‘I be­lieve that wher­ever Bruce is, he’s happy and I’ve got an­other an­gel to guide me’

As she re­turns to mod­el­ling, Lady Wil­nelia Forsyth talks to Gabrielle Fagan about deal­ing with the death of her hus­band and how danc­ing with her mum helps keep her fit

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW -

It’s been over a year since show­biz leg­end Sir Bruce Forsyth died at the age of 89 in Au­gust 2017, and his wife, Lady Wil­nelia, has once again re­turned to work­ing as a model. The pair met when they were both in­vited to be judges at the 1980 Miss World con­test — Lady Wil­nelia, a for­mer ac­tress from Puerto Rico, had won the ti­tle her­self in 1975 — and mar­ried in 1983.

They had a son, JJ, now 30, while the en­ter­tainer also had five daugh­ters from his pre­vi­ous two mar­riages. The fam­ily, Lady Wil­nelia says, are “very close”.

De­spite the heartache of the past 15 months, she is as glam­orous, ef­fort­lessly el­e­gant, so­phis­ti­cated as ever and feel­ing pos­i­tive. She still “talks to Bruce in her head”, which she says helps her get through the days.

Charm­ing and down-to-earth, the 61-yearold opens up about her feel­ings of loss, what’s helped her cope with her grief, and why she still feels grate­ful for life’s bless­ings.

How are you cop­ing with life after los­ing Bruce?

“It’s a jour­ney, a process, and some­times I feel great, but sad­ness comes and goes. The other day, we were cel­e­brat­ing my son JJ’s birth­day when my two-year-old step-grand-daugh­ter asked, ‘Winny, where’s grandpa? When’s he com­ing home? Is he play­ing golf ?’ It’s those mo­ments you don’t ex­pect, and sud­denly they com­pletely de­stroy you. If I feel like cry­ing, I do, and then I dry my tears and go on.”

What’s com­forted you dur­ing such a dif­fi­cult pe­riod?

“I be­lieve that wher­ever he is, Bruce is happy, look­ing out for me, and I feel I have a star in the sky now — an­other an­gel who can guide me in many, many ways. Bruce told me he wanted me to go on liv­ing, be happy, and en­joy my life. Right from the be­gin­ning of our mar­riage, this was some­thing we would talk about.

“He knew there was a big gap in our ages, and that I took a big step when I de­cided to marry him and come to this coun­try, be­cause I was leav­ing be­hind my fam­ily, my friends, even the weather.

“It was a lot for a young girl, but I was very much in love, and for what­ever rea­son I knew some­how, if I was lucky, I would be mar­ried to Bruce for ever. I’ve been very, very lucky to have had so many years with him. Many peo­ple don’t have that ex­pe­ri­ence in their life, and I’m very con­scious about that.”

What are the dif­fi­cult mo­ments?

“Nowa­days, some­times when I have to make my own de­ci­sions. To tell the truth, some­times I do talk in my head with Bruce, think­ing, ‘Well, what would he have said?’, or, ‘What he would like me to do?’ It may sound silly, but it helps me.

“There are some mo­ments you feel, ‘I can’t cope’, and you’re the only one go­ing through this, but then I re­ceive so many let­ters and re­alise peo­ple are in worse po­si­tions. So many are very kind and come up to me to say hello and ask how I’m get­ting on, which is amaz­ing.

“I’m so lucky I have fam­ily and friends around me that I can talk to. The girls (Bruce’s daugh­ters) have been amaz­ing and my son JJ’s fan­tas­tic — we’re very close. It can be a lit­tle bit painful for the girls some­times to come to the house be­cause of the mem­o­ries, but we spent Thanks­giv­ing to­gether and also wel­comed a new grand­son, which was bril­liant. Christ­mas will be hard, but I’m go­ing with JJ to Puerto Rico to be with my par­ents. Bruce and I used to be there for the new year and I’ll stay for that, so there’ll be tears and laugh­ter, but that’s fine.”

What’s in­spired you to re­turn to mod­el­ling?

