I’ve gone bananas for Britain’s newest export, Made In Chelsea. The reality show’s posh Sloane Rangers remind me of the days when Kate Middleton walked up and down the King’s Road, sipping champers on the reg and popping into the shops for a fancy new get-up.
Unlike some of the reality shows that air in Mother England, Chelsea has an aspirational tone to it. The characters have the bluest of blood running through their veins, and take part in the sort of activities we imagine aristocrats do on the weekends-mucking about in the country (followed by a cocktail hour), elaborate dinner parties and nights out at London’s most exclusive nightclubs.
I spoke to Spencer Matthews, one of the show’s stars who raises a few eyebrows in the first season by juggling his live-in girlfriend, Funda Onal and childhood crush, Caggie Dunlop. The cast is currently shooting season four’s Christmas Special in Britain, but the show is just started here in the states, thanks to the Style Network.
Socialite Life: Ok, first thing’s first. What made you want to sign on for Made In Chelsea?
Spencer Matthews: The opportunity of possibly going to the states was what attracted me most. But given the economic climate at the time, I wasn’t expecting it to be very popular at all in the UK. So, the fact that it has been is a bit of a bonus, really.
I’ve also always wanted to work with cameras, and be a presenter/actor. I went to USC film school and I’ve been fascinated by all elements on production. I was working as a financial broker for [London-based brokerage firm] ICAP at the time when Chelsea was pitched, and as much as I love banking, I thought that this shot might not come around again. It was also an opportunity to work with some of my very close friends, which not many people get to do.
Throughout the whole first season I kept my job at ICAP and did both, just to broaden out and experiment with the media. When I was out in Los Angeles attending USC, Brody Jenner and I had a couple of mutual friends, so I used to see a bit of him. I envied his lifestyle, to say the least. When the opportunity presented itself to do something similar, I thought, “Why not give it a go?”
SL: There’s a certain stigma attached to flaunting one’s wealth in Britain, so to speak. Some members of the upper class see it as a bit gauche. Do people assimilate you with other British reality shows, like The Only Way Is Essex?
SM: I’m not a particularly private person. Mark Wright [former star on The Only Way Is Essex] is a mate of mine, and the shows are actually quite similar in essence, but they obviously present different things. I think shows like The Only Way Is Essex are more entertaining, whereas Made In Chelsea is more aspirational.
As for flaunting money, certain things that are perceived to be tasteful require money, as do certain ways of doing it. I think the way in which we go about doing certain things can be seen as extravagant. We don’t go shooting in tweed every day and throw black-tie dinners and sip champagne all day long. We have jobs, and we’re all hardworking, and this is very much a kind of part of our lives packed into a one hour slot per week. That’s not necessarily us. I think quite a few of us have a lot more depth to our characters than you might see on screen.
In a business sense, look at it as a product. It’s a certain type of show. That’s what we’re targeting and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. We’re very fortunate; London’s a fantastic city.
What annoys me occasionally is that people think we’re literally being fed by our families, and in many cases, I’m sure that’s true. However, in my case, my family hasn’t given me any money since I was sixteen. I’ve always worked really hard. I realize that by putting myself out there as some kind of posh socialite on Made In Chelsea, it can project a different image of me. I just don’t really mind it.
SL: The first scene of the first season shows you on your on your way to see Caggie [Dunlop] at Raffles Nightclub, but you have a live-in girlfriend!
SM: Caggie’s always been my childhood sweetheart, but it just never properly materialized when we were younger. I always had this idealist view of us together, but it just never really happened, and we became such close friends. There’s always been that connection and chemistry between us, and it’s very difficult for me to ignore that.
I think that whomever I’m with at the time, they’re always going to have Caggie history to deal with. And given that Caggie lives down the road, I bump into her all the time, and my girlfriends have found that quite difficult to deal with, as you’ll soon find out.
SL: Do you prefer American girls to British Girls?
SM: I love American girls! The English rose is always going to be in fashion, and always be a strong choice, but at the end of the day, I love them both equally. I’ve had a Canadian girlfriend, but she doesn’t really count.
SL: There’s a teeny tiny rumor floating that your older brother, James is dating Pippa Middleton. What’s the word on this?
SM: You know, my brother is an extremely private guy and he just despises any mention of his name in any press. He is the opposite of me, although we’re quite good friends. However, what you read in the Daily Mail isn’t too far from the truth.
I know they’ve always been very close friends – well, they’ve had a close friendship for a while and it seems that there might be something more there, but I don’t know. As I said, my brother doesn’t tell me anything. I’m the last one he keeps informed on that.
SL: Ladies, Matthews wants you to know that he’s very sorry about his season one hair.
SM: I have sorted out my hair, just to let you know. I watched the first season, knowing that it was coming on in the states and I said to myself, “What the sod was I thinking?” It was an absolutely bizarre choice.
Follow Matthews on Twitter.
This article was originally published on November 26, 2012.