You may recognise the name Sheila Vogel. The grandmother of former X Factor contestant Katie Waissel made headlines three years ago after the News of the World exposed her work as an escort, destroying her relationship with most of her family, including her infamous granddaughter.
Now, she’s back in the public eye, appearing in Channel 4’s My Granny the Escort, a new documentary looking at three working ladies – Sheila, Beverley and Sophie – in their twilight years.
“I think it keeps me young,” says Sheila of her profession. “I’m a very sentimental person, I love people and I love to make people happy. The needs of these lovely gentlemen can sometimes be quite demanding but it makes me very happy to make them happy.”
First deciding to become an escort six years ago, Sheila was initially after “someone to go out with” following the deaths of both her husbands. “I came upon this set up with the escorts and I thought, ‘that’s not a bad idea’. At least it would give me the companionship that I needed and I’ve always loved involvement with a nice gentleman, to put it nicely to you. If you want me to be more down to earth I’ll say I do enjoy sex.”
But while her profession brings her a certain form of companionship, it has cost her her family as Sheila is seen in the programme marking her 85th birthday with just one of her three daughters. The others don’t speak to her. “I’m not a murderer. I haven’t murdered anybody. In a way, I’m quite proud of what I do.
“They want me to stop what I’m doing, they want me to say I’m sorry. Have I hurt them? They think that I have, I’m sure they do, but I don’t think I’ve hurt them.
“What happened three years ago is gone and forgotten. I have one daughter who has supported me right from the beginning and as far as I’m concerned, the others, they don’t want to know me.”
Unlike Beverley and Sophie, Sheila meets her clients outside of her suburban home. “A lot of my gentlemen, especially the regular ones, see me when they come in to work in London so they stay in different hotels and I go and visit them.”
She claims to be popular among men of all ages, from a youthful 25-year-old to customers in their seventies. “The younger ones are much better. And the younger clients seem to like the older ladies.”
Why does she think that is? “I’m more sophisticated, I speak very well – they say to me, ‘Your voice turns me on’. I’m very well travelled and I’m very knowledgable.”
She even has reviews to prove it: “What a charming lady,” one satisfied punter writes. “There is no substitute for experience in this life. Like fine wine, this lady is mature to perfection.”
But as we meet Sheila, her future in the profession is in the balance after a serious operation following a bowel infection six months ago. “I was taken to hospital where they operated on me and took a whole load of my intestines away.” It took four months for her to recover and documentary maker Charlie Russell charts her journey as she ventures back into the world of escorting.
So, how much longer does she see herself continuing? “I was reading an article or something on television about people aged ninety-plus having sex. Why not? I’m not too old. It’s not your body, it’s my body and I know what I can do and what I can’t do.”
As she looks to the future, Sheila’s also got high hopes of building her own career in the media, following in the footsteps of her famous granddaughter. “I’m hoping I will get involved with good things – I’d love to go on Loose Women because the other thing that upsets me is so many people look down on this. They think it’s such a terrible thing. Sex is not such a terrible thing. It’s a good thing for people and if I’m making a few men happy – if unfortunately they don’t get what they want at home and I can give it to them – well, why not? I think there’s nothing wrong in that.”
My Granny the Escort will be aired on Channel 4 on Thursday 29 May