Francesca Farago is one of TV’s most sought after reality stars after stealing the spotlight on Netflix’s smash hit, Too Hot Too Handle in April this year. Since then, her following has skyrocketed to almost 5 million on Instagram, far more than any of her castmates from the show.
Farago has spent the last few months in Hollywood to pursue the next chapter in her career. While she proudly represents Canada to her followers, some fans of the show may be surprised to know that Francesca was born and raised here in Ottawa, attended Carleton University for Law and only moved out West a few years ago.
It’s a long way from Manotick to Hollywood, but in a short amount of time since the series, Francesca has appeared on Ellen, and regularly works with other massive names in entertainment like Bella Thorne and Tana Mongeau.
While Francesca is known for her beauty and her sense of style, her success can also be contributed to her authentic personality and honesty with her fans. She uses her platform to promote a vegan lifestyle and her love for animals – especially her dog Romi and her family dog Loki, who still lives here in Manotick.
On top of this, Farago has wisely transformed her fame towards the business world, including the launch of her own vegan swimwear line, Farago The Label, which is quickly becoming one of the most sought after swimwear brands of 2020.
When it comes to her highly-publicized relationship and split with Too Hot To Handle co-star Harry Jowsey, Francesca is an open-book and hasn’t been afraid to talk about the pain she felt going through the break-up. While her fans and paparazzi alike try to guess at her next love interest, Farago says she is taking time to enjoy being single.
We caught up with Frankie for our September/October issue to discuss her exciting journey to stardom, her Ottawa roots, and of course, what’s next for her.
You grew up in Ottawa. What was life like for you growing up in the city?
I honestly had an ideal childhood. My parents have always been far too good to my siblings and me. High school wasn’t the easiest. I had to change schools because I was bullied, but other than that, I was a super happy kid. I have the best memories of skating on the Rideau River, sneaking out with my girlfriends at 3 am in middle school, going to parks and having impromptu photoshoots with my friends with our Nokia flip cell phone cameras. It was definitely simpler times. I am super grateful I didn’t grow up with social media or much technology.
If you were explaining Ottawa to someone from another country, how would you describe it? What do you miss about it the most when you are away?
Ottawa has about a million people, but it feels like a small town. It’s very historic and beautiful, with one of the longest skating canals in the world. We have cool restaurants, great hiking trails, we even have a couple of beaches. I miss my family and friends the most when I’m gone. I miss Tomo, the restaurant where I worked, and just the comfort of being home. I’ve traveled everywhere but nothing ever gives me the feeling of being home like Ottawa does.
When you were growing up, what was your dream career?
Growing up I wanted to be a divorce lawyer. Although in university, I realized I could make a living and go on amazing adventures as a social media influencer. I always thought if I were to go back to school I would become a paramedic. The most appealing aspects about the careers I have considered has been helping people. I have always wanted to do something that gives back to the community or can change someone’s life.
Tell us about your family. What role have they played in your life and your career?
I am extremely lucky. I really do have the most amazing family. I wouldn’t change one thing about any of them. They have always been extremely supportive of everything I do and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was nervous about them watching Too Hot To Handle, but the support I received from them was overwhelming. Not one of them had anything negative to say to me about it and they were all very proud. I just feel so blessed and lucky to have them, and would be lost without them.
How did you end up starring on the Netflix show Too Hot To Handle?
A member of production reached out to me via Instagram DM. She said they had this show on a major network that they thought I’d be perfect for. I hopped on a few skype calls and two weeks later I was in Mexico. It was a pretty extensive two weeks leading up to the show…. background checks, doctor’s appointments, psychological exams over the phone. But it was all worth it. The show changed my life for the better and I am extremely grateful.
What did you do to prepare for the filming of the show? Was there a lot of time before you left for filming?
Unlike the other members of the cast that knew for months they had been selected, I only had a few weeks from when I was messaged on Instagram, to when I left for Mexico. I basically just had to go over multiple contracts, a ton of phone and skype calls, and a lot of online shopping and preparing outfits! It was a hectic two weeks of prep, I was definitely a last-minute addition to the show. I do also know there was about 15 people who were waiting in hotels in Mexico to be added to the retreat, but ended up being sent home. So I feel lucky to have been chosen out of all the applicants.
What was a typical day of filming like?
It was a wild experience. The first few days was a lot of adjusting to being filmed 24/7. A typical day would be; an 8am wake up call by Lana, then a massive, delicious breakfast spread would be waiting for us at 8:30. We’d have a few hours to chill and get ready and we would usually know the plan for the day right after breakfast. If there was a workshop that day, or if we were needed for scenes, we would be given some notice. But a lot of it was last minute. Sometimes we had 20 minutes to shower and get ready. Lunch was always at noon, dinner at 6:30. We had a chef who created these amazing meals every day. Anything we ever needed we had. We were basically treated like royalty. They wanted to keep us happy, because we weren’t allowed any contact with the outside world. No talking to our friends or our parents. We ended up becoming very close with production, and I think that’s how they got real emotions out of us, because you feel like you can confide in them. After a while, I was able to be myself and forget the cameras were there.
