Allergic Living catches up with Jo Frost, the former “Supernanny”, to learn about allergy’s role on her new TV show. Plus, her fiance dishes about helping to keep Jo, who has severe allergies, safe while on the road. (From Allergic Living’s Winter 2015-16 magazine; to subscribe click here.)
HER first words over the phone are an apology for her croaky voice – and Jo Frost’s usually melodic, English-accented tones are noticeably raspy. Frost is in Georgia on this October day, where there had been much rain and flooding, and mold and pollen are now permeating the warm, humid air that she breathes.
In other words, she’s caught in a perfect storm of triggers for someone with asthma and environmental allergies. “I ended up having severe allergy symptoms that went on to sinus infection and flu,” says the TV parenting expert. “It has been challenging.”
But Frost doesn’t just dispense advice on discipline, she is disciplined. She is vigilant about following her asthma action plan, and adjusting her controller medications for her health and the allergenic conditions. She took two days of bed rest, but is now back on her feet, and taping a new TV show. You just can’t keep a determined nanny down.
Allergic Living wanted to catch up with Frost, whom we profiled back in 2012, to learn about “Jo Frost: Nanny On Tour,” shortly before she launched this new show on the UP Network. It sees her traveling across America, helping families and, in some cases, whole communities.
There was a rumor that Frost would be including food allergies on the program, and she offered an enthusiastic, if raspy, confirmation. “Yes! We are helping a family with a child who has life-threatening food allergies and eczema,” says Frost, who also has her own multiple food allergies, including peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.
The allergic family on the new series clearly has known challenges. “The mother had become very fearful about everything with the child,” she says. “It was wonderful to be able to go in and give more education to this mother about food allergies and eczema.” There is also a teenage daughter in the segment. Frost says the teen “thought the mother was making it up, and exaggerating” her baby brother’s condition.
“It was very interesting for me also to address the teenager’s attitude and lack of empathy and knowledge.” Frost says that when she shared insights with the teenager into what it is really like to live with anaphylaxis risk, “it was shocking to her.”
“Nanny Jo,” as she’s known, first garnered acclaim on the hit reality TV show “Supernanny,” which she starred in until 2010. She’s since authored six parenting books and produced another family television program. Frost has also become a vocal advocate for those with food allergies, serving first as a national ambassador for the not-for-profit FARE, and now as a spokesperson for the FAACT organization.
“Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour,” sees Frost branching out into a new reality TV format. While still assisting individual families, she’s also offering expertise to extended family, including grandparents or aunties or other relatives living under the same roof, sometimes because of financial hardships. “All of those people have their own personalities, and their own dynamic within the family structure,” says Frost. On camera, she then sets about resolving the tensions that are straining the familial bonds.
And beyond the individuals viewers will see up close, Frost is taking her skills out to the broader community, and holding townhall meetings on parenting issues, too. “In Georgia right now, I’m about to go into a major town square and help everybody in the surrounding community with their questions.”
Wondering how this well-known nanny is “touring” across America? She and her crew have a big bus that serves as a rolling mobile office, where families can come aboard for advice, sometimes toting along cellphone videos of at-home meltdowns for her review. Frost is plainly passionate about domestic concerns: “What I would like to see, as I travel around this country, is the importance of us understanding and making it a priority to support families,” she says.
The parenting guru is fortunate to have her own great support system: her fiance Darrin Jackson is on tour with her, as he also is the production manager for the television show. Jackson found there was a “steep learning curve” to understanding severe allergies and asthma, “but I learned really fast what she couldn’t eat or couldn’t be around,” he says. As the production manager, he’s responsible for everything brought onto the set, including the food, and he always ensures that caterers “get” the seriousness of Frost’s dietary restrictions.
Jackson sometimes feels frustrated by the realities of the allergic life. For instance, he’s taken aback by airlines that find it “a problem to make a 20-second announcement” asking passengers not to eat peanuts, and by the staff at some restaurants “who look at us like we’re high maintenance.”
Yet even if it’s less convenient with her allergies, Frost loves being on the road for her job, and bringing her brand of support to families. “You have to be very aware of your conditions,” she says, “but not to the point where you feel restricted or fearful. And I believe that’s a mindset, it’s an attitude.”