Stunning former Miss Northern Ireland Joanne Salley, who was embroiled in a topless photo scandal, has revealed that the incident left her “so depressed” that she could barely get out of bed.
The 33-year-old, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was a teacher at elite public school Harrow when the revealing photos of her that were taken by a female colleague went viral on the internet.
Ms Salley — who now presents BBC2 Northern Ireland programme Out of the Blue — said that before breaking the news that the nude photos were circulating around the school, a fellow teacher rang and asked if she was sitting down.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, she described the moment she remembered the photographs had been taken as “like a ton of bricks falling on my head”.
The Cambridge graduate — who until recently was dating former England polo captain Henry Brett — had thought the pictures had been deleted.
They had been taken by a female teacher at the school who is a professional photographer, but the memory stick they were on went missing, presumed stolen.
In the interview, Ms Salley — who resigned from the £30,000-a-year school — revealed that she has not spoken to the former colleague who she posed for since the scandal.
“No. There are some things in my life I don’t talk about; this is a drawer that I decided subconsciously to shut a long time ago — it’s not easy,” she said.
“She was a friend of mine, a good person; I loved her very much.”
The former girlfriend of England rugby star and TV presenter Matt Dawson described the situation as “surreal”.
“I had been so convinced there was no way those photographs would ever see the light of day,” she said.
“I was mortified, devastated.
“I felt like a knife was sticking into me, and being turned.”
Ms Salley said she didn’t leave her flat for two weeks and became so depressed that she could barely get out of bed.
“I couldn’t face going anywhere, couldn’t see anybody, couldn’t go for a walk, couldn’t answer the phone; I couldn’t even read text messages,” she says.
Ms Salley returned to teach at the school but later resigned.
She said she is now looking to the future as a television presenter. “I want people to know about the good things I’ve done, not one five-minute slice of my life that I will regret forever,” she said.
Ms Salley — who yesterday ran the Rio marathon for the learning disability charity Mencap — added: “I have lived a life of labels — I was Miss Northern Ireland, then I was Matt Dawson’s girlfriend and now I’m this topless teacher.
“I’ve never simply been Joanne Salley, and that would mean the world to me.”
Joanne Salley, a Cambridge graduate, had a successful career as a model. She was crowned Miss Northern Ireland in 1998. Prior to teaching, Miss Salley co-hosted The Big Breakfast. She studied for a foundation degree in Art and Design at the University of Ulster and then specialised in Jewellery and Silversmithing. The Dungannon-born 33-year-old taught at Harrow for several years before resigning. The part-time presenter co-hosts BBC NI series Out of the Blue.