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Chloe Madeley: In the name of the family

Chloe Madeley, TV presenter and daughter of Richard and Judy, talks about coping with being part of a famous family, why she's a daddy's girl and how she's been plagued by anxiety

By Gabrielle Fagan

Growing up is a challenging time but there's added pressure when a famous family name ensures every youthful misdemeanour is subject to public scrutiny.

Kelly Osbourne, Peaches Geldof and Calum Best are just a few of the many youngsters of celebrities who in their time have caused their parents angst over their antics and hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

But it's hard to believe that sweet-faced Chloe Madeley, who looks younger than her 23 years as she curls up in an oversized armchair at her parents' home, can ever have troubled her mother and father, TV presenting duo Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley.

"It's massively important to me to make my mum and dad happy and proud of me and that was one of the worst parts of what happened," says the model and fledgling TV presenter as she talks about one of the most difficult periods of her life.

In 2009 she was pictured smoking cannabis and in August of that year was arrested for a drink-driving offence.

She'd rolled her car after hitting a parked car near the family's house in Hampstead, north London, and was given a 20-month driving ban.

The public pillorying which followed took its toll and triggered anxiety attacks, which she's battled to control.

"It was a really difficult year for me both professionally and personally - I'd also had a bad break-up with a boyfriend I'd been with for three years. Then there was the car crash which was absolutely awful," she says.

"It was the worst mistake of my life, a massive misjudgment, and I know I could have hurt somebody or killed myself."

Until then, she'd felt able to cope with the press attention which she attracted, attributing much of it to her family connection.

"I'd always felt comfortable knowing that, despite some reports, I was just being a normal teenager. I'm not a druggie, an alcoholic or some wild party girl, and never have been," she says.

"But when I had the car crash I realised for the first time that the negative things that were being said about me because of that incident - that I'd been totally irresponsible and stupid - were true.

"That really knocked me for six. It made me grow up. My parents were very upset but so supportive, and told me, 'You're young and that's when you can make a few mistakes, because if you don't, you can't learn and grow'.

"But dealing with the embarrassment of everyone knowing what I'd done when I was feeling so low and ashamed really freaked me out."

While outwardly she appears super-confident, and is often photographed showing off her curves in figure-hugging dresses, the petite blue-eyed blonde says at heart she's sensitive and sometimes self-conscious.

"Inside, I really do care what people think about me and it can make me nervous and very anxious," she confesses.

"After all those awful things happened, that anxiety literally went into overdrive. I started getting attacks where I'd suddenly find it hard to breathe, my heart would race and I'd feel dizzy and sick.

"My head would spin with negative thoughts about upsetting things which had happened, as well as things which I'd fear might upset other people. It's part of a horrible frightening spiral which can last as long as 20 minutes."

She turned to her mother, Judy, 63, whom she reveals also suffered anxiety attacks while she was in her early twenties and a reporter for Granada TV.

"I'm an absolute daddy's girl," she says fondly.

"We're alike in so many ways - we love the adrenalin rush of physical challenges, are very honest, as well as probably a little too much in your face and brash sometimes - but that's the way it is!

"But Dad just couldn't understand the anxiety at all. He's very matter-of-fact and his view is that life's complicated and you just have to get on with it. It's a great philosophy but not helpful at all when you're in the middle of an attack!

"But I'm also quite emotional like Mum, and she's been a gem and totally understanding. In her early days in television she'd often lock herself in the toilet at the studios for half an hour while she used breathing techniques, which she's taught me, to calm herself down."

The competitive pressure of performing on ITV's Dancing On Ice this year, in which she gained third place, triggered further attacks.

One occurred during a live on-air performance and was a turning point.

"I don't know how I got through that dance. Afterwards I fled backstage and sobbed because it meant my partner and I lost points and it really brought it home to me how much the problem was affecting my life," she says.

A combination of consulting psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud, who helped her with cognitive behavioural therapy, and taking a herbal medicinal product, Vitano, used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, proved to be a winning formula.

"I wanted a natural remedy and Vitano's really helped me to keep calm and boosted my energy levels as well," she says.

"I haven't had an attack for months and if I feel one coming on, I also use one of the therapy techniques with Dr Persaud taught me. I write down my feelings, and identify all the positives and negatives. It seems to defuse the panic."

Madeley believes she's also more vulnerable to the problem because she suffers from hypoglycemia, a problem with fluctuating levels of glucose in the body which can be exacerbated by caffeine and stress. Symptoms can include dizziness, headaches and fainting.

"I was diagnosed as a child but luckily it's not severe enough to need medication. I can usually keep it in check by eating regularly and not overdoing caffeine," she says.

Her new-found calm stood her in good stead when her whirlwind romance with former EastEnders star Sam Attwater, 25, whom she met when they were fellow contestants on Dancing On Ice, ended in the summer.

She says: "I don't want to talk about it too much. We're still friends and very close, we see each other and speak all the time, and I absolutely love him to bits... so who knows what will happen in the future?"

These days she's learnt that discretion is an effective way of preserving her privacy and she's also taken advice from her parents.

"They've been accustomed to people assuming their lives are public property over the years and learnt to handle it. They're very wise and just tell me to be myself and simply ignore any stuff which is made up," she says.

"I've realised that as long as they and my friends know the truth, it doesn't really matter. I used to get upset as a child at some of the sniping in the media about them, such as those regular predictions over the last 25 years that they're getting divorced, but, of course, they're still together!"

Madeley's determined that eventually she will be known just as much for her own achievements as her celebrity parentage.

"I'm aware that my name does sometimes get me jobs and I'm lucky that my parents are who they are, but this really does feel the right career for me," she says.

"I grew up in television studios watching Mum and Dad do This Morning and other stuff, and I'm just like lots of people, I'm following in their parents' footsteps.

"Of course, I don't expect to fill those shoes - that's a pretty tough act to follow!"

Background

Chloe Madeley uses licensed herbal medicine Vitano, which contains 200mg Rhodiola rosea root extract, and is available from Boots at £13.29 for 30 tablets. For further information, visit www.takingherbalmedicinesseriously.co.uk

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