Woman reveals what life is REALLY like as a Romany Gypsy

With a custom Rolls Royce parked on the driveway of her £1.5 million house, Joanne Buckley-Smith’s luxurious lifestyle is a far cry from the one she had growing up.

The 41-year-old was raised as a Romany Gypsy, living in a caravan and a house – so she could go to school – started fruit picking from the age of six and learned how to cook and clean for a family.

But despite now enjoying all the trappings of a wealthy life, including spending thousands of pounds on designer clothes and bags, there are some traditions from Joanne’s past she never wants to shake.

The mother-of-one, who lives in Braintree, Essex, with her husband Andrew, 53 and son Joseph, 16, is proud of her roots – and takes to TikTok to share footage on what life is like as a Romany Gypsy.

From cooking a ‘cheap’ bacon pudding for Sunday lunch, to doing washing in her garden using a mangle and boiling her tea-towels, Joanne’s videos are hugely popular – with the latest one gaining 300,000 views.

Joanne Buckley-Smith (pictured), 41, a Romany Gypsy from Essex has opened up about her lavish life

Joanne said: ‘My husband and I have two businesses – a van sales company and property developments – so we’ve never announced that we’re travellers.

‘We have now got on in life, want for nothing and live in an incredible house but I’ve never forgotten where I’ve come from.

‘I will always stand by my culture and I still see myself as a Gypsy now. People find it fascinating to hear about.

‘I posted a video on TikTok about my £7,000 handbag and no-one cared. But when I post about being a Gypsy and how I was brought up, people are fascinated.

‘I am not ashamed of my past, and there are so many people from our community that are now doing so well in life. I want to celebrate it!’

Joanne was born in 1981 into a long line of Romany Gypsies and raised in Essex along with her younger sister and older brother.

Her mother and father were both travellers who grew up and lived on a site along with hundreds of other families.  

They lived in a house – but regularly stayed in their 16ft mobile trailer which was one room, made up of a kitchen and diner and the dining table turned down into a bed at night – as their mother, Patricia, wanted them to go to school.

The mother-of-one lives a lavish life in a £1.5 million house in Braintree, Essex - complete with a vast living area

Joanne takes pride in her house, and makes sure the house is constantly spotless for her family

While Joanne is aware she has an 'incredible' home, she never wants to forget the lifestyle that she came from

Joanne started her first job of fruit-picking from the age of six - but now has designer items in her home

Joanne started going to classes aged four, and sometimes bullies would pick on her for being a traveller. She would often have days off to help her dad with landscaping work. She started fruit picking at six, and cutting trees and tarmacing as a teen.

In the summer, the family would travel with the travelling community to Gypsy fairs, horse shows and events.

Joanne said: ‘I went to little school until 15. But my sister left at age 11.

‘We didn’t have a lot so we had to work at the same time. From the age of six, I’d be in the field potato picking and strawberry picking with my sister.

‘We never went without anything and sometimes I’d have to take the day off school to work with my dad who did landscaping.

‘I actually stayed on at school and did my GCSE exams and then I went on to do an NVQ in hairdressing where I worked in a salon and went to college one day a week.

As a child, Joanne regularly stayed in a trailer. Now, she has a large home in Essex that spans four bedrooms

Joanne lives with her husband Andrew. The pair grew up in the same Gypsy community in 2003 and they hit it off

After working in a hair salon for two years, the mother-of-one left work to become a full time homemaker

‘I did that for two years before leaving to make a home. I was never pressured into doing so but having a family comes with our culture.’

Joanne’s granddad used to tell her: ‘If you can count money, that’s all you need to know.’

But mostly, Gypsy girls grow up dreaming of keeping a house and having kids – rather than seeking an education as traditional gender roles remain an important part of the community.

Joanne then met Andrew, who grew up in the same Gypsy community in 2003 and they hit it off.

They were together for 15 years before getting married in 2020.

Joanne said: ‘Andrew had been previously married but I’d never been married so I said if we’re going to do it, we’ve got to do it before I hit 40.

Joanne has a wardrobe dripping in designer- including 20 Chanel handbags and a Versace robe

Joanna (pictured right) had a very humble childhood, and started work young to bring money into the home

As a child, Joanne (pictured) would sometimes take the day off school to help her father in his job as a landscaper

The family are proud of their heritage. Above is Joanne's Aunt Elvie's old carriage - who currently lives on her land

‘It was during Covid so there were only eight of us there even though we’re known for extravagant, big weddings, it didn’t happen like that.

‘But I knew we’d end up married. Andrew and I have always shared the same values and we both have the same respect for our culture and upbringing.

‘It’s always been important to us both that we continue our traditions.’

The family moved six times – renovating each house then selling it – in 11 years before purchasing their £1.5 million home in Essex in 2013.

When their son Joseph, 16, was born in 2007, the couple decided to raise him the ‘Romany Gypsy way’.

Family is a key part of Joanne's lifestyle, and she maintains a close relationship with her nice and nephew (pictured)

Joanne spends quality time with her niece - and they recently travelled to Appleby in Cumbria together

The family travelled to a gypsy meet up event. Pictured above is Joanne's niece and nephew at the event

They refused to send him to school, instead paying for private tutors to come to their home. Now, he works in the family business running commercial vans.

