Harefield Gazette

I could write a book about heartbreak...



ACTRESS and TV presenter Denise Van Outen has never been one for sitting still for long.

There’s no pigeon-holing the onetime 90s ‘ladette’ party girl who made her name opposite Johnny Vaughan on The Big Breakfast and went on to play Roxie Hart in Chicago in both the West End and on Broadway, became a TV casting judge in talent show Any Dream Will Do and cosied up to (now ex) Eddie Boxshall in Celebrity Gogglebox.

Now she’s written her memoir, A Bit Of Me: From Basildon To Broadway And Back, which she completed during lockdown as she couldn’t bear sitting around doing nothing.

The book’s release was delayed from last year while the 47-year-old actress, singer, dancer and presenter wrote an extra chapter on the reasons for her recent split from trader Eddie after seven-and-a-half years. But she is now determined to move forward.

“I’ve had a couple of very public break-ups and for each one I’ve had, I’ve tried to turn a negative into a positive,” the former Strictly runner-up explains.

“My last really public break-up was with Lee Mead, my daughter’s father. I took myself off and learned how to play golf. I immersed myself in it. It was escapism for me.

“In recent weeks, I’ve been learning how to work the discs so I can do some festival summer gigs this year.

“I try to learn a new skill just to have a focus and I think that also helps you to get through. I could write a book about heartbreak.”

A Bit Of Me details previous relationsh­ips including her romance with Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay and her six-year marriage to Casualty and Holby City star Lee.

Does she think she’s been unlucky in love?

“No! I never try and look back and think I’ve been unlucky. Every relationsh­ip that I’ve had has brought something into my life and I’ve learned something through it,” she says.

“I still have the most amazing relationsh­ip with Lee. He’s a brilliant father to my daughter, Betsy (now 11). We are really good friends, we’ve got each other’s backs.

“I totally respect his new relationsh­ip with his girlfriend, who’s lovely. We’ve got a really nice foundation for Betsy.

“It’s different to what other people have but what we’ve created between us I’m very proud of.

“We look out for each other and it’s really quite special and unique and I value it a lot.”

Following her split from Eddie, who she was planning to marry this year, she came off social media.

“I came off Instagram for a month which was very healthy and I also just stopped reading the newspapers.

“I would only read the world news, keeping up to date with the terrible situation in Ukraine.

“But any showbiz news I’ve stepped away from, just because you have to look after yourself.

“People have their opinions and that’s the thing with social media. People have always got something to say. They never know the full story.”

Denise is keen to move forward now, but has learned from her relationsh­ip with Eddie, she says.

“What I did learn is I’ve always been very open and very trusting. I think I’ve learned that going forward I need to maybe ask a few more questions at the start of a relationsh­ip, look at the past history and then decide.

“I had a wonderful seven-and-a-half years with him. I’m not going to complain about it.

“It was just obvious there were things happening behind my back I wasn’t aware of. But if I look back at the relationsh­ip and at the good bits, I had a lovely time.”

Essex-born Denise has had her share of ups and downs but she’s learned resilience. Brought up by her mum, Kathy, a cleaner, and dad, Ted, a docker, she was always headstrong and confident.

She didn’t excel academical­ly – her talents lay in more creative pursuits and, being the youngest of three, she grew up quickly.

She went to dance lessons from the age of three and performed in her first local musical aged six.

“At school, I’d lose focus. I was never diagnosed with having dyslexia or dyscalculi­a like my daughter has, but I can clearly see that I have those things which were never identified at school.”

A child model at the age of eight, Denise later joined the Sylvia Young Theatre School – her peers included EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook – and paid her way through school with the jobs she got in TV ads and pop videos.

“When I went for an audition as a kid, it wasn’t just about getting the job and getting four days out of school, it was more a case of, if I get this job I can stay for another term.

“That gave me a strong work ethic and drive which has carried me through. I’m still the same now.

“Now I feel, if I get this job I can afford a new fence!

“I think I am quite tough. I had a lot of rejection as a child.

“It’s unusual for a child to go through that much rejection. When you model as a child or perform as a child and you’re constantly going up for work and you get told you’re either not good enough or not pretty enough, or you’re too tall, you do learn to accept rejection quite well.

“But I still have a sensitive side and things do affect me. I just know how to process that rejection and how to move on from it quite quickly, because I’ve had it from such a young age.”

The partying days of her 20s, when she hung around with the likes of fellow ‘ladettes’ Jayne Middlemiss, Zoe Ball and Sara Cox, didn’t close doors on her career, she recalls. “I wasn’t too wild to employ. I just had the persona of being a bit cheeky and a bit mischievou­s.

“And after all these years, after all the hard work I’ve done, I hope I’ve gained a little respect with age. I’ve had a very consistent career.

“I can turn my hand to anything, which is what has kept me in work. Sylvia Young said to me, ‘You don’t have to be brilliant at everything but if you can do a bit of everything, you’ll always work’.”

Denise is certainly a grafter. She’s had to work hard for success and writes in the book about things turning sour at The Big Breakfast, after a hugely happy period, when she discovered that Johnny’s agents were negotiatin­g a separate deal for him at Channel 4, which made her feel uncomforta­ble as she considered there might be difference­s in their pay grade.

“Imagine Ant going off and insisting he deserved more money than Dec. Well, that’s kind of how I felt,” she writes. She left the show soon after.

She never experience­d any sexual harassment at work during her early fashion photoshoot days or any other point in her career, she says.

“If I’m in a group of men and if they say anything to me, I’ve got quite a quick wit and I think you can get the vibe that I’m a strong person. I could give a man a run for his money.”

Denise believes things have changed a lot for women in TV in the last 20 years. “I work on Steph’s Packed Lunch – and Steph is the main anchor and she’s brilliant, funny and intelligen­t. Women are the driving force behind a lot of TV shows now, which is great.”

Life moves on for Denise, who plans to release some music later this year, is working on a film called Sumotherho­od alongside Ed Sheeran and is a judge on The Masked Singer Live tour. There’s no chance she’ll be sitting still for long.

A Bit Of Me: From Basildon To Broadway And Back by Denise Van Outen is published by Ebury Spotlight, priced £20 hardback

I can turn my hand to anything, which is what has kept me in work

Denise on her career

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 ?? ?? Denise Van Outen, left, completed her memoir – A Bit Of Me – during lockdown
Denise Van Outen, left, completed her memoir – A Bit Of Me – during lockdown
 ?? ?? Ex-factor: Denise with Lee Mead, left, and Eddie Boxshall, right
Ex-factor: Denise with Lee Mead, left, and Eddie Boxshall, right
 ?? ?? Denise took up golf after her split with ex-husband Lee Mead
Denise took up golf after her split with ex-husband Lee Mead

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