REBEKAH Vardy is, at first glance, the sort of person it would be easy to make assumptions about.
For a start, she’s a footballer’s wife and one who dares to voice her opinions in public. She’s no stranger to a Twitter spat and in the flesh she eschews the usual social niceties.
Becky’s not one for warm hellos or celeb air kisses (she’d rather grab a cappuccino and get down to business, thanks very much) and she’s fully aware that to the uninitiated, it might give off an air of standoffishness.
“Oh, yeah, people have this perception of me that I’m a hard-faced bitch and stuck up my own arse,” she says with a shrug.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. However, if you cross me, you will know about it.”
She’s been labelled bolshie, brash and blunt and Becky, 37, would be the first to admit that she can be all of those things. But underneath the tough exterior is a woman and a mum of four who has survived more trauma than most could ever imagine.
‘WANTING TO BE DEAD’
Sexually abused from the age of 12, suicidal by 14 and made homeless at 15 by her own mother (Alison, 60) who didn’t believe her, Becky went on to become trapped in a series of physically and mentally abusive relationships with men.
She’s also battled through severe postnatal depression and financial dire straits and it’s clear that the hard-as-nails routine is a form of self-preservation, a wall she’s built around herself and one that very few people manage to break down.
“Life hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learnt to put everything in a box and shut it away and I think that’s why I talk so matter-of-factly about everything,” she says. “People ask how I can be so unemotional, but it’s because to me it’s a different life, it’s as if I’m talking about a fictional character. That’s the only way I can describe it.”
There came a point, she says, after the birth of her second baby Taylor, now nine, when her postnatal depression left her “wanting to be dead” and she knew she had to get help.
She had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and was on antidepressants for a while, and slowly started to come out the other side.
“I had to decide if it was going to define me or whether I was going to move on from that. And I wanted more for myself than to live in the shoes of that girl. I didn’t want it all to make me crumble and then ultimately have a knock-on effect on my kids.
“Having children made me strong and resilient and gave me something to focus on. They made me determined to not be who my mum was.
“And I think that if you have something that you are so adamant you don’t want to be, it’s amazing what willpower can do.
“You never realise how strong you are until being strong is the only thing you’ve got.”
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy came into her life a few years later in 2014 when Becky, by then working as a party planner, was hired to oversee his birthday celebrations.
Given everything she’d been through, she’d lost all faith in men and it took Jamie a long time to win her trust. “I thought all men were dirt bags, cheaters and only wanted one thing.
I always seemed to go for a guy who promised the world and delivered f**k all apart from cheating, stress and manipulation. And I thought that was all I deserved,” she remembers.
“But then I met Jamie. It took a while for me to trust him and I think the relationship we have now is the only relationship I’ve ever felt stable in.
“I love and trust him. My husband ain’t like the rest of them. He’s so not. He’s so supportive of everything I do, everything I say and everything I stand for. He knows the battles I’ve endured and where I’ve come from to where I am now.”
They married in 2016 and have two children, Sofia, four, and Finley, two, as well as Taylor and Megan, 14, from two of Becky’s previous relationships. Jamie, 32, also has a daughter, with ex Emma Daggett.
It’s a partnership of equals, she says. Despite speculation, Jamie has never once told Becky to wind her neck in when she’s busy taking no prisoners on social media, and she bursts out laughing on being reminded of a report that Wayne Rooney had warned him to make sure her media presence didn’t become “a distraction” during Euro 2016.
If you want something you have to earn it
Jamie FaceTimed her after that story, with Wayne himself joking about it in the background.
“I get stick because I’m opinionated and I don’t conform to what society wants me to be. I’m not a walkover. I could easily sit around and do nothing all day, but what kind of example would I be setting for my kids if I did that? That’s not acceptable.
“I’m very strict with my kids, because I don’t want them to grow up thinking everything they want they’re going to get. If you want something you have to earn it.
“It’s crazy when I look back at my life at my eldest’s age and compare it to what her life is now – it’s just worlds and worlds apart.”
She trusts Jamie implicitly but if he ever strayed, that would be it. Becky says she can’t fathom why some women forgive and forget.
“I wouldn’t stand for it if my husband cheated on me, I wouldn’t put up with that in a million years. If I was prepared to put up with that behaviour, where would my self-respect be? What example would I be to my kids?”
She regularly brings the conversation back to her children. She’s a mum first and foremost and her obvious unconditional love for them makes her own mother’s actions when Becky was a teenager all the more incomprehensible.
“Crazy. Crazy!” she says. “Somehow I survived, but I was 15 years old and working in a pub, which was totally illegal, and living in a bedsit.
‘WHAT EXAMPLE WOULD I BE’
I try not to think about it because I just don’t understand it. It’s beyond me. When you have kids, surely you want to protect them?”
There has also been no reconciliation with Jamie’s family either after they voiced disapproval of the relationship and didn’t attend the wedding. Becky says it seems unlikely that the differences will ever be patched up.
