From Made in Chelsea to I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo has lived the last few years on a very public stage. We’re really excited today to share an exclusive extract from her book, Always Smiling, where she shares a letter to her 14 year-old-self.
Your teens are confusing, and, at the moment, you’re trying to figure out who you are, where you belong, and what’s important to you. The very first thing I want to tell you is that you’ve got this. You don’t know what lies ahead of you, but you don’t need to worry about anything. Right now, you’re as confident as you’ll ever be. Celebrate it! You’re full of energy, and you’ll embrace every adventure that comes your way. Never lose that spirit, because that’s more important than any exam or bit of wisdom.
Your enthusiasm is your greatest asset. However, exams and grades are important, and sometimes people make you feel as though it isn’t cool to care. You’re smart, you like school and you want to do well. This isn’t anything to be ashamed of. On the contrary, you should be proud of the fact that you’re a bit of a nerd. In the future, you’ll realize that there’s never any reason to hide your intelligence. Working hard leads to great things. Ignore anyone who makes you feel as though you shouldn’t be pleased with your grades, or that it isn’t OK to try hard. They’re not on the same path as you. One day, young girls will be looking up to you, and you’ll want them to embrace the opportunities they have at school. Try your best to do the same.
However, while your teachers can’t fault your work, they do have some problems with your uniform – or, rather, your interpretation of the uniform. Please brush your hair. I know that this is the look right now, and everyone looks as though so many birds are nesting on their head that David Attenborough might turn up with a camera crew – but you’ll look back and wonder why you basically let your hair turn into dreadlocks. Think about your poor biology teacher, who keeps sending you out of the classroom with a comb. Don’t just slowly walk back to your boarding house, and then come back with the same hair. It’s an insult to his intelligence and yours. Also, don’t laugh, but, in about five years, you’ll be obsessed with blow-dries and hot rollers. Keep your hair in good condition and you’ll be glad you did.
While we’re here, can you please be a bit more chill with the bronzer? I know that everyone loves caking their face in shimmery powder, but you’ll look back at old photos and wonder why you always look as though you have poo on your face. Right now, you have beautiful skin – one day, you’ll feel much more self-conscious about it, and you’ll wish that you showed it off when you could!
Dealing with your skin is going to be tough, and, although you can’t imagine it now, it will make you feel insecure and self-conscious as you enter the adult world. However, when you open up about your skincare struggles, you’ll inspire thousands of women who face similar problems, and this will make you feel amazing. Also, never, ever let anyone make you feel bad about wanting to put concealer on from the second that you wake up. This is your inalienable right!
There’s nothing wrong with caring about your appearance. As a junior cadet, you will constantly be called out for not having the right uniform, wearing too much make-up and, once again, not brushing your hair or tying it back. Your poor platoon will constantly be doing extra push-ups as a punishment, because of your endless uniform infringements.
Here are a few hacks that you’ll wish you’d known a bit earlier on. If you rub some Vaseline on your boots, they’ll look as though you’ve been polishing them for hours and hours. Ironing a crease in your combat trousers takes ages, but if you’ve forgotten to sort out your laundry, you can quickly make a fake crease with a pair of hair straighteners. Most importantly, your eccentric style will be rewarded when you’re given the Combat Barbie award at the end of the course! That’s quite an accolade! Of course, Combat Barbie will eventually become Jungle Barbie, and everything you’ve learned as a cadet will be incredibly useful to you when you’re dealing with snakes and food rationing.
Being a cadet is difficult, but you’re learning about endurance and discovering that you might be little, but you can be incredibly tough when you put your mind to it. The experience will also show you that you need to stay true to yourself. In some situations, you’ll feel as though you don’t fit in straight away, but it’s your differences that are your strengths, not doing the same thing as everyone else. Right now, you’re making friends who will be in your life for a long time, as well as discovering what you’re like as a friend, and what you need from your friends.
Most of your best mates are boys, and you feel a bit selfconscious about this. When you look around, it seems as though every other girl at school has lots of really close girlfriends, and you feel sad and excluded. Don’t worry. All that matters is the way that your friends make you feel, and you’ve not failed because most of your best friends are boys. When you’re a bit older, you’ll have the most brilliant gang of guys in your life, and you’ll be closer to them than anyone you’ve ever met. Being friends with boys means that you can escape some of the bitchiness and competitiveness that you’ve noticed from some of the other girls. However, don’t discount female friends. Puberty is difficult for everyone, and you’ll meet some brilliant women in the future, when you’ve all come out the other side.
