TWO years ago, having spent some time living a quiet life in the countryside away from the limelight, Kelly Brook stepped out on the red carpet once again.
It was a film premiere at the Royal Albert Hall and she had picked out a slinky black sequinned dress to wear for the occasion.
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But as she posed in front of the flashing cameras – something she’d done countless times in the past – she got a jolt. Because the bank of photographers were yelling at her to “breathe in”.
As she tells the story, it’s impossible not to gasp at the rudeness. The cheek! But Kelly is quite sanguine about it.
“Well, I’m glad they told me!” she laughs. “They actually thought they were doing me a favour, but yeah, it was a bit of a shock.
“But they knew me as skinny, and all of a sudden I’d turned up with bigger boobs, a bigger bum, bigger arms – just a lot bigger, so I think it was a shock for them as well!”
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Kelly was aware that she’d crept up to a size 16, thanks to enjoying the slower pace of life in Kent, regular hearty pub lunches and finally feeling settled in her personal life. But nevertheless, that red carpet experience proved a “wake-up call”, as she puts it.
“It dawned on me then that even though I felt the same, I was obviously bigger and maybe I should do something about it,” she says.
Since then, Kelly has made several lifestyle changes, losing 2st and going down to a size 12.
It’s been a gradual process, which has seen her take up running three times a week and following a SlimFast eating plan to achieve her “Size Sexy” all in time for her milestone 40th birthday later this month.
“The Size Sexy thing really resonated with me because if you get to an age where you’re fitting into a large or extra large and you actually feel really happy and healthy, then why should there be a stigma?
“Although I’ve lost weight on my SlimFast journey, I’m still not the thinnest I’ve ever been in my life. But nor would I ever want to go back there, because some of my thinnest times were also my saddest.”
It’s certainly true that Kelly has battled through some incredibly difficult periods in her life. Quite apart from the well-documented career highs and lows, there has been much personal heartbreak and tragedy.
She has spoken before about the devastating impact of her miscarriages and of losing her dad Kenneth very suddenly when she was just 28.
Some of my thinnest times were also my saddest.
His death during her run on Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 forced her to pull out of the show, too grief-stricken to carry on.
There were also several energy-sapping off/on relationships with the likes of Danny Cipriani and Thom Evans, before French/Italian model and actor Jeremy Parisi, 33, came into her life four years ago, bringing with him some much-needed calm and stability.
“I breezed through my 20s and had loads of amazing experiences, but I feel my 30s… they were quite bad,” she says candidly.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself in my career, in my relationships and… I don’t know, sometimes it was like banging my head against a brick wall.
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"I didn’t feel like things worked out particularly well. It felt like everything I started failed. I was sacked from big TV shows and I’d be caught in these really turbulent relationships with boyfriends.
“And I wasn’t able to manage those relationships very well because I was always on a plane between here and Los Angeles. I tried to juggle so much and I think the anxiety and stress of always being on the go kept my weight down.
'MY BODY LIKES BEING CURVY'
"You end up really thin because of what’s happening in your life. As soon as I started slowing down and found a nice, happy relationship living in the countryside, everything changed. And my body changed with that.
"I was eating at my local pub and being with an Italian boyfriend who just wants to eat pasta all day and all night. But whereas he was going out for a five-mile run every day I was just lazing around!”
Part of Kelly’s journey – and the idea behind Size Sexy – has been to embrace her naturally curvy body shape rather than striving for what she recognises is no longer possible.
“My body likes being curvy,” she says. “It would be really difficult for me to be a skinny girl cos it’s not my shape or who I am and I’m not going to aspire to be something that’s unattainable.
“It was finding that middle ground and being healthy rather than what people would consider a size zero or super-skinny. It was about being the best version of myself, and for me a size 12 is a good size. And now it’s about maintaining a healthy, happy weight.”
Her weight loss and new outlook have also given Kelly back some of the confidence she can now see she lost. When she was at her biggest, she would use editing apps to slim herself down on social media selfies.
It would be really difficult for me to be a skinny girl cos it’s not my shape or who I am.
“I feel better in clothes now. I feel better in my underwear. I feel better on the beach. I don’t feel I have to retouch my Instagram pictures like I used to, giving myself these stupid long giraffe necks.” She whoops with laughter.
“Everyone was busy going on about me slimming down my waist, but no one actually realised I’d made my neck smaller as well! That’s the real trick. If you want to look young and thin, pull your neck in! No, no, that’s bad advice. I don’t do that now.”
She doesn’t need to. She never needed to. Whether at her slimmest or at her most curvy, Kelly has always oozed beauty and sex appeal. It’s effortless.
While her body might have generated a lot of headlines over the years, her face is just as gorgeous, and it’s refreshing to see such natural radiance without the aid of fillers and Botox.
“I’m more into skincare than anything else,” she says. “Retinol is my best friend. It’s all about the retinol. I don’t know what it is about lip fillers, but young girls just want that look.
"I don’t know, it’s not really my generation. I don’t want those big silly lips. I’m very ‘90s, so I’m still drawing mine on with lipliner. I still love the ‘90s supermodel look – what’s not to love about that?!”
'ROLLERCOASTER RIDE' INTO SHOWBIZ
Kelly was just 19 but already a lads’ mag favourite when she was chosen to replace Denise Van Outen as Johnny Vaughan’s Big Breakfast co-presenter – “a lifetime ago,” she says.
It began what she describes as a “rollercoaster ride” with both the media and the showbiz industry itself.
She only lasted five months in that job, but the lampooning and slingshots and sexist accusations of airheadedness continued long afterwards, with history pretty much repeating itself 10 years later when she joined Britain’s Got Talent as the fourth judge but was axed after less than a week.