“I don’t get it,” she says. “I don’t get how you can fall out with your kids to the point that you don’t see your grandchildren. I mean, it’s mind-boggling.
“How do you get into a situation where you’ve fallen out with your kids in the first place? Maybe because you’re an interfering so-and-so…
“I don’t really know what else to say on that. My dad and stepmum are all the family we need.”
She is close to her dad Carlos, who wasn’t around and therefore wasn’t aware of the hardships she endured as a teen and young woman. It’s something he has since struggled to accept.
“It’s a really hard conversation for him and so we don’t really talk about it,” she says. “To hear that your daughter has gone through that and there’s nothing you can do to help is pretty devastating and he really suffered from that.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t his fault. He lived in another part of the country, my mum and dad weren’t together and he didn’t know. It was nothing he did.” Becky says her “fieriness” and “refusal to back down” come from Carlos.
I thought all men were dirt bags, cheaters and only wanted one thing
Twitter users saw these traits (again) recently when she posted about the BBC’s coverage of the women’s World Cup, captioning a screen grab of Gabby Logan and three female pundits: “Umm, what happened to equality…”
The tweet was leapt on by other users as “ridiculous”, with people pointing out there have been all-male line-ups since forever. This was about redressing the balance.
The row rumbled on for a couple of days – Gabby Logan and Alex Scott both waded in – but, true to form, Becky stoically dug her heels in and continues to do so today.
“Some people misconstrued my sense of humour, but they’re just looking for a fight. After five years in the public eye I’m used to it by now.
“My point was that women these days – naming no names – are involved in critiquing men’s football. And so I think on the flipside men should be able to do the same with the women’s game.
“Where were the men? Why didn’t anyone put themselves forward? Why did the BBC not think they needed more balance?” Mentioning that Dion Dublin was a regular pundit throughout the tournament elicits a dismissive “pfft” and roll of the eyes.
Not a Dion fan, then? “I just think the BBC went crazily over the top with diversity. I think if we want it to be equal then it needs to be truly equal.
“I read some tweets saying that men weren’t ‘qualified’ to pass judgement on women’s football and I thought: ‘What bulls**t.’
ROW RUMBLED ON
“There is this girl who plays professional football and she spent – I’m not joking – what must have been her whole day looking for tweets with my name tagged or hashtagged and liking them.
Literally looking for something in order to have a pop at me about. Does it bother me? No! I don’t give a s**t!” It’s perhaps no surprise to hear she’s an admirer of Piers Morgan…
“I think he’s brilliant. He says a lot of things that people just don’t have the b*****ks to say. Honestly, there are too many snowflakes in this world.”
She’s a recent convert to yoga, which she credits for toning her up and calming her down. “I’m not going to turn into some crazy hippy, though,” she jokes.
“It’s a top-to-toe workout, it’s so rejuvenating and I just love it. I’m never going to be thin, nor do I want to be. I’m happy with the way I am.
“I’ve got a bum and I have thighs and there’s nothing wrong with women who are bigger or smaller. We spend too long analysing what makes the perfect body.”
Becky recently posted a picture on Instagram captioned: “If you wouldn’t say it to your daughter, don’t say it to yourself.” She despairs of the expectations put on women and girls, and TV shows like Love Island, which she says add to the pressures.
“I hate that show. It’s not helping, is it? It’s basically saying you’re only going to do well in life if you’re pretty and, by the way, all men will cheat on you eventually. It must be so demoralising for the girls.
‘DARK, DARK PLACE’
“We need to raise our boys to have respect for women, we aren’t here for their pleasure. I would hate to be a 14 year old now with the pressures of social media. Would she like more children?
“You just never know. You should never take being able to have a child for granted and I’m 37 now. If we do, we do and if we don’t, we don’t.”
Becky has a policy of complete honesty with her children – if they ask a question, she’ll answer it. Her daughter Megan is here today and has sat listening to the entire interview, warts and all.
She knows the anguish of her mum’s past and Becky says there are no secrets in their family.
“People are more open and aware of these situations because we’re talking about them. It’s why I’ll never sugar-coat it. They’re not easy conversations, but we need to have them.
“I was in a dark, dark place and it’s only when you start coming through it that you realise it was this never-ending cycle that only I could break.”
Her advice to other women in a similar position is to find someone to talk to – someone who listens and won’t judge.
“The fear of going through the humiliation of being disbelieved or told you’re only saying things for attention was huge for me, but we are in a different era now. Thank god the world is changing.”
● Follow Becky on Twitter @Rebekahvardy and Instagram @Beckyvardy.
Book you read? Period by Emma Barnett. It’s about destroying the taboo around periods.
Movie you watched? Moana.
Box set you watched? Riviera and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Time you cried? I don’t really cry!
Time you lost your temper? In the cab on the way here. The driver didn’t know where he was going.
Time you were drunk? At the NTAs in January.