Great British Baking Show’s Kim-Joy Opens Up About Being a ‘Socially Anxious Person’

Great British Baking Show alum Kim-Joy’s is known for her playful baking creations, but her other passion is mental health care.

The 2018 GBBS competitor was known for her creative bakes on the show (also known as The Great British Bake Off in the U.K.) and continued her reputation as a whimsical baker with her four cookbooks. Baking with Kim-Joy, Christmas with Kim-Joy, Celebrate with Kim-Joy and Bake Me a Cat are full of fun, oftentimes animal-inspired, recipes.

In 2023, the baker released her graphic novel Turtle Bread, a comic book all about baked goods and coming out of your shell (pun intended). The hundred-plus page comic book is about a socially anxious woman finding community in a baking club, and Kim-Joy tells PEOPLE that she sees a lot of herself in the story.

“I was so nervous about it coming out because it’s a totally different thing and I’ve poured quite a lot of myself into it,” Kim-Joy said of the graphic novel, which was illustrated by Alti Firmansyah

According to Kim-Joy, this story is unlike her cookbooks, which “can only go on the surface level” of mental health conversations. In Turtle Bread she could go “into all the depth about how people act and how people behave.”

The cookbook author has been a mental health care worker for years. After getting an undergraduate degree in sociology and a masters in psychology, Kim-Joy worked as a support worker in an inpatient learning disability unit and a care home, a psychological wellbeing practitioner in National Health Service and an advisor to university students with mental health struggles. 

Kim-Joy — who will also appear on a British children’s television show — is able to relate because of her own struggles.

“I always try new opportunities. Sometimes there’s a bit in my head that goes, ‘Oh, do you really want to do that acting role? You’re going to be terrible,’” she says.

Bake Me a Cat Recipes.

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She knows that acting and applying to compete on Great British Baking Show “as a socially anxious person” sounds “so strange.” But she finds it “quite easy to talk to people the first time” she meets them.

Bake Off is kind of similar. On TV, people don’t really know you,” says Kim-Joy who also competed on the show’s New Year’s special. “But I was nervous about actually going back onto the Bake Off, not because about going on TV, it was about seeing all the crew and seeing the judges again because I feel like they know me better now and that makes me feel very, very vulnerable.”

She says the concept is quite a common for people who suffer from social anxiety.

“My tips are just getting the right people around you and not being hard on yourself if you can’t be vulnerable in a situation,” she advises.

Her partner Nabil Homsi has motivated her to step outside her comfort zone. “I think the ability to be vulnerable and to put yourself in that situation is very much helped by having the right people around you,” she says, “and a safe base which you can fall back on.”

“Before Nabil, I didn’t really have much of a support base and I think I was a lot more fragile,” she adds.

Now, in addition to writing cookbooks and graphic novels, she combines her passion for baking and mental health with a charity called the Wren Bakery, a “really amazing community” that teaches women baking and barista skills and helps them with employment. The social media star continues to share her mental health knowledge online with fans, too. 

“Mental health is my favorite thing to think about,” she laughs, “I’m obsessed with it.”

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