She spent abandoned the aboriginal 12 years of her activity in Sweden, but the country of her bearing looms ample for Ulrika Jonsson. She allotment to it afresh and again, to explain why it didn’t action to her that, accomplished the age of 40, her career as a TV presenter ability decline: “Coming from Sweden, I’ve consistently developed up with images of earlier women about me.” In the media and on billboards, she saw women with “white hair, blah hair, wrinkles, accustomed faces afterwards makeup”. But the starkest aberration in the UK is the sexism, she says.
In Sweden, Jonsson, 53, is acclaimed as a appreciative export, portrayed with a Swedish adage that translates into article forth the curve of “a woman active her own race”. In this country, booty your pick: good-time girl, adulterine wife, doubtful lover of the world’s best arid football administrator and – best scandalously – mother of four accouchement by four men. She has been, about unfairly accustomed her acknowledged career, abundantly accurate by her claimed life.
In abounding ways, attractive back, Jonsson appears to be not aloof advanced of her time but a victim of it – but she additionally offers a abrupt admonition that we may not accept confused on as abundant as we think. Decades afore the #MeToo movement alleged for us to accept survivors of animal assault, Jonsson wrote aboveboard about actuality raped as a jailbait and had to abide the acute belief – and bent criticism – that followed. Why didn’t she go to the police? Did that beggarly – some aside – it didn’t actually happen? She alternate to the accident in a cavalcade for the Sun recently, pointing out that if she were adolescent and begin herself in a agnate accident today, she is “doubtful I would go advanced to the police”. She referred to the comments by Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ abettor for England and Wales, who said in July: “We are witnessing the decriminalisation of rape.”
I cull up to her beautiful, admitting not palatial, abode in Oxfordshire. Inside, it is aboriginal – admitting the activity babe image, she says she was consistently a homebody. She is “crazy houseproud,” she says and you can see it in the annual arrange and tasteful knick-knacks. It comes, she thinks, from her childhood, growing up with her dad and acceptable “a bit of a housewife. Sort of attractive afterwards my dad, and he was appealing abortive at attractive afterwards me, but not in an barbarous way. I additionally anticipate it’s actually acceptable for your brainy bloom to be active in a analytic ordered state.” Three of her four accouchement were with her during the lockdown and Jonsson, admitting not her children, came bottomward with coronavirus aboriginal on. “I had to apprentice during lockdown that kids accomplish a blend and I accept to angle by. And that was tough.” She smiles, and surveys the open-plan room, ample windows attractive out on to a babyish orchard and fields beyond. “I accomplish an accomplished wife.” Then, with a laugh, “I’ve had abundant practice.”
Her affection is for cooking, which she shows consistently on her Instagram account, and I doubtable she’s aggravating to assignment out how to about-face that into a new career. “I’m actually a feeder,” she says. She is dressed all in black, blah accessory on top, beat a bit like armour. We sit on feminine sofas (pink, curlicued) and two of her three bulldogs snore soothingly nearby.
The dogs, adopted from the Edward Foundation, which rescues and rehomes bulldogs, accept rescued her aback on several occasions, she says – afterwards them accepting her out of the abode for walks, “I would accept begin it actual accessible to retreat aback my ‘episodes’ of abasement accept been decidedly bad.” She is accessible about her brainy bloom on her (funny, and sometimes acutely honest) Instagram account. In a cavalcade in June, she wrote that she had been “blindsided by a spell of the Atramentous Dog and sadness”. Although she has had analysis and taken antidepressants in the past, these canicule she manages it abundantly herself. “Cooking and friendships assume to be the key,” she says. “And dogs.”
Few celebrities accept been chewed over as abundant as Jonsson; conceivably because she banned to be independent in the assorted attenuated boxes we actualize for changeable abstracts – although she seemed to booty her at-times acrid analysis with abundantly acceptable humour. Aback she became acclaimed as a TV-am breakfast actualization “weather girl”, she was accepted to be alluring (regular sunbeds were a must) but additionally the “girl abutting door”. The tabloids admired it. Jonsson was bemused. “[They would say] ‘sexy albino TV presenter’. I thought, how do they apperceive I’m sexy? Abandoned whoever I’m in the bedchamber with knows. But you’re 21, you’re not about to say anything. But yes, they actually capital you to be a assertive way.”
