Caroline Flack: 'You can't take show business too seriously because it's not real life'
TV presenter Caroline Flack's had her fair share of knock-backs, personally and professionally. She tells Gabrielle Fagan how she's come through the storms and would love to become a mum one day
The saying, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going', could have been written for Caroline Flack. The TV presenter, known for her throaty laugh, quick wit and edgy humour, has had to learn how to bounce back and put on a brave public face over the years.
She's endured sometimes harsh public scrutiny over her career - the latest knock was not being asked back to present The X Factor this year after both her presenting style and appearance were criticised on the 2015 series - as well as controversy over her love life.
Just after getting her big break in 2011, landing the presenting job on The Xtra Factor (the ITV2 spin-off of the main series) alongside Olly Murs, she dated Harry Styles from boy band One Direction when he was 17 and got caught up in a media storm because of their 14-year age gap.
"Have I had to toughen up over the years? Well, I think you just have to learn how to handle things. Doesn't everyone as they go through life? I certainly don't believe I'm singled out, different to anyone else or any sort of victim," declares the 37-year-old, who's reportedly enjoying a new romance, and appears chirpy and upbeat about the future.
If she's still smarting over that X Factor rejection, she's hiding it well - although she allegedly described it as "devastating" at the time - and the 2014 Strictly Come Dancing champion is clearly delighted at the positive response to her recent appearance on America's TV dance competition, Dancing With The Stars.
"Over the past year - which was an education - I've learnt that in show business you win some and you lose some. Anyway, there are a lot of bigger things I've had to deal with in life which didn't involve TV and those are the things that make you stronger," says Norfolk-raised Flack, who credits her upbringing - she's one of four children and has a twin sister - and her supportive family with keeping her grounded.
"You go into this game (show business) because you love it and if it was that bad, I'd walk away, but I'm definitely not doing that. You can't take it too seriously, because it's not life - it's work. Criticism's just part of what I do in my job. It's happened in the past and it'll probably happen again, and I accept that."
Harder to bear was the online criticism while on X Factor, with jibes about her weight, appearance and choice of outfits, which at the time she called "vile" and "shocking", although now she limits herself to saying crisply: "Nowadays I cope with negative social media and trolling by just snapping shut the laptop, going home and ignoring it."
Her newly-acquired resilience undoubtedly helped her to shrug off suggestions on social media in the summer that she flirted with male contestants during a stint presenting on ITV 2 dating show, Love Island. "There was no flirting from me!" she says with a dismissive shrug. "The contestants were like my brothers and sisters and I felt very protective of the girls. You do when you see people going into a situation they're unsure of and you're their only connection to the outside world."
By contrast, she reveals competing on Strictly resulted in a positive experience thanks to her professional dance partner, Pasha Kovalev, with whom she's remained friends.
"When you get that close to someone and open up to each other about things, you're bound to stay in touch. He's a good man when it comes to rational life advice and a lot more sensible than me!" she explains.
"He taught me to be more open emotionally, take myself less seriously, and was such a brilliant partner. I love watching the show - it brings back all the nerves and excitement that you feel taking part."
Her improved inner confidence is matched by more body confidence these days and she's banished the insecurities she's confessed to in the past about her appearance. After rebooting her look by overhauling her diet - she went on a 12-week sugar detox and lost a stone - she's gone from a size 12 to a toned size eight.
"I get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, and work out with a personal trainer and do hot yoga sessions. I get up early to make sure I can fit exercise into my day," she says. "It's made me feel so much more confident and able to cope with life well. I'm someone who talks fast, thinks fast and makes decisions fast. Now I'm trying to go slower and be more measured about things."
While she's tight-lipped about her private life, she's rumoured to be dating artist and fashion illustrator, Blue Logan.
They met a year after she split from music manager, Jack Street for the second time.
The couple dated in 2013 but broke up just before she won Strictly in 2014 and reunited only to split early last year.
"I've found a nice happy balance with how I live my life. I feel really content right now and the older I get, the better I feel. I'm more carefree, and less bothered about what people think about me," confides Flack, who's recently partnered with skincare range Cetaphil.
"As a kid, I always had lots of ambitions - I was brought up to try to be the best I possibly could be at whatever I was doing.
"I've got millions of things to achieve yet. I'd love to become a mum, have a family and do all that kind of stuff. I've still got all that to come.
"When I'm not performing I live a normal life enjoying time with my family and close friends, most of whom aren't in show business. I'm really proud of all I've achieved, I've been able to buy my own home, and I think it's important to keep challenging yourself and moving forward. The future looks really exciting and I'm ready for it."
Caroline Flack has partnered with skincare range Cetaphil. Visit healthyskinsecrets.celebsnow.co.uk and www.galderma.co.uk