‘Having five miscarriages was horrendous for my fiancee but it has made us closer as a couple’
Being thrust into the celebrity world was a roller-coaster -- but as Alex Reid tells Gabrielle Fagan, he's in a much healthier place now
Alex Reid fast-tracked to fame when he won Celebrity Big Brother and became Katie Price's second husband in 2010. Their marriage only lasted a year but it changed the life of the former cage fighter from Hampshire, catapulting him into the celebrity realm -although that hasn't all been plain sailing.
Ten years on, the 44-year-old reflects that he was "naive and eaten alive in the celebrity world" when he joined it. Now, an older and wiser Reid prefers the focus to be on his work as a fitness trainer and actor - he's starring in adult panto, Jack And His Giant Big Stalk, this winter.
He's been happily engaged to personal trainer Nikki Manashe (34) since 2014, but the couple have endured heartbreak in their attempts to start a family, with Manashe having suffered an ectopic pregnancy and five miscarriages, the last one in September.
Here, Reid opens up about his experience of the fame game, finding his 'true' identity, and his determination to have a family...
How are you enjoying your latest acting role?
"Pantomime's fabulous because it's great escapism. I'm playing Daisy the Cow and love throwing myself into the role because it's so silly, such fun, and there's plenty of opportunity for ad-libbing. I mean who could turn down the opportunity to play a cow!
"Performing is what I love and comes naturally to me - I used to perform as a fighter and now I perform on stage. When life's hard, it's good to escape into characters and become different people."
How do you look back on your career in fighting now?
"I got into martial arts as a teenager and it went from there. Of course, some of it was enjoyable - there's nothing like the roar of the crowd when you win - but out of the 300 fights I took part in, only around three were real fights. In that game, it's really all about performance.
"But during my last few years fighting, I was often just pretending to be a tough guy. Secretly inside, I was a scared little boy wanting love, validation and acceptance. Putting myself through physical pain was a distraction from the butt of hurtful stories and criticism from the media and people who didn't know me.
"At one stage, the most peaceful place in the world for me was in a cage up against a well-trained killer who was trying to beat me up. Looking back, entering fights without even doing the proper training was my version of self-harming and was very unhealthy."
How is your health?
"I paid a price for all the punishment I gave my body when I was fighting. Last year, I had to have a double hip resurfacing operation and two metal plates inserted because I've been suffering from osteoarthritis in my hips.
"The cartilage had worn away and bone was rubbing on bone, which was extremely painful. I'm still having physio and doing yoga and stretching to try help my movement because I've suffered stiffness in my hips and legs for so long."
How are you coping with your heartbreaking struggle to have a baby?
"We're both extremely sad, because being pregnant five times and having five miscarriages is horrendous. I can see how it can split couples up because it's so tough. For us, going through the struggle together has made us even closer but it's put us under pressure as a couple at times.
"Everyone thinks about it from the woman's point of view and the man can sometimes feel left out of it, even though you're going through just as much pain.
"Nikki's changed my life and I love her to pieces. She's very good about making sure we talk about how we feel all the time, which is a real help. You have to accept the sadness, try and deal with it, and move on positively."
Will you keep going with your dream of a family together?
"Where there's a will there's a way and I'm sure we will have a child. I've totally changed almost everything about myself, including my diet, to improve our chance of successful fertility.
"In the past, I did that whole sex, drugs and rock 'n roll lifestyle, but now I'm extremely careful about what I put into my body. I'm on a mainly plant-based diet, rarely eat meat, never eat processed foods, so that I totally avoid putting any poison into myself.
"If having a baby doesn't happen medically for us through IVF, we could look at surrogacy or adoption. We won't rule anything out."
How do you feel about being a celebrity?
"I don't really see myself as a celebrity nowadays. I'd describe myself as a jobbing actor and a fitness trainer. If I had my time again, I don't think I would have got involved in it.
"I was young and very naive about the whole thing and got seduced by the idea of it and really I got eaten alive by it. I wanted acclaim for having accomplished something, not just for being famous for being married at one point to someone well known. I think getting famous like I did shut a few doors for me in the acting world, but I've come to terms with that now.
"Modern celebrity just seems to focus on who's sleeping with who and how big people's boobs are, which is awful and silly. Of course, my ego loved the glory and adulation I received when I was successfully fighting, and when I won Celebrity Big Brother in 2010 and got the biggest audience vote in its history, but now I look for fulfilment elsewhere."
How do you see yourself now?
"My passions are acting and training and helping people through my mind, body and spirit camps and boot-camp sessions. Both those roles make me feel I'm being true to myself. I feel I've regained my integrity, my credibility and my sense of self-worth through that work. As an ex-paratrooper and former fighter, I know exactly how to take people physically and mentally to another level, whether they're average Joe's or elite level athletes. There's nothing to beat being able to inspire them to improve their self-worth and push themselves to meet targets they've never dreamt of before."
How do you look after your wellbeing?
"I have regular therapy. I never understand why people should feel embarrassed in some way about admitting to it. We get a trainer to help with our muscles, so why not have a therapist to help your mind become stronger so you're fit to deal with life? I'm a big believer in meditation to calm the mind and help you step outside yourself. It's a bit of a work in progress mastering it but I'm really trying.
"I often cringe at myself at what I've done in the past. I was way too trusting. If I could go back, I wouldn't rush in. I would stop, take a deep breath, think about it and then talk. I've learnt that now."
- Alex Reid is appearing in adult pantomime Jack And His Giant Big Stalk, at the Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel from December 13 - January 5, 2020. For tickets, visit ticketsource.co.uk