Kim-Joy: ‘People always say believe in yourself, but that’s really hard to do’

The former Great British Bake Off contestant on knowing herself, and the importance of carving out a little time just for you.

If calm, gentleness, quiet joy and biscuit-making is what you’re after, the Great British Bake Off is the ultimate haven from the grind of real life. And no season more so than the one that brought us Kim-Joy Hewlett.

Runner-up in 2018, Kim-Joy’s woodland animal designs, luminous disposition and commitment to fantastical colour, detail and imagination, couldn’t fail to cheer and uplift you. And fortunately, all of those qualities are found in her debut cookbook, Baking With Kim-Joy, published in 2019.

“People always say, ‘Just be yourself, believe in yourself,’ but that’s really hard to do in practice,” she says, on the advice she was given before entering the show, adding with a laugh: “What is ‘myself’? We all have work selves, personal selves, party selves…”

The experience, she says, taught her a lot though, and had an impact on her approach to life and wellbeing. Here’s how…

On finding her self-confidence

“I know it’s a cliché and everyone says it, but I’ve become more confident. I didn’t see myself necessarily as a creative person before the Bake Off, and when people say that to me now, I’m like, ‘Oh OK’. I’m more confident in that, and that I can do things well. But I still have my doubts, like everybody does,” she notes.

“I’ve also learnt that I’ve got resilience. I quite like being at home, taking my time, not being rushed, chilling out – and I guess a lot of us have those doubts: how are we going to cope [in a new environment] or a new kitchen, under time pressure? But I learned I could manage with that. I did it.”

On better understanding how she reacts to things

The experience of being on Bake Off also taught her that: “I’ll often get really upset about something straightaway, and I’ll have a mini strop and a mini doom and gloom moment where I think everything’s going wrong – I don’t really believe it in my head, but I express it like that.”

She says she’ll quickly jump back to being OK, but has realised that being able to express your emotions is a good thing.

“Sometimes, if something bad happens to you, and you hold it all in, you don’t cry, don’t talk to people about it, you don’t really let yourself feel it, and it’s actually worse. It’s a strong thing to be able to [show your feelings],” she explains. “Now I’m all about, if anyone’s feeling upset [saying]: ‘Yeah, you deserve to feel that way – you feel like that!”

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I can’t believe it’s already been a whole YEAR and now it’s the Bake off FINAL all over again!!!! 😱 here’s me last year casually having a mint at the table where the judges sit and chat about our failures and successes 😁 it’s nice for them, but sooo emotionally taxing for us bakers! So support the bakers, because no matter who wins, they’ve all worked so hard and are all so talented! OBVS!!! 💖 Those who went earlier on, and those in the final too. They would be super knackered as well cause it’s basically months where you can’t ever completely switch off, as there’s always some bake you need to be working on and trying to improve. There’s the short lived relief of getting through one week, and then it all starts again! And then there’s the onslaught of social media (both good and the bad!) once the show airs on TV! But at the same time, you meet such amazing people through the process. We love it cause we get to geek out and talk about baking for longer than normally socially acceptable, and learn other peoples tips and tricks! Sadly I can’t watch it live tonight as I have a book signing in St Andrews – but will be catching up right after!!! (And avoiding social media somehow 😁) . I just remember it was such an incredible, stressful and life changing experience. I remember being the most relaxed I’d been when I got to the final, just because I felt that no matter what happened, I was so proud of everything I had achieved. Though I was also shattered and not making a lot of sense!!! It was funny as well because my mum and brother apparently kept asking if I’d won yet 😂😂 they literally had no concept of any other outcome hahah! 💖 . . . . . #gbbo #greatbritishbakingshow #greatbritishbakeoff #gbbs #baking #bakeoff #bakeoff2019 #bakeofftent #kitchen #pastel #bake #bakeofffinal #gbbofinal #throwbacktuesday #throwback

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On having patience

“You’re patient for different things,” she muses. “I’m really patient at decorating biscuits and I’m patient with people – I think because I used to work with people with learning disabilities.”

Does she ever get impatient? After a long moment of racking her brains, Kim-Joy says with a wry smile: “I might get impatient about being really hungry!”

On the importance of taking even just a little time out for yourself

“It is hard; life right now is not designed to have time for yourself,” she says. “I think it’s important to set aside some time.

“When you focus so much on one thing (like decorating biscuits), it’s an escape from any thoughts or worries you might have,” she explains. “[People say] ‘Well I just work all the time, and I look after the kids, and I have no time to myself’ – but it’s about working with them to explore, when can you fit this time in? Is there 10 minutes before breakfast even? Or when the kids go to bed? Are you doing something for yourself?

“It doesn’t have to be baking, but obviously, I would say – bake! It could be as simple as five minutes spent painting your nails.”

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My face is on a pile of books in a store 😱 – which is a bizarre and totally incredible feeling! 🎉 Makes me look back and realise that I’ve had lots of set backs and made so many mistakes, but I wouldn’t have got here without them. Mistakes are there for learning, and that’s the only way we move forwards. Same with baking really, some of my best bakes have been from accidents. There’s lots of parallels between baking and general life really. And there’s generally always something that’s salvageable! It’s hard to see it when you’re not in a good place, but just never give up doing what you love, you never know what will happen. . And just wanted to mention three other things before I chill out for tonight! First thing, if you have bought my book on amazon, I would massively appreciate a glowing review on there from you, if you could spare a minute! 💖 thank you so so much! 🐰 Secondly and very excitingly, I’ll be doing a takeover of @zoella stories from 10am tomorrow – so get yourself over there!! I’ll do a little tour of my house, some biscuit decorating, general chatting, and Q and A’s in the afternoon! So come ask me those burning questions ☺️☺️☺️ and lastly, my book is out in the USA and Canada TOMORROW!!! . . . . @quadrillebooks @travellingmanuk #yum #food #baking #bake #gbbo #recipes #bakingbook #motivation #happiness #bakingwithkimjoy #zoellatakeover #bookrelease #zoella #gbbs

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Baking With Kim-Joy: Cute And Creative Bakes To Make You Smile by Kim-Joy, photography by Ellis Parrinder, is published by Quadrille, priced £18.99. Available now.