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Mollie Pearce reveals boyfriend Max's 'amazing' response to her stoma - exclusive

In an exclusive interview with HELLO!, Mollie Pearce opens up about her boyfriend Max, her stoma and more 

Mollie Pearce shoot
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
Updated: 5 February 2024
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Smiling broadly as she adjusts her long hair before striking a pose in the HELLO! magazine studio, it's clear Mollie Pearce is back in her comfort zone. This resilient 22-year-old had the nation watching in horror through their fingers as she was taken in by treacherous Harry in the finale to the BBC’s smash hit show The Traitors last week. 

But while many would struggle to bounce back from such a crushing moment - and the associated loss of a potential fortune - for Mollie, a disability model from Bristol, Harry’s betrayal is nothing compared to what she has to contend with in her life up until that moment, and she’s got it all perfectly in perspective now.

WATCH: Mollie trusted Harry to the finale - where he won the £95k prize money

“I never went in there thinking I was going to win,” she explains. “I think that getting my story out there, spreading some awareness about stomas, meant more to me than actually winning.” 

From the age of 11, Mollie struggled with ulcerative colitis, which affects the colon. The condition had a dramatic impact on her health, leaving her constantly ill and unable to lead a normal life. At 18, her struggle with the condition became so serious that it eventually led to the devastating news that she needed surgery to remove her colon, leaving her with a stoma bag. 

Mollie Pearce photoshoot with HELLO!© Nicky Johnston
Mollie wears Sandro suit with trainers by Air & Grace

“Before the surgery, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have a bag for the rest of my life. But I’ve been given a taste of life. I would rather have this bag stuck to me forever  than go back to how I was living before.”

Mollie Pearce at HELLO! photoshoot© Nicky Johnston
Mollie wears dress by Marc Cain with jacket by Sandro, jewelry by Anisa Sojka and heels by Casadei

For Mollie, the idea of having a stoma bag was a huge taboo. “We look at it as something disgusting, you have this negative opinion - I did anyway. I want to change that. I want to make people realise that it can have such a positive effect. It’s not a last resort or the worst thing in the world. I call mine Sid,” she laughs. “You can even get jumpers for them, it’s cute.” 

As a teenager, the condition inevitably affected Mollie’s confidence, as did her limb difference. But her mum made sure that she didn’t let it stop her - especially when it came to romance. 

The Queen of the Faithfuls Mollie Pearce© Nicky Johnston
The Queen of the Faithfuls wears pink cashmere by Arch4

“My mum always used to say, ‘Someone will love you for who you are. This just gives you a head start, because you can filter out the bad ones before you even speak to them.” 

Mollie certainly found a good one in her boyfriend Max Backwell, 25. Her partner of over two years was a friend of her older brother Sam, and the trio would hang out together before Max asked her brother if he would mind them dating. 

“We were at  Max's one night and he said to my brother, ‘Oh mate, I actually  fancy your sister, is that alright?’ I think for my brother, as long as Max was going to treat me with respect, he'd rather have a friend around the house, they get on so well. When we go on trips away, he's got his best mate there so it's  perfect.” 

Mollie Pearce in slip dress during photoshoot© Nicky Johnston
Mollie in slip dress by Marc Cain, heels by Casadei and Anisa Sojka Jewellery

Max completely accepts Mollie’s limb difference and stoma bag. “He doesn’t care about my stoma at all. He would stick a bag on his stomach on the beach if it made me feel better,” Mollie says lovingly. “I don't think he even sees it at all. For him to go from not knowing anything about what one was to just accept a partner with one, I think he's an amazing human for that.”

Mollie Pearce talks life after The Traitors© Nicky Johnston
Mollie wears top by Zadig and Voltaire, trousers are By Malina, shoes by Bobbies and Anisa Sojka Jewellery

Abdominal surgery has a lengthy recovery time and Mollie remembers the difficulties of her own operation well. The Princess of Wales has just returned home after a 12-day stay in the hospital for her own abdominal surgery, and Mollie’s thoughts are with her.

Mollie reached the final of The Traitors© Mark Mainz
Mollie reached the final of The Traitors

“My advice would be just give yourself time,” she says. “People forget how much you use your stomach for everyday things, even getting out of bed is impossible when you just have surgery because you just use your tummy muscles all the time. So let people look after you for a bit and just take your time to recover because everyone's different.” 

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One thing that has been challenging for this plucky up-and-coming star has been the intensity of social media. Everyone had something to say about her decisions on the hit TV show and not all of it was kind. “I turned my phone off because as soon as I opened it I had hate,” she says. “But I’ve also had so much love [from the stoma and limb difference communities] and the messages make it all worth it.  

"Even though I didn't win, I’m still winning,  putting my story out there and helping loads of people. I've had people say, ‘I might need surgery soon, and it's just changed my whole outlook on it.’ I needed that. I have a very normal life and do very normal things and I've got a normal family and a normal boyfriend. It just shows that your life carries on when you have a stoma, and  it can enhance your life.” 

Photographer: Nicky Johnston 

Stylist: Arabella Boyce 

Hair & Makeup: Claire Ray using Redken and Armani cosmetics @ Carol Hayes Management

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