Helen Wood: Confessions of a working girl
Super-injunction escort Helen Wood on that Wayne Rooney threesome and coming to Ireland for judges, politicians, rugby players and Corkmen
Helen Wood came to public prominence when she was revealed in the British tabloids as one of two escort girls who had a threesome with Wayne Rooney. It subsequently emerged that a famous actor, who had also been a client, had taken out an injunction to prevent her from talking about him, even though she says she had no intention of doing any such thing
Now, she tells Ciara Dwyer about how she fell into prostitution, the kinds of things that working girls have to do, and how she has now given it up for the love of her currently incarcerated boyfriend. She also reveals the odd things she encountered during her time working in Ireland, including kinky Corkmen, a judge with a taste for kitchen implements and a chauffeur-driven politician with a ladyboy in tow.
'I'll always be looked at as a prostitute. I'm never going to escape that. It's always going to be there," says Helen Wood. "I've got to get over it. I can't dwell on something that I've no control over. I've learnt my lesson. On Twitter, people write things like, 'You don't deserve to be a mother,' or, 'You need your tubes snipped.' And I think, 'Jesus, have you never made a mistake?'"
Just one mistake, that's all it takes for a whole world to spiral downwards.
As Helen Wood sits opposite me in a white T-shirt, tracksuit jacket, jeans and flip-flops, I watch her as she tucks into a full Irish breakfast. She's a young slip of a thing. She is wearing a little eye-liner but there is something very natural and unscrubbed about her beauty. Youth, that's what it is. She is only 24. When you're that young, you don't have to try too hard. But listening to her talk, she is so far from a kid.
Helen is the mother of a seven-year-old son. She shows me a photo of a smiling blue-eyed boy on her phone. For almost two years, she slept with men for money. Her most famous client was Wayne Rooney. She and an escort friend did a threesome with the footballer in July 2009. The newspapers got wind of it, but all three denied that the event happened. Helen didn't want it to ever come out because of her son. Suddenly her friend's phone went quiet. She was in hiding with the tabloids. The friend sold her story to the papers, revealing Helen's identity. A week later, with her cover blown and her small town talking about her, Helen sold her tale too. At that stage, she decided that she had nothing to lose. She tells me that Wayne wasn't blessed with good looks but he was "nice and not an arsehole like some of them".
What's a threesome like?
"Shit. If you've never had one, don't do one. But most men are very nervous and they don't know what to expect, so you get away with doing the bare minimum," she says.
An escort girl, a hooker or someone who works in the vice industry; call it what you want, she is not precious about the titles. "No matter what you call it, at the end of the day it all boils down to prostitution," she says. "You're selling yourself for sex."
This is the story of an ordinary girl who became a single mother at 16 and then got herself into debt. She had borrowed £500 from a loan shark for a holiday to Spain. When she was made redundant from her £260-a-week office job, she had no way of paying it back. The pressure was on and the bailiff was knocking at her door, not to mention her landlord, who was sniffing around, asking if she would pay him in kind. Worried one night, she phoned her friend who suggested that she join an escort agency. The friend told her that she had been working there.
Dressed in a blazer, skinny jeans and stilettos, Helen went for an interview at the agency. "How soon can you start?" they asked. A girl hadn't turned up for work and there was a man downstairs waiting in a room. Helen went in and slept with him.
"The first time was horrible. He was an Italian man and he didn't have much English. I didn't want him to know that it was my first time. I walked in, he pointed to the bed and I started taking off my clothes. It was all over and done with pretty quickly. I was totally blank," she recalls. "You can't do this job if you don't switch off."
Then she went out to two different hotels and slept with two more men. It was £80 for the half hour with the Italian and she got £60 of that. The outcalls in the hotel were £220 for an hour. "That first night I came home and because I'd not told anyone what I was doing, I just sat in the bath and scrubbed my skin and felt disgusting. I felt really bad. But then I got into bed and thought, 'What am I complaining about? The £500 loan is gone.' That's how I started to look at things. It was a small sacrifice to get rid of all that shit."
