They are two of the most glamorous women in showbiz, but anyone who ran into them recently on a camping trip would have been forgiven for thinking they were filming a horror movie!
Lesley Joseph and Cleo Rocos were resplendent in black, thick mosquito nets which covered their entire heads.
Cleo laughs: ‘People couldn’t believe what they were seeing. We looked like yetis!
‘If I’d bumped into us on a country path I’d have screamed and run off in fright. It was a good disguise if you wanted to avoid being recognised as no-one had any idea who we were under there!’
The nets proved the girls ‘vital luxury item’ on their recent camping trip which they were filming for a new Channel 5 show due out this autumn.
The ladies had a campervan with all mod cons. A shower, loo and fully equipped kitchen. The camera crew thought Lesley and Cleo would be cooking up gourmet meals every evening instead of cooking over a camp fire.
Instead, as a laughing Cleo reveals with great delight: ‘My pyjamas went in the cooker, my underwear and clothes in the larder and my shoes in the loo!
‘Lesley did the same and all the rest of the space was covered with our toiletries and makeup. There was no room for food so we spent the whole trip fuelled on peanut butter and Tequila!’
She goes on: ‘Honestly, these campervans must be designed by men. There’s absolutely no room for clothes and who needs a blooming big kitchen?
‘There’s always a pub you can eat in, or a chip shop. And as for showering in them! They are so small, we just used the shower blocks at the campsites.
‘You really know when you’re really on the edge when all you’re praying for as you drive along is a hot baked potato and a clean shower!’
Not that the ladies even bothered with the potatoes. Cleo confessed one her suitcases was filled with bottles of Tequila which they cracked open every night.
‘By the time we’d finished chatting it’d be late at night and we couldn’t be bothered to eat so we just ate spoons of peanut butter.’
The Tequila was Cleo’s own brand Aquariva – more of which later. Before the trip both her and Sussex own’s Lesley were camping virgins.
Birds of a Feather star Lesley reveals: ‘I have camped a little when I was young but not really. We had holidays when I was a child but not in a tent. I absolutely loved the trip. We saw some really amazing places, places I might never have seen and we laughed a lot.
‘I actually slept surprisingly well. I could have stayed another week. It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
‘I packed far too much and ended up wearing the same things every day, there is not a lot of room for clothes!’
Lesley admits she might not have had such a great camping experience if her companion hadn’t been Cleo.
The two girls got on like a house on fire and as Cleo says: ‘We laughed for England the whole way through.’
Lesley says: ‘Cleo was a brilliant camp mate, fun, positive, funny entertaining. Just the best.
‘There were no worst moments they were all best. Waking up laughing, seeing amazing scenery. Talking to Cleo well into the night. All the moments were really fun.
‘I would do it again like a shot, it is such a great way to see different places and it really was huge fun.’
Also on the show was 80’s pop star Nick Heyward, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum star Melvyn Hayes and actor Don Warrington.
Cleo, who sprang to fame in The Kenny Everett Show, says: ‘It was like Five Go Mad Camping. The funniest thing was that both Lesley and I packed our most glamorous clothes, including ball gowns.
‘Every time we reached a new campsite we were both saying, “Oh please let there be an occasion for our ball gowns!” Of course, there never was. We spent most of our time wearing our dressing gown and slippers!’
Cleo says camping is not normally her thing. ‘I like a bit of luxury, a comfy bed, a mini bar and room service.
‘But to be honest I really enjoyed it. The scenery in Wales was so gorgeous and in Scotland it was just epic – like something out of a movie.
‘It could have been the road trip from hell but Lesley and I bonded so well it was wonderful. We decided from the start that no matter what we would just act as if everything was just fabulous.
‘We never fell out once, we just laughed and laughed. I’d met Lesley at showbiz parties before but didn’t know her very well, but my God she is such fun. That girl is a rocket, she’s up and about from the moment the sun was up.’
Days were spent driving to the next location where Cleo and Lesley quickly unpacked the booze and the peanut butter. She says: ‘There was always a sense of relief of having got another day over with. We got quite hysterical at times.
‘The funniest thing was when we had to wear our midge nets, big, black things around our heads. They were our luxury item and by God did we need them. But we got a few stares of horror when someone bumped into us!’
She says the public often took pity on her and Lesley at campsites saying: ‘What I noticed was there is a great sense of camaraderie and kindness in this kind of holiday. Everyone helps each other out.
‘Our most surreal experience was when our van got stuck in mud at a campsite where there was a lesbian wedding taking place. Some of the guests had to abandon the wedding to help us out!”
