When reality TV show producers are casting for competitors, it’s no secret that they have certain categories of celebrities deemed as must-haves for a successful show.
Sporting legends, for example — such as former football manager Harry Redknapp or cricketer Phil Tufnell, both of whom wowed on I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!. Comedians or general funsters are also vital — like Christopher Biggins, who won I’m A Celeb in 2007, or Strictly’s Bill Bailey who lifted the glitterball trophy in 2020.
Undoubtedly, Georgia Toffolo was cast by TV bosses to fall into this bracket when she was picked for I’m A Celebrity six years ago in 2017.
The former Made in Chelsea star appeared to be nothing more than a pretty, posh, blonde airhead, albeit thoroughly likeable. Indeed, she went on to win the show after charming the public with her exuberantly chatty persona, which meant she rarely paused for breath during her stint in the Outback.
When crowned ‘queen of the jungle’ by hosts Ant and Dec, privately educated ‘Toff’, as she became known, claimed to be speechless but went on to babble: ‘I don’t know what to say. Obviously, I didn’t think anyone would like me, never mind . . . sorry, I’m really taken aback. Thank you so much, I don’t know what to say, I’m really shocked! Sorry! Is this real?’
Undoubtedly, Georgia Toffolo was cast by TV bosses to fall into this bracket when she was picked for I’m A Celebrity six years ago in 2017
Farage will be paid a staggering £1.5 million — three times the highest fee so far paid to a celebrity in the show’s 21-year history. Pictured: Farage with Georgia Toffolo
Fans of the show almost certainly asked themselves the same question this week, when they read that former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was set to appear on this year’s I’m A Celebrity — and the megabucks negotiations between the astute Farage and producers had been personally overseen by none other than Georgia Toffolo.
The Mail has since learned that Farage’s deal is to be signed within the next two days — and will see him star alongside the likes of This Morning’s Josie Gibson and former England rugby bad boy Danny Cipriani.
In return, he will be paid a staggering £1.5 million — three times the highest fee so far paid to a celebrity in the show’s 21-year history.
And television sources tell me that it was Toffolo who tripled the original fee that ITV offered.
So how did 29-year-old Toff go from posh totty to pulling off what looks to be one of the biggest TV deals in years? After all, Farage has long been on the jungle bosses’ hit list to no avail. Until now.
The ultimate Marmite politician, he will fill a similar role to that of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock last year, and will undoubtedly be voted in for endless toe-curling trials by viewers.
For Toff to succeed in getting him on the show is a coup that’s impressed even the toughest and wiliest celebrity agents and fixers.
Indeed, Devon-born Toffolo herself — then only a minor player on Made in Chelsea — earned a measly £13,000 for her 2017 jungle appearance.
But it seems she has cannily used her innate understanding of the modern celebrity landscape, dominated by influencers and opinion-makers on social media, as well as her long connection with the Tory Party, to carve out a lucrative niche for herself in the cut-throat world of showbiz representation.
Today she’s on her way to becoming a super-agent after founding her own agency which, after just three years of trading, now has a turnover of millions of pounds a year.
Indeed, the Farage contract could net her 20 per cent of the fee, which would mean £300,000 winging its way into her bank account.
‘It is an absolute coup for Toff,’ a friend of the star tells me, ‘and she is rightly very, very proud of her work. She has gone full circle, from jungle queen to queen of negotiating.’
The former Made in Chelsea star appeared to be nothing more than a pretty, posh, blonde airhead, albeit thoroughly likeable
Indeed, Devon-born Toffolo herself — then only a minor player on Made in Chelsea — earned a measly £13,000 for her 2017 jungle appearance
To put the deal into context, Matt Hancock was paid £320,000 to take part in I’m A Celeb, while the likes of Harry Redknapp, Noel Edmonds and boxer Amir Khan were rumoured to have got between £400,000 and £600,000.
Toffolo — now thought to be worth around £5 million — seems to have turned her back on the ditzy persona which propelled her to fame.
Undoubtedly a bright woman, she launched the Visionary Talent Agency (VTA), based in South-West London, in 2020, not far from where her showbusiness career began in Chelsea. Her staff is composed entirely of women.
As well as Farage, the VTA’s big priority is its arm which manages influencers — Toff, it seems, is all too aware that while some may sneer, social media is where the money is. After all, with her own Instagram following sitting at a healthy 1.7 million, she commands £5,000 per post to endorse a number of brands with which she has lucrative partnerships.
Her team aim to negotiate similarly well-paid tie-ins for their clients, among them florist, author and designer Willow Crossley, and fashion guru Emma Hothersall. Emma’s Instagram account, What Em Wore, has grown from around 100,000 followers to more than 1.4 million since taking on Toffolo’s firm to represent her. She now makes thousands from deals with labels and endorsements.
Of course, every connection the gregarious Toff has is remorselessly utilised to make money for both herself and her clients. But it’s her own experience of modern fame, via reality TV and social media, that gives her an edge other agents simply don’t have.
