A flash of blonde hair and a big, white grin, Jamie Laing moves fast and talks faster. And when it comes to Candy Kittens – the gourmet vegan gummy sweets for adults he developed a decade ago – there’s plenty to say at the launch party of a brand new collaboration. He stops to talk to everyone, distracted by anything exciting along the way, and is a vibrant presence in a busy room.
From a venture that began in the height of his Made In Chelsea fame, Candy Kittens have become an iconic packet of sweets, stocked in a variety of flavours in supermarkets across the country. But now, it’s onto something new: beer.
And when you consider how much the happy-go-lucky playboy used to drink in his youth, it hardly comes as a surprise. Laing has, however, quite publicly given up booze in the past, to help his mental health.
“I still try to do Dry January now, but I don’t drink that often,” he shares.
“I used to drink a lot in my early 20s. But now as I get older, I enjoy a drink, rather than just drink for the hell of it. That’s why it’s really exciting to have this beer, because this is an enjoyable drink. You wouldn’t go out and get nailed on Candy Kittens beer – you’d relax and drink [it] more casually.”
Even as a youngster, he dabbled in some interesting alcoholic choices.
“When I was younger, I drank something called Goldstrike and absinthe. The rumour was that if you drank it, the Goldstrike [a cinnamon liqueur containing gold snippets] would cut your throat and then the absinthe would get into your bloodstream.”
But, his attitude to booze is relaxed now. He enjoys it when he has it, but is no longer using it as a social crutch. Laing has felt the crunch of social pressure in the past, and during summer, in particular, it can hit hard.
“We have so much pressure to socialise now, especially with social media. Everyone is out having a great time. And if you’re not joining them, you’re missing out. I think everyone experiences that all the time – doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what your background is, we feel the same. I do!”
Publicly speaking up about his anxiety, in spite of his busy social and professional life, was a big deal for Laing.
The turning point came when he realised he could just “lean into the anxiety”, which is a bold thing to do, but necessary when taking on exciting jobs like Strictly Come Dancing.
Drinking and anxiety were often hand in hand for him.
“[Once] when I wasn’t drunk, my friend said, ‘God, you’re way better like this’. And actually, what you realise is that when you’re drunk, you’re just making loud noises, and not really making sense. And it’s not the best way to do things.
“That’s what I had to learn, personally. That’s who I was.”
Accepting his sober self and his anxiety helped Laing learn to enjoy alcohol in a more mindful way. And with summer around the corner, he can’t wait to be tucking into a pint on a patch of green grass, in gorgeous sunshine, like many others.
So, how can anxious drinkers go out with a level head, as socialising amps up with our first ‘normal’ summer in two years?
Laing shares: “I think mental health is affected by alcohol. People can use alcohol as a crutch, to suppress their feelings. But also, when you’re nervous, people tend to drink too much, making them more nervous.
“It’s about knowing what your triggers are. If you know you get anxious or depressed, or your OCD kicks in when you drink too much, try and monitor what you’re doing. And if you’re going into social situations, and you feel like you need to drink to overcome your anxiety, try exposing yourself to the situation by not drinking, and see how harmless it can be. The more people realise a huge majority have social anxiety, the better off everyone is.”
Candy Kittens by BrewDog is available from Sainsbury’s and via the BrewDog website. The tropical beer will retail at £3.25 for a 440ml can and £11.75 for a four-pack. Fans can order the product from candykittens.co.uk from June.
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