Denise Van Outen has gone from the self proclaimed ladette to hands on mum – and she loves it.
The model, dancer, actress and broadcaster spends as much time as possible with four-year-old daughter Betsy.
“I love being a mum. I do get a bit fed up when people say ‘You can’t get much time with her’. I actually spend more time with my daughter than a lot of working mums because my hours are different to most people’s,” says Denise.
“I do the school drop-off and pick- up everyday, she has just started in reception. If I can’t make pick up then I have a great friend who has been Betsy’s babysitter since she was born and she collects her from school if I can’t make it.”
Denise split from Betsy’s dad, actor Lee Mead in 2013, although they share the care of their little girl. “I have been really lucky. I have great support from both sets of grandparents and Betsy spends a lot of time with her dad. It works well.” The couple met when Lee was a contestant in Any Dream Will Do, the television show to find the next Joseph for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical. Denise was a judge and Lee won. Although the couple split in 2013, they are said to be good friends and Denise talks about him fondly. She is now said to be dating a City Banker, but she prefers not to talk about her relationships.
Denise is currently presenting a show on Magic FM radio station which this month started broadcasting in Leeds and across Yorkshire for the first time.
“I really enjoy doing the radio show,” she says. “Magic is a great station which up until now was only heard in London and so I am excited that more people are going to hear it. It’s pretty relaxed listening and it’s really popular with the over 35s but we have people of all ages listening.
“What I really love is being able to choose my own music which I really enjoy as it allows me to put some of my personality into the show. It’s a laugh really and I like cheering people up.”
It is a year since Denise performed her one woman show Some Girl I Used to Know at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and she says she is looking forward to broadcasting to Yorkshire listeners.
“I am looking forward to getting Tweets from people from Yorkshire about the show,” says the social media fan.
Denise admits that she has always been a bit of a show off.
“My sister was very shy and I was the vivacious one,” says the Essex girls who was born plain Denise Outen, the Van was added later when she entered show business.
She was modelling knitting patterns at the tender age of seven and then attended the renowned Sylvia Young stage school from the age of 12. Her contemporaries included Billie Piper and Keeley Hawes. Even then Denise didn’t want to be pigeonholed.
“I never really had a plan,” she says. “I liked doing singing, dancing and acting. I really wanted to be able to go where the opportunities were. Although early on musical theatre was where my heart was.”
Before she was even a teenager she had a small part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Royal Shakespeare Company then a chorus spot in Les Miserables in the West End. Her passion and talent for musical theatre returned later when she played Roxie Hart in Chicago (in the West End and on Broadway) to much acclaim.
But it was as co-presenter of Channel 4’s Big Breakfast that she first came to the attention of the nation.
“I never set out to be in television,” she says. “Someone scouted me and offered me a job on a Saturday morning kids programme and then I was offered the Big Breakfast.”
She was in her twenties and got the reputation as being a bit of a party girl.
“We were young and having fun, just like lots of other young girls. It just happened we were in the public eye. I’ve grown up since then.”
Although she enjoyed her time on Big Breakfast by the end of 1998 she decided to leave to pursue her acting ambition.
She successfully made the transition from breakfast telly into mainstream light entertainment and drama then musical theatre.
It is this versatility which has ensured that Denise has remained in work continuously, where other celebrities may have struggled.
She has been inundated with requests to do reality televison, but had only succombed to Strictly Come Dancing in which she came second in 2012 with partner james Jordan and admits although it was hard work, she loved it.
“You got to dip into the best dressing up box ever. I loved all that.”
She hasn’t ruled out doing more reality television, but says she can’t ever see herself going into the Celebrity Big Brother house.
Although television is where she really started our, Denise admits that theatre is her first love.
“I do get really nervous and I do have some superstitions like many actors and other professionals who take their jobs seriously, but there is nothing better than people coming up to you at the end of show and saying how much they enjoyed it. Theatre is harder but it is more satisfying.”
Having just turned 40 Denise says she isn’t worried about jobs drying up.
“May be if I just did one thing then that might be a consideration but because I do so many different things it really doesn’t bother me.”
When not working or looking after Betsy, who she describes as being quite shy and not a bit like her, Denise likes to do one big charity challenge a year.
Be it toiling up or down mountains in far flung countries or, as this week, getting on her bike to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia.
The ten day challenge will push Denise to her limits and will see her separated from Betsy, but it is all in a good cause.
“There are six of us cycling for MIND. I wanted to raise awareness of mental health issues especially as a friend of mine lost her best friend who suffered serious depression.
“I try to do something every year. I am worried about the fatigue but it is good to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes.”