Fearne Cot­ton: ‘Ev­ery­thing I do is about pos­i­tiv­ity, hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing’

Fearne Cot­ton was one of the first stars to speak out about her strug­gles with men­tal health, set­ting a prece­dent for us all to be more open. She talks to So­phie Hea­wood about self-ac­cep­tance, pos­i­tiv­ity and fam­ily life…

Grazia (UK) - - Contents - PHO­TO­GRAPHS ROSALINE SHAHNAVAZ

fearne cot­ton is hav­ing lunch af­ter our photo shoot when her mo­bile rings. It’s the fur­ni­ture com­pany that de­liv­ered flat­pack bunk beds to her house this morn­ing, then drove off with one of the mat­tresses. She is diplo­mat­i­cally in­form­ing them that if they don’t bring it back by 6pm there is go­ing to be mutiny in her house. ‘Be­cause I start the bed­time rou­tine at 6.30pm,’ she says af­ter hang­ing up, ‘and other­wise my kids are go­ing to be sleep­ing in my bed, which is hell.’

Let’s be hon­est: it’s cheer­ing to wit­ness fame and for­tune be­ing no help what­so­ever in the bat­tle against life’s cock-ups. And in Fearne’s case, it only adds to what she’s been say­ing for a cou­ple of years now, which is that fame and for­tune isn’t any pro­tec­tion against your life fall­ing apart ei­ther. She should know: the past few years have seen her re­build hers. 

EV­ERY­THING I DO IS ABOUT POS­I­TIV­ITY, HAP­PI­NESS AND WELL- BE­ING

She has writ­ten in her books, Happy and Calm, about what it was like go­ing into work at Ra­dio 1 every day, paint­ing on a brave face and an even braver voice while crum­bling in­side. About hav­ing a panic at­tack on the mo­tor­way and hav­ing to call the AA to take over be­cause she no longer felt phys­i­cally ca­pa­ble of driv­ing her car. About a friend stag­ing an in­ter­ven­tion and tak­ing her to see a doc­tor, which led to her tak­ing med­i­ca­tion for a short time and ther­apy, which she still does now.

Our coun­try’s men­tal health con­ver­sa­tion has opened up so much in those short years since Fearne, 37, be­gan hers that she’s al­most an el­der in it. I won­der what it feels like to see so many other peo­ple in the pub­lic eye now telling their sto­ries, too. ‘Amaz­ing,’ she nods. In 2016, she went to the me­dia awards show for men­tal health char­ity Mind, and there were ‘a few peo­ple who were will­ing to get in­volved’. By 2017, ev­ery­body was there – in­clud­ing Prince Harry. ‘ That was a real marker for every­one – like, oh my God, this is huge.’ Fearne has worked with the prince on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions and is friendly with him. We dis­cuss what a dif­fer­ence it made when he spoke about how his mother’s death af­fected him. ‘He had to do a fu­neral pro­ces­sion in front of the whole world, at age 12. I hate how peo­ple go, “Oh well the royal fam­ily have got loads of money.” When are we go­ing to get over this stupid idea that be­ing royal is go­ing to make you not have a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, los­ing your mum in such a hor­rific, pub­lic, scru­ti­nised way? I mean it’s bar­baric peo­ple would think other­wise.’

Fearne is just as friendly and wel­com­ing as you’d ex­pect. Yet she doesn’t rush to agree with ev­ery­thing I say; a far cry from the sort of peo­ple-pleaser you might ex­pect from her girl-next-door rep­u­ta­tion. She’s op­ti­mistic, es­pe­cially about to­day’s chil­dren. Who, she says, are go­ing to change things for the bet­ter with their un­der­stand­ing of self-ac­cep­tance. In terms of gen­der, ‘I wear quite blokey, loose clothes be­cause that’s the sil­hou­ette I pre­fer. But this idea of hav­ing to be fem­i­nine or mas­cu­line – the younger gen­er­a­tion know what they’re do­ing more than we do. There’s a trans­gen­der kid at my step­kids’ school and no­body thinks any­thing of it other than that is who they are. That gen­er­a­tion is way more savvy than we are.’

As it hap­pens, Fearne’s own son, Rex, five, is re­ally into fash­ion and putting out­fits to­gether, whereas her three-year-old daugh­ter Honey is ‘a real tomboy’ who couldn’t care less about dresses. She makes sure they both see their mum lug­ging fur­ni­ture around the house, ‘and I’ll al­ways say, “Mummy’s very strong’’ when I’m do­ing it. Sub­lim­i­nal mes­sag­ing! I don’t want them to go, “Daddy’s the strong one and Mummy’s the bak­ing one.” I love to bake but I want them to know that I have also built the ma­jor­ity of the flat­pack fur­ni­ture in our house. I’m good with a screw­driver. My hus­band would do it, but he’s very laid-back so it would hap­pen in about 2020. I get these things done.’

