If you’re over 30, you may not have heard of the Saccone Joly family, from Ireland, now UK-based. But over 8 million people worldwide can not get enough of them.
The daily lives of Anna, husband Jonathan and their four children – Emilia, 8, Eduardo, 6, Alessia, 3, and two-year-old Andrea – and SIX dogs, are compulsive viewing around the world. The family is regularly recognised in the street both here and in Ireland.
They were the pioneers of internet vlogging in 2009 when Jonathan Joly started to film their dates, then his proposal to Anna, their wedding, the birth of their children, and put it all on YouTube.
The day the couple discovered, at a sonographer’s office in London that their third pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage at 12 weeks racked up over 3 million views.
The video of the birth of their first daughter, Emilia, in 2012, went viral and has had millions of viewings since.
Today brand Saccone Joly is an all-consuming family business and one that, sources say, generates a six-figure income.
Talking to The Best Life Project, Anna says the move to Surrey six years ago to grow the business has been a positive one and she loves the fact that her two youngest have English accents.
She’s also impressed by the organised way of life here. “In Ireland everyone bends the rules and you can get away with a lot more. Here, if a bus is late, people don’t accept it, but in Ireland they kind of expect it.”
But anyone who makes it big in cyberworld, also faces the wrath of the keyboard warrior. In the past, Anna and Jonathan have been criticised for making their children’s lives public. But in reality, they’re so skilled at filming that it takes just 15 minutes a day, three times a week. On the run up to Christmas the postings have been daily, but that’s not the norm, says Anna.
“The kids love it as well, particularly with it being Christmas. This year they’re going to wake up in their own beds as normally we would visit relatives in Ireland which we sadly can’t do. We don’t want to take the risk. But the fantastic thing is that our mums, who are both isolating, get daily updates of the children, so it doesn’t feel so bad. They’re not missing them growing up as they see them every day.
“I’m afraid trolling goes with the territory. When we do live events and meet a lot of our followers they’re always incredibly positive.”
Anna, who is an ambassador for body positivity and has suffered with Bulimia, had a particularly rough ride from trolls when she gained weight – two dress sizes – as part of her recovery from the eating disorder.
“I’ve suffered with it for 12 years. At my lowest I was on the cusp of underweight on the BMI scale, but I was physically fine. But I was constantly cold, couldn’t sleep and my moods were all over the place.
“I did recover four years ago, but then I relapsed after I finished breastfeeding my fourth child. People, mainly women, were pointing out my weight gain and it hurts. I can’t pretend otherwise.
“It all started when I began dieting as a teenager and I took it to the next level. I’m one of those Type A perfectionist types, which is quite common among people with eating disorders. Whether it was food or exercise I took it to the extreme.
“To control it you have to relinquish the control. The greatest fear is gaining weight, so to rewire your brain you have to gain weight. Like all mental health issues you need to overcome it, not avoid it.”
Being in front of the camera was an added pressure, but it also helped her confront the issue head-on.
“When I got the backlash about my weight gain, it was very hard, but it made me stronger. We are so lucky to be able to do this business, but the downside is those faceless people who wouldn’t ever say to your face what they write for the public to see. But I’ve learned to accept it and not dwell on it.
“Eating disorders affect all sorts of people and as the mother of two daughters I want them to grow up with a healthy body image, so getting that message out there is vital.”
Part of Anna’s recovery is easing up on the work-outs and not feeling guilty about it.
“My exercise routine used to be very structured and working out did make me feel better. But these days I don’t do it to excess, 20 minutes here and there and doing exercise that I actually like, that’s important.”
The Saccone Jolys are the antithesis of the Kardashians. With four kids and lots of cleaning and washing up to do, it’s the normality of the family’s situation which attracts the huge audiences.
Jonathan told The Independent ie: “You’ve got the Kardashian business model and the Saccone Joly business model, and they are basically the same thing, but they are very different.
“We focus on an emotional connection with our viewers. It’s always about a journey, an observation of life… It is filled with tragedy and drama and romance and happiness, but they’re not all contained in one 15 minutes. Whereas when you watch a television show, in 30 minutes you are going to be delivered 12 emotions – I’m not going to give you that, because that’s not realistic. Reality TV is scripted content. YouTube is reality. It’s real life. Real life is boring.”
Boring or not, the family has gone about lockdown in much the same way as any other. They’re lucky to have a big garden for the kids to let off steam and there’s been plenty of home cooking and home learning.
But in 2021 they hope to achieve the things they couldn’t do this year – travel being one of them.
“The children are out of the baby stage now, so when we’re through the pandemic we would love to get out there and see more of the world,” says Anna.
And they’ll, no doubt, be taking their millions of fans on the journeys with them.