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Moving house can be a very stressful task for a lot of us, but Sam Faiers and Paul Knightley – who have moved house four times in their five years together – happily took it all in their stride. In fact, relocating from Hertfordshire to Surrey just a few days before the UK lockdown was actually “enjoyable” for them.
Sam, 29, and Paul, 32, alongside little Paul, four, and two-year-old Rosie quickly settled into their new abode and feel like they’ve found their dream area.
While they are just like every other young family in many ways, they’re unique in that their lives have been documented for the world to see. Having spent over one third of her life on reality TV, we feel like we’ve watched Sam grow up. We’ve seen her as a teenager on The Only Way Is Essex, dealing with heartbreak, nights at Sugar Hut and starting her first clothing business Minnies with older sister Billie Shepherd. Ten years later, we enjoy watching her on successful ITVBe series The Mummy Diaries, navigating pregnancy, potty training and bringing out a pram range.
And when OK! catches up with Sam, we are relieved that she’s the same warm and gentle person we see on the screen.
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Here, the reality queen and her boyfriend Paul chat about their new home, their close bond and when they’d like more children…
How did you find the house move?
Sam: We were really lucky as we moved into this house exactly two days before Boris Johnson put the whole country into lockdown. It was a bit of a blessing for us as we didn’t have to work and rush the unpacking. I’m probably the least stressful person you’ll ever meet. People said to me, “Wasn’t it a nightmare?” but it was actually enjoyable.
Why did you choose Surrey?
Sam: When Paul and I fell pregnant, we wanted a fresh start for us. We’d both lived in Essex our whole lives and we wanted to try somewhere new. When we first had Paul, we wanted to be close to our families, so we did a bit of a stopover in Hertfordshire for three-and-a-half years. It was a really nice stepping stone for us but we always knew we wanted to live in Surrey eventually. We still haven’t really been able to get out and explore, and we haven’t got any friends over here yet, but we just love it.
Your sister Billie and mum Suzie [Wells] weren’t totally on board with your move. Have they accepted it now?
Sam: Yes, there was a little bit of drama, but since we’ve been here both our families can see how happy we are. They are only an hour away! We’re always back in Essex as our families live there, and when we do see them it’s quality time rather than a quick cup of tea.
Do you see yourself staying here?
Paul: Definitely, but we’re renting this house which worked out for the best. We’ve been able to get a feel for the area and see the streets we’d like to live on.
Sam: It feels like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. We’re really settled here, so there’s no need to rush buying somewhere. We love how open plan the house is, and Paul has his man cave upstairs. I’ll go in and he’ll say, “What are you doing here?” [Laughs]
How have you both found lockdown?
Paul: I didn’t think we could get any closer, because we already do everything together and we really love each other, but we really have. Our lives are usually so fast-paced and so we just enjoyed this quality time together. We’ve had dinner together every night, which is a beautiful thing.
Sam: I’m now a professional chef! The children don’t really know what’s going on, and have just enjoyed having our undivided attention. Now we’re able to see people again they’ve all noticed how much more grown up they are.
Did you get to spend time as a couple?
Sam: Not really – I’d like to do a mini break somewhere in the UK now that we can. We’ve just been to Spain but you don’t really get to fully relax when the children are with you.
Paul: Sam did surprise me with a movie night watching Twins, which is my favourite film, in the garden. She made me stay upstairs while they set it all up, and then I closed my eyes and she led me out. I usually don’t like surprises, but this was really special.
Sam: I’m more romantic, I enjoy it. I enjoy booking our holidays and everything. If it was left to Paul we’d never go away. Paul is quite sweet though, he surprised me with a Prada bag to say thank you for all I’ve done in lockdown. He thinks I’ve been a super mum!
Sam, was lockdown the longest you’ve gone without seeing Billie?
Yeah, it was about two months and then I met her and my mum for a socially distanced picnic in the park. Paul and Rosie didn’t get to see their cousins Nelly and Arthur, and I think they really missed them. I couldn’t keep up with all the rules, so I thought it was just best to stay out of trouble. As we’re in the public eye, it means we sometimes get a harder time. They announced that people needed to do a two-week quarantine after getting back from Spain while we were out there. We got back and there were paparazzi waiting outside our house for the two weeks trying to expose us. It’s impossible to defend ourselves all day long – that would be exhausting.
Paul, what inspired you to get fit?
My belly inspired it! I thought if I carried on the same way then the outcome is going to be horrendous. I started doing virtual personal training sessions and I’ve lost two stone. My abs are coming back but the biggest benefit is how I feel in myself. I wasn’t really buying into it beforehand but then each day I felt better in myself. I’ve trained every single day for four-and-a-half months. It’s given me more energy, and the endorphins make me so happy. It’s worked complete wonders for me. I feel like so many good things have happened in other aspects of my life.
Sam: I’m so proud of him – it’s not easy. He didn’t have a day off on holiday, whereas I took three sets of gym clothes and didn’t go once.
Sam, do you fancy Paul even more now?
Yeah! He keeps walking around topless in his gym shorts and I keep catching a look of him and I say, “Look at you, you hunk.”
Paul: She’s all over me like a rash [laughs]. I have to take my top off as it gets soaked in sweat, and I’ll literally see her just following me.
Are you happy to be filming The Mummy Diaries again?
Paul: It’s actually been great. I wasn’t always comfortable with it, but the training has helped me feel more positive. I only ever did it to support Sam, but now I’m having fun with it.
