CLAIRE RICHARDS

WHY I WAS WRONG TO FEAR TURN­ING 40

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Claire Richards first burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced singer in pop band Steps in 1997, the year she turned 20.

Since then, she’s been through a lot of ups and downs in the pub­lic eye; from Steps break­ing up and re­form­ing, and en­ter­ing the Celebrity Big Brother house, to her well-doc­u­mented strug­gles with di­et­ing.

Now 40, Richards says the land­mark age has given her a new level of peace in her life.

Here, she shares the lessons she’s learned.

ON JUG­GLING A CA­REER AND MOTH­ER­HOOD...

Richards has two kids with her hus­band Reece Hill — 10-year-old Char­lie and eightyear-old Daisy.

“It’s a big jug­gling act most of the time,” Richards con­fesses.

“Me and my hus­band are a real team when it comes to mak­ing sure the kids are looked after, we al­ways make sure that one of us ei­ther takes them or picks them up from school, and that there’s al­ways one of us around.”

De­spite hav­ing a lot on her plate with her fam­ily and ca­reer, she’s re­fresh­ingly hon­est about it all. “It’s not easy, but I’m not the only mother in the world that does it,” she laughs. “It def­i­nitely makes life in­ter­est­ing.”

ON WHAT PAR­ENT­ING MEANS TO HER...

It’s when she’s with her fam­ily that the pop singer feels the most grounded, and she’s of­ten sur­prised at how much moth­er­hood has taught her.

“Once you have kids, you re­alise all the things that used to be your pri­or­i­ties are re­ally quite small and in­signif­i­cant,” she ex­plains. “I now re­alise that ev­ery­thing else is not as big a deal, as long as they’re OK.”

De­spite jug­gling a pop ca­reer with moth­er­hood, Richards is just like any other par­ent on the school run. She de­scribes how even though her two chil­dren might oc­ca­sion­ally drive her up the wall, ev­ery so of­ten, she’ll look at them and re­alise: “Ac­tu­ally, it’s pretty amaz­ing that I grew that per­son in­side me, and now they’re ac­tual liv­ing hu­man be­ings.

“It’s quite a big thing to get your head around, and some­times I still can’t.”

ON BE­COM­ING MORE CON­FI­DENT AFTER TURN­ING 40...

Like many peo­ple in their late 30s, the Steps singer says that she was dread­ing turn­ing 40. But now the land­mark birth­day has passed, she can’t fathom why she was so afraid of it.

“It’s weird, be­cause I spent so many years be­ing scared of turn­ing 40, and yet the minute I did, it re­ally wasn’t that bad and a lot of things fell into place,” she says.

“I don’t what it is about turn­ing 40, but I def­i­nitely had a ‘light on’ mo­ment.”

After cel­e­brat­ing her birth­day, Steps also started per­form­ing again. “Even be­ing 40, I think I wore less on­stage than I ever have!” she gig­gles.

Her abil­ity to take style risks is helped by the con­fi­dence that Richards gets from be­ing on stage, and you can tell that per­form­ing live is some­thing she ab­so­lutely loves.

“I know what I’m ca­pa­ble of now and I know what my abil­ity is,” she ex­plains.

“Things cer­tainly have changed since she was per­form­ing in her early 20s, and Richards says: “I’m not scared of it any more and I’m not apolo­getic for it ei­ther — I just do what I do and I love it.”

ON WHAT SHE WOULD TELL HER YOUNGER SELF...

“I’d tell my younger self to chill out a lit­tle bit and not to take ev­ery­thing so se­ri­ously,” she says. “It re­ally will be OK in the end — you’ve just got to have a lit­tle bit of faith.”

De­spite this, she has no re­grets. “I do think ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son,” she says.

“But it would have been nice to know 20 years ago that ev­ery­thing is not that big a deal, and you’re go­ing to be al­right.”

ON WHERE SHE’S HAP­PI­EST...

Richards says she’s hap­pily swapped the glitz and glam­our of the red car­pet for a hot glue gun, and con­fesses that arts and crafts are her favourite things to do on a free week­end. “Ev­ery­one thinks I’m ab­so­lutely men­tal,” she laughs. “But I love mak­ing any­thing crafty!” Pom poms, flow­ers made out of felt — it’s all thrilling for Richards. “I could spend hours do­ing that kind of stuff,” she con­fesses. And FYI: The day we spoke to Richards, she was out­side spray­ing pineap­ples neon colours. Per­haps not what you’d ex­pect from a pop star, but it shows that, at 40, she re­ally is more com­fort­able in her own skin than ever be­fore.

Claire Richards is the face of the Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards 2018, Spec­savers’ na­tion­wide search for proud glasses wear­ers aged 16 and over from across the UK. To en­ter and be in with a chance of winning £10,000, visit love­g­lasses.spec­savers.co.uk. For each en­try, Spec­savers will do­nate £1 to the anti-bul­ly­ing char­ity Kid­scape

I’d tell my younger self to chill out and not take ev­ery­thing so se­ri­ously

IN THE FRAME: Claire Richards

COME­BACK: Claire with Steps band­mates and (right) with Ian ‘H’ Watkins in 1999

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