Dawn French: 'I'd describe myself as pants!'

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Dawn French
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Celebrity mum Dawn French talks about being a parent, the upcoming Olympics and losing weight.


Recently you've been doing some work with P&G celebrating the mothers of some of our sportsmen and women - why did you get involved with that?

I really love this project because it's the human story behind the athletes, which is so interesting to me. Any mum feels that they will do anything for their kids and that instantly struck me with these women. They are all utterly selfless and they have to do so much backstage stuff to support their kids who are competing - and have done for years.

From making the packed lunches when they were kids going off to compete in little events to driving their children hundreds of miles around the country, it's all helped the athletes to get to where they have. And they have made big sacrifices too - giving up lots of things to fund taking their kids abroad to compete and enabling them to follow their dreams.

I can't claim to totally understand what they've had to do, but my daughter Billie, 20, did shotput competitively for a few years, so in a small way, I have an understanding of what the athletes' mums go through. From the age of about 12 to 18, Billie competed for her school, the county and then for the South of England and I took her to those events and enjoyed it. There was a great sense of community with the parents and supporters and I felt it was really good for her.

Has talking to the athletes' mums made you excited about the forthcoming Olympics?

Yes - I'll be watching on TV and giving lots of sports people lots of loud and brilliant advice while I'm watching! I'm rubbish at sport but my daughter Billie is now into the equestrian sports so I'll definitely be watching the eventing with her. And the diving with Tom Daley - I'll also definitely watch that and support Tom like everyone else. We all want Tom to do well, don't we?

What sort of mum are you to Billie?

I'd describe myself as pants! Like every other mum, I'm just doing my best but most of the time I feel I'm rubbish at it. We are very close but there are moments that are tricky - like every mother daughter relationship. There's plenty of war. And there's lots of cuddling up in front of the telly together too. I would describe us as loud and open and honest with each other.

And what sort of daughter is Billie?

Billie isn't what I expected from a daughter at all and now I understand that children can't be mini versions of their parents. It's taken me a massive journey to understand her and to get her but I'm so glad that I've been on that journey.

I remember Jennifer Saunders saying to me that her three daughters were completely different to her and completely different to each other. Jennifer is not a great advice giver but I did learn by watching how she was with her daughters - that was very useful to me, seeing when she was cool with things and when she was liberal about things.

I never consider Billie as adpoted and I hate it when people focus on that - as does she. It makes no difference at all to us. We never think about it. From the moment she arrived in our lives, she was our daughter and we completely forget we don't share the same genes.

What are the main differences between you and Billie?

I have quite a lot of order in my life and that's how I like it but I've learnt to accept Billie doesn't like it. She has really taught me to chill out a bit. Billie is far more spontaneous than me - I like to know what's happening when and to have it all in my diary - and she has taught me that sometimes it's best to go with the flow.

Now that Billie is at college, I veer between loving the empty nest and hating it. I certainly don't feel my life is empty at all - I'm so busy with life and work and friends, but sometimes I miss telling her something or sitting down to watch TV with her. That said, not a week goes by when I don't see her.

You've lost loads of weight recently - how have you managed to do that?

I've made an effort to do more exercise than I did before. Well, by that I mean I have done some exercise! I basically forgot to do any at all exercise for years. I honestly don't think you need to do much exercise to make a difference. I walk every day with my dog. And, although, I hate exercise, I find walking is fun and easy to fit in.

I also eat much more healthily now than I have for years and eat less. I've stopped snacking and cut out the bread and pasta and potatoes, I don't have fizzy drinks and all the obvious things, so I'm eating better. It was pretty joyless for a while, but I try not to have too many rules, so that I'm not breaking them.

Has your new shape made you more confident?

No! Just because my body has changed a bit, it hasn't changed me. I was always confident - I was before and I am now. I've never felt unhappy with how I am. It's just that now I can walk a bit further now and can go up hill without getting puffed out.
Dawn has joined forces with P&G to celebrate the mums of some of our biggest stars for this summer, including Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy & Victoria Pendleton.  The company behind brands like Olay, Max Factor and Pantene Pro-V has created a series of short films called ‘Raising an Olympian' which tells the athletes' stories through the eyes of those who know them best, their mums. To watch the series, visit

Where to next?

Meet the P&G Champion Mums' Foundation Winners

Dawn French's changing shape in pictures

More celebrity mum interviews, news and pictures

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