Scarlett Moffatt - Why living with a Namibian tribe changed my life
Scarlett Moffatt tells us how relocating to Namibia for C4’s new anthropology series changed her life…
Scarlett Moffatt is no stranger to living a life less ordinary on TV.
After becoming a household name on C4’s Gogglebox, she went on to win series 16 of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! and land a presenting gig on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, where she proved she’s more than game for a laugh.
But even Scarlett thought C4 bosses had gone slightly bonkers when they asked if she’d be interested in living with a remote Namibian tribe for a month.
"I thought sitting on my couch just watching TV was the weirdest thing I could do for a living," chuckles Scarlett, who turns 29 on October 17. "So yes, as an idea, this was out there. I’d been in the jungle and thought this would be similar – but it wasn’t at all!"
In The British Tribe Next Door, Scarlett and her entire family – mum Betty, dad Mark, sister Ava and granny Christine – spend four weeks with the Himba tribe in Namibia, as part of a social experiment to contrast two very different worlds.
In a reversal of C4’s popular 2007 series Meet the Natives, where five South Pacific tribesmen came to the UK, this four-part series plonks the Moffatts and a replica of their County Durham home – complete with all its mod cons – into a small village of semi-nomadic cattle-herders.
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As British suburbia and Himba tribal life collides, the Moffatts find their whole way of life – from body image and the wealth gap to social media and the roles of men and women – come under the Himba microscope.
"It was a truly life-changing experience," says Scarlett. "We haven’t done anything together since Gogglebox so we all jumped at it. How many people get the opportunity to do something like this? It sounded amazing and it was. We made such good friends and I learnt so much, weirdly, about myself."
Here Gogglebox legend Scarlett Moffatt tells us more…
What creature comforts did you take with you?
Scarlett Moffatt: "Our whole house was recreated in the village – it even smelt like our home! It had all the mod cons like running water, electricity and about 22,000 possessions from our iPhones to our hair straighteners! The whole point was for the Himba tribe to see how Western people live."
And were they impressed?
SM: "No, they hated our house! They couldn’t believe we had so much stuff. They were like, ‘Scarlett, why do you have so many clothes and shoes for just one person? Why do you have so many scatter cushions on your bed?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, you’re right! I don’t need it all!’ They questioned everything, which made me realise we buy too much pointless stuff. These are people who live with their entire families in dome-shaped huts made of water and cowpat and have about 12 possessions. I felt we were self-obsessed and self-indulgent in comparison."
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There’s a lovely moment when a young Himba mum sees herself in a mirror for the first time…
SM: "She’d never seen her reflection before and do you know what she said? ‘Is that me? I’m beautiful.’ How lovely to not pick yourself apart like we do in our culture. They have no vanity and are so proud of who they are. They taught me so much about beauty and body image. I’ve always been self-conscious, but they told me they loved my rolls of fat and wanted them! One girl, Kaitaarua, said, ‘I’d love to be as beautiful and fat as you,’ which would be slightly offensive normally, but these people don’t lie, they’re so genuine, friendly and warm, I knew it came from a good place. I didn’t feel judged there like I do at home. I walked around prouder of myself in the village. My self-confidence has massively grown thanks to the Himba people."
How did the rest of the Moffatt family cope?
SM: "My Nanny had the best time, mixing with the elders and teaching them how to knit! My dad had to do cattle herding and lost them in four minutes, which prompted lots of lads’ banter from the tribesmen taking the mickey! Mum loved it too, apart from when her new best friend kept asking if she could share my dad one night in the bedroom. Mum had to explain that wasn’t how we like to do things!"
What did you learn from the experience?
SM: "So much. That family and community is most important, not possessions. That beauty is what’s inside a person, not outside. And that language and different lifestyles are no barrier to friendship. I became so close with the Himba women – even with no translator we’d sit around, make up songs and have a laugh. If only I could Facebook them and stay in touch!"
What do you think your fellow Goggleboxers will make of the series when they watch?
SM: "I hope they enjoy it and take away from it the same as us – that we need to stop buying stuff and help each other out more. The world would be a much better place."
Interview by REBECCA FLETCHER
The British Tribe Next Door airs on C4 on Tuesday at 9.15pm.
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With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab)www.whattowatch.com (opens in new tab) covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.