She and Jesse do feel slightly con­flicted, though, be­cause they also teach their son to hold doors open for ladies. ‘ This might go against fem­i­nism – I’m not sure these days – but I re­ally don’t want chivalry to go. We can’t let it go. I’ve had men walk through swing doors and they’ve smashed me in the face. Please don’t do that!’

A mod­ern fem­i­nism that in­cludes old-fash­ioned chivalry is apt for Cath Kid­ston, with whom Fearne has teamed up to de­sign a range of prod­ucts (which she wears in this shoot). A keen artist who has al­ways found so­lace in sketch­ing, Fearne adored delv­ing through Cath Kid­ston’s ar­chives to work on the prints, and has added in a T-rex and a hon­ey­bee in trib­ute to her kids. She has also added sup­port­ive mes­sag­ing, so it might say ‘carry me’ on a bag or ‘happy’ on a sleeve.

‘I want to cre­ate this feel­ing that ev­ery­thing is about pos­i­tiv­ity and think­ing about hap­pi­ness or well-be­ing with any­thing I’m do­ing, whether it be a de­sign project, a book, or on the ra­dio,’ she ex­plains. She is cur­rently cov­er­ing for Clau­dia Win­kle­man on Ra­dio 2. ‘I’ve been so lucky that they’ve let me shape our show into what­ever I want. It’s be­come about well-be­ing and how we live. I think that once you start to be re­ally au­then­tic then things start to un­furl nat­u­rally. It’s not like I was pre­tend­ing be­fore, but I’m not hav­ing to over-egg things and say, “This is all 

THE YOUNGER GEN­ER­A­TION IS WAY MORE SAVVY THAN WE ARE

great!”’ She adds that, in the past, ‘per­haps there was a “telly Fearne” and a “me Fearne”, but it’s just me now.’

It is at this point that I feel com­pelled to ask Fearne some­thing per­sonal. She has writ­ten about see­ing a post-trauma ther­a­pist, but has never spec­i­fied what the trauma was. In this new age of height­ened shar­ing, will she now? ‘No,’ she replies, ‘ be­cause I don’t want to.’ She pauses. ‘I’m not ready to talk about a cer­tain por­tion of my life for many rea­sons. I’m still work­ing on stuff, and I’m not go­ing to put my­self out there and ex­pose my­self and be even more vul­ner­a­ble when I’m not men­tally OK with ev­ery­thing. So that ob­vi­ously was a line I had to tread very care­fully.’

It makes sense, but I won­der if the new age of shar­ing will lead peo­ple to feel­ing short-changed if they don’t know ev­ery­thing about a celebrity. ‘I’m sure there are peo­ple who do think, “Well you told me some­thing Fearne, so now tell me ev­ery­thing.” And it’s like well, no, that’s the part of fame that is weird – that there are no bound­aries. I’m a very hon­est per­son; noth­ing I’ve said is un­true or not ac­cu­rate to my life, but there will still be bits of my life that I’m go­ing to have pri­vately. The thing about so­cial me­dia is that you’re sup­pos­edly bar­ing your soul and say­ing ev­ery­thing now. But there is a line be­tween that and keep­ing bits that are dear to you, that you cher­ish. We mustn’t lose that. We have to keep some things within.’

She in­sists, though, that the only thing fame has re­ally done to her, apart from pro­vid­ing ac­cess to ‘nice op­por­tu­ni­ties’, is make ‘peo­ple in the street shout across the road at me. And it’s usu­ally just, “Oi Fearne, what’s Keith Le­mon like?”’

Does she look back, like so many of us do, and cringe at her past. ‘Of course. I was on Dis­ney Club, wear­ing pur­ple cor­duroy. But you know what? Well done me, at 15! I was a sub­ur­ban, work­ing-class girl from a nor­mal school, and I was po­lite and I worked re­ally hard and I learned my craft, so now I can op­er­ate a ra­dio desk with­out any help, thank you very much. You know me, Lau­ren [Lav­erne], Zoë [Ball], Sara [Cox] – we’re run­ning the tech­ni­cal side too, same as the guys. The idea that any­one would think other­wise makes me so an­gry.’

Zoë Ball’s new break­fast show at Ra­dio 2 is ‘just the best news ever – I can’t wait to lis­ten. And Zoë is one of the nicest hu­mans on earth, so I’m over the moon.’ Fearne has a new TV show her­self, which will go out on both BBC Two and Net­flix, called Project In­te­ri­ors, in which skilled ama­teurs or low-level pro­fes­sion­als will be given a space to re­dec­o­rate. She in­sists it is ‘the most en­joy­able TV project I have ever done’, and that it felt right, af­ter she said no to a lot of other of­fers ‘that didn’t res­onate. Af­ter hav­ing kids, you just lose your mojo a bit. I had also turned down things be­cause I didn’t feel up to it’.

Well, she’s cer­tainly feel­ing up to it now. Fearne @ Cath Kid­ston launches on Fri­day

that’s the part of fame that is weird – there are no bound­aries

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