The TV pre­sen­ter on how she’s plan­ning to re­live wild nights with Boy­zone when she re­turns for Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent

Denise Van Outen has en­joyed a stel­lar ca­reer that has not only sur­vived but thrived in the fickle world of show­biz. The bub­bly blonde has been on our screens since she was a child star, and her flair and pas­sion for en­ter­tain­ment haven’t waned over the years.

It was in the 1990s that the en­er­getic Denise shot to fame as she es­poused the ‘ladette cul­ture’ and, along with the likes of DJ Fearne Cot­ton, in­spired girl power and spawned a gen­er­a­tion of goget­ting fe­males. Now she’s been named as one of the judges on the inau­gu­ral se­ries of Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent – a huge coup for TV3 – and ad­mits she can’t wait to reignite her pas­sion for our fair land.

‘I’ve al­ways loved Ire­land, my first trip over was in the early 1990s,’ she re­calls. ‘I was do­ing a Satur­day morn­ing pro­gramme and I used to go over quite a lot for film­ing. That’s when I fell in love with Dublin – the places, the shop­ping, the peo­ple.’

It was a lot of work but also a lot of play as she re­calls all-night par­ties with Boy­zone in the cap­i­tal’s celebrity hotspots.

‘We used to go par­ty­ing with the Boy­zone boys, we would go to the Pod and Lil­lies. I can’t say I’ve ever not had a good time in Ire­land, I’ve al­ways had a great time.’

Last month, Denise and her daugh­ter were pic­tured out­side the West­bury Ho­tel, so now that she is a mum to seven-year- old Betsy Mead, has she left her par­ty­ing days be­hind her? ‘I’ll have the odd night out, I’m not go­ing to lie,’ she laughs. ‘If you’re go­ing to go to Dublin, you have to go out, just have a drink and a good time. But it won’t be like the old days, when we used to re­ally go out.

‘In the West­bury there would be Boy­zone, Take That, Westlife, All Saints, all those bands were around. We used to all be in the ho­tel and we would have a flight the next morn­ing at 9am and we’d all be show­er­ing at 8am to get the flight as we hadn’t been to bed. There was a lot of lock-ins back in those days and sore heads. But th­ese days they are few and far be­tween, I’m an old girl now!’

She cer­tainly doesn’t look old – in fact, she looks fresh-faced and glow­ing, thanks in part to her role as an am­bas­sador for Bel­lami­anta tan.

The pre­sen­ter may be all grown up, but her ‘mis­chievous side’ is still in­tact and she says she’s look­ing for­ward to work­ing with her fel­low Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent judge Louis Walsh.

‘I’ve known Louis for so long and I’ve al­ways loved him and we’ve al­ways had a laugh,’ she says. ‘I can’t wait to work with him, he’s so much fun. I’m so naughty and Louis has a re­ally naughty side to him too so it will be fun work­ing to­gether. There will def­i­nitely be a lot of laughs. For me it will be like go­ing back and pick­ing up a friend­ship from the 1990s so I can’t wait.’

Since her days as a child star, Denise has landed some ma­jor roles. She pre­sented The Big Break­fast and This Morn­ing, was a sen­sa­tion on Strictly Come Danc­ing, on which she fin­ished run­ner-up, she played Roxy Hart in the West End mus­cial Chicago, for which she re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim, and she also starred in EastEn­ders. In short, she is

the per­fect per­son to take on the role as judge on Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent. ‘I started in this in­dus­try as a child per­former so I love kids with tal­ent,’ she says when asked what kind of per­form­ers she will be look­ing for. ‘I just love see­ing young peo­ple that fas­ci­nate me, like when you hear a young child sing and you think, “where does that voice come from?”

‘Some peo­ple are just born with tal­ent and I love dis­cov­er­ing it. I did Strictly too so I love danc­ing and watch­ing danc­ing. So I think that’s what I will be look­ing for: dance groups and kids.

‘It’s re­ally nice on the panel as we are all look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent so ev­ery­one who au­di­tions will get a fair crack at it.’

In the time since her par­ty­ing years, Denise has mar­ried and di­vorced West End star Lee Mead and be­come a mum to their gor­geous daugh­ter Betsy. And though she’s a big sup­porter of young tal­ent, she says she would en­cour­age but cau­tion Betsy should she wish to fol­low her par­ents into the in­dus­try.

‘ The good thing about both me and her fa­ther be­ing in the in­dus­try is we both know it,’ she says. ‘We’ve both been through the rough parts of it, what’s gen­uine and what’s not. So I think I would en­cour­age it, if that’s what she re­ally wanted. But she would have to have a huge pas­sion for it, as that’s what I had as a kid.

‘I have to say the in­dus­try has been great to me. I’ve had a lovely, var­ied ca­reer and I can’t com­plain so it would be un­fair of me to say not to do it. But I would be very re­al­is­tic and ex­plain to her the down­falls and knock­backs – but you can get that in any in­dus­try.

‘What­ever in­dus­try or ca­reer you choose, you’re al­ways faced with ups and downs or crit­i­cism. So it de­pends what she shows a nat­u­ral flair for. At the mo­ment, she’s only seven, and she’s re­ally into arts and crafts and things like so she may be more of a cre­ative in that area.’

