From Gemma Collins to Kem Cetinay: Reality stars born in and around Romford

Gemma Collins attending the press launch for the upcoming series of Dancing On Ice at the Natural Hi

Gemma Collins is proud to have been born and raised in Romford - Credit: PA

Romford has bred some of the UK's most influential reality TV stars, from Love Island singles to TOWIE cast members. 

Following Love Island’s announcement of its new line-up, we take a look at some of the area's home-grown celebrities.

Gemma Collins

Gemma Collins is synonymous with The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), joining the cast in 2011.

Born in Romford in 1981, she attended Rise Park Primary School before heading off to theatre school. 


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She has starred in Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice, Celebs Go Dating and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Her clothing line, Gemma Collins Collection, is registered in nearby Ilford.


In 2013, Gemma said: “You can take the girl out of Romford, but you can’t take the Romford out of the girl."

Gemma Collins attending the National Television Awards 2019 held at the O2 Arena, London

Gemma Collins is one of many reality TV stars from Romford - Credit: PA

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She added: “I grew up in Romford and I still absolutely love it.

"I love Romford Market and the pie and mash shop and the people because of their spirit. 

“Romford has just got a warmth that you don’t get anywhere else and I always feel at home when I come to the town.”

Amy Childs

Gemma's fellow TOWIE star Amy Childs also went to school in Havering. 

Amy Childs attending the TRIC Awards 2020 held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London.

Amy Childs attended Raphael Independent School in Hornchurch - Credit: PA

She moved to Brentwood as a child and attended Raphael Independent School in Hornchurch.

Amy’s father Billy owned a fireworks shop on Romford’s North Street. 

She returned to her Park Lane school in 2019 to present awards to current pupils.

Amy Childs is unveiled as the 'Celebrity Mum Of The Year' at the Soho Hotel, London.

Amy Childs was declared 'Celebrity Mum Of The Year' in 2017 - Credit: PA

In 2011, Amy was named Personality of the Year at the National Reality TV Awards. 

Sam Faiers

Co-star Sam Faiers starred in the original series of TOWIE in 2010, and in total featured in 11 seasons.

Sam Faiers

Sam Faiers starred in TOWIE - Credit: PA WIRE

She later featured in Celebrity Big Brother and launched her own series, Sam Faiers: The Baby Diaries.  

Sam and sister Billie own a Brentwood boutique clothes shop, Minnie's boutique, and in 2016 she opened a new Romford store for the Haven House Children's Hospice. 

Kem Cetinay

Love Island star Kem Cetinay, who appeared on the show in 2017 and now hosts its official podcast, is opening a new restaurant in Romford. 

Kem went to Emerson Park Academy, and is soon launching Array bar and restaurant in his old stomping ground.

Kem Cetinay, right, with his mother Figen Cetinay at the CTCA awards. Picture: Olgun Sadik

Kem Cetinay is set to open Array in Romford soon - Credit: Olgun Sadik

He told this paper last year: “I’m a local boy trying to do something special for the locals.  

“It’s very exciting for me and my family.” 

Frankie Bridge

Girl band singer Frankie Bridge was born in Upminster in 1989, and was a reality TV star before becoming a singer.

In 2001, she auditioned for TV competition S Club Search and won a place in the pop group S Club Juniors.

She later joined The Saturdays, who released their first UK number-one single What About Us in 2012. 

Speaking to the Mail Online last year, the singer spoke about her mental health problems growing up. 

She said: “For as long as I can remember I had suffered from anxiety, nervousness, the big black cloud, stress, low moods, sadness.  

“As a little girl growing up in Upminster — my dad Kevin was a taxi driver and my mum Viv was an events organiser — I lived with it in silence and tried to conquer it alone."

Rochelle Humes

Fellow bandmate Rochelle Humes is also local, born in Barking in 1989, Rochelle attended Upminster’s Coopers’ Company & Coborn School.

The Saturday's Rochelle Humes with students at the CPA Studios in Romford.

Rochelle Humes visited her Romford school in 2017 - Credit: Archant

Rochelle is a patron of Romford’s Colin's Performing Arts School, which she visited in 2017 for an awards ceremony.

She said: “CPA have always been there for me through my training and performing career. I am very proud to be their patron.

“I want to give someone the opportunity to receive the training that I was lucky enough to have had.”

Jessie J

Another CPA alumnus is Jessie J (real name Jessica Ellen Cornish), who grew up in nearby Chadwell Heath.

Jessie J takes to the stage for Girl Effect Live, a festival to celebrate the power of girls in over

Jessie J spent her teenage years in Romford - Credit: PA

Aged 11, the talented schoolgirl joined Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of Whistle Down the Wind.

https://twitter.com/JessieJ/status/26960766166892544?s=20

In 2011, her second single Price Tag reached number one in the UK charts.

Jesy Nelson

Another Jesy from Romford town is Little Mix's Jesy Nelson, born Jessica Louise Nelson in 1991.

Jesy Nelson with the award for best factual in the Press Room during the National Television Awards

Award-winning Jesy Nelson is a Romford girl - Credit: PA

She attended Dagenham's Jo Richardson Community School before going to Abbs Cross Academy and Arts College in Hornchurch.

Jesy entered the eighth series of talent competition The X Factor as a soloist, but was put into a girl band by the judges.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix perform on stage du

Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix teamed up during X Factor. - Credit: PA

Little Mix were the first group to ever win the competition and went on to be one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.

Rylan Clark-Neal

Reality TV star-turned-presenter Rylan Clark-Neal also grew up nearby.

Rylan Clark-Neal attending The Audio and Radio Industry Awards held at The London Palladium, London.

Rylan Clark-Neal also went to Coopers in Upminster - Credit: PA

He attended The Coopers' Company and Coborn School, like Rochelle.

Rylan, born Ross Richard Clark, made his mark in the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012, and went on to present The One Show, This Morning and his own chat shows.

Zara McDermott

Love Island contestant Zara McDermott is also thought to be a Romford local.

In 2018, shortly after leaving the villa, her boyfriend Adam Collard had a tattoo tribute to Zara inked on his hand in a Romford tattoo parlour.

The pair were reportedly living with Zara's family in Romford at the time.

James Buckley

Though he's not technically a reality TV star, James Buckley is worth a mention.

James Buckley during the filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, to be aired on BBC

James Buckley went to school in Rainham - Credit: PA

The comedian, who played Jay in British comedy The Inbetweeners, was born in Croydon before moving to Dagenham aged 11.

Blake Harrison, James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Simon Bird seen during the Meet The Filmmakers:The App

Blake Harrison (l), James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Simon Bird (r) played a group of schoolboys in The Inbetweeners. - Credit: PA

He later went to then-The Chafford School in Rainham, now Harris Academy Rainham, whilst also starring in various West End shows.


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