‘I’VE GOT MY SPARK BACK’

‘My hus­band and I sup­port each other mas­sively – that’s why our mar­riage works most of the time’

Women's Health (UK) - - IN THE KNOW - PETE PEDONOMOU SASKIA QUIRKE pho­tog­ra­phy styling ROISÍN DERVISH-O’KANE words

Au­thor. Broad­caster. Mum. Men­tal health ad­vo­cate. Ob­ject of many a grown-up girl crush and giver of real in­ter­views. Fearne Cot­ton dons plenty of hats. Here, the 37-year-old talks plainly about rel­ish­ing life’s joys – and re­fus­ing to let the dark times de­fine her

Have you ever heard the one about the ra­di­a­tor and the drain? That ruth­less but gen­er­ally ac­cu­rate the­ory by which you can cat­e­gorise a per­son based on the way they make you feel. Warmed, com­forted, en­riched or, er, drained. The anal­ogy swam in my head as I de­scended the stairs of a dis­used brew­ery, hav­ing just watched Fearne Cot­ton shoot her first Women’s Health cover. Be­cause she is, em­phat­i­cally, a ra­di­a­tor. To learn this comes as val­i­da­tion rather than a sur­prise, be­cause I didn’t ex­pect any­thing less. Af­ter two decades in the pub­lic eye, Fearne is noth­ing short of a Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tion – one who’s spent those 20-odd years build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a friendly, down-to-earth, al­beit re­ally fuck­ing cool, girl next door. Rarely does a celebrity shoot cause ruc­tions in the WH of­fice, but there were de­bates over who would be part of the 17-strong crew to meet Fearne, and tantrums thrown by those who didn’t make the cut. (The fact that Fearne paci­fied such im­ma­ture be­hav­iour by send­ing What­sapp video mes­sages to those back in the of­fice ce­mented the fan­girling.) Power pos­ing on the build­ing’s rooftop against the murky East Lon­don sky­line, golden mer­maid hair re­splen­dent and sup­ple, pow­er­ful body decked out in bright, di­rec­tional kit, Fearne serves an off­beat su­per­hero vibe. As if a late-60s Wood­stock babe time­trav­elled and ended up in 2018, by way of an Ivy Park con­ces­sion store. She looks ev­ery part the WH cover star. Does she feel it? ‘When you guys asked, I thought… I don’t feel like I’m go­ing to be right for it,’ she says, help­ing me prise apart two fid­dly fold­ing chairs for us to plonk our bums on and chat. ‘Com­pared with those other women, with six-packs and tri­ceps. But I was like, “Oh, fuck it.” It’s not about that, it’s about all-round stuff. I’m a mum… I do lit­tle work­outs at home and that’s my thing. That’s my ver­sion of health and that’s what I’ll be show­ing.’

