Lydia Bright opens up about her split from Arg, her life under the glare of the spotlight, and her return to hit reality show The Only Way Is Essex
When they met in Marbs for the first time in more than a year, Lydia Bright and her ex James “Arg” Argent both insisted they were more mature versions of themselves.
But things are rarely quite so simple on The Only Way Is Essex. Minutes later Arg was apologising for his affair with a co-star before joking about Lydia’s boobs looking bigger. Meanwhile Lydia was in tears, telling him he did “kill” her as a person.
So far, so normal for the scripted reality show, which returned on Sunday night.
But Lydia, 24, who is back on screen after a two-year break, insists she is ready to move on and be civil to her former fella.
“I just want to reach a happy medium where we can be in the same room and not be biting each other’s heads off,” she says.
“We’ve argued so much. There have been so many harsh words said.”
Many of those words were about her boyfriend of four years Arg, 26, cheating on her with fellow star Amy Childs.
“I was very upset about it, naturally,” Lydia admits.
“I was more hurt because I had an inkling it was going on and I aired my concerns on the show with Amy.
“I confronted them and they said it wasn’t true. Amy had such a big following that the whole nation really went against me.
"They thought they were telling the truth and I was made to feel like I was a pathetic girlfriend. I got upset because they let me go through all of that when they knew it was true.”
So it’s surprising that she is prepared to make peace with her ex – although she has no such intention towards Amy.
“Me and Amy were never friends,” she says. “I never knew her before TOWIE. I don’t have her number and I haven’t spoken to her since. I wouldn’t choose a friend like her. I don’t think she’s a very loyal friend. She’s not really my kind of girl.
“I think it’s unfortunate that she came into my life but then equally she’s not really part of my life anyway.”
Lydia left the show in December 2012 along with her co-star and boyfriend at the time Tom Kilbey, 23 – although the pair have since gone their separate ways.
She now admits she may have rushed into the relationship too quickly after breaking up with Arg.
“I started dating Tom very, very soon after – maybe too soon after,” she says. “We had a lovely relationship but now I’m just enjoying being single. It’s nice because I’ve always been in relationships.”
Lydia blamed her string of blow-ups with Arg – including one where she threw a drink in his face – for her departure from TOWIE. So why is she coming back?
“I’ve had a long enough time out now that I could go back and actually enjoy it like I used to,” she explains.
And she defends airing her dirty laundry on TV. “It’s part of the nature of being on the show. When we sign ourselves up to it we agree to put everything on show. We have to do that 100%.”
Lydia says she had already agreed to go back before the cheating scandal surfaced – would it have made a difference?
“I don’t think so,” she says. “It was something I wanted to do and I can’t have what people have done in the past make me change the decisions I want to make.”
Her brief appearance in the finale of the last series caused a stir, prompting Arg to run off and hide and his former girlfriend, Gemma Collins, 33, to burst into tears.
“She must really care about him,” Lydia says. “They say you always want what you can’t have. Maybe it’s because he’s never really been too nice to her and it makes her want him more.”
But Lydia has no such romantic feelings for Arg. “I think they went a long time ago,” she says.
Despite her turbulent relationship history, Lydia is not averse to playing out even more of her love life on camera – though she insists she isn’t looking for a boyfriend.
“I have found having a relationship on the show very hard in the past. It’s not something I would make top of my priorities.
“A boyfriend in general is not something I would make top of my priority list. But, equally, if someone whisks me off my feet and they’re on the show, I won’t rule it out. We need new men in the show.”
TOWIE first hit our screens four years ago with a cast that included Amy, Mark Wright, 27, and Sam Faiers, 23, who have all since moved on to bigger things. Over the years the show has struggled to maintain ratings but Lydia is adamant it’s no sinking ship.
Rex'The Only Way Is Essex' cast in Marbella, Spain
Elliott Wright, Lydia Bright, Charlie Sims, Ferne McCann 'The Only Way Is Essex' cast in Marbella, Spain
“I know the ratings did fall but the last series was the best figures they’ve ever had,” she insists. “The show has been commissioned for two more years. Knowing TOWIE, it will probably be extended after that.”
Some people may scoff but Lydia is proud of her reality TV roots. “I am where I am because of TOWIE so I would never turn my back on it,” she says.
Before joining the show aged 18, she had plans to go to university to study English and fashion journalism. However that all changed when she landed what was a minor role alongside boyfriend Arg.
And Lydia has no regrets about dropping uni to chase fame.
“I’m glad things turned out the way they are,” she admits. “I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been able to do my own clothing range and open a boutique.”
She’s also moved out of her family home, where she lived with mum Debbie, who will also be making a return to TOWIE.
“I live by myself,” she says. “But going from such a big household – I’m one of seven children – I really missed having someone around to cuddle up to on the sofa, especially now I’m single.”
So three months ago animal lover Lydia got a black and white puppy called Paddy. “He’s my boyfriend,” jokes Lydia, who is fronting a competition run by an animal worming treatment company to find the nation’s most special pets.
“He’s my little companion and I’m always posting pictures of him on Twitter.”
Despite moving out, Lydia remains very close to her family. “I’ve got a 10-year-old sister and she stays with me probably three times a week,” Lydiasays.
“I’ve been like a second mum to her and all my other siblings.”
Her mum Debbie has been a foster carer for 18 years but Lydia says: “I don’t think it’s something I would go into because I’m very selfish. I just know how much time children take up.”
She’s not even sure she wants any kids of her own. “Some of my friends are like, ‘I can’t wait to be a mum.’ But for me it’s not really something I want to do.”
The new series has kicked off in Marbella – Marbs to the TOWIE faithful. It’s the cast’s favourite holiday destination and Lydia trained in the gym five days a week beforehand – in between running her boutique Bella Sorella in Loughton, Essex – to get into to top swimsuit shape.
James Argent, Ricky Rayment, Jessica Wright and Lydia Bright
“I’ve picked it up in the gym in the past five weeks,” she admits. “With my return to TOWIE I wanted to make sure I’m looking my best.”
But she insists it’s not for Arg’s benefit. “I’m not that bothered about looking really slim for James because I have got no interest trying to win him back,” she says. “TOWIE is airing to two million people. That puts the pressure on a bit.”
Lydia’s not too concerned, though. “We’ve done loads of summer specials so everyone sees you in a bikini anyway,” she says. “For me it isn’t a massive deal because I’ve done it so many times before.”
And unlike some cast members Lydia hasn’t resorted to cosmetic surgery to get that perfect beach body. “I’ve never had anything and I don’t think there’s anything I would do,” she says. “There’s nothing I want to change that much that I’d risk going under the knife for.”
Maybe she has matured after all.