From the cobbles of Corrie to racing up the hill at Stormont

'Former Coronation Street star Tupele Dorgu will swap her trademark stilettos for a pair of trainers on her Belfast visit for Runher, as Stephanie Bell reports

Lady in red: Tupele Dorgu in her role as Street siren Kelly

Actress Tupele Dorgu, best known for her role as big-mouth Kelly Crabtree in Coronation Street, is looking forward to taking on a new leading role this weekend at the Belfast Telegraph Runher.



In what will be her first visit to Northern Ireland, Tupele will put on her running shoes to lead this year’s women at the starting line of the annual 5k and 10k charity race.

Tupele (33), who runs three miles a day, says she hopes to go the whole distance and afterwards plans to squeeze in some shopping, although she insists she will not be looking for any Kelly Crabtree trademark mini-skirts.

“I’m really excited about taking part in Runher and coming to Belfast for the first time,” says Tupele, who has recently moved to a new home in London with husband Mark Flanagan.

“I was asked to do a 10k in Manchester but chose Belfast as I really love Ireland and can’t wait to see Belfast city.

“I am going to try and go for the 10k and even though I will probably be knackered I hope to have some time to do some shopping and sightseeing.”

The Lancashire-born lass trained in drama and musical theatre, gaining a degree from the London Studio Centre.

Before making her name on Manchester’s most famous cobbled street as factory stitcher Kelly Crabtree, she had appeared in a number of top TV series including Casualty, Mersey Beat and Doctors. She has also worked on stage, performing in La Cage aux Folles, Three Minute Heroes and Mamma Mia.

She left the Street last year after deciding to spread her acting wings and says life has been both varied and busy since.

“It took me a couple of years to finally get round to leaving and when I did decide, I was really excited about the future,” she says.

“I don’t regret it and don’t miss it. I love that a lot of opportunities have come my way since I finished and last year was really busy doing all sorts of things which were different to soap acting. I have done some great TV shows, as well as panto which I hadn’t done in years. It has been great.”

She didn’t have to wait long for the variety in her career she was hankering for. Shortly after leaving Corrie it was served up in full when she took part in Marco’s Kitchen Burnout. “That was great fun but so hard,” she says. “We weren’t actually working for Marco — he was our mentor. I love cooking and enjoy hosting dinner parties but that was completely different. The most pressurised part was trying to serve 25 people in just a couple of hours in a blazing hot kitchen. I couldn’t do that for a living.”

She also starred in the Jimmy McGovern drama The Accused alongside actor Christopher Eccleston who she says she has great respect for and describes as “a fantastic actor”.

On top of all this she launched her own business, SugarStorm Entertainment Agency, which she runs herself.

“We provide entertainment and celebrities for different types of events. It’s nice to be making my own decision and having a bit of control over my life.”

Her businessman husband Mark Flanagan helps with the agency when Tupele is acting.

The couple married in 2009 when Tupele famously hid her dress under a ‘Scottish Widows’-style cloak and hood.

While her soap star colleagues were snapped by the media looking stunning in their red dresses (in keeping with Tupele’s wedding theme), pictures of the bride’s dress remained the exclusive rights of OK! magazine.

She is defensive of her decision to keep her dress under wraps: “There was a lot of talk about that cloak and I read one comment which said how awful it was that I couldn’t enjoy my wedding day because I had to wear the cloak.

“I’m a private person and I didn’t mind that OK! had exclusive rights to pictures of my dress.

“It was a case of if you didn’t see it in the magazine then you didn’t see it at all and that suited me as I didn’t really want it to be plastered all over the papers.

“I had to wear the cloak walking the few steps from the car to the church and then from the car to the reception and that was it.”

At the moment, 2011 is promising to be as fulfilling in her career as last year although contracts prevent her from discussing details of any up-and-coming roles.

Her six years in Corrie were, she says, unforgettable. “I loved playing Kelly. It was so much fun especially with the opportunities I had to wear really garish clothes.

“When they picked new clothes for Kelly, if I didn’t think they were horrible enough I would dress them up and if everyone went ‘what on earth are you wearing’ I knew I had got it right. It was great fun.”

It was far from the glamour of the spotlight for Tupele and her fellow actors who were cast as Underworld stitchers — most of their working day involved spending long hours in the factory.

“We could spend as much as 12 hours in the factory but we had great fun chatting, drinking coffee and tea and reading magazines,” she says

Life is good for the young actress and not something she says she ever takes for granted: “I always feel very lucky to have been able to do the things that I have done,” she says.

You can walk or run both the 5k and 10k races at the Stormont Estate on Sunday, May 15 at 2pm. Online registration at www.runher.co.uk closes at midnight tonight but participants may register on the day before 1pm.

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