AN OPEN BOOK

Fearne was the team’s undis­puted dream woman to front this Mind is­sue, the sec­ond an­nual Women’s Health edi­tion fo­cus­ing on men­tal health. From her self-help books to her pod­cast Happy Place (the new se­ries of which is com­ing soon), Fearne’s pas­sion for ex­plor­ing holis­tic ways peo­ple can feel their best is in­spir­ing – so, too, is the way she dis­cusses her darker mo­ments with con­sid­er­a­tion and clar­ity. Hav­ing grown ac­cus­tomed to wear­ing her heart on her sleeve, it doesn’t take long for Fearne to open up about where her head’s at. ‘I’m good now, but this sum­mer was weird… ev­ery­thing was wor­ry­ing or an­noy­ing,’ she re­calls. ‘I had a feel­ing of be­ing a bit over­whelmed and know­ing I wasn’t en­joy­ing the things that I should.’ Pe­ri­ods that can come out of nowhere – and leave with as lit­tle no­tice. ‘Then there was this weird turn­ing point… I hadn’t changed any­thing… but I just woke up and felt a bit bet­ter one day. I had some friends over and my hus­band [of four years, mu­si­cian Jesse Wood, 41, son of Rolling Stones rocker Ron­nie] said, “Oh my god! Your spark’s back, I can see it!”’ Fearne is, by her own ad­mis­sion, an in­tense, all-ornoth­ing per­son. ‘I’m very like my mum in that way,’ she ex­plains. ‘We both os­cil­late be­tween feel­ing re­ally quite bril­liant and re­ally quite shit and there’s not much mid­dle ground... I’m not go­ing to try to fight that any more.’ But what she will con­tinue to do is put in the work to do the lit­tle things that she knows can make a big dif­fer­ence to her over­all mood. ‘Gen­eral well­be­ing isn’t about ex­pect­ing some­thing. It isn’t a god-given right. It takes dis­ci­pline,’ she ex­plains. ‘I mas­sively fail at it all the time, and don’t feel good. I have good and bad days; good and bad patches.’ When I ask if she re­alises how self-aware she is, Fearne’s eyes widen. ‘Too self­aware,’ she says. ‘I think you learn to be – be­cause I’ve done 21 years of this job. I’m so grate­ful that I didn’t have to en­dure so­cial me­dia when I started,’ she laughs.

WITH A LIT­TLE HELP

The ‘se­cret’ to Fearne’s longevity as a TV per­son­al­ity-turned-dj-turned-au­thor isn’t re­ally a se­cret at all: she loves her work. More so now, as grow­ing older and be­com­ing her own boss has helped re­duce the weight of oth­ers’ feed­back, which his­tor­i­cally had the power to in­flate or dis­solve her con­fi­dence. So has a new-found sense of pur­pose. ‘If peo­ple don’t like my books or my pod­casts, that’s fine be­cause I’ve also had let­ters, emails and peo­ple on the street telling me they’ve en­joyed what I’ve done.’ Right on cue, the in­stincts of a woman who’s used to hav­ing her words picked apart kicks in. ‘That’s not me ego-boost­ing. That, to me, says this is what I’m meant to be do­ing. I’m meant to be hav­ing th­ese con­ver­sa­tions so that other peo­ple might feel a tiny bit bet­ter. That, for me, is ev­ery­thing now.’ Fearne first shared her own past ex­pe­ri­ences of de­pres­sion in Fe­bru­ary 2017, when she re­leased her de­but me­moir-cum­self-help ti­tle, Happy. ‘I didn’t know how I would feel about be­ing so open be­cause, for the first 18 or 19 years of my ca­reer, I hadn’t said any­thing,’ she ad­mits. ‘But then you re­alise [talk­ing about your men­tal health] is the most con­nect­ing thing ever.’ As she be­comes more ex­cited, more pas­sion­ate, her face be­comes more ex­pres­sive and her hands ges­tic­u­late wildly. ‘It stops peo­ple feel­ing alien­ated – who wants to feel shit and lonely? You’d rather feel shit and know that lots of other peo­ple find the same things dif­fi­cult,’ Well, quite. The finer de­tails of that dark pe­riod re­main pri­vate. ‘I don’t re­ally talk about the time and when it was,’ she says sim­ply. ‘Just be­cause there was a lot of shit go­ing on and I’ve got trig­gers around all of it, so I just keep it re­ally loose.’ What she is happy to share is how she climbed out of that ‘hor­rific’ year. ‘I was at work do­ing some­thing and I was cry­ing on the phone and [a close friend] was like, “Right, I’ve booked you an ap­point­ment with my

‘I’m like my mum – we both os­cil­late be­tween feel­ing bril­liant and re­ally quite shit’

doc­tor.”’ Said friend went with her to the ap­point­ment that same day, where the pri­vate psy­chi­a­trist swiftly di­ag­nosed de­pres­sion and pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion, which Fearne took for the next five months. ‘I’m for­ever thank­ful that she had the guts to do it, be­cause it’s not an easy thing to do.’