Thanks to working hard and her husband’s successful businesses, Joanne and Andrew were able to buy their four-bedroom house in Essex in 2013 – now worth £1.5million. Joanne’s 80-year-old auntie lives in a trailer on her land.

One of the reasons for buying the property was that it was close to lots of traveller sites where their friends and family still live. Joanne says all the Gypsies know each other and can ‘tell each other from a mile off’.

She said: ‘As a community, we all look out for one another and love getting together for special occasions. We stick together and really value our traditional ways.

‘They still consider me as one of them – even though I have a lovely home and we earn good money.

The gypsy meet up allowed Joanne's nice and nephew to embrace their culture and see a traditional carriage

Horse riding is a pastime for Joanne- including watching the races in glamorous attire for a fun day out

Despite trying a range of high-end restaurants, Joanne loves her 'cheap' bacon pudding for Sunday lunch

‘But the worst thing ever made was that programme Big Fat Gypsy Weddings – it damaged the Gypsy reputation – and gave a completely different perception of who we are.

‘Like any culture, you get lots of different people, good and bad. In our Romany Gypsy culture, we all like to stick together.’

Joanne can speak Romany language and has ‘gorger’ or non-Gypsy friends. She wears gold Gypsy bangles and celebrates extravagantly every season (Christmas and Halloween) – and she says it’s part of her Gypsy culture to have a spotless house.

But despite having a walk-in wardrobe filled with designer clothes, including 20 Chanel bags and £7,000 shoes, Joanne says she’ll never forget where she comes from.

Joanne said: ‘People have been made to think travellers are dirty, rough people. But we are the cleanest. People come to my house and say ‘you must have a cleaner’ – I haven’t but we are dedicated to cleaning.

Pictured above is a young Joanne sat on her Aunt Elvie's lap - who currently lives in a carriage on her land

A classic Sunday lunch for Joanne and her family will include 'cheap' bacon pudding and vegetables

Gypsy culture remains a key part of Joanne's life, and she attends meet ups where people from the community gather for the day

‘We were brought up to believe you mustn’t wash your tea towels or cloths in the washing machine where you wash your underwear and socks.

‘Cleaning is what we are brought up to do – as well as looking after a home, a husband and a family. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

‘My 80-year-old aunt Elvie currently lives with me in a trailer that’s parked outside on our land. She’s very traditional and still does her washing outside where she mangles it all.

‘If she’d have it her way, she’d have me cooking outside on the fire all the time. I try my best to do it regularly but it’s a lot of work.

‘I couldn’t complain about anything in my life.

Aunt Elvie (pictured) maintains tradition and lives in a carriage, but is just a short walk away from Joanne as they live on the same plot of land

Joanne (pictured) started going to classes aged four, and sometimes bullies would pick on her for being a traveller

Joanne likes to mix up her wardrobe, and while she has plenty of designer, she's also happy to shop in Primark

‘I also have a nice collection of designer items that I’ve collected over the years but I’m happy to shop in places like Primark too.’

Every year, Joanne hosts huge Christmas parties at her home, which is renowned for its expensive, statement festive decor. And it’s now a festive tradition to visit The Ritz in London every year as a family.

She said: ‘We go up to London at Christmas and spend £500 on a meal but I still come home and nothing tastes as good as my £5 homemade bacon pudding.

‘It’s a traditional dish that feeds a family of four twice for Sunday lunch and it only needs four ingredients – bacon, flour, suet and onion – and can be thrown together in 10 minutes.

‘But Christmas is a time where I like to go big or go home! Travellers can be quite competitive so I like to make my decorations better every year.

As a child, Joanne's family would travel with the travelling community to Gypsy fairs, horse shows and events

Joanne will always stand by her culture and  still sees herself as a Gypsy now- pictured above is her trailer

‘I’ve spent well over £40,000 in total over six years and last year I splashed out more than £9,000 on decorations. Locally, neighbours call me ‘Mrs Christmas!’

Despite living a lavish lifestyle, Joanne has never been on a plane and has only been out of the UK once – by train – to visit Disneyland Paris.

Her family loves this country and enjoys getting in their trailer (caravan) and exploring the UK while attending as many Romany Gypsy ‘meetups’ as possible.

Joanne said: ‘I still travel to horse fairs every year – especially as my grandfather was one of the biggest horse dealers among the community in the 1940s.

‘Once a year all the Gypsies from Essex meet in a hall to go through our Romani ancestry. Last time, we were able to date it back to the 1800s which is remarkable considering the lack of birth registrations/certificates.’

Next for Joanne is an even bigger home – the couple have been busy building a seven-bedroom mansion with a cinema room and a games room, which they plan to move into in the New Year.

There’s even been talks of a swimming pool but Joanne, who can’t swim, isn’t keen.

‘If you’d have told me when I was a little girl that I’d be living in a house like this, I wouldn’t have believed you, it’s like a dream come true.

‘So anyone who has this misguided view that Gypsies don’t work hard can see I’m a living example that we do!

‘Plus we know how to enjoy life – and I’m not changing that for anyone!’


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