You’re still getting over some really awful bullying. A couple of years ago, you dealt with one of the toughest, most painful experiences imaginable, when that group of girls was so cruel, so frequently, that you ended up moving schools. You’ll never really understand what made them do that, or why they chose you as a target. However, in the future, you’ll realize that bullies are never happy. Hurt people hurt people, and those girls must have been desperately insecure and in a lot of pain to make you feel the way they did. Being friends with boys makes you feel safe – you’ve never seen them pick on people this way. However, you’re about to make a friend who will change your life.
There will be times when you think that boys are exciting, mysterious creatures that know the secrets of the universe. You’ll get over this pretty quickly. I have two words for you – Tom Ricketts.
Right now, he’s the fittest guy in the whole school. Sometimes, you and your friends are late for lessons because you spot him somewhere and need to stop for a good gaze. Tom Ricketts seems like a distant sex god. But, in five years, you’ll be snogging him in a club in Oxford! I did this for you, teenage Toff, because I knew how excited you’d be, if you could only know what’s going to happen! Now, Tom isn’t this cool, remote film-star hottie. He’s a mate. He’s also still pretty good looking!
While we’re here, we need to talk about FOMO. At the moment, you’re so desperate to be in the middle of everything that it’s interfering with your sleep. You’ll stay up all night and power through until the next day before you’ll miss a single second of anything, whether it’s school, gossip or fun. This is going to get worse before it gets better. If you think you’re glued to your phone now, in a few years’ time, it will be surgically attached to your hand.
Instagram and WhatsApp don’t rule your life yet, but beware! I know it sounds insane, but you’ll be able to see pictures of every single party that happens each weekend, including the ones you can’t go to. Try to make peace with the fact that you’re a human being who needs at least eight hours of sleep a night, and who can only physically be in one place at a time. Some nights, you’ll need to stay in. That’s OK. It’s better to go out a few times and really enjoy it, than to go out constantly and have a so-so time. There will always be another party to go to, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’re occasionally in bed by eleven.
Over the next few years, politics will start to play a bigger part in your life. Being informed and opinionated really matters to you, and you’re going to start becoming really passionate about current affairs and understanding what is happening in the wider world. This is going to be a life-long love affair. Embrace it! Get as geeky as you dare! Learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to go to events and ask loads of questions. However, do remember that, occasionally, what you say may come back to bite you on the bottom, and, even when you’re joking, some people will take your comments very seriously. You may, at some point, regret calling a senior politician a ‘sex god’ and then having to apologize to his wife. However, if you can laugh this off, you can deal with anything!
Even though you sometimes feel anxious and insecure, right now you’re almost fearless. Also, you’re really good at living in the moment. You’re discovering how to have fun, surrounding yourself with the people who make you happy, and working out
what your values are. Most importantly, you’re learning how to stay true to them and be your authentic self. You’re quietly confident, and you have a natural energy and positivity that draws people to you. Right now, your life is fairly easy; in the future, it might become slightly more difficult. There’s nothing to be scared of. That’s all part of growing up. But, as you learn to take care of yourself and start to become more independent, you might find yourself becoming more cautious, and increasingly aware of your own vulnerabilities. That’s totally natural, but I want you to promise that you’ll never forget about the girl you are right now: the girl who says ‘yes’, who rushes into rooms beaming; the girl who always sees the upside and realizes that the more challenging the opportunity seems, the more exciting it could become.
You’re going to be presented with more opportunities than you ever thought possible. You’ll see the world, be on T.V., get sent free clothes and meet your heroes. People will recognize you in Waitrose, while you’re buying loo roll. This is going to be every bit as weird and amazing as it sounds. Be proud and excited!
Seize every chance you have, and enjoy the ride. But, also, don’t be afraid to step back from it every so often. Try to be with your family and friends, and the people who truly know you, not just the ones who think they do. You’re going to become a role model for many women. Think about what’s important to you right now.
While lots of people will want to copy you because they like your clothes or your lifestyle, remember that those are all fun extras – and that the most important thing is always to be kind. It’s cool to be kind, and you must remember to be kind to yourself, too.
Finally, promise me that you’ll enjoy everything. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re always going to look back at your life and occasionally wish you hadn’t bought that dress, or that you’d gone to a different party, or didn’t kiss that boy. You can only regret what you don’t do, and if you never get it wrong, you won’t learn anything. You’re going to have so much fun. Enjoy every second.
Lots of love,
Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Always Smiling, out on the 6th September!