'I grew up with nothing but love': Tom Zanetti on life in Leeds, lockdown and Celebs Go Dating stardom
It's been a busy year for Tom Zanetti. The Leeds DJ and entrepreneur talks to Abbey Maclure about his humble Leeds upbringing, lockdown, and what's next this summer.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Leeds DJ turned reality star Tom Zanetti
He’s gone from enjoying bike rides with his son and learning to cook during lockdown, to appearing on Made in Chelsea and scooping a number one hit in the Independent Singles Chart.
A well-known name in the Leeds music scene since he was a teenager, Belle-Isle born Zanetti was propelled to international fame with his 2016 hit You Want Me.
But his success didn't come overnight and Zanetti won over the hearts of the nation as he opened up about his humble upbringing on Channel 4's Celebs Go Dating earlier this year.
Zanetti, who grew up in Gipton, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I grew up with nothing but love. My mum was a single mum with three kids, living in a council house and juggling whatever job she could get.
"We shared each other's clothes, we didn’t have any sort of money.
“It was quite a rough area, I was around a lot of criminal activity and when I was about 14 I started getting involved in silly things."
Zanetti's life was turned around when he was kicked out of school at the age of 16. In the same year, he became a father to his son Deaconn, now 14.
It was the push Zanetti needed to start his music career, selling CDs at Kirkgate Market while working as a butcher, a roofer, a scaffolder and in call centres - any job he could get to provide for his son.
“I got quite a name for myself so I started throwing parties," Zanetti, now 31, added.
"I threw my first event at 17 when I couldn’t even get into the place, releasing more music and just seeing where we could push it.
"I used to stand outside Space nightclub at 5am pushing free CDs and flyering for parties.”
In the early years of his son's life, Tom lived with his partner Lizzie and launched his huge club nights - Insomnia.
Lizzie tragically died in a car crash in 2010 when she was driving home from work.
When Zanetti has headlined the biggest dance stage in Ibiza, taken his families on luxury holidays, bought his mum a restaurant and had thousands of people singing his songs in Mozambique - his setbacks and personal tragedies have never been far from his mind.
Zanetti added: "All these things are amazing but it took so long to get there, through that much bad stuff.
"When I get to these things I think ‘this is what I’ve worked towards’. Despite what’s happened, despite the knock backs, despite being bankrupt and homeless, losing people I loved. I’ve got there because I’ve worked for it."
Zanetti went from flying around the world performing at sold-out shows, to being back in Leeds overnight when the pandemic hit.
Lockdown was the break Zanetti needed and he spent the summer enjoying a normal life with his son Deaconn, going on bike rides and binging on Netflix shows.
He said: "It sounds glamorous, but when you’re flying on planes every night or on the road, eating at services for weeks on end and not seeing your family - it's amazing, but it’s exhausting.
"It was scary at first and it was hard staying upbeat for my son, but it was the break and the reset that I needed."
Despite his rise to fame, Zanetti is often spotted helping others out in Leeds.
He recently gave his support to a former spice addict who transformed his life, he's worked with homeless charities in Leeds and he delivered food parcels to more than 100 families during the first lockdown.
“I drove round with my son delivering meals in places like Holbeck, Middleton and Beeston - there were kids who didn’t have anything," Zanetti said.
“I try and do as much as I can with these organisations and spread awareness, because people don’t see that these families need help."
Zanetti's career has been taken to a new level this year, with his success on reality show Celebs Go Dating where he hit it off with 'The Duchess' Sophie Hermann.
He'd never watched the show, or any reality TV, but he loved meeting new people in the "surreal" surroundings.
Since the show, he's appeared on Made in Chelsea with Hermann and released the single Didn't Know - which has recently topped the Official Independent Singles Chart.
He's looking forward to getting people back into his award-winning Leeds bar, Dollhouse, which he opened with business partner K.O Kane in 2019 just months before lockdown hit.
There's lots of music on the way, Zanetti promises, with some exciting collaborations and plans to open Dollhouse in different cities.
The graft he's put into his career is clearly paying off. His advice to other Leeds youngsters?
“If you come from a place that I come from, it’s easy to see all the lads selling drugs and robbing houses to make easy money," Zanetti said.
"When you’re that age, you’re easily impressionable. I looked at these guys and I thought they were the coolest people in the world. But I was easily led because I was vulnerable, I was young. I wanted to be like them.
"Just don't do it. Stay in school and work out what you want to be.
"Whether that’s an astronaut, a special agent, a scientist or a doctor - whatever it is, if you sit it out and school and make it happen, you’re gonna do it.”
"From corned beef to caviar": Zanetti makes debut appearance on Made in Chelsea
Zanetti has won over new fans this year after appearing in E4's Celebs Go Dating.
The reality dating show followed a different format due to the pandemic, with the stars moving into 'The Mansion' for four weeks while they searched for love.
Zanetti loved the experience, but admitted he hadn't watched the show before his appearance.
He said: "It was no phones, no TV, just interacting with people you’ve never met in a surreal surrounding. I love people and love having a laugh, so I really enjoyed it."
A romance blossomed with fellow contestant and Made in Chelsea star Sophie Hermann, 34, who Zanetti fondly nicknamed 'The Duchess'.
He has since appeared on the new season of reality hit Made In Chelsea, which follows the lives of people who live in the affluent London borough.
Posting ahead of the show, he said: "From corned beef to caviar. Your boy makes an entrance tonight".
In the series, Zanetti travelled down to the Cotswolds to surprise Hermann ahead of her forthcoming birthday.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post he thoroughly enjoyed the experience - seeing how the show is filmed and meeting new people.
Fans took to social media following the episode, calling Zanetti a "breath of fresh air".
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.