Through her role as an am­bas­sador with Bel­lami­anta tan, Denise is hop­ing to help raise funds and aware­ness around breast cancer. Bel­lami­anta has just launched its new Crys­tal Clear Rapid Self-Tan­ning Clear Mousse and is do­nat­ing 50c from ev­ery bot­tle sold in Oc­to­ber, breast cancer aware­ness month, to the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion.

The cause of breast cancer aware­ness and treat­ment have be­come very close to Denise’s heart in re­cent years. A keen golfer, she has been a reg­u­lar at Ro­nan Keat­ing’s an­nual golf com­pe­ti­tions in aid of the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion, named af­ter


his mother. ‘I’ve known Ro­nan and Keith for over 20 years now so it’s nice to catch up with them on th­ese oc­ca­sions,’ she says.

‘ They al­ways look af­ter me, they’re just lovely guys. I’ve also got­ten to know Ro­nan’s fam­ily through the foun­da­tion – his sis­ter Linda, his brother Gary and his chil­dren, they are all lovely. Storm is so lovely too.

‘I just love what they do for the char­ity, I think it’s amaz­ing. I had no idea what a huge dif­fer­ence it has made over here – hear­ing the sto­ries and talk­ing to peo­ple who work with the char­ity and the peo­ple it has helped, so much goes into what they do. It’s amaz­ing.’

Denise re­veals that she had a scare her­self in re­cent years, which is an­other rea­son she’s de­ter­mined to raise aware­ness of the is­sue.

‘I was quite lucky in so far as I had a lump and they lit­er­ally took it out on the day, they didn’t even mess about they just said “let’s get it out”. It all hap­pened so quickly for me that I didn’t have enough time to get re­ally as­sim­i­late it. So I was very, very lucky.

‘I can’t speak for some­one who gets a di­ag­no­sis be­cause it’s a whole dif­fer­ent thing [to what I went through]. And I know that be­cause one of my best friends has been di­ag­nosed. But there is al­ways that mo­ment where you just don’t know, that un­cer­tainty. It’s hor­ri­ble for any per­son, the wait­ing.’

Denise says that dur­ing her pal’s dark times, be­ing a best friend, a shoul­der to cry on or just some­one to laugh with is her role.

‘I’ve got a re­ally close friend who has had treat­ment for breast cancer and now she has just found an­other lump. That fear never leaves a per­son. I can’t speak for some­one that is go­ing through that, I can only speak as some­one who has been a friend to some­one who has suf­fered with it and knows the ef­fects that it has on fam­ily, friends and ev­ery­one around them.

‘ That’s when your friends need you, that’s when you re­ally step up. For me and for al­most ev­ery woman it’s the same – your friends and fam­ily are the most im­por­tant things in life.

‘I al­ways make the time to check in and to be a dis­trac­tion. I’m by na­ture quite mis­chievous and quite naughty – I’m sure you know that – so I just try and find things to make her laugh. In a way, some­times it helps to try and make light of the sit­u­a­tion – laugh­ter is the best tonic. My friend says, “I’m sick of ev­ery­one con­stantly ask­ing are you al­right” and speak­ing to her like she’s on the

way out, which she’s not. She’s liv­ing with cancer, she’s not dy­ing from it.

‘I think she just lives in con­stant fear of any­thing and ev­ery­thing, it’s just aw­ful. Hav­ing the sup­port from the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion re­ally helps peo­ple, and helps put their mind at ease. They have the vans go­ing around do­ing the screen­ing, which is in­cred­i­ble. We wouldn’t have the aware­ness if they didn’t do that.’

The au­di­tions phase of Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent starts next month and Denise is op­ti­mistic about what she will find. ‘I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to see­ing what Ire­land has to of­fer – I re­ally think it’s go­ing to be good. Think how much tal­ent comes out of Ire­land. I think we are go­ing to dis­cover a few stars – ob­vi­ously there will be just one win­ner but I think there will be a lot of undis­cov­ered tal­ent. I think we will find a lot of in­di­vid­u­al­ity.’

It is this in­di­vid­u­al­ity that launched Denise’s ca­reer as the pre­co­cious blonde who pushed the bound­aries and helped break fem­i­nist bar­ri­ers. So if you or some­one you know is plan­ning to try out for Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent, how can you im­press Denise? ‘Grow­ing up, we never had loads of tal­ent shows so peo­ple had to show an in­di­vid­ual tal­ent. Now I think un­for­tu­nately there’s a lot of copy­cat acts go­ing on – peo­ple mimic an­other per­former so per­haps we’re not find­ing that raw tal­ent. In some shows, it’s like “wow, she’s amaz­ing, she sounds like Adele” but you’re just mimic­ing Adele. ‘Do some­thing dif­fer­ent, that what I’d say to peo­ple au­di­tion­ing. Don’t do some­thing or some­one that you want to be like. Do your own thing.’

There are few bet­ter am­bas­sadors for that than Denise van Outen.

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Denise was a big hit on Strictly Come Danc­ing. Left, clock­wise from top left: In EastEn­ders; with old pal Ro­nan Keat­ing; pos­ing up with fel­low Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent star Lucy Kennedy; as Roxy in the West End’s Chicago; with ex-hus­band Lee Mead; the role that made her fa­mous, on The Big Break­fast with Johnny Vaughan

Denise is joined by Glenda Gil­son and Lena Morku­niene to cel­e­brate the Bel­lami­anta col­lab­o­ra­tion

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