The girls fared better than the boys, reveals Cleo, who told how only one of the men slept in the van while the other two sought the comfort of hotels.
She says: ‘To be honest their van wasn’t really built for sleeping in. It was like an old bread van with shelves for beds. Melvyn is 80 and I don’t think you could expect him to sleep in it.
‘Don is big built so it wasn’t easy for him either, Nick was the only one who refused to cheat. He slept in the van every night.
‘He embraced the whole experience and he was such a smiley, happy chap the whole time. Melvyn is hilarious and never stopped telling funny stories. Don is a hoot too.
‘The only previous reality show I’d done was Celebrity Big Brother which wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. But this was a really fantastic experience and they were a great bunch of people.’
Cleo says she would even go camping again if her camp mate was Lesley. ‘I love that woman. She’s just such great fun, she made the trip wonderful.’
Lesley is as equally fond of Cleo, especially as she packed such a great essential for their trip – Cleo’s own brand Tequila Aquariva.
Cleo is the only person in the UK to privately own her own brand of the fiery Mexican spirit which she spent nearly a year creating with a master blender.
She had first fallen in love with Tequila during a holiday to Mexico. She says: ‘I saw this absolutely stunning woman sitting by the pool wearing a chiffon dress while working away on her computer and phone.
‘She just looked so iconic and all the time she was drinking something from a small flute. I asked the waiter what it was and he said Tequila. I said no way as she’d had six or seven and I thought she’d be dead! The Tequila I’d had in the past was just hideous. It was like swallowing a scalding cat.
‘But he bought me a glass of what she was drinking and it was as if someone had fallen into the room and I had fallen in love. It was just sensational. From that moment, I spent all the time I could learning about Tequila.
‘In 2011 I created my own which was launched the next year. My Tequila is 100 percent from the agave plant mixed with volcanic spring water. That’s it.
‘The thing with the big brands is that they have lots of other things in their which is why it tastes so vile. Shooting Tequila was a marketing tool thought up by the big brands to hide the taste of their own drink.
‘But my Tequila is different, it’s just gorgeous. My biggest satisfaction is asking someone who says they hate tequila to try mine and they’re like “Oh wow that’s lovely”.’
‘The fact it is totally pure means it won’t make you feel awful the next day either. You can drink it and feel fresh as anything the morning after, I doubt you’d have a hangover.
‘I went out with Holly Willoughby once and we downed loads of it and the next day she rang me and said “When does the hangover kick in? And I said it doesn’t.”
‘She’s a big fan, as is Philip Schofield, Emma Bunting and Tracey Emin. Noel Gallagher had a Tequila bar at his 50th birthday and insisted it was my brand that was offered.
‘I think people like it because it makes you feel happy. It’s not a depressing drink.’
Tequila takes a long time to create. Cleo now has her own site in Mexico in Arandas in Jalisco, where she grows agave which takes eight years to mature. The juice from the plant is then fermented, mixed with water and twice distilled before bottling. Her Resposado blend is matured six months while the Blanco is drunk young.
They are sold in Harvey Nichols and you can also buy them online at Waitrose and some Sainsbury’s stores.
Cleo says: ‘I’ve been lucky because I didn’t have money for advertising but my brand has grown by word of mouth.
‘It’s become bigger and bigger. It’s the house Tequila in lots of bars in the UK including Bills, Ping Pong and the Red Dog Saloons.
There are very few privately-owned Tequila brands in the world. One of the others until recently was co-owned by George Clooney. But he just sold his to a company for a whopping billion dollars.
Cleo laughs: ‘Wow what an amount! If someone offered me that much I might be tempted but I have to say I am very, very proud of being a small guy in the field.
‘I’m completely involved in its creation and do all training sessions myself. Creating Aquariva has been one of my proudest achievements.’
Cleo says she thinks her new programme will prove popular with the public saying: ‘It’s a feel-good show which I think people want now. I watched Love Island because basically it was about beautiful people living on a beautiful island trying to fall in love. What’s not to like?
‘I think people will find the same feel-good factor about our show and they will certainly have a good laugh.’
Cleo says if she went camping again with Lesley she’d like to introduce her to the delights of Hampshire which she knows really wells.
‘I stayed with Nicky Haslam, the interior designer, at his house in Hampshire. It is the most exquisite, effortlessly stately yet divinely comfortable and happy home. The gardens are breathtaking, formal but ravishingly wild.
‘Hampshire is simply magical and where Nicky lives there are the most beautiful country roads and lanes and lush forest which evoke a sense of calm and continuity that have been such a draw to people seeking a perfect country getaway throughout the centuries.’