‘I’m a YouTube momager – I work for my celebrity kids but never wanted fame’

Wendy Barker, 47, from Brighton, is the mum of social media star Saffron Barker, as well as two sons Casey, 27, and Jed, 20. She supports all three in the careers they've built from posting about their lives online.

"I’ve never had any desire to be famous, but somehow I’ve had a camera in my face almost every single week over the last decade. When I was young I told my mum that I wanted to work in a fish and chip shop and then later I wanted to be a solicitor. I was always content with the idea of a quiet life, but my children, Casey, Saffron and Jed, had other ideas.

I fell pregnant when I was 19 with my now husband, Darren. From that moment, I vowed I’d do anything for my children – and my life now proves just that!

Saffron led the way on our YouTube journey, which is no surprise as she’s always loved being in front of the camera. From a young age, she’d say, 'Record me please, Mum.'

She was in a girlband at 13 and they started making their own vlogs, emulating their idol Zoella, who’d become successful sharing her life online. Saffron would come to life creating the videos, but they were just for fun, never uploaded for the world to see.

When the band split, Saffron felt a bit lost. She’d never enjoyed traditional academia, so she needed a passion. I said, “Why not do YouTube?” I got her a camera from Currys and she got to work. For her first video she recorded herself saying 'morning' about 100 times to get it 'right'. Little did I know this was just the beginning.

Within a few weeks her videos had been watched thousands of times. I knew she had that star quality, but the speed at which she gained popularity was crazy. After just three months, Casey set up his own channel, too, and he soon began making videos with his now-fiancée, Nicole.

I never expected my youngest, Jed, to join them as he’s the shy one and detested being described as Saffron Barker’s little brother. But he realised how fun it was and it’s now become a family business, with me involved in the videos, too!

I was quite reluctant and camera-shy at first, but once we’re recording I get into it and have lots of fun. I was flattered that my children’s followers wanted me to be involved. If I appear in one child’s video then the other two badger me to be in theirs.

I’ve done everything from answering awkward questions from viewers, such as whether Saffron was an accident, to only eating food that begins with the letter W for 24 hours and swapping clothes with my teenage daughter a few years ago. I’ve been the victim of a viral prank, when Saffron pretended she’d had a tattoo of my face on her leg – the world saw my angry side! But my most embarrassing appearance was recreating a Justin Bieber music video for Casey. I cringe watching myself back. I never realised before that my voice is so high.

I used to feel embarrassed and worry that people would think my house was a mess. For the same reason, I hated the thought of my friends seeing the videos and kept them a secret. Now I know people appreciate the realness.

Some parents might have thought that YouTube isn’t a proper job but I had faith in my children. Besides, if it didn’t work out, I was there for them.

I love that they’ve documented so much of our lives. When I’m feeling nostalgic I’ll go on YouTube to watch old videos – family holidays and Casey’s proposal to Nicole are particularly special. Also, if one of them’s on holiday I can check their Instagram to make sure they’re safe.

Before YouTube I looked after adults with learning disabilities, then became a foster carer. I had to make the tough decision to give my career up when things took off for Saffron. I still needed to earn money though, so I began working for Saffron as camerawoman, chauffeur, agent, PR and producer, even though she was still a teenager at this point. She calls me Kris Jenner. She now has a team behind her, so my role is more about logistics and always, of course, being mum.

I enjoy that we don’t have typical 9-5 office jobs because selfishly it means I get to spend so much time with my children, which is my greatest joy. They’re my best friends.

Being mum to three celebrities no longer feels unusual. Fans stop them on the streets to ask for photos, and even get emotional. I just constantly remind my kids how lucky they are, and how out of the ordinary this life is, to keep them grounded. I also encourage them to be smart with their money. Saffron has bought and renovated her own house, gifted Darren his dream watch and taken me to Venice. She treats us, because she’s that kind of person. She has taken me along to fancy parties, but I’m not the type to be fussed by celebrities.

Of course, there’s a darker side to it all. I’ve been to hell and back with my children over the trolling. It has really affected them at times – especially Saffron, who was so young when she started with it all. She’d found the nasty comments tough to cope with, and my heart broke for her. I’d feel what she was feeling.

At one point I questioned if it was worth it, but you can’t please everybody all of the time. It’s not nice reading negative things about my children, but some people just aren’t very nice – possibly even jealous. Thankfully, the positive outweighs the negative.

Saffron has made mistakes – that’s part of growing up. She once went viral for saying she liked a Metallica T-shirt, she clearly thought it was just a cute top and didn’t know it was a band logo. She got a lot of hate, but we found it funny. She’s not a bad person, she was just being a bit silly. I just want my children to be happy.

Saffron is doing more TV work since taking part in Strictly Come Dancing. We’re all so proud and her nan still watches her dances every day. I don’t have any desire to be famous, but if any of my children want me to do a reality show to help them in some way, I’ll do whatever it takes.

What makes me proudest of Saffron and her siblings isn’t their followers, their earnings, or the perks they share with me, it’s that they’re nice, generous and non judgemental – and do a lot of charity work. When someone tells me they’re polite or caring it makes me beam. And that doesn’t change whether they’re on or off camera."

Wendy’s children have worked with charities such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mind, Children In Need, Stand Up To Cancer and anti-bullying charities.


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