Two years ago, life was bleak for Suzanne Shaw, suffering the breakdown of her marriage and, just seven months later, losing her father. Now though, she's turned heartbreak into hope, and is finally “living life the way I want to live it”.
Certainly, the vivacious blonde actress and former Hear'Say star looks the picture of contentment as she reveals how the events of 2012 made her change and grow.
“Looking back I don't know now how I came through that terrible period — it battered me emotionally and was very tough,” says the 32-year-old who, as a single parent to nine-year-old son, Corey, had to continue working and performing throughout.
“Seven months after the split from my husband (DJ Jason King) I lost my dad (cameraman, Vincent Crowshaw) to a brain tumour. Although I understand things are sent to test you and I got through it, it took its toll on me. I was touring when it all happened and had to travel backwards and forwards to London to spend time with my dad. There was barely any time to take it all in, let alone grieve.
“It's taken a lot of effort since then to work on looking into myself but that's resulted in my becoming a very different person, so much more comfortable in my own skin.”
Everything she went through didn't just give Shaw her new confidence, though, it also gave her new love; she got engaged to businessman, Sam Greenfield in June, following a whirlwind 12-month romance. Her divorce from King, whom she married in 2009 after seven years together, was reportedly due to the couple “growing apart” because of enforced absences due to their work commitments.
“Dad's death was a life-changer and was the start of a year sorting out my life, ending my marriage and getting things into perspective.
“His illness really brought home the temporary nature of life. You question your own mortality and realise that anything can happen to any of us at any point and we're not invincible. It was also a process of working out what I wanted to do to make my life better. I'd spent my life burying my head in the sand and not addressing issues. I became very good at it, until I grew up and decided I had to take responsiblity for things and take control.
“Suddenly you think ‘what am I going to do — am I going to be miserable for the rest of my life or do I get out and make my own happiness?'. It was my decision to break up the marriage and I just thought ‘Well, this is the start of the rest of my life'.”
Let's remember this down-to-earth girl from Manchester is no stranger to starting again.
As an 18-year-old, Shaw naively felt fame was assured when in 2000 she beat 4,000 hopefuls to become a band member, with Myleene Klass, Kym Marsh, Noel Sullivan and Danny Foster, in Hear'Say. But although the group, created by TV talent show, Popstars, achieved overnight success, it'd split up by 2002.
“I look back on that time and think ‘Who was that person?'. It was my first job and I was a teenager fresh out of school, who had no life knowledge. I'm older and wiser now and can take the rough with the smooth but then I thought my life was over.”
Crushed by that speedy reversal of fortunes, Shaw had a breakdown, two years later, aged 23, she experienced further emotional turmoil when her relationship with actor, Darren Day, ended three months after their son's birth and she suffered post-natal depression. Around the same time, she also began suffering the signs of lactose intolerance.
To add to all that stress, due to poor financial skills, she found she'd accrued thousands of pounds of debts which she worked doggedly over eight years to repay.
This work ethic coupled with ambition and talent has thankfully reaped rewards.
Shaw who studied ballet from the age of three and appeared in her first West End musical aged nine, has established herself as a showbusiness veteran. In September, she will star with Paul Nicholas in Blockbuster: The Musical, featuring chart hits of the songwriting team Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who dominated the pop world in the Seventies and Eighties. She has also starred in comedy and musical theatre, played saucy seductress, Eve Jenson for a year in TV's Emmerdale until 2011, and this year competed on ITV's all star final of Dancing On Ice — she won the third series in 2008.
“I felt dad was watching over me during that last contest. He loved seeing me win in 2008 and I really felt his presence in the last series. It helped me because it was so emotional to return to the show after losing him. Every night when I appeared I wrote ‘Dad' on my wrist and glancing at that throughout gave me comfort.”
In common with many mothers, Shaw admits that constantly juggling all these professional commitments with family life can be hard.
“Motherhood is wonderful and Corey is a fantastic little boy. I think it's important for him to know I have to work for what we have so he develops a good work ethic in the same way my parents encouraged that in me. Of course, he loves it when I have time off that's totally devoted to him, but equally he enjoys any touring I do in the school holidays when he can accompany me — hotels with pools, movies and room service are his favourite!”
While parenting clearly brought fulfilment, after her divorce, Shaw did despair of finding long-lasting love, until she met Greenfield when they both worked together for the Brain Tumour charity.
“To be honest, I had stopped looking for a partner and was just focusing on looking after myself and Corey. When I met (Paul) it was brilliant. He's a breath of fresh air because he's not involved in showbusiness but is very supportive of me.
“I don't want to talk about our relationship because I'm more guarded and protective of my private life than I used to be but, put it this way, I'm in a very good place and feel very lucky with my life and am happier than I've ever been.
“I do want more children and secretly I'd love a massive family around me. I don't know whether that will happen as at my age the biological clock is ticking but I'm hopeful. Even if it doesn't, I have Sam and my lovely boy, and that's perfect.”