This time last year, Denise Van Outen, 45, admitted she was ‘unfit, miserable’ and had ‘given up’.
After a broken foot forced her to pull out of the West End production of Chicago back in 2018, Denise was plagued with low moods.
But less than two years later, after a successful appearance on The Masked Singer, she’s in a much better place. ‘I made some life changes and reinvented myself,’ Denise said.
So what’s really been going on behind closed doors for the star?
‘You feel so responsible’
In 2018, Denise, who is mum to nine-year-old Betsy, was set to play Velma Kelly in the West End hit Chicago, 17 years after she first took on the role.
But before rehearsals had even started, Denise was forced to pull out after an accident where she fractured her heel running.
‘Going into Chicago and the West End, which is all singing and dancing, I wanted to be super-fit, so before training I was running and it happened,’ she said.
‘I felt this shooting pain through my heel. I went to see an ankle specialist that day and found out that it was a stress fracture right through the heel, so – pretty bad.’
Denise added that having to pull out of the musical meant that her mental health spiralled. ‘It was awful,’ she said. ‘I felt fantastic both mentally and physically.
I was feeling on top form. But I was devastated because it had just been announced that I was going into the show, and I’d done it 17 years ago.
‘I was so looking forward to it. I knew people had bought tickets and you just feel awful and so responsible that people are coming to see you.
‘I was completely devastated – I sat indoors and cried for three days.’
Denise explained her other reasons for feeling so low. ‘I’ve had hormonal-related anxiety and depression,’ she said. ‘It’s a horrible place to be.’
Denise’s mental health battle lasted much longer than she could have imagined. ‘I lost myself in my early 40s – this time last year, I was unfit, miserable and had given up a bit.
‘I broke my foot and it really had a negative effect on my life,’ she admitted. ‘I was gutted to have to pull out of Chicago. From then on, I sat on my bum for four months – I was so miserable.
‘I put on weight and I lost my confidence. I didn’t want to do anything. I was eating fish and chips and drinking wine and thinking, “What’s the point in being healthy?”’
But rather than let it consume her, Denise – who moved in with her partner Eddie last year – decided to change her life. ‘It got to the point where I just thought, “I don’t want to feel like this, I want to go into my late forties feeling fit, healthy and amazing.”
‘So I started to make a lot of changes. People started to say I looked better and I felt brighter.’ She continued, ‘I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve changed my diet and I’ve got a clear head. I made some life changes and reinvented myself – I’ve got my mojo back.’
Cutting out booze seems to have worked wonders for Denise’s mental health, as she says, ‘I’ve done the party girl thing, it’s not for me any more. If I’d have carried on partying hard now into my forties, it would have been quite tragic. When people say to me, “You’re boring”, I just think, “No, I feel great, actually.”’
New career goals
Earlier this year, Denise made it to the semi finals in the hit new singing show, The Masked Singer, which seems to have given her a new lease of life in terms of her career.
‘Suddenly I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do with my life,’ she says. ‘It was like a rediscovery of my confidence and I’m saying “yes” again now.’
Although she’s had to put it on temporary hiatus because of COVID-19, Denise is set to present and star in her own ‘All Stars’ Cabaret show at Proud Embankment in London.
Expressing her excitement, she said, ‘I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting the Cabaret All Stars night. I’ve had some memorable nights at Proud in the past, so the opportunity to sing some of my favourite songs at such a fantastic London venue is something I’m really excited about.’
Denise also has her sights set on the soaps after a brief stint in Neighbours. She said, ‘I really enjoyed [Neighbours]. I had such an amazing time with such a great cast and crew. I’d love to do more. It’d be nice to get a little guest role on another soap. I had a small stint on EastEnders for five episodes as a guest, and now Neighbours.’
Revealing her next dream role, she added, ‘I’d love a little role on Emmerdale. I’ve got a couple of friends in it.’
We’re glad to see you back at your best, Denise!