And so began her life of sleeping with men for money. It lasted for almost two years.
"I had a choice. I could have left plenty of times but I didn't want to, because the money was so good. It was addictive. There were some really low points but you just got over them and picked yourself up again. There are regrets but at the same time, it's a business arrangement. It was a job and it's all about acting. Sometimes I enjoyed my job. I met a lot of people and, hopefully, with my advice and reassurance, I left a lot of them thinking that they could be happy. But I never fancied any of my clients. A lot of men knew that I didn't give a toss about them but then others would say things like, 'It's just you and me. Come on, I've seen you lots of times. We could build something.' And in my head I'd be thinking, 'What are you talking about? There's nothing to build.'
"If you ask me do I regret escorting, I'd say no, because I got myself into a rut. I never asked anybody to lend me money. I was too embarrassed. I had too much pride to say, 'Can you lend me money or I'll go on the dole?' To a degree I sold my soul but I'd rather sell my soul in that way and go home and be myself, than live a complete lie. I never told any of them that I loved them."
Helen doesn't seem like the sort of girl who would end up as a prostitute. After all, she comes from a respectable middle-class home. She grew up in a nice area in Bolton, England. She has two older brothers. Her father is a music lecturer at a university and her mother is a teacher's assistant in a primary school. As a little girl, Helen loved horses. She used to help out in the local stables in return for free lessons. Her dream was to become a show-jumper. But her home life was not good.
"I had a horrible childhood and I think a lot of it was my fault," she says. "My parents didn't know how to handle a daughter who had her own opinions. I wasn't happy at home so I saw going to school as a break. As soon as I'd come home from school I'd take off my uniform and go out. My parents were always grounding me. I don't blame my parents. I was hard to deal with and they found it upsetting and people don't like to be upset."
She confesses that she wasn't as academically bright as her brothers and by the time she got to secondary school -- a Catholic one with nuns and priests -- she was hanging around with a wild crowd. Forever smoking in school, she and her friends were suspended for eight weeks. They were caught with Class A drugs -- ecstasy. After one row too many at home, she ran away to her boyfriend's house and then stayed with a friend. The friend's mum phoned the social services and Helen was then put into a foster home with a vicar and his wife. "I was shitting it going to live with the vicar and his wife," she says. "I thought he was going to have me saying prayers all the time, but they were very loving and supportive. They gave me an inch and instead of taking a mile, I respected them. I didn't want to disappoint them. I was there for 14 weeks."
Everything changed when she discovered that she was pregnant. Helen was on antibiotics for a urine infection and she was on the pill, too. Just like a lot of Irish girls, she went to one doctor for family planning and another for her general health. "I didn't want to tell my regular doctor that I was having sex," she says. And so, she didn't know that the antibiotics clashed with her pill. "That's how stupid and naive I was," she says. When she was getting checked out for her urine infection, complaining about being drowsy, the hospital suggested that she take a quick pregnancy test. She was stunned when the test was positive. The social services then took her out of the vicar's house and put her into a flat on her own.
"That was the worst thing that's ever been done. That was my downfall," she says. "At first I thought it was great to have my own flat but I had no money, no food and I couldn't afford to pay my electricity. I had to go to the laundry with my school uniform. When I was in the flat it was so depressing. I thought, 'Is this what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, just sitting at home being pregnant?'"
The father of her child wanted her to have an abortion but Helen disagreed.
"That's when everything went tits up," she says. "I didn't want an abortion and the relationship grew increasingly sour. I don't believe in abortion. I think if you're old enough to be having sex, you're old enough to be a parent. I was so old for my age. You wouldn't have thought I was 16. But I didn't have a choice. If something is facing you straight on, you can't moan. You just have to deal with it."
Helen finished her O-Levels while pregnant and then her mother was with her for the birth of her son in November 2003. Her whole perspective changed.
"I remember looking at him thinking, 'Oh my God, he's mine. No one can take him away from me. And I've got to look after him," she says. "That's when I got my head down and went to sixth-form college. He was only eight weeks old. The plan was to study to be a social worker."
