The Big Interview: Patsy Kensit

When Patsy Kensit became the face of Weight Watchers there were many who believed it was little more than a celebrity endorsement, saying the actress didn’t have a weight problem.

Patsy Kensit and below in Holby City
Patsy Kensit and below in Holby City

And as she tours the country (when we meet she has visited classes in Harrogate, Pontefract and Leeds) it is the first question on everyone’s mind.

“I have been extremely nervous, “ admits the actress whose first role was in The Great Gatsby playing Mia Farrow’s daughter, aged four. “For the first 10 minutes you do sometimes feel that people think you haven’t got the right to be there; that you don’t know what they are going through, but they couldn’t be more wrong.”

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And when you meet the former child actress and ex-wife of rock stars Jim Kerr (Simple Minds) and Liam Gallagher (Oasis) to name two of her four husbands, it is clear that it is far more than just another gig. Kensit, who recently turned 45, becomes very emotional when talking about her battle with weight over the last 14 years.

“It used to be that I could eat what I wanted and never put on weight. Then when I hit 31 that all changed. It felt like it happened overnight. I suddenly started to pile it on.”

She went from eight and half stone to 11 and a half stone – hard to imagine when you see her trim figure, relaxed in tight jeans and a T-shirt, and her virtual inability to sit still.

“I am a quick person,” she admits. “I get up quickly, I walk quickly. I do everything quickly.”

Looking back she realises that her weight gain was probably genetic, but having lost her mum to cancer when she was 23 she didn’t have anyone to tell her that. So she started to beat herself up. Kensit’s mother had fought the disease for 14 years, dying aged 54.

“I was very, very close to my mum. She was an incredible woman but she was very ill. I had to say goodbye to her when I was nine. But she had the most incredible strength of character and she kept pulling through.”

“I never saw her complain or cry. She just proved to me the power of positivity. If I can be half the mother to my boys that she was to me then I will be happy.”

Kensit has two sons, James, 21, to Kerr and Lennon, 18, to Gallagher and it is clear they are her world.

Kensit’s relationship with her father was rather different. As an associate of the Krays, for much of her childhood he was in and out of prison.

“Some days we would have lots of money and then other days we wouldn’t have food to put on the table,” she recalls. “We lived in two rooms with an outside toilet. I started working at the age of four when I was in The Great Gatsby. I loved acting but what I really wanted to do was earn enough money to buy my mum a nice house. I felt, naively that I could buy her health.”

Having got a taste for acting, she enrolled at the famous Italia Conti Stage School which saw her land roles in children’s television series including Pollyanna and Luna before her break came playing the female lead in the film version of Absolute Beginners.

Kensit also had a keen interest in music and for some time led a dual career as an actress and a singer, having hits with her band Eighth Wonder. But when she was chosen to play opposite Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2, she decided to concentrate on her acting. However, quite soon it was her turbulent private life, and marriages to a succession of musicians, which was grabbing the headlines.

It was after her marriage to Gallagher failed that Kensit started to battle with her weight.

“I eat when I am happy and I fast when I am sad,” she admits. She was by then constantly pursued by a section of the tabloid press. “I’d stopped reading what the papers said about me years before, but when you are at the supermarket check-out and all the front pages of the magazines are shouting out ‘Fatsy Patsy’ it really does knock your confidence. I have always had confidence but it has taken a few knocks over the years.

“Photographers would follow me everywhere. I believe the majority of the press does a good job, but there is an element that just bullies you. For years in my 20s I was criticised for being too thin and then they were constantly calling me fat. I didn’t need to be told I was overweight, I knew it. I would avoid appearing in family photos – there isn’t one of me between the ages of 31 and 32. “

Patsy tried virtually every diet known to man in a bid to regain her svelte figure.

“I would lose some weight and then something would happen and I’d pile it all back on and more besides. I was training like an athlete, cutting out carbs and trying everything but I would just be yo-yoing.”

The turning point came when she landed the role of Sadie King in Emmerdale.

“Emmerdale were brilliant they never put any pressure on me. But in the green room there is a wall with all the cuttings and reviews on. There was this red top one about my first episode which talked about my arse wobbling down the Dales.”

It was then that she joined a Weight Watchers class. Kensit talks about coming to terms with her weight in a way an alcoholic talks about coming to terms with their addiction.

“It’s facing it and admitting that you have a weight problem that is the hardest part. And that is very emotional but you can’t deal with it until you have admitted it. I had a bad relationship with food. I’m an emotional eater.”

Within six months her weight had dropped to nine stone and she says she found it easy to maintain, but then she decided to move back to London.

“It was tough. I was filming in Yorkshire and then driving down the M1 to be with my sons and then driving back again. I would have moved to Yorkshire, I loved it so much, but both of my boys were at school in London and it just didn’t seem right to move them.

“But there were so many of their things that I just couldn’t get to. And then James was about to turn 18 and I realised that time had gone so quickly. I have to grab what I can.”

She joined the cast of Holby City which is filmed in the capital. But the long, irregular hours played havoc with her weight which once again ballooned.

“I made some bad choices when it came to food, especially snacking,” Kensit admits. “In Holby I wore scrubs most of the time which were like working in pyjamas. But I kept having to get bigger and bigger scrubs. I never weighed myself. I used to say that I knew my weight by how tight my clothes were – but if I was honest they were too tight.”

But one day she had to film a scene outside the hospital in civvies.

“I knew this poor girl from wardrobe was going to have to bring up the weight issue and so I beat her too it. I said I know I have put on weight and we are just going to have to deal with it. Luke Roberts, who played my husband on the show, just gave me a big hug. It was very emotional. It is hard for people who haven’t been through it to understand.”

Patsy then took the brave decision to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, baring a lot more than she did in her Holby scrubs.

“It was one of the best things I have done. I lost loads of weight, you just don’t realise how much exercise you doing because you are learning new stuff all the time. I lasted nine weeks, amazingly, and then I did the tour.”

But once she stopped the weight piled back on. Then, out of the blue, her agent rang saying Weight Watchers wanted to talk to her about a possible collaboration.

After realising that her weight had crept up to 10 and a half stone, Patsy jumped at the chance of going back on the diet plan and then becoming the face of Weight Watchers.

She rejoined Weight Watchers, this time going to classes in London.

As a result she has hit her target of 9st 2lb and as well as the TV and press ads, Patsy now travels the country extolling the virtues of Weight Watchers and sharing her story with classes up and down the country.

“I feel very protective of the people I meet, both men and women. I know what they have gone through and what that can do to your confidence.

“I am happy with the way I look now, 
but I can never say that I won’t put on weight again, you never know what life throws at you. But for the moment I am comfortable with the way I look.”