‘No one else does this,’ a friend of the star tells me. ‘Toff puts their interests first. This was important to her as she sits on the roster as talent, too. This is why she stands out.’
Born in October 1994, in Torquay, Devon, to scrap metal dealer Gary Bennett and property manager Nicola Toffolo, Toff attended Blundell’s School and Torquay Girls’ Grammar School.
When she was 18, she made her move to the capital, where she completed an LLB law degree at the University of Westminster. She worked at a family-run solicitors in Devon and law firm Family Law in Partnership in London.
Then came Made in Chelsea, from which sprang her fortune.
She was invited to join the show in series seven, aged 19, after becoming friends with members of the cast with whom she had partied in London. She’s since appeared regularly on This Morning, Googlebox, has written a series of romantic novels for Mills & Boon and launched her own natural dog food range.
Her lifestyle is enviable: owner of three properties, two in West London, she’s a social butterfly in the upmarket enclave of Chelsea and Fulham (though she no longer drinks alcohol, preferring to focus on her business). Networking is second nature: she’s spotted regularly at the Grenadier — a favourite pub of politicians — in Belgravia.
And it’s through the skill of political networking that she came to know Nigel Farage.
He confirmed this week that he was in talks to appear on the show, adding that he had canvassed his followers on TikTok (a move the social media supremo Toff would no doubt have encouraged) for their thoughts.
The Mail has since learned that Farage’s deal is to be signed within the next two days — and will see him star alongside the likes of This Morning’s Josie Gibson and former England rugby bad boy Danny Cipriani
He told viewers on GB News that ITV has approached him before, adding: ‘And they’ve always offered me really quite substantial sums of money to do so, and I have always thought: ‘No, it’s probably not the right thing for me to do.’ ‘
Toff, it seems, brought Farage over the line, in part thanks to her many connections with Tory and Right-wing politicians.
She was approached by Farage, a long-standing friend of hers, late last month after ITV contacted him about appearing on this year’s show. His first call was to Toff — who used to date George Cottrell, an aristocratic former banker who ran Farage’s private office — to see if she would broker the deal.
Suspecting that the broadcaster had been hoping to land Boris Johnson or Liz Truss but had failed, savvy Toffolo deduced that producers desperately needed a contestant who was in the political sphere, and was as well known to the man on the street as the two former PMs, but would also attract the attention — and loathing — of the quinoa-munching political commentariat. Farage, she believed, could thus name his price.
‘What better person to deal with a contract like this than Toff? She has been there, done that,’ said a television source. ‘She has inside knowledge of all of the little bits of detail that other agents do not necessarily understand. It’s been a very intense week. Farage is a huge booking so the contract needs to be perfect, which it will be.’
Amember of the Conservative Party since she was a teenager, Toffolo has said: ‘I believe the traditions of our country should be upheld and I’m a real advocate of business. I can’t comprehend why someone of my age would support the Labour Party.’
No wonder she formed such a bond with her fellow campmate Stanley Johnson (father of Boris) when she was in the I’m A Celebrity jungle. She admits her favourite part of the whole experience were the ‘amazing chats’ she had with Stanley. They are still close friends.
Today, older male politicians remain attracted to her like bees to honey. One political insider said: ‘The old guys just love her; they think she is like the perfect woman. When they see her in a room, they gravitate towards her immediately.’
At a recent book launch party for a political tome, Toffolo was seen giggling with Tory MPs of a certain vintage who revelled in her photogenic company — something the wily Toff is surely well aware of.
Friends of Toffolo say they have watched her work tirelessly for her business success since she triumphed on I’m A Celebrity. She decided to start her agency after her own experience of celebrity life, and thinking: ‘I could do what they [agents] do, but better.’
Romantically, she’s now attached to James Watt, owner of global beer company BrewDog, who has two children with his former wife and is worth a whopping £262 million.
Watt is a controversial figure following criticism of his management style among his employees who claim he abused his power and acted inappropriately in the workplace. The couple met on a blind date organised by mutual friends.
Toff had been recently ‘devastated’ to learn her on-off boyfriend Cottrell had moved on to date Miss Montenegro, the model Andjela Vukadinovic.
Happily, things are now going so well with Watt that she’s met his family in Scotland.
She has previously spoken of her exasperation at being pigeonholed as a ‘dumb blonde’ and the surprise expressed when people learn she is friends with politicians.
‘I get frustrated because apparently, you can’t be young and blonde with a few hair extensions, and bump into a politician in a restaurant . . . I’m not just a vacuous reality TV star who’s had a bit of luck. You can also be intelligent and have an interest in things you wouldn’t normally think someone like me would have an interest in.
‘I would never want to be put into a box and told: ‘That’s your lot, now. You can only do a bit of presenting and go to really luxurious places and show off, and that’s you.’ I like to prove people wrong.’
And with her intriguing Farage deal, it seems that’s precisely what the canny Toff has done.