RE­AL­ITY BITES

While Fearne doesn’t shy away from not­ing the dark­ness that has plagued her at times – and still can – th­ese days, her life re­volves around ac­tion and bright­ness. Take her morn­ing rou­tine: ‘It’s “Mu­u­u­u­u­uum!” at 6am ev­ery day, on the nose. Af­ter that, I’ll make a re­ally strong cof­fee… then I drink, like, a litre of wa­ter,’ she ex­plains. Then it’s time for a ‘bor­ing’ break­fast en famille; por­ridge or an omelette, washed down with a fa­tigue-fight­ing green juice, on the ad­vice of a yoga teacher pal. Once all four chil­dren – Arthur, 16, and Lola, 13, (Jesse’s chil­dren from his first mar­riage); Rex, five, and three-year-old Honey – are ready, it’s school/nurs­ery run time. Fearne’s ar­dent In­sta­gram fol­low­ers will be well ac­quainted with her youngest two, al­though be­cause she has made the con­scious de­ci­sion never to show their faces, Rex is known by his blond mop and draw­ings of di­nosaurs and Honey by her shock of curly red hair. When Fearne works from home, which is in­creas­ingly of­ten now that the days of reg­u­lar ra­dio and TV shifts are be­hind her, she lunches on chick­peas, kale and tofu and snacks on nut-but­tered oat­cakes. Once the kids re­turn from school and are fed, wa­tered and put to bed, she or Jesse ‘hastily’ make some­thing for the other: gar­licky vegeta­bles with sal­mon on a good day, a bowl of ce­real for him and a dippy egg for her on a ‘re­ally bad’ one. Then it’s to the sofa. ‘We chat shit for a bit. Or, we ar­gue, watch a box set and go to bed.’ The com­bi­na­tion of young chil­dren and re­cur­ring in­som­nia means sleep can be scarce, so Fearne aims to be set­tled with a book (see her favourites over the page) by 9pm. Yoga has be­come as syn­ony­mous with Fearne as bright colours and band T-shirts (which, in­ci­den­tally, tends to be her asana aes­thetic), but she’s open to other ex­er­cises to hone her body as well as steady her mind. An aver­age day might be ‘ei­ther a 5k run, 45 min­utes of yoga at home or a 20-minute HIIT work­out on the in­ter­net’. Her mo­ti­va­tion to sweat through the lat­ter? Her neigh­bour, Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach. ‘I’ll text him a pic­ture of me and Jesse do­ing a work­out and he’s like, “Go, guys! Ride that rush!”’ she laughs. Fearne’s work­outs are more likely to oc­cur in scrab­bled time than sched­uled ses­sions, but on a good week – like those lead­ing up to our shoot – she’ll fit in five or six. One of the (I imag­ine pre­cious few) down­sides of re­lo­cat­ing to the idyl­lic Lon­don sub­urb of Rich­mond is that yoga classes with Ze­phyr Wild­man (the Amer­i­can who turned the pre­vi­ously adren­a­line-chas­ing, thrill-seek­ing yoga scep­tic Fearne on to mat-time in the first place) aren’t lo­cal and there­fore oc­cur less of­ten. But now, sev­eral years into her prac­tice, yoga is so in­trin­sic to Fearne’s ev­ery­day life, she’s even at it on hol­i­day. ‘When we went to Ibiza this sum­mer, we’d do yoga ev­ery other day,’ she says. I call to mind a re­cent, un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ‘best life’ In­sta­gram post in which a swimwear-clad Fearne and Jesse gaze into each other’s eyes on the beach at sun­set. Ibiza is where they met, right? ‘Yeah, it’s our spe­cial place,’ she says, break­ing into a laugh. ‘Gross! Look away! I of­ten drop in the fact that we hate each other, and I think that bal­ances it out.’