On her abutting job, presenting Gladiators – the 90s actualization that alveolate “contenders”, adjoin absurdly ample bodies in Lycra – she was appropriate to abrasion bound acme and leggings. “I accept never acquainted so afflictive in my life,” she says. “But you’re actuality paid to do a job and at what point do you …” She thinks for a second. “Well, I did put my bottom bottomward – because I wasn’t cutting that the abutting series.” She had to action to breach on the show, she says, aback she became abundant with her aboriginal adolescent (they insisted on her actuality adumbral by a midwife, as if she ability break). “I acquainted as if I was still normal, and I capital to work.” Things like that, she says, were “kind of abominable and disappointing”.
Jonsson’s actualization as a aggregation captain on the band actualization Shooting Stars still charcoal a aerial point for women on console shows; she would either cycle her eyes at Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s applesauce or accompany in enthusiastically.
Jonsson never took herself seriously. She had capital to act, but her mother encouraged her to become a secretary. She became a PA to the TV-am bang-up Bruce Gyngell, afore she was put on television.
Her acceleration coincided with acute abridged interest. She larboard her aboriginal husband, a TV-am cameraman and the ancestor of her aboriginal child, aback it became bright to her she was acceptable admiring to one of the Gladiators, a He-Man-lookalike accepted as Hunter (she had already had a antecedent activity that had fabricated the papers). It was an alluring story: “I assumption if you’re a woman, it’s alert as bad if you’re not conforming,” she says. “I tend to alive my activity for me. Because I was adulterine in my aboriginal marriage, that doesn’t reflect decidedly well, admitting I’m appealing abiding if I’d been a man, it would accept been anesthetized over. But it was abominable to them because it was like, ‘Hang on, babe abutting door, what accept you aloof done?’ That doesn’t fit.”
For the abutting few years, Jonsson was portrayed as absence the balustrade if not activity off them (the “ultimate ladette” according to one paper). She had had austere boyhood years, again been affiliated for best of her 20s. “There hadn’t been an aperture for all the applesauce and fun things,” she says. “So that happened in my 30s. And that was the acme of my career, so it was the absolute storm.” She wasn’t aboveboard – there were photoshoots for lads’ magazines, and adult campaigns for unsexy underwear companies. But the absorption was additionally “pretty intense. I didn’t cope with it actual well. I begin it actual alarming and it created astronomic levels of anxiety, absolute concrete shaking, affection racing.” She would be followed by photographers, and afterwards begin out her buzz had been hacked.
Over the abutting few years it got worse. Her high-profile accord with the footballer Stan Collymore came to a barbarous end aback he attacked her in a bar in Paris in 1998. Again she met a German auberge administrator on holiday, but he larboard her the day she took their babyish babe home from hospital, afterward affection anaplasty (all actual by the tabloids). She had addition babe with her abutting husband, Lance Gerrard-Wright, the accountable of a absoluteness show, Mr Right, in which he was the “prize” (Jonsson, hosting, bagged him instead). And her 2002 adventures abundant her hasty activity with the then-England football administrator and adolescent Swede, Sven-Göran Eriksson, as able-bodied as dates with Prince Edward. Her third marriage, to an American announcement executive, bankrupt up aftermost year; he lives adjacent and they co-parent their 12-year-old son.
Three marriages over three decades isn’t that bad, she credibility out, but her agitated adulation activity has generally been affiliated to her agitated childhood. Her mother larboard aback Jonsson was eight, affective to the UK (Jonsson would accompany her four years later). Her father, a active instructor, whom Jonsson adored, was fun and absorbing but not actually amenable – she would be abundantly larboard abandoned to attending afterwards herself, and he abominably apparent her to his sex activity in a way we would accede calumniating these canicule (he had a lot of adolescent girlfriends, generally at the aforementioned time, and fabricated little advance to adumbrate their activities).
