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He’s the creator of Holy Moly and presenter of Big Brother’s Bit On The Side on Channel Five, but Jamie East hasn’t always been so in demand. Here he reveals how the struggle to make it big involved him microwaving white bread with butter, inhaling noxious fumes and abusing credit cards.
When in your life have you been most broke? How bad did it get exactly?
When me and my wife just had our second child. My band had just broken up and I was on the dole queuing up for milk tokens to feed the baby, whilst the wife had to sign on. Grim.
What were the worst jobs you ever did and what made them so bad? Were there any benefits?
Leaving my family in Derby to travel down to London to decorate some geezer's massive house in Parson's Green. Killer hours and naff all cash.
What were your digs like back then? Any interesting flatmates we should know about?
Horrible rented place in Derby which was falling apart and had a gas fire that had been slowly poisoning us all with carbon monoxide before the council came and shut it down.
What was your favourite budget meal? Do you still enjoy it?
Microwaved white bread with butter. I think I'd throw up if I ate it now!
Any interesting money saving/making tips you picked up back then?
Saving money was a luxury we couldn't afford back then to be honest - the biggest money making tip at the time was to do jobs and not tell the dole so they still paid the rent, otherwise it would have been unsustainable. The formula they seemed to calculate how much a family of four could live off back in the 90s seemed to be based on 1970 prices for food etc.
What was the worst thing about being skint? Were there any upsides?
I distinctly remember being hungry. There's a difference in being hungry because you haven't had time to eat and being hungry without knowing how to get food in the house - that is pretty soul destroying. The upside to all this was that I became absolutely determined to never get into that situation again and looking after my family has always driven me to do bigger and better things.
Did you ever do something that you regret like borrow money with intending to pay it back or drink lighter fluid Withnail style just to keep warm?
All the time. Christmas presents for the kids from catalogues on credit, the £20 from mates that meant you avoided them in the street - all that.
Did you ever have to resort to abusing credit cards?
Yes and it was the worst mistake I ever made - they are evil things. It took me 12 years to rid my life of any form of credit card or loan and it saps the life out of you. Don't do it.
What was your lowest point?
Having just moved to London to work, moving the family down into our new flat and mortgage then realising that after paying the mortgage I was left with £150 to feed and clothe the family. I once did 40 hours of overtime in one week thinking it would earn me a fortune and I got an extra £40 in my pay packet. My wife didn't even have £2 to take our young son to a nursery meeting. That was pretty grim!
How did you manage to keep your dreams alive?
Ambition, determination and blind self-belief.
What was the defining moment that turned your fortunes around?
Learning how to code HTML at a time when it was a highly sought after skill and then creating the Holy Moly website and brand. Everything slowly started falling into place after that.
What's the largest amount of cash you've ever had on you at one time and what was it for?
I think about £10,000 to pay a builder. Handing it over made me cry hot, salty tears.
What's your latest project and what plans do you have for the future?
Well I'm busy presenting Big Brother at the moment and can't see beyond that, but there are a number of big plans for Holy Moly on the horizon which should see it expanding overseas and maybe onto television.
What one piece of advice can you give young people with ambitions of being successful?
Just having an idea isn't enough, you have to go above and beyond the call of duty to make it work even when every single person in your life says it is wrong. Do more hours, have more ideas and think big.
Also - be nice to people on the way up, because if not - they'll give you one hell of a kicking on the way down.
And finally, who would be your dream Big Brother contestants?
The Cheeky Girls
Jamie East is the creator of entertainment gossip website Holy Moly. Catch him week nights on Big Brother's Bit on the Side on Channel 5 and 5 Star after Big Brother.
Thursday, 13th October 2011