IT’S safe to say that Dani Dyer has had one hell of a year.
After rekindling her relationship with stockbroker and amateur footballer Sammy Kimmence for the third time, the pair welcomed baby Santiago in January.
Dani Dyer found herself a single parent after Sammy Kimmence was convicted of conning two pensioners
It seemed Dani – who won Love Island in 2018 with Jack Fincham, 30, before the couple split the following year – finally had the perfect family.
But, just six months after Santiago was born, her world fell apart when Kimmence, 25, was convicted of conning two pensioners out of £34,000 and jailed for three and a half years.
And just like that, Dani found herself a single parent. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult and stressful start to first-time motherhood. But as the daughter of EastEnders star Danny, the 25-year-old is made of strong stuff.
“I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice to have a dad there, just to have someone to talk to at the end of the day. If a child does anything new, the first person you go to speak to is his dad. But I’m not the only single mum out there – there are hundreds, millions of us, all doing it together,” she says.
In fact, Dani has picked herself up again and says today that despite everything that has happened and all she has gone through, she’s the happiest she’s ever been.
“At times I’ve been an emotional wreck,” she says.
“But I’ve definitely grown up a lot since I became a mum. I feel different because I want to be more headstrong and do the right thing for my baby.”
While some of this new-found happiness may be down to the fact that she is now dating West Ham United ace Jarrod Bowen, 24, she insists it is mainly because of the happiness her nine-month-old son brings.
Confirming the relationship with Jarrod for the first time, Dani says: “Everything is so early days. Jarrod is a lovely guy and we’re enjoying getting to know each other.
“But Santi will always be my main priority, he will always come first. I am concentrating on being a mum and, beyond that, whatever happens, happens.”
However, in a sign that things could well get more serious with Jarrod, he’s already had the seal of approval from lifelong Hammers fan Danny, 44.
“My dad thinks Jarrod’s a lovely guy. He’s invested in all of the West Ham players – because he supports the team and follows some of them, he’s like: ‘They’re all my friends.’ I’m like: ‘Right, OK, Dad.’
“But he’s always been such a big football fan. As soon as Santi was born, the West Ham babygros were coming in from Grandad. That was the first thing everyone bought me, actually, and I was like: ‘I need vests. And could anyone bring some nappies round?’”
Dani was first linked to Jarrod last month, but at the time, the pair were just friends. That changed after it emerged that “jealous” Kimmence had reportedly plotted to spy on the actress from prison, asking a pal to “keep an eye” on Dani because he was “not happy” that she was spending time with Jarrod.
Dani Dyer is now dating West Ham United ace Jarrod Bowen
Dani admits she’s been an ’emotional wreck’ at times
When Dani became a single mum so unexpectedly, it was her parents who were there to pick up the pieces
The ordeal left Dani feeling “scared, afraid and violated”, but it also led to her realising she did have feelings for £20million winger Jarrod – who was spotted leaving her home a few weeks ago.
Though, she isn’t so keen on the WAG acronym – “Is that even a thing any more?” – that often accompanies being in a relationship with a footballer.
Despite everything she’s been through, Dani is her normal, bubbly self when we talk on Zoom a few days after our photo shoot. Ready on the dot for our interview, she looks immaculate, yet still apologises for her “crispy” skin after a recent skin peel.
And when Santi is mentioned, her face lights up.
“I wish I could go back to the first few weeks and tell myself: ‘Dani, it’ll be fine.’
“Because all of those rushing emotions and hormones… no one can prepare you for them. My mum [Jo Mas, 44] said to me: ‘Baby blues,’ and I was like: ‘I won’t get them’ – and then they hit me.
“You just don’t know what you’re doing and you’re learning on the job. No one can teach you to be a parent. I was quite erratic at the beginning and I think that rubbed off on [Santi] a bit.
“But then I became a bit more chilled. I take him everywhere now. I used to be like: ‘Can I take him here?’ The first time I took him on a train, he s**t everywhere. But now I know to prepare for that.”
Motherhood has changed Dani hugely, she says. “My life until now has always been so up and down, so rocky. Before Love Island, I wasn’t in the public eye, but now it’s hard to keep any secrets.
“But the biggest change I’ve been through since having Santi is that I feel like I know my worth more now, and I know what I want from life.
“I want to do things that make me happy. I’ve learned that. And things are going really well.
“Dad is always saying to me: ‘Just wait until he’s one and walking. You’ll spend all day stopping him from killing himself.’ I’ve already had to buy plug socket covers to stop him getting electrocuted.
“Sometimes I look at him and think: ‘You’re actually a human being.’ I love it. He’s my little mate, and seeing how happy he is to see me in the morning is the best feeling ever.”
Of the challenges she’s faced as a new mum, the biggest is how she deals with the fallout from Sammy’s crimes.
“When the awful things Sammy did came out in court and we split up, I was devastated. But I don’t want to say any more than that because he will always be Santi’s dad.
“I’m very conscious that when Santi is older, he will be able to find and read the things I say now, and if he does, I don’t want to make that any more painful for him than it needs to be. I’m his mum, all I want to do is protect him.”