“For me, keep­ing busy is the best medicine right now. Mod­el­ling for the JD Wil­liams Christ­mas col­lec­tion has been great, be­cause it’s made me fo­cus on some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. They have such fash­ion­able, glam­orous clothes for women of my age who still feel young and en­er­getic and want to look good.

“I love tai­lored trousers and pen­cil skirts at about knee-length for the day, teamed with cash­mere or silk, and in the evening, clothes which are fit­ted, but I don’t like to show too much cleav­age. I’m lucky I’ve kept very much the same size over the years. I’m now wear­ing bright colours again, which is nat­u­ral for me, com­ing from Latin Amer­ica, but last year the only colours I could see in my closet were black. That was the mood I felt. It’s strange how your emo­tions ef­fect you.

“I’m so for­tu­nate there’s so much in my life. I’m build­ing my own fash­ion and home­ware brand, I have my char­ity in Puerto Rico (she has a foun­da­tion that helps un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren) and, of course, my fam­ily.”

Do you watch Strictly Come Danc­ing?

“When Bruce was here, I used to watch it ev­ery week and — not crit­i­cis­ing — tell him af­ter­wards what I thought. It’s not easy to see it some­times nowa­days and I don’t see it as reg­u­larly, but the se­ries has been fan­tas­tic. Tess and Clau­dia are do­ing re­ally well. I’m very much in touch with Tess.”

How do you stay fit?

“In Latin Amer­ica, the last thing we talk about is age, in the way peo­ple seem to con­stantly here. I feel great and try to stay healthy. I ex­er­cise at home ev­ery morn­ing with stretch­ing or a work­out. I’m in­spired by Bruce, who was so dis­ci­plined with his daily fit­ness rou­tine. He was such an amaz­ing teacher for me in so many ways. He had such fo­cus and I try to re­mem­ber many of the things he used to do.

“Pi­lates is good for me after a back op­er­a­tion years ago. I love walk­ing and golf, and I make my­self go the gym twice a week.

“Life’s too beau­ti­ful to be on silly di­ets. If I have an oc­ca­sional treat, like a dough­nut, I’ ll eat it slowly and en­joy it. I love a roast lunch once a week, but then I’ ll fast and maybe not eat un­til lunch the fol­low­ing day.”

How else do you look after your well­be­ing?

“Danc­ing with my mother, Delia, who’s stay­ing with me at the mo­ment, is won­der­ful. We do Latin dances, be­cause they make you move ev­ery mus­cle, and mu­sic and move­ment are bril­liant for lift­ing the spir­its.

“I’m a pos­i­tive per­son. I read pos­i­tive books and I’m learn­ing to med­i­tate and prac­tise mind­ful­ness to help me re­lax. I have a very ac­tive mind, so I find it hard to sleep. I have to use all sorts of things to help me, like count­ing back­wards un­til I nod off.”

Would you like to find love again?

“That’s some­thing that I don’t even think about. Let’s say I’m not look­ing for any­one or any­thing right now. I’m fo­cus­ing on my fam­ily, my work and my health. My plate’s quite full. If the time comes, then I hope I’ll be lucky again. You never know what’s around the cor­ner.”

What’s the best piece of ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived?

“Do things to­day and don’t live for to­mor­row. Mind you, I’m a bit im­pa­tient and al­ways want to get things done quickly, so that suits me. “An aunt also ad­vised me, ‘When you choose a part­ner, pick some­one who’s go­ing to be there for you and some­body that you ad­mire’. “I did that, and I re­alise a lot of peo­ple have re­grets if they chose the wrong part­ner in life, or didn’t man­age to say good­bye to the per­son they loved. “I’m lucky that I’ve had an amaz­ing mar­riage with Bruce, who made me laugh and I had fun with, and I was able to say good­bye.” Lady Wil­nelia Forsyth mod­els the JD Wil­liams Christ­mas col­lec­tion. To shop the look and for fur­ther in­spi­ra­tion, visit jd­williams.co.uk

STAY­ING POS­I­TIVE: Lady Wil­nelia mod­el­ling for JD Wil­liams (also be­low left) and (be­low), with late hus­band Bruce and son JJ

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