Did the advantage she admiring feel unfair? “From a changeable point of view, definitely. I accumulate activity aback to actuality Swedish but Sweden feels to me one of the best autonomous countries, and the abstraction of there actuality assumptions fabricated about you because of your sex …” It wasn’t article she had developed up with, she says. Admitting in the UK, it acquainted “like a massive beachcomber and there’s no way you could action that”. But she says she banned to alive her activity in abhorrence of what it would attending like. She smiles, dejected eyes glittering. “Even admitting sometimes I had an affronted abettor going” – she puts her arch in her easily – “‘Nooo.’”
How does she feel about the way she is advised for accepting four accouchement by four men (a “4×4 mum”)? “I mean, it is actually funny,” she says and laughs, “on the face of it. But we never allocution about Rod Stewart [who has accouchement with bristles women].” Or Boris Johnson, I point out. “He aloof hasn’t counted his. All my accouchement alive with me. We adjudicator women so abundant added agonizingly than men.”
In the after-effects of the advance by Collymore, there was a activity in some abode that she had brought it on herself – that she had been bubbler and provocative. “I was above staggered. I was actually bashed – I was in a actually happy, bashed abode – but it had actually annihilation to do with me. I heard from bodies like, ‘You were demography your top off.’ Actual acutely I didn’t, but alike if I had … This is the accomplished affair about responsibility, accountability or whatever, you apprehend it all the time in added situations: ‘She does wind him up.’ What?”
But the better storm came when, in her 2002 memoir, Jonsson wrote about actuality raped in a auberge allowance aback she was 19. Although there was sympathy, there was additionally the afflictive faculty that Jonsson’s annual was actuality questioned. “People were like, ‘Why didn’t you go to the police?’,” she says. “Because there was no such affair as ‘date rape’ in those days. I feel like women are affectionate of built-in culpable. It’s consistently somehow our fault.” Alike admitting she approved hospital analysis for her injuries, she says it never occurred to her to address it. “It happened in a auberge room,” she says simply, of the canicule aback bodies believed abduction was committed by strangers in aphotic alleys.
She worries, rightly, that abounding still do. In her contempo Sun column, she referred to the address by Vera Baird that showed the cardinal of prosecutions for abduction in England and Wales in 2019-20, according to abstracts appear by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), was at its everyman akin aback annal began, and 30% lower than the antecedent year. Baird blames a change in CPS action (denied by the CPS) that agency that “weaker” cases are actuality baddest out to advance the low confidence rate.
“It’s like demography a backwards step,” says Jonsson. “How difficult the CPS are authoritative it for the badge to put advanced cases, that unless there’s a actual acceptable anticipation of conviction, again balloon about it. Which agency that acutely there are incidences area animal assaults and rapes are demography abode and bodies are accepting abroad with it because it’s no best a crime.” She is abashed at the anticipation that (predominantly) women are not accepting amends because of targets. “It’s all about figures. You anticipation we were acceptable added human.”
The mural for advertisement celebrated sex crimes has afflicted aback Jonsson’s abduction – would she anytime address it now? “No,” she says quietly. “I don’t anticipate it would …” She doesn’t accomplishment the sentence. There are bodies about her to anticipate about, she says.
In the aftermost few years, Jonsson stepped aback from TV partly to absorb added time with her children, but additionally because of what she was actuality offered. “They don’t charge TV presenters now, they aloof charge addition from a absoluteness show. I’m additionally older.” She says she “categorically” doesn’t absence actuality as acclaimed as she was. But she still knows how to get into the affidavit – there are post-shower selfies for instance (although admirably accurate shots), and she charge accept accepted aback she appear aftermost year that she and her above bedmate had around had a sexless marriage, the tabloids would adulation it. “I feel like those are actually important things to allocution about,” she says. “Coming into this age now, menopause, I don’t appetite activity to apathetic bottomward in that way.” She laughs. “I mean, I accept to apathetic bottomward because of my hips. But a lot added women in their 50s are demography greater freedoms and accepting added independence. I abuse adjoin this accomplished affair that we should go quietly, become airy and aloof disappear.” With Jonsson, that never seemed likely.
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