When OK! catches up with Denise Van Outen she is on a high, having just finished touring the UK as a judge with The Masked Singer Live.
“It was so much fun that I’ve kind of got the post-tour blues now,” says the actress and presenter, who appeared as Fox on the ITV singing contest in 2020. “I was on a tour bus with Joel [Dommett] and Aston [Merrygold] and we just had a such a lovely time hanging out.”
The tour was won by former EastEnders actress Jacqueline Jossa, who Denise says she can “100%” see being a huge star on the West End. “She was so good, her voice is incredible!” she says.
And with Denise having a ball on the tour, we have to ask if she’s eyeing up a spot on the judging panel? Surely she’d be a shoo-in after the tour’s success?
“I don’t know about that,” she laughs. “But if they asked, I’d do it. The tour will be happening again next year, so I’m hoping we’ll all get invited back!”
The rest of this year is also set to be busy for Denise. With the tour now wrapped up, the 47-year-old has turned her attention back to filming for Steph’s Packed Lunch. She is a presenter and panellist on the Channel 4 show, which is nominated in the daytime TV category at this weekend’s BAFTAs.
“I love it,” she says. “Me and Russell Kane are both from Essex and we’re like the naughty school kids. We’ve got Steph’s 40th soon, so I’ll be rocking up to her party with a case of Lambrini! It’s going to be a big one.”
Denise has also been working on her own music and she’s DJing at a number of festivals this summer. But she also tells us her next goal is to land a role in a play.
“I’ve done so much musical theatre but I’ve never done a straight play,” she says. “I’ve thrown it out there, so let’s see what happens. I feel excited about the work I have coming up. I feel really good.”
This year has been a fresh start for the star after a heartbreaking end to 2021. Denise called things off with fiancé Eddie Boxshall after discovering messages and pictures from other women on his iPad in November.
Denise, who is mum to Betsy, 11, writes in her new autobiography A Bit Of Me: From Basildon To Broadway And Back that she asked herself whether or not she could brush Eddie’s actions under the carpet.
But she says, “I’ve got too much self-respect and I just can’t live like that. I felt like, in a few selfish moments, he’d ruined it. I couldn’t imagine it ever feeling the same.”
However, Denise tells us that while opening up about her experiences was tough, the process was also useful.
“It was an opportunity to be very open about certain things and it’s cathartic when you do something like that. Some of it is difficult to talk about but I think that after writing it and now it’s out there, I feel better,” she explains.
And she admits that reflecting on things has not only made her appreciate her career more but realise how much better equipped she is to deal with heartbreak now.
“It gave me an opportunity to really appreciate some of the things that I’ve done,” she says. “When I went to New York to do Chicago on Broadway and I’d only just split up with [Jamiroquai singer] Jay [Kay], my memories of that are that I was still really quite heartbroken.
"When you’re in the middle of a heartbreak you don’t really see anything but that. But now, when I look back, I go, ‘Wow, that was an incredible thing to do.’
“I believe everything happens for a reason, so I don’t really have any regrets at all. It just shapes you for the next part of your life.
“If anything, I wish I’d known how to get myself out of heartbreak a little bit more. It’s a horrible thing to be stuck in it, and I think when I was younger I didn’t do the right things.
“Now I know you have to do self-care and keep your diary busy but I was only young, so I moped around far too long. Now, I handle things totally differently.”
And it wasn’t just Denise who was hit hard by her split from Eddie – it was a blow for Betsy, too.
So much so that Denise says the “worst part” of the break-up was sharing the news with her daughter, who she shares with ex-husband Lee Mead. “It tore me apart watching her cry while I tried to make her understand,” says the TOWIE narrator.
But exciting times are ahead for Betsy now, who has dyslexia and dyspraxia, as she starts secondary school in September.
“She’s ready now but she wasn’t before. I held her back for a year because of the whole lockdown situation,” explains Denise.
“Her and a couple of the other kids couldn’t do the online learning because they couldn’t have the intervention as she’d have extra help in class.
“She was confused as to what work she was doing. She missed out on a lot of schooling and I spoke to her about it and we both agreed it was best for her to sit back. It’s helped her catch up and luckily her school was understanding, as it’s a difficult thing to manage.”
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Denise has successfully co-parented with actor Lee ever since their divorce in 2013 and she says it’s something they’re both proud of as parents.
“It’s really nice and really good for Betsy,” she says. “Because we’re in the same industry, he knows if i’m busy so he will have her, and vice versa. We work it between us.”
And on the rare occasion Denise ever does get some free time, how does she like to spend it?
“I love a kitchen disco and having the girls over with some food and drinks. I’ve teamed up with Lambrini and it’s the prefect partnership as I’ve got a chapter in my book called I Was Always A Lambrini Girl.
“It’s always been my drink of choice and I’m all about ‘Bringing the Brini’. The brand is all about having a good time, dancing and parties with friends – and that’s what I’m all about.”
Denise Van Outen is the face of Lambrini’s new Bring the Brini campaign. For all the latest showbiz stories, sign up for OK! 's daily newsletter here.
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