‘Gen­eral well­be­ing isn’t about ex­pect­ing some­thing – it takes dis­ci­pline’

HOME TRUTHS

While Jesse and Fearne’s 2011 meet­ing could be likened to a fairy tale (she was newly sin­gle and on a girls’ hol­i­day, he was sin­gle, too, their eyes met and the rest is his­tory), at points dur­ing their sub­se­quent re­la­tion­ship, they’ve dealt with heavy stuff – their own and one an­other’s. ‘I think it was quite ap­par­ent to him at the time that things were re­ally bad for me, but I’d never said the word de­pres­sion un­til I saw a doc­tor, so, I guess I came home from that and we had a chat,’ Fearne says. ‘He’s sober and has been for five years, and has had a very tricky life in lots of com­pli­cated ways… he lost his mum [Ron­nie Wood’s first wife, Krissy, in 2005] and she was kind of his main fam­ily mem­ber,’ she adds. ‘I think we both sup­port each other mas­sively and that’s why our mar­riage works most of the time… ob­vi­ously there will be blaz­ing rows like ev­ery other cou­ple… there’s no for­mula that we have.’ Fam­ily clearly mat­ters to Fearne. ‘My kids and step­kids are my main fo­cus – th­ese are sib­lings who are go­ing to grow up as a four,’ she says, ra­di­at­ing hap­pi­ness. ‘I’ve asked them re­cently, the older ones, do you feel like half-sib­lings or sib­lings? They said, “Sib­lings! They’re my brother and sis­ter.”’ Grow­ing up, Fearne’s own fam­ily dy­namic was more ‘2.4’. Her par­ents, Lin and Mick, are ‘bril­liant’, pop­ping over reg­u­larly on the week­ends. Even with a Rolling Stone in the ex­tended fam­ily, Fearne main­tains their get-togethers are un­re­mark­able. ‘We might have weird jobs, but noth­ing weird hap­pens.’ Just an epic veg­gie shep­herd’s pie flanked by an equally grand ar­ray of healthy shar­ing plat­ters. Fearne is ev­i­dently de­ter­mined to do her best at work and at home. But for this time-poor per­fec­tion­ist, surely some­thing has to give? ‘My so­cial life has gone down the shit­ter,’ she con­cedes, shak­ing her head. ‘I used to see my friends ev­ery day, but I just can’t fit it in right now. If I did I’d be burnt out be­cause my work life is so busy. So, I think you do have to lose some­thing.’ Meet-ups with her core group of school friends – mostly work­ing mums – may only oc­cur bian­nu­ally, but she’s not wor­ried. ‘My girl­friends aren’t go­ing any­where,’ she says. Then there’s the fact that she’s lived it up XXL for the lion’s share of her adult life. ‘I ab­so­lutely did my twen­ties,’ she smiles. ‘I re­mem­ber one day I went to Ra­dio 1, flew to Ve­gas straight af­ter, went out par­ty­ing with Paris Hil­ton un­til 5am, puked, got a flight home, went back to ra­dio,’ she re­calls. ‘So I can park it.’ For now, at least. I bring up a line from Happy – ‘I will never be one of those peo­ple who has no re­grets’ – and ask if this is still the case? ‘I’ve got loads of re­grets,’ she says. ‘I don’t un­der­stand how you can’t.’ Would she share one with me? ‘You know what? No, be­cause they’re only re­grets be­cause they’re that painful to think about. Ei­ther de­ci­sions made, ac­tions, words spo­ken… they’re things I can’t find peace with at all,’ she ex­plains. ‘There’s a hand­ful, let’s say, of things that I would do very dif­fer­ently and, when I make peace with them, I’ll prob­a­bly write a book about them – but I’m not there yet.’ Warm, frank, gen­er­ous with her story, yet un­afraid to po­litely as­sert her own bound­aries; any­one else want to be a lit­tle more Fearne? Quiet: Learn­ing To Si­lence The Chat­ter And Be­liev­ing That You’re Good Enough by Fearne Cot­ton will be pub­lished in hard­back on 13 De­cem­ber (£20, Orion Spring)

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