Melanie: 'I wasn't a person who wanted to be famous'
Model, TV host and radio presenter all feature on Melanie Sykes' CV, but none of it was really planned. She tells how she's happy living 'in the now'
It turns out the summer holidays are hard work, even if you are model and presenter, Melanie Sykes. "The weeks go on and on," says Sykes, who has two sons, Roman (13) and Valentino Luca (11) with first husband Daniel Caltagirone. "You do run out of things to do, and you feel really bad if you're not coming up with anything, because they would like to stay inside the whole time, with them being boys and the age they are."
The daytime telly personality, who's fronted Today With Des And Mel and Let's Do Lunch with Gino D'Acampo, did manage to drag the kids away from home long enough for a holiday in Lake Como though ("It was probably the best holiday away I've ever had").
Since Let's Do Lunch was cancelled in 2014, it's also her first summer in five years spent solely with the kids, and, aside from playing tennis and swimming in the sea, it's been a chance to boost autism awareness.
Sykes' son Valentino - who the family call Tino - was diagnosed with the condition aged two and she recently spoke out at the London Autism Show about how hard she found it to come to terms with his diagnosis.
"I don't feel like I've got a responsibility, it's that I want to do it," she says, when asked whether she feels it's important to share her family's story.
"What was lovely was, after I did the show, I had a queue of people wanting to talk to me.
"Some were wanting to ask my advice, and some were wanting to give me advice, because their kids were slightly older or had been through things me and Tino were about to go through.
"It was a really giving experience; it's basically to help people not feel so lonely - to be brutally honest about how hard it's been. So they could go, 'Yeah, that was me', and, 'I'm not ashamed to feel like that'."
Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, Sykes started her career as a model, famously featuring in Boddingtons Beer adverts in a bikini in the mid-Nineties, before branching out into presenting - she had her first break as a reporter on The Big Breakfast. Now 45, her modelling and TV work still run in tandem.
"I wasn't someone who went to stage school, who wanted to be famous, and actually, when I was offered TV roles, I felt like it wasn't for me, but I did it anyway," she explains. "I worked out from that, that radio is more me. I like doing certain shows on TV but I've fallen into both industries because I looked good, and because my personality is decent.
"I never stopped modelling," she adds. "I've never not been photographed."
While Sykes is comfy being all over the papers in a two-piece, and is super chatty and happy to bare all on social media, there are some things she won't talk about in interviews, like her marriage to second husband, Jack Cockings. The pair got divorced less than a year after exchanging rings, following Sykes being cautioned by police over a domestic assault charge in 2013.
However, despite circulating rumours about her marital status, in November, Sykes shimmied back into public consciousness last year as the 'mummy' of the group in the 14th series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! She came third after two weeks of eating bugs, fighting over who cooked dinner and arguing with Edwina Currie, but reckons the experience didn't change her too much.
"I feel the same as before I went in. I just came back to my life, you know? I get recognised by children more than I did before," she muses. "That's probably been the only other difference, younger kids recognising me, and, whereas people used to just look at me before, they're more likely to come and talk to me now."
That's not to say she didn't relish being in the jungle. "I really enjoyed the first week-and-a-half of it. I found it so fun - I love living outdoors, I love a basic lifestyle, I loved having fun with the people that were in there, and it just got harder as we started to get hungrier!
"For the first week-and-a-half, I just found it the most hilarious fun." And she still keeps in touch with winner Carl 'Foggy' Fogarty and former footballer Jimmy Bullard.
Sykes will be back on TV this autumn, presenting cookery programme Humble Pie with bad-boy of the cheffing world, Marco Pierre White. "I love to cook, I cook every single day. I'm keen on cooking because I'm a grown woman and have children to feed and I just really enjoy doing it," says Sykes.
Looking ahead, she's more interested in radio though, having previously had shows on Heart and Capital FM. "I'd like to do a radio show, that's the only thing missing from my life right now," she admits. "I love doing radio, it's my favourite thing and I'd quite like to get another show at some point.
"I'm also working on an autism book at the moment," Sykes adds. "I've got stuff I'm doing, but I don't feel under pressure to think about my future, I'm too busy being in the now."