I'm A Celebrity: Inside the world of Jane McDonald fandom


Jane on stage performing

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When Radio 1’s Adele Roberts revealed that the one “luxury item” she’d brought into the I’m A Celebrity camp was a picture of Jane McDonald, it wasn’t just her other campmates who were staring blank-faced.

As Adele proudly held up a framed picture of the former Loose Woman star on Monday night – me, my mates and it seemed every other I’m A Celeb fan on my social media, picked up our phones and searched “Who is Jane McDonald?”

I quickly realised that the singer and TV personality has a dedicated, some might say cult-like following, is hailed as a bit of an icon by the LGBT community and has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

So, in a bid to find out more about the TV star hailed by Adele as a “national treasure”, I’ve been speaking to those inside her devoted fan base.

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In her own words, Jane says she’s “been on telly quite a bit”.

She got her break back in 1998 on the BBC’s documentary series The Cruise – which attracted over 10 million viewers – and turned Jane from a cruise ship entertainer into a celebrity. Since then, she’s appeared on ITV makeover show, Star Treatment, and was a Loose Woman from 2004 until 2014.

She has also had a number one self-titled album, and won a BAFTA for her Channel 5 series Cruising with Jane McDonald which sees her travel the world in a series of seriously bouji cruise ships.

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So far I’ve found out that Jane has been famous for basically my whole life. I’m impressed.

She tells Radio 1 Newsbeat that her popularity among younger fans has risen recently.

“I’ve been in the background for quite a while, which is fine, but all of a sudden I don’t know what’s happened”, she said.

“I’m so thrilled… I’m a little bit speechless.”

It seems Jane was almost as baffled as me when she saw Adele hanging up a printed picture of her like a shrine.

“When I saw it, I nearly died,” she says.

Still curious what it is about this particular TV personality that inspires such hero worship in fans of all ages, I asked some super fans to explain the magic of Jane.

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‘A gay icon’

“I don’t know if you’ve been at house party when someone puts on Jane McDonald’s Disco Medley,” says fan Mark Harrop, 30.

I haven’t.

“Madness ensues. It’s horrendously camp… people putting on a pair of heels and a bit of sparkles and even pretending they’re her.”

He says Jane has become a gay icon, and brings fun to what can sometimes be a “gloomy world”.

“She’s someone you want to go and have a bottle of wine with… you can imagine her being one of your mum’s friends.”

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Jolie

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Katie and Jolie have met Jane multiple times

Team Jane

Katie and Jolie, who now run the twitter account Team Jane McDonald, met through their love of Jane.

Jolie says at the age of 13 she was being home-schooled and would watch Jane speak openly about bullying on Loose Women, when her mum had it on.

As a teenager who had few friends, this resonated with her. She says it made her feel less alone.

Jolie’s fascination with Jane increased after she watched her videos on YouTube, and now at the age of 22 she’s met her and seen her perform countless times.

She even has a tattoo of the lyrics to Jane’s song, The Rose, written in the singer’s handwriting on her left rib cage.

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Jolie Murrell

“She didn’t want to do it at first, it took a lot of persuading,” Jolie tells Newsbeat.

A recurring theme when I spoke to both Jolie and Mark was the notion that Jane is hard-working and came from humble beginnings. They say it’s a quality that makes her more relatable and endearing.

“She’s a proper northern lass who has worked so hard,” Mark says.

Jolie agrees: “She’s so ambitious, us young people love seeing that.”

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