Professor Green: 'I don't look at myself as being a commodity. Music is my commodity but I'm not for sale'
After a string of near-misses, rapper Professor Green has transformed his health and approach to life. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how
After a catalogue of near-death experiences over the years, musician and TV personality, Professor Green Is happy to declare he's a new man - and feeling the fittest he's ever been. It's a remarkable comeback, considering just eight months ago in February he fractured his neck after a fall caused by a seizure - the latest in a string of near-misses for the 35-year-old.
He was stabbed in the neck in 2009, crushed between two cars in 2013, and suffered a near-fatal reaction to a surgical mesh implant following a hernia op in 2017.
"The seizure was a blow but I've battled back before and I was determined to fight back this time, and now I'm in the best shape of my life," says the songwriter, who's now doing the UK tour that had to be postponed while he recovered.
"When people ask me what I celebrate in my life, I usually say surviving!" adds London-born Green (real name Stephen Manderson). "I've been made aware of my own mortality more than once. As miserable as I can sound sometimes, I'm actually quite optimistic and resilient and that gets me through."
Three years after his divorce from former Made In Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh, he's also enjoying personal happiness again, with actress Karima Adebibe.
Here, Green - an ambassador for Unilever's campaign against UK Hunger - opens up about his health transformation, how he feels about success, and why he doesn't want to be called a celebrity...
Have you completely recovered from your recent accident?
"I'm good as gold now, with no ill-effects. The seizure was a horrible shock and extremely frightening. I was very lucky I wasn't on my own. A friend was there, heard the bang as I fell, found me and put me in the recovery position. I needed weeks of physio to heal the fractured vertebrae. I was extremely lucky not to break my neck.
"Although I was tested for epilepsy, it was ruled out. Doctors told me sleep deprivation, infection and stress are the three largest contributors to seizures. I was very run-down from the worst flu I've ever suffered, caught another bug on top, and was suffering jet-lag and sleep-deprivation as I was travelling and working in Australia and New York. It was the perfect storm."
What's been a turning point in your life?
"I radically changed my diet and lifestyle after I nearly died in 2017 when I had surgery for three hernias. I reacted badly to the mesh, my body just didn't like it, which they put in to repair me. I developed pneumonia, a collapsed lung, ileus (paralysed intestines), fluid build-up and I needed CPR. It was a pretty close call and afterwards my stomach didn't empty properly, so doctors wanted to give me a gastric bypass. Instead, to avoid any more major surgery, I decided to do loads of research on how to improve my diet.
"I went from feeling really low - but the more I took care of my gut health, the better I felt overall. There's so much proven scientific evidence coming out that gut health and mental health are linked, and on the positive effect it can have on mood. That's very important to me as I've suffered problems with depression in the past.
"Now, I'm conscientious about putting only good things into my body and take a variety of probiotics, prebiotics, and things like bone broth for essential amino acids."
What else have you done for your health?
"I'm much more active. Walking my dogs and regular gym training makes me feel good, and crucially has really reduced my problems with sleeping.
"In the worst parts of my depression and unhappiness, I've really suffered with insomnia and sleep anxiety, which can really affect mood and wellbeing. It's still tricky with my lifestyle - performing at night and doing appearances in the day - but my sleep patterns are much better."
What does success mean to you?
"I used to imagine if I achieved success, it would absolve me of all the problems that had gone on in my past and I'd just be continually happy. I realise now that's not how it works. Happiness isn't a constant, in the same way that sadness shouldn't be. If anything, your baseline should be contentment, and then you should be able to field the ups and downs. Learning that's been a great help."
How do you look after your wellbeing?
"I'm much more aware nowadays about my triggers, which can affect my mental health. Getting too stressed, tired, or packing too much into my life can all affect me, so I guard against them.
"I'm having talking therapy again soon, because it's important to regularly refresh your outlook with the help of someone who's unbiased and completely outside your life. I see myself as a work in progress and I'm happiest when I'm learning.
"I've always had a sort of working-class guilt about going on holidays, but now I'm taking breaks away and love it. I'm passionate about food and cooking - I have a separate Instagram account where I show off my roast dinners - and I make time for chilling and relaxing, which I never did before."
What's your biggest achievement?
"The longevity of my music. To have more than 15 years of work, which people still love, is an amazing feeling. I love expressing myself through my music. At my concerts, it's great to see a cross-section of ages, and kids who know all the words to my songs but weren't even born when they were written.
"Also, I love using my profile to shine a light on issues through my documentary work, which has raised awareness about male suicide, among other things. Working on campaigns like Unilever's campaign against UK Hunger is really important to me.
"The fact there are families in the UK without the means to put food on the table, and four million children living in poverty is totally unacceptable.
"It was very humbling recently to go to community centre and talk to people there who are being helped, and discover how very easy it is to fall into poverty."
Do you see yourself as a celebrity?
"No way. The whole celebrity thing didn't exist when I was young, in those days people were famous because of their talent for something. I became successful because of my music and don't see myself as part of this present-day infamy.
"I find all this 'influencer' stuff weird. In my book, if it gets to the point where you're selling every little bit of yourself, then you're in a bad place. I don't look on myself as being a commodity. Music is my commodity but I'm not for sale."
You're dating Karima Adebibe - is that a happy ending for you?
"I'm very happy, and my house feels like a home now, but the major difference between this and every other relationship I've had is that this is very private and I don't discuss it. I've learnt that to maintain my happiness, I need to allow myself some things other people don't have a window into. It's about separating the Stephen Manderson stuff from the Professor Green stuff."
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
"My great grandmother used to tell me, 'Patience is a virtue'. I can't say I practise it every day and sometimes I still lose my s**t, but generally I'm more patient and calm. I can be a prat sometimes, but at heart, I'm very kind and caring."
Professor Green is ambassador for Unilever's campaign against UK Hunger. Make a difference by purchasing special packs of PG tips, Hellmann's, Colman's, Knorr, Pot Noodle and Graze products from Tesco. 5p per pack will be donated to charities combating UK hunger
'I don't look at myself as being a commodity. Music is my commodity but I'm not for sale'