Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

'If the kids had said don't do it, I wouldn't, but they were great'

The Real Full Monty is back... and with a twist. Coleen Nolan and seven co-stars tell Gemma Dunn what to expect from Ladies' Night on ITV

Show-stoppers: (L-R, back row) Victoria Derbyshire, Sally Dexter, Ruth Madoc, Sarah-Jane Crawford and Megan McKenna. (L-R, front row) Coleen Nolan, Michelle Heaton and Helen Lederer
Show-stoppers: (L-R, back row) Victoria Derbyshire, Sally Dexter, Ruth Madoc, Sarah-Jane Crawford and Megan McKenna. (L-R, front row) Coleen Nolan, Michelle Heaton and Helen Lederer

When a troupe of male celebrities bared all on TV last year, the nation sat up and took note. For not only did ITV's The Real Full Monty thrill viewers with a recreation of the famous film's striptease, more importantly, its stars succeeded in their bid to raise awareness of male cancers.

So much so, in fact, that the bold hit has returned for a second run - this time with a fresh set of famous faces.

But the men aren't without competition, for hot on the heels of its return are eight female celebrities gearing up for the performance of their lives in "sister" show, The Real Full Monty: Ladies' Night.

Determined to raise awareness of breast cancer, the 90-minute live special - led by Coleen Nolan and choreographed by Diversity's Ashley Banjo - will feature broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire, Emmerdale actress Sally Dexter, reality TV star Megan McKenna, former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton, actress Helen Lederer, TV legend Ruth Madoc and presenter Sarah-Jane Crawford.

"The boys were so amazing last year and I loved watching the show from home, so I can't quite believe I'll be taking part myself this time with a group of fabulous ladies," says Nolan (53).

Her inspiration for signing up? "Well, obviously, five years ago this year I lost my sister Bernie to breast cancer.

"My elder sister, Anne, had breast cancer in 2001 and Linda had breast cancer in 2006 and has just been re-diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, so it's become a massive part of our family.

"It was horrendous when we lost Bernie and now we've got the worry of Linda, but you also selfishly think, 'Three sisters. What are the chances?'

"You worry about your own mortality and now I worry about my daughter and my nieces and nephews. It's just really important to get the awareness out there about checking yourself."

By the same token, she's received much support from her Loose Women co-stars, the all-important go-ahead from her three children (two sons and one daughter with ex-husband Shane Richie and soon-to-be-ex-husband Ray Fensome, respectively), and importantly, from Linda.

"The one thing I thought was, 'If I ask the kids and they say, 'Oh, mum, that's embarrassing' or, 'I don't want you to do it', then I'll have to respect them.

"But from the moment I mentioned it, they were great. Without hesitation, all three of them said, 'Oh, mum, you've got to do it', because they loved the boys' one.

"I spoke to Linda about it and she thought it was a fantastic idea. Even now she will text me and go, 'Come on, you can do this'.

"When she came to see us on one of the filming days, she got really emotional.

"She said it means a lot to her and she's been through it, so we're hoping it will affect other people - people who have been through it like Victoria Michelle and have the scars of cancer.

"But so what? They're survivors of it. Wear the scars with pride."

For Nolan, who reveals she also has the support of Fensome ("He thinks it's fantastic"), it's set to be a case of overcoming the nerves on the night. But how?

"I don't know!" she admits. "I am loving the routine. I am really enjoying every minute of it, but I still get those moments - even in the middle of the night - when I think, 'Oh, God, I just don't know if I can move those feathers'. I am having nightmares about feathers."

But what about her fellow seven recruits - why are they taking to the stage?

Victoria Derbyshire (49)

"I had breast cancer. I do loads of work with different breast cancer charities and this is an opportunity to access millions more women in order to get the message across about how to check yourself, and if you notice something different, what to do about it immediately."

Sally Dexter (57)

"I'm one of those women who didn't think I fitted the breast cancer profile and had ignored requests to go and have a mammogram. Nobody in my family has ever had any kind of cancer, until recently. We're trying to do something practical to instigate change."

Helen Lederer (63)

"My aunt died in her 40s from breast cancer and when we were asked to talk about it, I was surprised how emotional I became. This isn't a straightforward experience by any means. The reminder of what we could be achieving, either as a by-product or as a direct consequence, makes up for the fear and the shame of not having, in my case, a perfect body."

Michelle Heaton (38)

"I've had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy because of the BRCA2 cancer gene that I carry. I struggle with all the scars and when I got asked to do this, my initial reaction was 'Probably no'. Then I discussed it with my husband who said, 'Imagine there are ladies or men who are going through similar things. If they're going to see a bunch of women do this, then maybe you can change one person's life and give them more confidence'."

Ruth Madoc (74)

"I've had cancer, but mine is one that is not very easily detected - cancer of the bladder. Breast cancer is one that you can almost feel or see or touch, and for me the most important thing about this programme is the fact that if there's the slightest thing wrong, you go straight to your GP."

Sarah-Jane Crawford (34)

"I discovered a breast lump in 2014 and had it removed. It was a papilloma lump, and so it wasn't cancerous, but it did need removing. I got involved because I thought this would be a really good way to make noise on a subject in a different way."

Megan McKenna (25)

"I haven't personally been touched by breast cancer, but I've lost someone very close to me with prostate cancer. It's raising awareness for the right thing. My following is quite young and I know that I will probably bring them to watch this show and make them realise what they need to be doing."

The Real Full Monty: Ladies' Night, ITV, Thursday, 9pm

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