Sam: The team got a government permit to film in the house because they wanted to capture two weeks of actual lockdown. The whole world has gone through it so it would have been strange if it wasn’t covered on the show. We were a bit concerned as we didn’t really do much, but we’ve watched the first couple of episodes and they are really good.
How do you deal with the negative comments you get?
Sam: It really used to get to me because they were trying to paint Paul in this really bad picture, and it wasn’t Paul. There are still people who think Paul is that person and it irritates me, but I care less now. He doesn’t take any notice.
Paul: I was probably thrown in at the deep end. I went along with the show a little begrudgingly, and that backfired because people saw me as something different to what I am. When I meet people now they’ll say, “Oh, you’re actually really nice.”
Do Paul and Rosie realise they are on TV?
Sam: Yeah, they love to watch back the episodes from when they were babies. Paul isn’t overly keen on filming whereas Rosie is all for it. She puts on her dress and is like, “Let’s go!” Paul is a mini Paul and Rosie is a mini me.
Did you think the show would reach eight series?
Sam: No, I honestly thought that it would just be the one-off! Now here we are, and the show has evolved – Billie has joined and the audience is still growing and growing. We are going to have the greatest home movies ever, which was part of the reason we initially chose to do it. It’s going to be different when all of the children go to school. We’ll end up with the Teenage Diaries, and then Grandparent Diaries. Paul’s face just dropped [laughs].
Paul: We film for nine months of every year. It’s a big commitment.
How are you feeling about sending Paul to school in September?
Sam: It’s going to be life changing for us all. It’s going to be hard for Rosie. When he went to summer camp for a week she kept asking where he was and throwing tantrums. She can be hard work at the moment. I think it’s her age, plus she’s very sassy. We wouldn’t have her any other way but she does have to be told!
Are the children in their own beds now?
Sam: Rosie has pretty much always been in her own bed, but little Paul has always slept with us.
Paul: For the first few nights when we moved here he went into his own bedroom, but he’s slowly crept back in. He’s got a bunk bed with a slide on it and he said, “If you sleep up there, then I’ll sleep in my bed.” It’s not going to be the most comfortable night’s sleep, but I’m going to try to get him in his bed.
Paul, you’re often asked when you may propose to Sam…
We’ve got kids and we’re happy so I understand why people are curious, and as long as people say it in a nice way I don’t mind.
Sam: When Billie was getting married there was a lot of focus on us being next and too much pressure. It’s calmed down a bit, so I’m thinking hopefully there will be a surprise soon.
Paul: We will 100 per cent get married, but nobody is going to know about the proposal except me. I’ll be the only one who knows when and where it’s happening.
You fell pregnant just four months after meeting. What made you know so quickly that you’d met The One?
Sam: I knew from the very first night. We met at Sheesh in Chigwell – a proper Essex romance.
Paul: I almost didn’t go out that night but my friend from up north had come to visit.
Sam: I’d just got back from Los Angeles the day before so I had really bad jet lag. I could barely keep my eyes open, but my friends told me I had to go. We met on the Wednesday, then we went for a date on Friday and then I cooked him a roast on the Sunday.
Paul: From that day we’ve never been apart.
What makes your relationship work so well?
Paul: We really love and respect each other.
Sam: We let each other have freedom as well. He understands when I need a girls’ night, or I want to spend the night with my mum and sister. If Paul goes out with the boys then I’m not asking when he’s coming home. We trust each other. We have our moments, but it’s never anything major.
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Would you like more children?
Sam: Yes, definitely. I thought I wanted them all quite quickly, but now being a mum I don’t think I’d be able to spread the love. It wouldn’t be fair to Rosie as she’s still quite clingy to me. When they are both at school, we will have another baby. I can give them all the attention they need, and then when the kids get back from school it will be playtime.
How do you feel about turning 30 this year?
I’m really excited! My late twenties have been the best. I feel like you start to understand who you are. I’m more comfortable in my own skin and I know what direction I want to go in. I don’t worry about minor things like I did when I was 21. It’s Christmas, Paul’s birthday and my birthday all within a week and we have spent the last few years in the Maldives so hopefully we can do that again. I also want to do a girls’ weekend in Dubai in November. I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of travel, so we’re holding fire at the moment.
Sam, last time you spoke to OK! you opened up about getting therapy for your trichotillomania [eyelash pulling]. Have you had any progress?
Unfortunately no. I was on a bit of a roll with it and then I went to Moldova to visit an orphanage and it triggered something.
Paul: It really affected her. It didn’t feel like she was fully here when she got back. I think one day it will just click for Sam when she’s not thinking about it.
Sam: I do want to grow them back. I need to spend time working on my subconscious.
Sam, will you be filming for the TOWIE 10-year special?
I’m going to be doing the best bits show, commenting on standout moments. I was so young when I went on the show and had nothing to lose. We had so much fun! I’m in a different phase of my life now, but I have no regrets.
What are you working on now?
Sam: We just rebranded our fashion label – Saint Avenue. I’ve got my children’s bedding, which has sold out twice, and I’ve got a few big projects coming out including another business with Paul – let’s see how we get on doing two [laughs]. I’ve always been very business-minded. When I left school at 16 I wanted a Mini One and my mum couldn’t afford to buy me one so I walked straight into a recruitment agency and said, “I want a job.” After a year I got it. I’ve always had the mentality that if you work hard then you get the things you want from life.
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