Louise Redknapp: 'I ticked all the boxes of being the picture-perfect wife - I felt lonely, anxious and unimportant'

Louise Redknapp speaks from the heart in her new book, 'You've Got This'
Louise Redknapp: 'I ticked all the boxes of being the picture-perfect wife - I felt lonely, anxious and unimportant'

Louise Redknapp on splitting from her husband:  “I never once looked behind, until maybe too late. I should have paused for a minute and thought about other people and had just a bit more time to work out why I felt I couldn’t do it any more.” 

Louise Redknapp has packed a lot into the past three decades. A member of the first female British pop group to sell over a million records while still in her teens, she went on to become a platinum selling solo performer, model, TV presenter, finalist on Strictly, West End musical star, and back when such ideas existed, FHM magazine’s Sexiest Woman In The World in 1998. Ever since winning a scholarship to the Italia Conti school of theatre arts aged 11, Louise has been busy, busy, busy. Until, that is, she disappeared into her marriage.

Now 46, she’s just published a book, You’ve Got This: And Other Things I Wish I Had Known, which is part memoir / part self-help. It is emphatically not a tell-all; it contains nothing salacious, gossipy, or revealing, either from the pop world, or the football world into which she married (just don’t call her a WAG – she finds the term demeaning).

There are no take-downs of her ex husband of 19 years, the retired footballer Jamie Redknapp, now a Sky Sports pundit, with whom she has two sons. There are no take-downs of anyone; this is not Katie Price territory. Instead, the book’s blurb says it’s about “falling back in love with yourself, managing expectations, overcoming critics, dealing with social media and trusting your instincts as a parent.” “One of my favourite books is Oprah Winfrey’s What I Know For Sure,” she says. “I knew I didn’t want to write a tell-all, but I had something to say, and the structure of the book meant I could open up and be honest about what I wish I had and hadn’t done.” 

What seems to have happened is this: Louise lost her mojo, going from selling out Wembley Stadium to being a stay at home mum. It wasn’t planned. She’d wanted “time out to build and invest in the family”, she says, but as time passed, and the pop industry carried on without her, “I lost my confidence. In my industry, you have to fight for what you want and believe in yourself because there are so many people who want the same thing. The more I didn’t do it, the more I felt left behind. Taking such a long break wasn’t planned.” 

She writes, “For a long time, I ticked all the boxes of being the ‘picture-perfect’ wife. I smiled and said the right things at the right times and tried very hard to maintain that image and make everyone else happy ... For a lot of that time, I actually felt lonely, anxious and unimportant.” 

 Louise Redknapp: "In my industry, you have to fight for what you want and believe in yourself because there are so many people who want the same thing. The more I didn’t do it, the more I felt left behind."
 Louise Redknapp: "In my industry, you have to fight for what you want and believe in yourself because there are so many people who want the same thing. The more I didn’t do it, the more I felt left behind."

When her then husband got a job as a Sky Sports presenter, it heightened her sense of loss of self: “Standing by and watching Jamie become an entertainment star was hard … there was a little niggling part of me that said, that’s my world.” She says how she had turned into a Stepford Wife.

She’d turned down various television jobs, including Strictly, always citing family commitments and an innate perfectionism around parenting – although she says that she is not a perfectionist, her entire life seems driven by it, alongside harsh self-judgement – but in 2016, she finally said yes to Strictly. She says it felt like the most selfish thing she’d ever done, citing what she terms “mum guilt.” I ask her why “dad guilt” isn’t a thing, and she laughs. But by 2016, her sons Charley and Beau were 12 and 8, and she went for it; Strictly rebooted her.

“It made me realise I’m good at what I do,” she says. “It gave me back my self-confidence and self-belief, and made me feel like I used to, back in the day. Performing and being on stage is all I know, it’s all I’ve ever done. I liked myself again, I had a sense of purpose again.” Louise Nurding was born in Lewisham, south London, in 1974 to a single parent. She and her mum have always been close; her mum currently lives with her. While studying performance at Italia Conti, Louise was spotted, aged 15, while clubbing in central London, and became part of the multi-platinum selling group Eternal in 1992. 

“Being in Eternal was amazing,” she says. “But being that successful meant travelling a lot and being quite homesick.” She says she is a “big softie”. “Imagine being 18 and having every hour mapped out months in advance.” Although she doesn’t say anything overtly negative, clearly there was friction with her bandmates. In the end, she quit.

On one last tour with the band supporting Take That, Robbie Williams introduced her to a friend of his, a young footballer called Jamie. Louise had no idea who he was. They married quietly in Bermuda and were together for 19 years, until Louise ended it after her stint on Strictly, confirming on a chat show in 2017 that it was all over with Jamie. Yet in the book she sounds regretful, as though she had acted in haste, rather than articulating her wants and needs.

“Before anyone could stop me, I just ran, as fast as the wind would take me,” she writes. “I never once looked behind, until maybe too late. I should have paused for a minute and thought about other people and had just a bit more time to work out why I felt I couldn’t do it any more.” 

Louise Redknapp: “I want to say to anybody who is thinking of running: ‘Just slow down. Don’t run.’ Because once you run too fast, you can’t make up the ground you’ve lost. Stop, say what you need, say what you think, don’t be afraid to say what’s really going on. You don’t have to be quiet.”
Louise Redknapp: “I want to say to anybody who is thinking of running: ‘Just slow down. Don’t run.’ Because once you run too fast, you can’t make up the ground you’ve lost. Stop, say what you need, say what you think, don’t be afraid to say what’s really going on. You don’t have to be quiet.”

She says that in terms of saving her marriage, she wishes she had tried. “I want to say to anybody who is thinking of running: ‘Just slow down. Don’t run.’ Because once you run too fast, you can’t make up the ground you’ve lost. Stop, say what you need, say what you think, don’t be afraid to say what’s really going on. You don’t have to be quiet.”

 In person, Louise Redknapp – she kept his surname, because of another strain of ‘mum guilt’, although says she may have to reconsider should her ex remarry – comes across as a thoroughly decent individual, with slightly old fashioned values. She has no interest in slagging anyone off, and praises her ex for being a generous person and an excellent co-parent.

Yet despite the people-pleasing and perfectionism – the part of her book where she makes a documentary in 2007 called The Truth About Size Zero, where she starves and over exercises for a television show is borderline disturbing – Louise obviously possesses drive and ambition. Not ready to fade away, she relaunched herself personally and professionally after Strictly, releasing a new album last year.

“My whole life had been turned upside down,” she says. “So I just wanted to carry on moving forward.” Of her divorce, she says how she “took all the bullets”. She had “never expected so much judgement. People had a much harsher view of me as a woman – it was quite a tough time. People felt it was ok to ask me personal stuff, but not Jamie. All I wanted was a bit of equal respect.” 

She was ostracised from the world she’d inhabited with her ex-husband, no longer invited to coupley parties after her divorce (she namechecks TV presenter Jimmy Carr and his wife as being the only ones to still include her). Nor has she repartnered. Not yet anyway.

“It’d be lovely to meet someone,” she says. “But I’m too scared to do online dating.” She pauses, before getting herself back on message: “Right now I have two jobs to do – look after my boys, and make up for lost time musically.”

YOU’VE GOT THIS AND OTHER THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN by LOUISE REDKNAPP published by Little, Brown Book Group

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