The father of her child stopped seeing her when their son was six months. But Helen got on with her life. After sixth-form college, she worked in several clothes shops before eventually getting a job in an office, as an accountant's assistant. All was going well until she was made redundant and the loan shark was looking for his money. And then she found the answer to her financial troubles by working as an escort girl.
"People make it out to be seedy but a lot of the clients were really nice. They were just on business trips. A lot of them say that their wives refuse to have sex with them. They're just normal men who basically want a shag," Helen says. "A lot of men don't even have sex with you. They just want to have a woman sitting down listening to them and not making them feel like shit. Some men, who are very high up in the world, say that they get bullied by their wives. Some men come out with bullshit stories, but usually it's like a counselling service."
Helen never kisses her clients because she tells me that that's too intimate. They can kiss her body but never her lips. There is a routine to her work. "They come in and I say, let me show you to the shower. I always make them shower first. If they were dirty or had bad breath, I couldn't sleep with them. Then it's; 'Would you like a drink? Would you like to do this, do that?' Then massage, blow job and sex." As she says, "Pay me, fuck me, then fuck off." She always practises safe sex. For an all-night job, she would get anything between £1,200 to £1,400, but a lot of the time for that they'd bring her out for a meal and drinks. "If they have a drink, they'll fall asleep so you wouldn't have to do anything. That's a bonus," says Helen.
"I'm always talking bullshit," she says. She fakes orgasms all the time. But all men are incapable of making her earth move. The only thing that does it for her is sex toys. "It's really annoying doing the whole, 'You're so fucking good, she says, with the last bit uttered in an erotic groan. She tells most men that they have a big dick, "Unless it's obvious, then that'd just be insulting them."
But the male world is unevenly divided.
"I didn't have any that were ridiculously small," she adds, "but I did have some that were so small that I'd just say, 'Sorry, there's not really much I can do with it. Do you want to go down on me?'" Helen makes a retching noise as she thinks of men going down on her. Quite often, she feels sorry for her clients. They make all sorts of requests such as for anal sex, which she refuses point blank -- "That's pain, and no amount of money is worth having a baggy arse." Often she will dress up as a schoolgirl or a French maid and some men ask her to urinate on them. "Yeah, I do watersports. Some men lie in the bath and you piss on them. I can't always do it, but I try. You can't always make yourself piss, can you?" No one has asked her to defecate on them or vice versa. And even though she is used to hovering around men's nether regions, with dildos or her mouth, if anyone broke wind she would die of shame.
"No, it's never happened," she insists. "I'd be mortified if that happened to a man and I'd make sure it wouldn't happen to me."
She does a bit of mild bondage. Some men ask to be tied up but she never allows them to tie her up.
From time to time, she has asked men to stop heaving away if they were being rough but most of the time they carried on. As she says, "You only remember the bad ones.
"One man answered his phone when he was in bed with me," she continues. "It was his wife and he put her on loudspeaker. I thought he was a bastard for doing this. She was asking him how his meeting went and I thought it was dreadful. She didn't deserve that. There was no reason to humiliate her like that.
"A lot of men say that their women are like the men of the relationship and they're not feminine enough. Often they bad-mouth their women, saying things like 'that fat bitch at home' and I'm thinking, 'She's probably at home cooking your kids' tea'."
Helen believes that eight out of 10 men have sex with escorts because they are being bullied by their wives and they're not having sex at home.
"The others who come to her have a happy sex life but they're just greedy. Also, she thinks it's important to dispel the myth that men go to prostitutes when their wives are pregnant. It happens sometimes but not as often as people seem to think. But she has never felt guilty for sleeping with a pregnant woman's husband.
Working with the agency, there were some scary situations. One man pushed her into a bedroom and she heard him phoning his friends to say that she had arrived. She broke free and ran like hell. Another man bit her cheek. And on one occasion she and her friend arrived for a job and there were 10 Russian men there.
