to not be afraid and to be my strongest self.
Have your experiences made it harder for you to trust men?
I’ve always made a conscious effort to not project what has happened in my past relationships on to my present one. Every person is different so it would be unfair to project trust issues that I have on to Sam. Sam’s an angel. He would never do anything to hurt me. We’ve all made mistakes – I’ve definitely made my mistakes – but fundamentally, relationships without trust are pointless.
You and Sam have had your fair share of ups and downs. How are you now?
It’s honestly better than it ever was before. A lot of people said to me when everything went on, “If you guys are meant to be together, you will be.” I had to trust that because I believed so wholeheartedly that we’re meant to be together. Unfortunately, Sam caught me at a time in my life when I wasn’t sure of myself and the person I wanted to be. I was a young, stupid, 22-year-old girl. I’m 25 this year and he’s now seeing, “Right, this is her.” He’s watched me grow, has seen me learn and it’s only made us a million times stronger than before.
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So you’re closer than ever?
We’ve ridden through everything, come out so strong and with no issues. Neither of us have trust issues. We’re so strong and solid. A lot of people won’t be able to believe that and will think I’m just saying it, but I’m the one who has to live it. We wouldn’t be together if we didn’t make each other so happy.
Does it feel good to have owned up to your mistakes?
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that sometimes you have to be vulnerable and hold your hands up and own your mistakes. You have to say, “I messed up and I’m incredibly sorry.” So many people reached out to me and said, “I’ve made a similar mistake, please don’t beat yourself up. Forgive yourself.” And that’s the key thing to being able to move on.
What’s the best thing about your relationship now?
We laugh all the time, every single day. There’s not a moment that goes by when we’re not laughing about something. We’re each other’s best friend. He’s everything.
He looks like he’s a real laugh to live with…
He’s very funny. He’s very quick with trying to find the next TikTok video. Sometimes I think he puts too much pressure on himself to find the next funniest thing. But he’s brilliant. He’s great fun to live with.
Will you both be back on the next series of Made In Chelsea?
I’ve left Made In Chelsea now. I’ve left officially and I’m not filming this series. Being in Made In Chelsea has given me some incredible opportunities and I will never not be grateful to the show for what it’s given me. I was an Essex girl so to be able to go on a prestigious show like that was great, but now I just really want to focus on doing something for myself.
Was it your decision to leave?
Yes. I had a really turbulent last series, obviously, and I was so emotional. Everyone saw me cry every week. That’s because of the pressure and the anxiety that comes with knowing every single person is going to watch and that this could go viral on the internet. You’re not dealing with something privately, you’re dealing with a real issue so publicly. And you deal with everything several times – we had to deal with it first when the story came out, second when we filmed it, and third when it went out. I had to relive it three or four times, and that’s hard on the soul.
Do you think it’s hard to escape the reputation of reality TV?
There’s a huge misconception about people who work in reality TV, that they don’t have a brain cell and things like that. They’re things that I’ve heard before, but they’re so categorically untrue. You should never be tarnished because you want to do reality TV. It’s an incredible stepping stone and opportunity. There are many people who say, “I would never do it,” and judge it, but I don’t think there are that many people who would turn down an opportunity like that. However, I’ve grown emotionally a lot, especially during that last season of Made In Chelsea, and after living what happened so many times over, it’s now time for me to just take a step back from it.
Zara McDermott: Revenge Porn, available now on BBC iPlayer
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