Cherry Healey: 'I wish I hadn't spent years hating the way I looked'
TV presenter Cherry Healey doesn't hold back when it comes to talking about her emotions. She lets Gabrielle Fagan into her life
Frank and funny, Cherry Healey's found fame and fans for revealing her highly individual take on life, and sharing her experiences - even being filmed while giving birth for TV. Her BBC Three documentaries have focused on drinking, body issues, dating, childbirth and money, she's co-presenter with Gregg Wallace of BBC Two's Inside The Factory, and presented E4 spin-off show The Jump: On The Piste. Last year she took part in Celebrity MasterChef and published her memoir.
Cherry (36) who has two children, Coco (7) and Edward (3) - who is nicknamed 'Bear' - from her marriage to Roly Allen, who she split from last year. In our interview she opens up about her feelings on divorce, single parenting and love. She has exposed a lot of her life to the public, but she has no regrets about that.
"None. That's definitely who I am, and I was very open and like that even before I got on telly," she says. "I don't mind anybody knowing anything about me. I'd love to be able to live with enough integrity and honesty to own up to anything. Some people are going to judge me and not like what I do or say, but I accept that."
Splitting from Roly Allen last year was traumatic. "At the time, two years ago, it was awful. We'd been married for six years and together for eight and suddenly it felt like throwing my life up in the air and waiting to see where it landed.
"It involves so much sorting out of finances, a home; so you can't crumble. You have to be strong, yet inside your heart's breaking and it's intensely painful. I had loads of work on and had to keep my emotions in a box until the evenings when I would just sob and sob and have chocolate snacks in the early hours of the morning. Most people lose weight through it - I piled it on, typical! It was a surreal slow-motion feeling that you're sort of watching your life take a completely different turn."
And she says candidly: "It's definitely shaken my confidence in terms of my judgment. Generally, I'm an optimistic person who assumes everything always works out in the end, but when that happened, you start to think, 'What else can break up or disappear?' Now I've accepted love is risky and nothing's guaranteed.
"It doesn't help that nowadays our expectations are so high. We have a fantasy of someone fulfilling our every dream - romance, eternal happiness, contentment, and for them to be our one true love for the rest of our lives. And just to ramp up the pressure, we're living so much longer. It's really scary thinking about entering into a new relationship, although I'd like to at some point, and I'm open to the idea of having more children."
Her wellbeing is now important to her.
"I have weekly therapy sessions which I started when my marriage ended. I'm learning so much about myself. Going to the gym and seeing friends is vital. I love the new trend of mums being totally honest with each other about how tricky parenting can be."
After being a couple, she says it can be difficult becoming a single parent. "I've been a single parent for two years. At first I really pushed myself to be on top of their homework, made sure I saw all their school letters, and their uniform was smart. I thought, 'Why am I going the extra mile?' and realised it was because I didn't want people to have any reason to judge me. There's this totally wrong social stigma around single parenting which I hope will eventually disappear. I'm happy I was a good parent when I was married, and I'm still just as good a parent now I'm single."
Juggling work and home life can be tricky, though: "It's fine. I have an au pair and work from home sometimes, but despite that I have total mother-guilt and am always questioning myself: 'Am I home enough? Am I providing enough? Am I talking to them enough?' The most heart-wrenching thing is when the kids say, 'Mummy, don't go to work today', and I know I have to so I can pay the bills - and I also love my work."
Of course, none of us are perfect and we all have some regrets. For Cherry it was her self-image as a teenager.
"I wish I'd liked my body sooner and that I hadn't spent years hating the way I looked.
"I started disliking it aged 16 when girls in magazines seemed to all be blonde, waif-like and tiny, whereas I was sporty, muscular and brunette. I felt like a sort of 'she-man'."
Cherry Healey has teamed up with TalkTalk to help the nation avoid 'load rage' and enjoy the benefits of fibre internet. Visit www.talktalk.co.uk/shop/broadband/fibre