"We said, 'No way, we don't work like this,' and we left." She tells me that it is safer to branch out on your own than work for an agency, because you can pick and choose your clients. Also, that's how you earn better money. Helen and her friend got a portfolio done and advertised themselves on a website called Escort Ireland.
"We came over to Ireland and went around different hotels. Dublin, Belfast, Galway and Cork. We worked a lot in Cork. I hated Cork. They're a different breed. They're like the rednecks of Ireland. They're totally not with it when it comes to sex and women. A massive bunch of them would request the strangest of things. One man wanted me to treat him like a little boy. A lot of them were gay but they wouldn't admit it. They're quite dirty in Cork."
Dirty, as in a good way, with dirty sex?
"No." She grimaces. "They're not clean, not like city boys. A lot of them reminded me of farmers. They'd ask for the weirdest of things. I had a couple of clients from Cork that wanted to be treated like dogs. They'd sit there and pant at your feet and lick them. They wanted beating up. They'd never have sex, they just wanted you to twat them."
Did she bring her wooden spoon?
"No. One man wanted me to kick him in his ribs and he'd bring an egg-timer to make sure he got his full half-hour. In Cork, a lot of the men want strap-on dildos up their asses. I see it as not having sex with them so I actually prefer that. It's actually quite amusing because I'd be looking at the back of their head thinking, 'You fucking idiot.'
"I loved Dublin. It was full of loads of different people. I saw a politician in Dublin. He told me, 'I shouldn't be here. I'm actually a politician'. When he was in the shower, I looked out the window and there was a car parked outside with a chauffeur. He had a massage and we talked about things in general. I was sat there in my bra and knickers.
"He had a bottle of champagne with him. We were just having a friendly chat and he said, 'I've got a proposition for you. I don't know how open-minded you are. Can I put something to you?' He said, 'I see ladyboys on occasion. How would you feel if I brought one along with us? He's just a phone call away. I told him that he could possibly be invited to an appointment but obviously if you don't want him to come, then that's fine'. I kind of freaked a bit and said no. He paid to stay with me for two hours but I didn't have sex with him because I wouldn't have sex with the ladyboy. He was really nice though."
Would men tell her their names? "Yeah they would, and they all fucking lie. They all say they're called John." Some of her Irish clients were more normal. "My friend used to see a rugby player all the time," Helen says. "They'd built up this weird relationship. One time she couldn't make it over and she offered me instead. I saw him in Dublin. He was so fit. He had gorgeous blue eyes."
But why do successful young men do this when surely they can get it for free, with hordes of women clamouring for them?
"I understand why they do it," says Helen. "So many women are willing to blackmail. Women will go and fuck a footballer or an actor and then they go and sell their story but if they see an escort it won't happen as much. I know I sold my story about Wayne Rooney, but I did that for a reason and by that stage, it was already in the papers."
But back to Dublin. Like Cork, it had its share of oddballs too. "I used to see a judge in Dublin," she says. "He wanted me to batter him from the chest down so that no one would see it. He never once asked for sex. He was a weirdo and he used to bring weird things in.
"One time he brought a holdall bag and he wanted me to stand on it. I stood on it and he said, 'What's in the bag? Reveal what's in the bag'. It was like a big game to him," she goes on. "I opened the bag and there was a vegetable steamer. I had Jimmy Choo shoes on with massive heels. He told me to stand all over the vegetable steamer with my heels. His face was on a level with my foot and he wanted me to swing the lid on my heel. Then he just played with himself in his pants and came. He never took his dick out. He was nice and very smart but very weird. He told me he was married but slept in a twin bed. He didn't sleep with his wife."
A lot of Helen's clients were married. Does that make her look at marriage in a different way? "My boyfriend wants to get married but I'm still weird about getting married. As much as I love him to pieces, marriage to me is final. I have to be 100 per cent sure when I look in his eyes. I'd have to believe that 100 per cent and I don't at the moment. I do think a lot of men are incapable of keeping their dick in their pants," she says.
