Jenny chose a classic Parisian look for a recent Christmas concert in Torrox Costa. / SUR

'Brexit has ruined my life and I'm not even British'

Jenny Mandera is a professional singer and dancer turned fashion blogger and stylist and regularly posts about body image and OCD

Jennie Rhodes

Many people will already be familiar with the name Jenny Mandera: either through her career as a professional singer and dancer on the Costa del Sol; or because they follow her social media pages on fashion, body positivity and mental health.

Jenny has been in Spain since 2003, when she saw an advertisement for a job as a dancer, having decided "spontaneously" to leave London, where she had been living for three years.

The job wasn't quite what she expected: "It turned out to be for something like Go-Go dancers on the beach in Marbella," she recalls.

"That really wasn't what I was after. I was a bit shocked to be honest," she laughs.

However, she decided to stay and did find work as a singer and dancer; she has also worked in the world of language education, while keeping her interest in fashion alive, largely through social media, and collaborations with photographers, make-up artists and other fashionistas.

Jenny, 44, is originally from Helsingborg in Sweden. Her maternal grandparents were Polish, but moved to the Nordic country after the Second World War and before Jenny's mother was born.

"My grandparents adapted completely to Swedish life. My Grandmother had been in Auschwitz and my grandfather had fought in Austria, Italy and eventually ended up in a camp in Finland," Jenny explains.

"I come from a family of strong women," she adds, reflecting on the hardships endured by her grandparents' generation. "We have a strong European sense in the family and my grandparents spoke a lot of European languages," she adds.

She puts her own keenness to travel and live in other countries down to her family's background and in 2000, after finishing her studies at a performing arts school in Sweden, Jenny moved to London, where she really felt she "belonged". "Brexit has ruined my life and I'm not even British," she laments.

After leaving London in 2003 to come to Spain, Jenny always thought that at some point she would always be able to return to the UK capital to pursue a career in the performing arts and combine it with her other love: fashion.

However, with Brexit making it very difficult for Europeans to move there and get work permits, Jenny recognises that, as a freelancer, it would be difficult to go back.

"I love England, but I can't just go there, make contacts and build up work. I would probably have to do a job that I didn't like just to earn enough money to get a visa and the pandemic has taught me that I want to live my dream."

Jenny's dream has always been to pursue a career in the performing arts and fashion. At the age of 14 she and some friends started copying looks from fashion magazines.

"I went ballistic with fashion when I was 14. I wanted to wear things that nobody else was wearing and I've never stopped."

Jenny started a fashion blog in 2014, but it was during the lockdown in 2020 when she really started to "treat it like a job".

As well as writing about fashion, she also wrote about body image and her own struggles with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Like many, Jenny also uses Instagram. "I'm not the typical skinny 20-year old influencer, but I love fashion and I want to show women my age that they can break the rules and wear what they want," she explains, adding, "But in the end, people have to feel comfortable in what they wear.

"I break the rules all the time and tell women in their forties for example that it's OK to wear a miniskirt. I follow some amazing fashion bloggers in their 60s who always look great."

Another of Jenny's concerns is the waste involved in the fashion industry with so much 'fast fashion' ending up in landfill.

"I wear a lot of vintage. I love mixing old and new but I think fewer items of each style should be sold. I can't say that I don't go to Zara. Of course I do, but I don't buy as much as I used to. In the past I would go to the sales and go ballistic. Now I use apps like Vinted and shop in vintage stores."

Jenny sees Malaga as an exciting place to be at the moment in terms of fashion. She's also hoping to start singing again after a seven-year break and says, "Someone told me recently that Malaga is 'so on the map'. There's a lot of opportunity for some exciting collaborations."