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Former CBeebies presenter says she had suicidal thoughts after topless photo backlash

Sarah-Jane Honeywell took part in a semi-clothed photoshoot for animal rights charity Peta in 2011

Nicole Vassell
Thursday 22 February 2024 15:40 GMT
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Former children’s TV presenter Sarah-Jane Honeywell has shared that she experienced suicidal thoughts after receiving backlash for appearing in a topless photoshoot.

Honeywell worked on the BBC’s young children’s channel CBeebies for nearly a decade, featuring on programmes such as Tweenies and Tikkabilla.

However, she abruptly stopped appearing on the network in 2011, allegedly due to her participation in a topless photoshoot for Peta.

In a new interview, Honeywell, 50, revealed the extent to which the negative media reaction to the images had affected her mental health.

In the early 2010s shoot for the animal rights charity, Honeywell laid on an enlarged plate next to “chips and peas” to promote not eating meat.

She told The Sun: “They said I could wear a bra and pants, so I got some flesh-coloured ones, and I was asked to lie down on a giant plate of food.

“As I got in position, they asked me to take my bra off because it’d get loads more news coverage.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’m helping a good cause’ and I didn’t really see what was wrong with it. They’re just boobs and they were covered with my hands.”

Sarah-Jane Honeywell was vilified in the media after posing semi-nude for charity (Getty Images)

However, Honeywell did not anticipate the negative response from the media and parents of young viewers when the photo was published.

“There was just this shift,” she noted. “I remember my legs almost going from underneath me. I phoned Justin [Fletcher, her CBeebies co-worker] and left a message asking him to call me.

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“I felt like something bad was going to happen. I never heard from him or any of my former colleagues again.”

The Independent has contacted the BBC and Justin Fletcher for comment.

She then added that she found out through the press that her job on the children’s channel had been terminated, rather than direct correspondence.

“I just felt like my life was over,” Honeywell stated, before claiming that she had suicidal ideations while waiting for a train. “And then I remember my little boy kicking and that shocked me out of it,” she explained.

Sarah-Jane Honeywell posed for Peta in 2011 (PA)

"Cancel culture is really dangerous and I think people forget that human beings are behind those celebrity personas. People can make mistakes.”

Honeywell previously spoke out about how impactful the response to her shoot had been during an interview on BBC Radio Lincolnshire in December 2021.

“I’m not really that political. I was just like, ‘I’ll do it to help’,” Honeywell said. “I felt really lost, I felt like I’d lost my identity. My whole kind of sense of purpose, identity, everything about me felt like it was slipping away.”

At the time, she said, fathers would often stop her for photos, while mothers would “scowl”, which she said was “not very kind attention”.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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