But Helen packed in her work as an escort girl last year. Now she has plans to set up a dress-hire agency, where girls can hire dresses for a few days and appear like Wags, just like she used to do. With all her first-hand experience, she thinks that she would be good at counselling couples and giving them sex tips, or perhaps writing a column about it. "I'd love to write a book as well," she says. "Not a kiss-and-tell but an autobiography. I've had a few meetings with publishers about it." She'd also like to have a little delicatessen. "Just a few businesses ticking over, so that I'd have a nice income coming in." Also, it's important that she could work from home -- with the dress-hire business -- so that she could do the school run with her son. She wants to send him to a private school.
One day, she will tell her son that she worked as an escort. "I don't expect him to understand at any age, but people do things for certain reasons." she explains. "The only thing I regret is becoming known for it, but I don't regret doing it because we'd probably be still living in a council house and he'd be in a shit school. He's in a fantastic school now and I live in a really nice area. I'm still only renting but I'm going to buy a house. None of the teachers in my son's school have been judgmental and they all say he's doing great."
Having worked as an escort, does she now hate men? "No, because people do things for different reasons and I can't hate men when I was doing that job," Helen says. "Who am I to judge? I think men cheat on women and women cheat on men, too. But I'm not a cheat. I'm very faithful and loyal. I'm very respectful to my boyfriend Louis."
Louis is the reason she packed in prostitution. Leaving clients and coming home to him, she would feel emotionally torn. The last time she worked was in Ireland. Now she's given it up for love, for Louis.
"People have offered me thousands to do it but I'm never, ever going back," she says. "I don't believe in going back. If you've made a decision, you've made it for a reason. I made a decision to stop, and now that Louis is in the picture that won't change."
There's one small snag though. Her boyfriend, whom she claims is the best thing that's ever happened to her, has been in prison for the past year. He was caught buying firearms with her credit card, unbeknown to her until the police knocked at their door one day at dawn and arrested them both. After much questioning, they released her. But she still loves him.
"I know he doesn't sound it because he's in prison, but he's fantastic," she tells me. "I'd never had a boyfriend before. I don't count my son's father as a boyfriend. I was single for six and a half years and then Louis came along."
He made contact with her through Facebook and then one of her friends gave him her number. He wanted to take her out on a date but she'd never been on a date before. Besides, she was working as an escort and so she felt that she couldn't do both. He brought her out for dinner in the Lake District.
"We ended up staying over and we stayed for another two nights," she says. "Then we came back and I've never looked back. When I first got with him, I was still escorting but after nine weeks I thought, 'I'm going to have to tell him the truth.' I broke down when I told him and I got really upset. I said, 'You won't want to see me after I've told you this. I'm an escort.' He gave me a hug and said, 'I don't care what you do. I like you for you and it's a job at the end of the day. I'm not narrow-minded. Who am I to walk into your life and expect you to turn things around?' He was really understanding."
On the insides of both her wrists, she has blue tattoos declaring her love for him. On one it says, 'No lies'. The other has, 'Just Love. Louis. 30/09/2009.'
"I only did the tattoo because he's insecure about me being out here," she says. "We both love each other to pieces, we're faithful to each other and, more than anything, we're best friends.
"When he got into trouble, I didn't want to ever speak to him again. But then he wrote to me and said he couldn't live without me, so that's why I've stuck by him."
She visits her boyfriend in prison every week. He asks her to dress up, but she won't. She tells him that it's a prison, and not a catwalk. She is looking forward to October, when he will be out on day release. "Here's the really ironic thing," she says. "I'm perceived to be the biggest slut going, but I've not had sex with anybody for a whole year."
Susan Hunter, Westbury Mall, D2, tel: (01) 679-1271, or see www.susanhunterlingerie.ie
Lara Boutique, 1 Dame Lane, D2, tel: (01) 670-7951
Julien, Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, D2, tel: (01) 475-1144
Photography by Agata Stoinska
Assisted by Aoife Herrity
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Jessica Gaffney
Make-up by Kate Synnott, Dylan Bradshaw, 56 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 671-9353
Hair by Sinead Curtin, Brown Sugar, 36 Main St, Blackrock, Co Dublin, tel: (01) 210-8604
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