Pop star turned actress Natasha Hamilton tells Gabrielle Fagan why she’s no regrets about always putting her three sons first
Natasha Hamilton can still recall the anguish of trying to hide her tears and distress before she went on stage to perform as a member of the girl band Atomic Kitten.
Outwardly the singer was riding high, enjoying the limelight and adulation from fans, but as a first-time mother she was inwardly struggling with post-natal depression and stress.
“I thought at that time I was literally going mad,” she recalls as she sits chatting at her home near Liverpool, the city where she was born and brought up.
“I was only 20 when I gave birth and back performing within six weeks. I put on a brave face but inside I was struggling to cope with being separated from him a lot of the time so I could continue my career. I felt I had no time to bond with him.
“I used to lock myself away and cry my eyes out. I suffered in silence because I couldn't understand what was wrong with me, and didn't realise it was post-natal depression.
“I just thought, ‘How can you be so ungrateful? You have everything — a beautiful son, brilliant job and enough money to support your family'. But I just felt terrible and so miserable.”
That dark time in 2003 eventually resulted in her deciding to give up her career with Atomic Kitten, where she enjoyed UK No. 1 hits with Whole Again and The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling).
Today, Hamilton (29) looks back positively on that traumatic experience because motherhood has proved to be a catalyst for both changes in her life and her career.
Now a mother of three, this year she made a successful debut as an actress playing the central role of Mrs Johnstone in the West End hit Blood Brothers.
“It's funny the way it's all worked out. Being in a musical has been incredible, and something I'd never have dreamt of at all when I started out in showbusiness,” she says.
“Frankly, when I look back on those times with Atomic Kitten it seems like another life. I sometimes have to pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, did all that really happen?'
“I was only 16 when I joined the band and we had almost overnight success. Sometimes it seemed crazy, exciting and scary all at the same time.
“That was a wonderful period in my life and I'd never change it for the world, and it was heartbreaking to pull out of it. We were on the edge of becoming mega successful, but at the end of the day, I had to put my son's needs and my health before my job. I'll never regret that decision.”
Since then the singer, whose passion to perform started early — she joined a youth theatre group at 12 — has been busy with her own musical solo career, and helping her husband, Riad Erraji, with their business, a rapidly expanding coffee shop chain in the North West.
The couple, who married in 2007, have a son, Alfie, (1) and she has two sons, Josh (9) and Harry (6) from previous relationships.
“Being a mum is so rewarding and they're lovely little boys who adore each other, and are really lively,” she says.
Their births were not without incident — the two eldest were delivered by emergency caesareans, and after suffering a miscarriage shortly after her marriage, Hamilton was anxious that all would go well with her fourth pregnancy.
“Everything was fine throughout, despite my nerves, and Alfie was born naturally, which was amazing after the panics and worry with the first two.
“But, immediately afterwards, because I'd lost so much blood, I collapsed twice, which was very frightening,” she says.
“A few months later I was still getting bouts of dizziness, suffering palpitations and totally lacking energy, which was horrible and worrying. It was a relief when I was diagnosed as anaemic.”
She took an iron supplement, and checked her nutritional needs using a new online assessment, part of the Seven Seas Nutrition Aware campaign she supports.
“I have such a busy life working and looking after the children that it's vital that I'm healthy and can be confident I'm eating a balanced diet which is right for me. This assessment made that easy.” Her restored fitness was vital when she took on her recent West End role, involving a gruelling schedule of eight shows a week for eight months, only six months after Alfie was born.
Hamilton is the youngest person to play Mrs Johnstone — its stars have included Maureen Nolan, Barbara Dickson and former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm.
The plot of Willy Russell's acclaimed weepie, set in Merseyside, centres on Mrs Johnstone's decision to give away one of her unborn twins to her infertile upper class boss, with ultimately tragic consequences.
“I can honestly say it's been one of the most amazing experiences of my life doing such an iconic role. It was really intimidating at first, as I'm not a trained actress and they'd had so many stars playing it before me. But I really connected with it especially as it's set in my home town, and I could relate to the strong emotions of a mother losing her baby,” she says. “I also based my interpretation a bit on my nan who brought up 12 children in a tiny house in Liverpool and was an inspiring, feisty lady.”
Taking the part also involved separation, albeit temporary, from her own children. Her elder boys remained at home with her husband to avoid disrupting their schooling while she lived with her youngest son in London during the week.
“Not being with them was gut wrenching at first but in the end we all settled into a routine, and the sacrifice was so worth it.”
Natasha supports the Seven Seas Nutrition Aware campaign, which offers a new online assessment tool to identify individual nutrition types and tailored advice from nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire. More details at www.nutritionaware.co.uk. Seven Seas Pure Cod Liver Oil Extra High Strength Capsules are £10.61 for 60 capsules
\[s.rowe\]Natasha supports the Seven Seas Nutrition Aware campaign, which offers a new online assessment tool to identify individual nutrition types and tailored advice from nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire. For more information, visit www.nutritionaware.co.uk. Seven Seas Pure Cod Liver Oil Extra High Strength Capsules, £10.61 for 60 capsules, are available from pharmacies, supermarkets and health food shops,
her purr-fect life ...
e Natasha Hamilton was born on July 17, 1982 — her dad is of white Scottish and black African descent, her mum is English
e The singer grew up in Liverpool and started performing aged 12 at the
Starlight Show Group in her native city
e Her musical heroes include Marvin Gaye, Barry White and Quincy Jones
e Natasha replaced Heidi Range in Atomic Kitten in May 1999 and features on three of the band’s albums: Right Now, Feels
so Good and Ladies Night