Durham YouTube star Bea Jonite talks about her time in jail
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bea on solitary confinement and online fame
Latvian Durham student and YouTube sensation, Bea Jonite was sentenced to five days in prison for driving under the influence of alcohol over the past Easter holiday.
Bea remained open about her experience from day one: posting videos and raising awareness in an attempt to stop people making the same mistake. She spoke exclusively to The Tab about her experience after serving her sentence.
When Bea entered the facility, everything was thoroughly searched, and some things were taken away for safety reasons. Such as her shoelaces to prevent self-harm. She also had to do nude squats, which she deemed “very humiliating, but again – totally understandable.”
Fortunately she did not face any mistreatment by the guards. Though she noted “the guards did not hesitate to swear and shout” when inmates in her neighbouring cells were loud or crying. She attributes the guards’ polite and respectful treatment to the behaviour of the guards being a reflection of the inmates’ own attitude.
The finalist recalls daytime was more bearable, perhaps due to three meals, passed through a little metal window, splitting up the day and giving a sense of a schedule. But lying down on a rubbery mattress with no sheets or pillow with the light kept on 24/7, her first night “felt like hell.”
Though she was in solitary confinement, the Economics & IR student met two women serving 10 days each for driving under influence during the hourlong walks she was permitted daily. Though Bea had some small talk with the women, she realised by the very end of her sentence that they never knew each other’s names, “It was like this unspoken agreement to have no future ties to those four walls.”
Though Bea never saw any of the men, she “heard them plenty.” The one thing to disrupt the courteous silence was the male inmates shouting at her and the women over a wall, catcalling. “It was degrading, to say the least.” she said.
“These encounters repeatedly reminded me of the corruption problem in Latvia, where people who can afford to pay a bribe simply do not end up in jail.” Bea told The Tab. “The people I saw and heard there weren’t ones I would normally cross paths with. But in the eyes of the law we were all equal.” she added.
Perhaps the most distressing physical aspect of her cell was that every flat surface had inscriptions on. When asked about the content Bea said: “Some of it was very dark and unpleasant. It felt like the cell’s previous inhabitants were ‘invading’ your privacy. God knows, who laid in that bed before me, and where they are now.”
In spite of the environment being unlike anything she had experienced before, Bea had managed keep a healthy perspective: “It’s jail, not The Four Seasons. What I did a year ago could’ve ended lethally. Five days in solitary confinement is nothing compared to a (very possible) car crash that could’ve destroyed an innocent person’s life or put me in a coma. I made a massive mistake, and really don’t have the right to complain!”
The YouTube star thinks that the cure for anything that hits you in life is to try see it in a positive light. “A lot of people feed off others vulnerability, and the only way to deal with it is to focus on the silver lining. I think, at this point, I’ve become a professional in that department,” she added warmly.
Bea believes that, with her life being in the public eye, and making herself vulnerable to people’s constant criticism, she grew a very thick skin.
There wasn’t a mirror in Bea’s cell and to her surprise, “not seeing my reflection for that long was actually quite liberating too.” As a highly coveted YouTuber with a following of 173k she was surprised to find out the strength of not getting to see her own physical reflection, “I could even go as far as saying I ‘cured’ my inner narcissist and egomaniac (at least temporarily) – which most of us are in the social media age.”
This does not mean that you will not be hearing a lot from the up-and-coming YouTube star. She even has a video documenting the whole ordeal with a detailed ‘what’s in my bag’ section.
Her story has gone viral – magazines, newspapers, online articles – the scale of response is hard to comprehend. People love scandal, but this also shed light on an issue so often branded as taboo. Even though Bea regrets what she had done she is sure that she said “I will never regret giving others a chance to learn from my mistakes.”