Dani was left feeling ‘violated’ after it emerged that ‘jealous’ Kimmence had reportedly plotted to spy on the actress from prison
Dani with mum Jo Mas and dad Danny
Dani’s mum and dad have been together for 30 years after meeting at school when they were just 14 years old.
While the pair have famously had their ups and downs, they have always made raising Dani, as well as her sister Sunnie, 14, and eight-year-old brother Arty, their priority. And when Dani became a single mum so unexpectedly, it was her parents who were there to pick up the pieces.
“It was hard, but I’ve settled into it OK. The first few weeks… it was always going to be difficult, that adjustment,” she admits. “But if you’ve got the right support system and are not afraid to ask for help, that goes a long way.
“My mum is absolutely obsessed with Santi. She wants to see him more than me most of the time. If I turn up without him, it’s like: ‘Where is he?!’
“And my dad – who is hilarious as a grandad – adores him too. “The pair of them are always there for me and that changes everything, because I know at the back of my mind that if I have a bad day, I can just pop around to Mum and Dad’s house.
“If I was thinking: ‘I’m alone’, I’d be more likely to freak out, but I know I have back-up. They are my safety net and I can fall back on them if I need to. I know they are proud of me, too, which is nice.
“It’s really sweet. It’s a nice feeling, when you make your parents proud, isn’t it?”
It’s clear that family is written through Dani like a stick of rock. At one point our chat is interrupted by her nan and Arty “just popping in”.
She reveals that Danny and Jo – who had Dani at 19 – have already warned her about having baby number two.
“They always tell me: ‘You wait, your next baby won’t be that good,’” she laughs.
“I absolutely want more babies, I love children. With the next baby, I think I would want to enjoy the newborn phase a bit more, because I’d know what to expect.
“I feel like I’ve got a purpose now – everything I do is for Santi. I have been so blessed with him.
“But saying that, like every other mum, I have good days and bad days, and I am just winging it and trying to be the best parent I can be. And I think it’s important to be honest about that.”
Dani says she ‘absolutely’ wants to have more children
Dani says she suffered anxiety about meeting new people after Love Island
Dani admits that, after her Love Island experience – which she describes as “nothing but positive” – she suffered anxiety about meeting new people in case they had preconceptions about her. Thanks to a stint in therapy and lots of conversations with her dad in the past three years, she has managed to conquer those fears.
“After Love Island, I had a lot of anxiety about people already having an impression of me, and it took me a while to go: ‘Do you know what? If they don’t like me, it’s fine.’
“At the time, I would read things that people said about me, like: ‘She’s pretty, until she opens her mouth.’ I got a lot of that. The thing is, it’s like road rage, isn’t it? It only lasts for a minute, but then it’s there and someone can see it and be hurt. So I think people need to be kinder, especially on social media.
“For me, getting to that point of ‘it’s fine’ was about acknowledging I was feeling fearful about meeting people, and that was a bit silly. And then therapy – I love therapy, I think it’s fantastic.
“We all have things in a little box and therapists can unravel them and put them back together in a way that really makes you think. When I spoke to Dad, he would just always say: ‘Be you, and don’t filter yourself.’
“After I had Santi, I was so scared about going to baby classes, in case people had watched or read something and decided they didn’t like me.
“But in the end, I was so glad I did, because the mums there are all rooting for each other.”
Dani and dad Danny teamed up last year for Spotify podcast Sorted With The Dyers. And their father-daughter advice proved such a hit that they signed up for a second series, which started last month.
“Me and Dad have always been close and I love working with him, because it’s so much fun that it doesn’t feel like work at all. Our lives aren’t perfect and we aren’t trying to be therapists. The idea is that it’s like asking for advice from a mate with a cup of tea.
“There have been some crazy ones, and Dad says some things that I have no idea how he has managed to get away with, but that’s just him.
“He does give very good advice, though. We actually give each other the same advice sometimes. We tell each other that if you’re having a bad day, remember that there are people out there that love you, and people that don’t. All you have to do is just love the life you live.
“And that’s what I’m trying to do. Every day is a new challenge with Santi, but I’m loving it.
“Do you know what I want to do now?” she adds, laughing: “I don’t want the ups and downs of the rollercoaster – I want to sit on the lazy river ride. I’m banning myself from all rollercoasters!”
We don’t blame you one little bit, Dani.
- Season two of Sorted With The Dyers is available exclusively on Spotify now.
In the make-up chair with Dani
What are your make-up bag essentials?
Any Mac lipliner and Vaseline lipgloss.
What are your skincare heroes?
Glossier and Clé de Peau Beauté products.
What’s your best budget buy?
Definitely Vaseline lipgloss.
What do you splurge on?
I love Nars foundation and Charlotte Tilbury. They’re worth the money.
What’s your best beauty tip?
Always moisturise after having a shower. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is brilliant.
Who is your beauty icon?[Skins actress] Kaya Scodelario always looks amazing.
Hair & make-up: Marcos Gurgel using Anastasia Beverly Hills, Eylure & Cloud Nine
Styling: Kate Barbour
Stylist’s assistant: Nuntaporn Munkit