Yes, everyone knows about Essex’s reputation. People from Essex in particular are well aware of that reputation, thanks to the knowing looks and smirks we frequently get when we confess our roots. In order to avoid this, less hardy locals will respond to the innocent enquiry with ambiguous statements like “near London” or “in the South East.” It’s not even about feeling ashamed, most of the time we’re just irritated or bored by the question. Plus, you know you’ve really made it on an international level when you meet people from abroad and they’ve heard of Essex…and give you the smirk.
Essex girls get the worst of the stigma associated with our county. The main assumption is that we’ll have sex with anyone. Either we’re gagging for it or we’re too dumb to say no. Just give us a second to put down our leopard print handbag and kick off our white stilettos, recline the seat in the Ford Fiesta, and we’ll be ready to go babes! Oh, and just be careful not to get fake tan over the upholstery.
Being from Essex has never been entirely free from embarrassment, but then came along a little TV show called The Only Way is Essex and our humiliation was complete. Yes, for years we fought the good fight against unfair judgement, trying to be ambassadors for our county only to have our work destroyed by the Fanta-skinned, vajazzled interlopers. It’s a cruel and unfair world, innit?!
Occasionally we’ll meet people who are the absolute embodiment of the Essex stereotype and that’s annoying too. Although having said that, I’ve met Essex stereotypes from Leicester to Leeds and everywhere else in the UK…it seems footballer’s wife wannabes and wide boys aren’t unique to our neck of the woods. Equally, there are the snobs who are in denial about being from Essex, and they’re probably the worst.
We can claim our fair share of success stories: Warrior-Queen Boudica was a pretty badass Essex girl for a start. Other notable natives include Blur, the Prodigy, Russell Brand, Jamie Oliver, Helen Mirren and Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill in True Blood). We can even do aristoctatic pretty well; two of Downton Abbey’s poshest characters are played by Essex-born Michelle Dockery and Dame Maggie Smith. Let’s not forget that Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her role as the poshest toff of all: Queen Elizabeth.
We get pissed off when you imagine Essex to be a massive extension of the worst parts of London. It might surprise you that much of the surprisingly lovely county is actually rural, and a far cry from the grimy streets of the East End and WAG enclaves near the city. It’s overwhelmingly green in many areas, and has great coastal walks and marshland which are perfect for birdwatching (as in real birds, not Essex girls). We have castles too, and not just of the Playboy Mansion variety. Head to the idyllic Constable Country on the Suffolk border to get as far away from lazy Essex sterotypes as possible.
Only we can take the piss out of each other’s accents…we always think there’s someone more Essex than us! Besides we didn’t think our own was that bad until you pointed it out. It’s a very British problem.