Top Boy's Jasmine Jobson: Why I finally feel comfortable in my skin
Actress Jasmine Jobson has already shown she can triumph over adversity – but, she tells Gabrielle Fagan, it hasn't happened overnight
Jasmine Jobson has never shied away from talking about her turbulent past – she spent time in care as a teenager, after getting caught up in “drugs and causing trouble” – before making her remarkable transformation into a successful actress.
She was nominated for a Bafta earlier this year for her role as Jaq in the hit Netflix gang drama Top Boy, created and written by Belfast man Ronan Bennett, and she recently starred alongside Ben Whishaw in movie thriller, Surge.
But there’s one personal challenge the 25-year-old has never opened up about before: living with psoriasis.
“I’ve had psoriasis since I was 16 and for years have been covered in it from head to toe. It scarred my life and my body by denting my self-esteem and confidence, and at times has put me in a very dark place,” she says.
“I’ve felt depressed and anxious because of people staring and making assumptions. I’ve received horrible comments, especially now being in the public eye – people tend to jump to conclusions, like thinking you have a contagious disease.”
Psoriasis is believed to be an immune condition, where the body’s natural skin replacement process is working too quickly. It causes scaly, raised, red patches to appear – most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp, although any area of skin can be affected – which can also be sore and itchy.
“When I was young, I used to be so embarrassed, I’d only wear long sleeves and jeans, even on the hottest days in summer,” says Jobson.
It’s been a long journey. Although psoriasis can run in families and Jobson has relatives with the condition, doctors failed to diagnose her for more than two years. When she did finally get diagnosed, standard treatments, including steroid creams, proved either unsuitable or ineffectual for her.
“This condition can make you feel like no one wants to be near you or touch you, which sometimes made socialising tough. In the past, I’ve often felt like hiding away and not going out,” Jobson admits.
It’s yet another hurdle she’s surmounted in her life – all of which have seemingly fuelled her determination to succeed.
Her talent was developed in her late teens, when she got involved with a charitable organisation that uses theatre to help care leavers – Jobson shone in a string of challenging roles.
Despite that, she’s occasionally had to cope with negative reactions to her skin from casting agents at auditions.
“I’m very aware, because I’m an actress, my condition may cause issues. It’s an appearance-focused industry, so it’s always playing on my mind when I enter an audition room,” she admits.
“Luckily, the only place I don’t have any patches is my face, but there have been a few jobs where my skin’s been a problem. I’ve been asked to cover it up, either with clothes or heavy-duty make-up used to disguise tattoos. That just makes it worse for me because it irritates it, increasing the itchiness and soreness.”
This didn’t happen when she landed her leading role in Top Boy, however – and not only did this boost her confidence, it confirmed her growing belief that “my skin’s a part of who I am. I have gone through a roller-coaster of emotions over this, but now I feel I shouldn’t have to cover up myself to make myself acceptable,” Jobson adds. “That’s not being real and authentic, and so I don’t do it anymore.”
This raw authenticity, and underlying vulnerability, was clear to see in her portrayal of Jaq. Jobson says she drew on her own experiences of troubled teens growing up in west London.
“I’ve always said I didn’t take on that role to glamorise that life, but to make people understand that it’s not worth entering that madness. There are consequences if you do – it can destroy people’s lives, they can lose their homes, get deported,” says Jobson, who admits her own life was in danger several times during that period.
“My behaviour used to be what you’d call a ‘hood rat’. It was all about drugs and causing trouble. I’m not proud of it, but I did what I had to do to survive at that time,” she reflects.
“Eventually, I told myself, ‘You have to get out of this’. I actually asked to be put into foster care, and my wonderful foster mum helped save me. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t have my professional acting career if it hadn’t been for her love and support.”
Success hasn’t all been rosy, though – Jobson has experienced cruel social media trolling and hurtful comments about her skin too.
“I’m a tough cookie, but even thinking about those messages makes me emotional even now, because they struck at my vulnerability. I got a lot of messages telling me I was ‘ugly’, and ‘your legs are disgusting’, and asking if I was self-harming or had been beaten up.
“There’s only so many verbal sticks and stones you can take before bones actually fracture, so I wanted to address this before I started to be affected by it
“Nobody wants this condition, but now I’m proud of my psoriasis and I’ve accepted it,” Jobson adds. “So sorry, I can’t be bullied about it anymore. I can’t shut down the haters, but I hope I can educate them about this problem.
“Also, I hope by standing up for myself and showing I’m comfortable in my skin, it will help others who suffer from this.”
She is brand ambassador for Farmologie Pink Grapefruit Moisturiser, made by skincare company Childs Farms, a role she sees as is deeply personal, hailing it for “changing my life”.
“I saw a difference within three days after using it,” she says. “Over the last few months, it’s brought about a dramatic change to my skin. My psoriasis has calmed down by about 50 per cent and the big patches have cleared up. My skin isn’t as raw and itchy and I just have smaller clusters. It’s the first time I’ve felt I’m able to control my problem.”
She’s buoyant and full of hope for the future – plans for another series of Top Boy are under way (“I hope I’m in the cast!”) – and she’s in talks with a leading model agency.
“I was raised by my family to believe there’s no limit to my capabilities, and eventually everything I touch will turn to gold,” Jobson says happily. “I hope I can show that if I can come from where I was and achieve so much in a short space of time, then others can do that too.
“I want to be an advocate for young people, to help them stand up for themselves and feel comfortable in their own skins, like me, regardless of what anyone else feels.”
:: Farmologie products use naturally derived ingredients to produce a range of toiletries that care for all skin types, including dry and sensitive skin. Available at Boots and farmologie.co.uk.