Celebrity interview: Melinda Messenger

ALL SMILES NOW: Mel's battled back from depression and divorce.
ALL SMILES NOW: Mel's battled back from depression and divorce.
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TV presenter and former glamour model Melinda Messenger talks about her joy in being a mum of three, her battle with depression, and how she wants to help other people with similar problems.

Melinda Messenger’s still undeniable glamorous, with her mane of blonde hair, megawatt smile and the curvy figure that first brought her to fame.

She became a household name in 1997 when she appeared in a double-glazing advertisement dressed only in lacy white knickers and a bra.

It led to her becoming one of the most famous Page Three stars in The Sun.

Since then she’s had an enduring career as a television presenter - for the last five years on Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders and Cowboy Traders.

She smiles at the mention of her former days as a glamour model, and says: “Well, it all seems a lifetime ago, and it was the smallest part of my career, but oddly it had great impact and kick-started everything for me.

“I was only 27 and very naive. I don’t regret it but it’s nothing to do with the person I am now.”

Nowadays, Messenger is training to be a psychotherapist, as well as juggling her TV career with her responsibilities as a single parent to three children.

Talking in her home near Reading, Berkshire, the 41-year-old says: “I feel I’ve had three lifetimes’ worth of experiences already, and they’ve all enriched me, although some of them have been tough.

“But I’m a fighter and I never give up.”

Last November Messenger and her husband, Wayne Roberts, announced their separation after 14 years of marriage. They have three children, Morgan, 12, Flynn, 10, and Evie, eight.

She clearly wants to shield them, saying: “You have these ideas that relationships should last forever and in an ideal world, wouldn’t that be lovely? But the reality is that they last for as long as they’re meant to last. Wayne and I had 18 years together and I think we were very lucky to have that.

“Our break-up was more about growing apart than anything else. Now we have a really good friendship, he’s totally supportive and involved with the children and it’s working fine.”

All the children attend a Steiner Waldorf school, where formal academic education doesn’t begin until the age of seven.

It was reported that the school choice - which meant moving from their home in Swindon - had been partially responsible for an initial rift between the couple. They had a trial separation in 2008.

“That’s not true at all. It was my choice and although Wayne wasn’t sure initially about the schooling, now he thinks it’s fantastic.

“It’s a caring, creative environment and the children have been there 10 years and love it.

“I’m just not the sort of driven parent who wants them to have masses of exam passes, speak loads of languages and do endless after-school activities.

“I just want them to be stable, rounded, contented people who know themselves, that’s what counts.”

It’s a fervent desire that may, in part, stem from her own childhood. Messenger’s parents divorced when she was five years old and her father suffered from periods of severe depression.

“Your childhood shapes who you become and, of course, there are positives and negatives to that,” she says.

“There were difficult times when I was growing up but I believe I’ve gained from those and realised that life’s not always easy, not always straightforward.”

It has proved to be far from that for Messenger, who’s suffered her own bouts of depression.

“I had post-natal depression after having Flynn and then suffered with it much more severely after Evie.

“Like most people, I’d always suffered from low moods on occasion but they took a turn for the worse after that,” she says.

“There’s often a misconception that if you have a fantastic job, then you have no reason to be depressed.

“Often, however, the more successful someone is, the more prone they are to depression, with increased pressure and expectations placed upon them, and usually less time to themselves.

“Also, with success, there’s a realisation that material objects, money or a lovely home won’t determine or improve your health or wellbeing.”

She has never used antidepressants, preferring instead to use therapy and a natural remedy, KarmaMood Maximum Strength St John’s Wort. It’s used to relieve symptoms of low mood and mild anxiety.

“Over the years, I’ve been to the darkest places of my soul, but thankfully that’s behind me now.

“I’m very well and if I start to feel low, I know what strategies to put in place, such as taking St John’s Wort, exercise, yoga and getting outdoors.

“They’re simple steps but they can either nip those low moods in the bud quickly or alleviate them.

“Personally, I’ve never wanted to take anti-depressants because I think they can end up being nothing more than a sticking plaster which can only numb the issue rather than solve it.”

She calls her depression a life-changing gift and she is currently training to be a psychotherapist so she can help others.

“My depression was like a beautiful gift inside a thorny box. Getting into the box tore me to shreds but inside was a gift that I would never give up - it helped me to find me and discover what is real and what isn’t,” she says.

“I feel very frustrated when people are made to feel somehow less than everyone else if they suffer mental illness. I think there are amazing opportunities for growth and transformation during those processes, even though at the time they can be extremely painful and difficult.

“My experiences have certainly helped me relate and feel empathy with those who are suffering difficulties.””

Despite being in showbusiness, she states firmly that she has no problem with ageing.

“For me, turning 40 felt like an amazing milestone. Self-knowledge, wisdom and experience enriches you as you get older. Beauty is about more than youth,” she says.

“Once I’m away from the camera, glamour isn’t on my radar. I don’t care what I look like at home. I just pull on whatever clothes come to hand and don’t even bother with make-up. Appearance isn’t important - it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Reflecting on her breast enhancement carried out when she was 24 years old, she says: “At the time, it had a positive impact on my self-esteem and I don’t regret it.

“My implants will need replacing at some point but I won’t have them reduced. They’re part of me now.”

Her life is busy and fulfilled with her career and motherhood, and she says: “Balancing the two is tricky but so worth it.

“I wanted to be a mother from the age of eight and the children are at the heart of my life.”

In her characteristic self-deprecating style, Messenger adds: “I never thought my career would last as long as this.

“It’s been a massive surprise to me but one for which I’m truly grateful.

“I feel blessed that I can look forward to my life constantly changing, new opportunities, and guiding my kids into adulthood.”

PARTNERSHIP: Rob Cowling and Paddy Sturman of Irwin Mitchell with Robin Hawkes of West Yorkshire Playhouse. Photo: Anthony Robling.

Five-year sponsorship deal for Leeds’s £14m West Yorksire Playhouse redevelopment