JACQUELINE Jossa was horrified when her hair began falling out after she had her first baby – and became terrified it would never grow back.
The 27-year-old actress is mum to Ella, five, and two-year-old Mia with her husband Dan Osbourne, and she suffered bad postpartum hair loss after her first pregnancy.
Jac was completely unprepared to lose her hair, not least because it had been so thick and full while she was expecting.
“My hair loss was completely round the front, all the baby hairs, and when it grew back it looked like it was all growing different ways,” she explained.
“My hair has always been my thing, my comfort blanket, I’ve always had long hair.
“[When it happened] it really worried me, I was really insecure. I was young, 22, I thought it would never grow back – like this is me now.
“It plays a big part in your mental health because you don’t feel like yourself, you don’t look like yourself. It 100% affected my confidence.”
The former EastEnders star made the admission during a talk with Katie Piper for her Extraordinary People podcast in association with the Pantene Pro-V Miracles Grow Strong range.
The pair aim to raise awareness of postpartum hair loss, with Pantene research showing 80% of women in Europe report suffering this kind of hair damage. Hair loss is also the most searched for term relating to hair, showing it's an issue women experience but are often too embarrassed to discuss.
Jac remembers how excited she was about how full her hair was when she was expecting, and she can pinpoint exactly when she realised things had changed.
“I noticed it properly the first time I was trying to do my hair [after having Ella]. I love wearing my hair up and I couldn’t for a long time,” she said.
“The first chat I had [about hair loss] was with the EastEnders' make-up artist and crew saying, ‘I lost loads of hair.' I didn’t really know anything about it and I was lifting my hair up saying, ‘Look!’ I was embarrassed because, being vain, it didn’t look like it did before.”
At that point she was playing Lauren Branning in EastEnders, which made things even worse.
“It was really terrible because Lauren used to always wear buns and I couldn’t do it because my hair was spiky,” she recalled.
On top of that, cruel trolls began posting about it on Twitter – asking what was wrong with her hair after she developed wispy sideburns.
Although heartbreaking for Jac, she was used to that kind of attention.
She opened up about the huge impact trolls had on her when she first joined the soap, explaining there was a point when she poured over Google looking for anything and everything people were saying about her.
“I wanted to be an actress first and foremost, I wanted to be on EastEnders so badly,” she said.
“You don’t think about what comes with it at all. I got the job and didn’t know you even got paid. I was 17 – now I’m like that’s a baby still, so young.
“As soon as I got on screens and got obsessed with what people were saying…
“They didn’t like the ‘new’ Lauren Branning, because I was a recast. And being a recast you’re compared to the person before. It genuinely felt like, 10 million people were watching and they hated me.
“They called me new fat Lauren, there were Facebook groups about me, thousands and thousands of people liking and sharing it. I want to say I get it but I don’t, I was actually quite skinny back then – size 8 and you’re calling me fat?
“I started caring so much what people think that if I had to cry [on screen] I’d try to pretty cry. I was googling myself every day. I was obsessed with reading forums about me.”
So when the star unexpectedly fell pregnant at 22, she was terrified about what people would say.
“There was no option for me, I knew I was going to keep the baby but it wasn’t a planned pregnancy," she said. "But actually everyone was lovely.”
She wouldn’t change anything about being a mum, with her daughters now her best friends.
Although being crowned Queen of the Jungle after winning I’m A Celeb last year remains a highlight, being away from her kids was one of the hardest things Jac’s been through.
Initially she coped by chatting to following contestant Kate Garraway about her daughters, but as her sting in the jungle wore on things got tough.
She forgot her kids’ voices and their smell, so eventually tried not to think about when because it was too upsetting.
“The word content just comes to mind,” she says of her life now.
“Loads of stuff that was up in the air for the last two years has landed, I’m in the right place for where I need to be just now.”
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