“That 19-year-old girl wasn’t treated very well in the beginning,” she agrees. “I kind of feel sorry for her.
"She was vulnerable and naive going into this industry with no idea about the impact it was going to have on her life and her family. I don’t even feel like that was me because I’ve learned so much since then.
“I think people just wanted to write me off. They didn’t want me to succeed and did everything they could to make me fail. It was pure sabotage for so many years.
"But I’m stronger now and I can put that negativity to bed by having a happy, healthy life. It’s taken a long time to get there but I’m here.”
Her ability to bounce back from each setback is impressive and shows there’s true grit behind the megawatt smile and bubbly personality.
Undeterred by her Big Breakfast battering, she kept going and went on to land other TV jobs, including fronting Celebrity Love Island as well as finding success as an actress both this side of the pond and in Hollywood with parts in Smallville and movies The Italian Job and School For Seduction.
But if she’d known then what she knows now, would she have chosen a different career? She looks taken aback. It doesn’t appear she’s ever even considered this.
Movie you watched?
Fractured. It was a Netflix movie. I like a good horror film.
Box set you watched?
The Widower, about the guy who killed all his wives. Oh, and Fleabag.
From my friend asking if I want to go pumpkin- picking.
Time you cried?
At my uncle’s funeral a couple of weeks ago.
Time you lost your temper?
Oh god, every day. I only really lose it when I’m tired.
Probably this morning with Jeremy.
“Well, it was my livelihood and so you have to keep going because what else are you going to do? It’s all I ever knew. I went to stage school and there wasn’t an option to do anything else.”
Ask her if she’s ever had therapy to guide her through the more challenging periods in her life and she shakes her head.
“No. This interview is like therapy, just sitting and talking about it. So no, I’ve never had therapy or anything like that. Probably should have but I didn’t.
“But I think working at Global [where Kelly co-hosts Heart FM’s drive-time show] is great because I’ve got a job where I talk to people every day and connect with them. And to stay in a job for longer than a few weeks without getting sacked…”
She laughs again. “It’s like: ‘Ah, I can do this! I’m not a bad person. I’m nice. People do like talking to me. People do like working with me.’ Because that self-doubt makes you start to wonder. You think: ‘God, there’s something wrong with me. Why isn’t this working out?’”
With hindsight, can she see that self-doubt was misplaced?
“No! With hindsight I can see sometimes it was me, but I’d also like to think I’ve learnt from that. I’m older and wiser. We’re all still making mistakes, but you just don’t want to make the same one twice.
“Like, I probably made a few reckless decisions in terms of my personal life, too, but they were quite fun at the time – dating crazy people who didn’t have my best interests at heart, but… whatever.
"I don’t regret things. I just think I could have been kinder to myself over the years. I think we could all do that.”
She did eventually grow jaded with the industry, though, hence the recent years she spent in semi-retirement in the Kent countryside.
A NEW BEGINNING
It was the job offer at Heart at the start of this year that coaxed her back into the public eye, and in radio she’s found a new career she loves and can see a real future in. Turning 40 puts the cherry on top of her new beginning.
“I feel like I’m finally growing up. I had Peter Pan syndrome, running around like a teenager. I’d go home and see my old school friends and they all seemed so grown-up, married with children while I was still single, hadn’t quite found The One.
“I feel that now I’m hitting 40, a lot of that drama and stress has kind of melted away. I was always torn over what to do and I had a lot of guilt, but now I’m actually like: ‘It’s not the be all and end all if I don’t get married and I don’t have children.’
"If I do, it’s amazing and I’m excited for that. But if I don’t, it’s fine. When you hit a milestone birthday like this you do start thinking about your career, your relationships, where you live, those debts you’ve still not paid off.
I feel that now I’m hitting 40, a lot of drama and stress has kind of melted away.
"All those things. Am I happy? Am I where I thought I was going to be? So I’m thinking about everything.”
Which obviously begs the question: is she where she thought she’d be? She smiles. And then skilfully avoids giving a straight answer.
“I love my life, I love my boyfriend, I love living back in London and I’m focused. So I think things are quite good! I’ve found a new kind of happiness.
"I think I associated drama and fireworks with happiness, but it all fizzes out quite quickly. Now I’ve found a more slow-growing, longer-lasting, healthier happiness that’s going to see me through the next 10 years. Hopefully longer!”
The birthday celebrations involve a trip to the States with Jeremy followed by a family meal in central London on their return. She’s not bothered about presents, preferring experiences over “stuff” that clutters up her life.
“I just like to travel so if he books a nice hotel or takes me somewhere, that’s perfect for me. I don’t really like things like jewellery – I’m always getting rid of things and clearing my life out. I don’t want to accumulate any more s**t!”
The streamlining applies to the professional side of things, too. There’s no real desire to go back to acting – Kelly says she was offered a part in a film recently, but turned it down because it would have eaten into her annual holiday allowance at Heart.
“I’m not as thirsty as I was,” she says. “Less is more at the moment. I don’t feel like I need to be out every night or on every red carpet or be on telly all the time or do pilot season in LA.
"I’m not burnt out from it, but I feel like I’ve been there and done it. I want to spend more time on myself, looking after Jeremy, looking after our home and doing my job and that’s it. That’s my focus.”
The last time we met, she described herself as a survivor. It seems like a fair assessment and when reminded of this, she nods.
“I mean, gosh, when I look at the people who have come in and out of my life over the years and I’ve just navigated my way through. It’s like a jungle really, isn’t it? I feel like I’ve come out the other side, like: ‘Ahh… I’ve made it.’”
- Kelly has lost 2st on the SlimFast plan. Visit Slimfast.co.uk and follow @SlimFastUK.