‘I was addicted to the high’: I became an influencer as a joke – then it nearly broke me

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I have always wanted to be a comedian or television presenter, but never knew how I’d make it happen. After years of working in TV production, pestering executives to put me in a show, I conceded that I might have to demonstrate to them what I could do in order to prove my worth. This is how I ended up spending a Friday afternoon in April 2015 secretly writing a standup show at my desk, hoping to one day take it to the Edinburgh fringe.

“Bella,” said my boss, Faye, over the top of her computer, “can you do some research on wellness, please? Someone called Deliciously Ella’s got the fastest-selling cookbook in the country and I want to know if we should put her on the telly.” I had been blissfully unaware of wellness until that point. As far as I was concerned, it was just the opposite of illness, like not having a cold. The idea that you could be more well had never crossed my mind.

Sure, I had noticed that more of my friends were going to yoga and buying NutriBullets, but hadn’t understood this was part of a wider trend. It soon became clear that middle-class consumers were worshipping at the wellness altar. If wellness was a religion, then Gwyneth Paltrow was the pope, and Deliciously Ella the archbishop of Canterbury. Ella Woodward (now Mills) had used what she called her “lifestyle not diet” to manage a chronic pain condition. She had written a popular blog about how she did it, claiming that cutting out sugar had allowed her to manage it. Ella was model-beautiful and well connected (her mother is a Sainsbury). Her feed was full of comments from gushing women admiring her perfect life and thanking her for saving them from their disgusting, sugar-filled lives. There were countless other “wellness warriors”, who claimed to have cured everything from IBS to eczema. They were all beautiful, slim, and upper-middle class. If we gave them a TV show, we’d be legitimizing them.


Bella YoungerBella Younger: ‘I’d never heard of wellness – I thought it was just the opposite of illness.’ Photograph: Karl Grant/The Guardian



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