Abbey Clancy tells Gabrielle Fagan how her sometimes turbulent marriage to footballer Peter Crouch survived the storms.
Abbey Clancy certainly has many things to celebrate these days - she’s barely been out of the limelight since she won Strictly Come Dancing - and she’s enjoying a personal contentment that at one stage she barely dared hope for.
The willowy blonde, 28-year-old model and TV presenter and her husband, footballer Peter Crouch, seem to have come through the storms that almost destroyed their relationship and are now in a good place as they approach their third wedding anniversary in June.
“The first time I saw Pete, I knew he was the one for me and I still feel like that,” Abbey insists adoringly.
It’s not been easy to get to this point, and their love for each other has been tested many times with problems in their relationship being humiliatingly played out under the full glare of the public spotlight. In the early days of their romance in 2006, it was rumoured he had dumped her over stories she’d cheated on him with an ex-boyfriend. But all seemed well when he proposed in 2009.
In 2010 though, when she was pregnant with their first child, she was traumatized by the allegation, strongly denied by Peter, that he’d slept with a prostitute. She recently described that time as “horrendous... for any woman who is pregnant or had a baby, it’s tough”.
They married in 2011 three months after their daughter, Sophia, now three, was born and, she says, their partnership is stronger than ever.
“Pete’s an incredible person, a great dad, and my best mate. I’m so proud of him,” she says, as she reveals he’s not taking any chances with their hard-won happiness and works hard to keep the passion in their relationship very much alive.
“He regularly whisks me off to do nice things. He says, ‘Come on, we’re going out, just the two of us’ and takes me for a meal or a spa day. He knows it’s important when you’re looking after a child, that you still do special things together.”
Down-to-earth Abbey was raised in one of the toughest areas of Liverpool and left school at 16 determined to follow her dream of a showbusiness career, before becoming a runner-up in Britain’s Next Top Model. She was recently dropped as the face of Ultimo bras because she stripped naked to promote Scholl & Veet’s Dare to Bare campaign. She says her own personal philosophy gets her through the rocky times.
“I found it’s best not to care about what other people think, what matters is your family and your friends, the people who know you. I don’t live my life for other people and I’ve never tried to be something I’m not. I’ve even heard it suggested that I went on Strictly to prove I was a nice person in real life! But why would I do that? Anyway, there’s no ‘different’ side to me, I’m always just like I am.”
Her domestic harmony with Peter - they both love being hands-on parents and have chosen not to have a nanny - is even more proof that although during the first year of marriage they had “terrible fights”, they’ve now both come to accept “nobody’s perfect, we all have our faults, our ups and downs”.
They drew even closer when Peter, 33, a former England star, proved his devotion as a father by looking after their daughter during the four months while his wife took part in Strictly.
Yet before she had their first child, she admits she had doubts about how he would take to fatherhood: “I’m so surprised at what a great dad Pete is - I was a bit worried about him handling it as he’s not come from a big family like me. But even though Pete’s never really been around babies before, he’s taken it like a duck to water and absolutely adores Sophia,” she says.
“I’m like the mum who makes the rules and Pete’s the fun one who takes her to the park, plays great games and splashes about with her at bathtime.”
Without his support, she says, it would have been impossible for her to win the competition in December where she impressed with her charismatic, positive personality as much as dancing talent.
“Pete’s support for me during that time was amazing. It was hard juggling the competition with looking after the baby - I thought I’d be voted out in a couple of weeks - but when it went on, Pete stepped in and coped with help from his mum and mine. “He picked Sophia up from nursery after football, got her dinner if I was going to be late home, and never complained, he just got on with it,” says Abbey.
“Being on the show was one of the happiest periods of my life and Pete enjoyed watching me so much. He was jealous though, he loves to dance and we often have a twirl around the living room. If they could find him a 6ft 7in dance partner, it would be perfect!”
While she’s never been content simply to be a WAG housewife and is keen to “stay independent and earn my own money”, there’s no question about her favourite job.
“Becoming a mum’s my biggest achievement and I’ve loved every second of it. Every day it gets better. Sophia’s so clever it’s beyond belief, she knows all her letters and the whole Arctic Monkeys album word for word. She’s definitely a character,” she boasts.
“We both want lots more children, I think soon. Pete’s very family-orientated but he’s surrounded by women most of the time at home, so he needs a boy now otherwise he’ll turn into a girl!”
Abbey Clancy is the face of the Scholl & Veet’s Dare to Bare campaign encouraging women to show off their bare legs and feet with confidence .