What was it like to be constantly in front of the camera?
It was hard to adjust. But for me, I think I didn’t let the idea of ‘oh the entire world’s going to see this’ affect how I was behaving. Which I believe is one of the reasons people related to my character, because I was really being myself. The only time we had no cameras on us was if we had to go see the doctor on site or talk to the psychologist that was always on hand. Other than that, there were cameras everywhere. There was no escaping!
What were your relationships like? Where do things sit now? And how did it feel?
I did find love on the show. It was very real, for me, at least. It was extremely difficult because from the very second we met, Harry and I never had a chance to form a normal relationship. We fell in love on camera, had to keep it a secret after filming, also lived in different countries. We got back together and then COVID-19 happened and we couldn’t be together. Then the show came out and our relationship had millions of eyes on it. It was constant tests, and it was very hard to maintain normalcy. It’s hard to talk about because I feel like I was so in love with someone who at the end of the day was using me for his own personal gain. That’s been the hardest part to accept. But I don’t regret falling in love. Everything that happened has made me stronger.
You each won some prize money from the show. What did you spend yours on?
I used the prize money to help start my bikini brand. It was only around 10k Canadian. But it still helped me order my first bulk order for Farago The Label. Realistically though, we all were paid during COVID-19 so we didn’t have anything fun to spend it on, like a trip to Paris.
The show “Too Hot To Handle” was a big break for you. Do you have any other new exciting projects on the go, or are things on hold now because of COVID-19?
I’m in discussions with Netflix for a few different show ideas, and I have options with other networks too. Everything is on hold due to COVID, but some very exciting things are in the works.
How long have you been a vegan for?
I’ve been vegan for about 6 years. It has changed my life and I would not live any other way. I actually got the plant-based symbol tattooed on my middle finger a few days ago. One of my goals is to use my platform to promote a plant-based life style. I feel so much healthier, I never get sick, any health problems I had before making the diet change have completely disappeared.
Fans from the show are very invested in your dating life. Are you now just enjoying the single life?
I have been dating casually since the break-up. It’s hard because I go on one date or start casually dating someone, and it gets blown up all over the news. So I have to be more careful. People love to dig and blow things up. But it’s been a lot of fun. It’s a rare life to live but ideally, I would love to settle down and start a family. Finding that person is the hard part.
When it comes to dating, what qualities do you look for in someone, whether it is a romantic relationship or a friendship?
I need someone who is confident, yet humble. They have to be ok with my lifestyle and not judge me for anything I’ve done in my past. They have to be very mature as well and family orientated. Loyalty is also very important because now it’s really difficult to know who I can trust and whose around me for the right reasons.
What are the 3 biggest dating mistakes men make?
I honestly think being a gentleman is so attractive. Guys today think girls want ‘fu*k boys’ but being rude isn’t cute. Being insecure and immature isn’t cute. Just treat her like a queen and be a man.
Tell Us About Farago The Label?
Farago the label went from an idea in October 2019 to being in the hands of people all over the world in June 2020. I worked really hard to get it to where it is now and I consider it my baby. Until recently, it was me running and creating the entire company by myself. Now I have a small team that takes some of the work off my plate, but I stay involved in every aspect. Starting a business is one of the hardest things I’ve done and the most rewarding.
You recently did a photoshoot with Jay Alvarrez and Sunkised. Can you tell us what experience was like for you?
I have been close friends with Jay for about 5 years now. He is amazing, his energy is very pure and down to earth. The photoshoot was so much fun, he found this insane location that looked like a Costa Rican jungle. I love creative shoots like that, no pressure, good energy and lots of fun.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself as a 15 year old – knowing what you know now and after what you’ve experienced in life – what advice would you give yourself that you wish you would have been given back then?
Don’t send nudes (laughs). Can I say that? Be careful with who you trust and don’t be afraid to cut people out of your life that don’t deserve you. Oh, and be kinder to your parents. I was a brat.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to have at least one baby. I really want to start a family. I never pictured my life as a reality TV star but now that I’m in this world, I really do love it. So we will see where it takes me.
What is the best book you’ve read that has helped you in life to date?
My favourite book is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I can’t put into words how awakening this book was. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. It really has allowed me to have such a deep understanding for myself and for others. Highly recommend it.
What advice would you give to someone reading this who is struggling with low self-confidence or is being bullied on social media?
People really need to understand that social media is a highlight reel. It’s people’s most perfect moments, captured, then highly edited. It’s not reality. So never get into a downward spiral of comparing yourself to people you see online or thinking you are not good enough because I can guarantee you, what you are seeing, is not real. Ignore bullies because most of the time its 100% jealousy. Haters mean you are just doing something really right!