Louise Redknapp found fame in the Nineties with girl band, Eternal and is back in the spotlight competing on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. She tells Gabrielle Fagan that, although she’d like to turn the clock back to her youth, she’s vowed to keep herself under wraps during the series
She’s tipped as one of the favourites to win Strictly Come Dancing, but already Louise Redknapp’s revealed she’s following her own rules when it comes to the competition.
Appearing on the show for the first time - when the competitors were paired with their professional dance partners - the 41-year-old wore a midi-length dress which was only slightly revealing at the back.
The show’s renowned for its trademark skimpy attire and her outfit was a complete contrast to the figure-hugging, show-stopping numbers worn by her rivals, including Laura Whitmore, Daisy Lowe, and gymnast Claudia Fragapane.
It’s all because of plea by her 12-year-old son, Charley who, before she joined the series, said: “Mum, please don’t embarrass me.” She also wants to respect the feelings of her husband of 19 years, former England footballer and TV pundit husband, Jamie, 42 and their other son, Beau, eight.
“I’m the boring one, I know that! But I still have to carry on with the school run on a Monday after the show - I’m just a normal mum - and I need to feel comfortable and myself,” declares Redknapp, who first found fame in the Nineties as a singer in girl band, Eternal and was once voted the world’s sexiest woman by lads mag, FHM.
“With the dresses, I think you’ve got to take your age into consideration, and the feelings of your family. I’m not a glittery, dressy person and I never even liked all that shimmer when I was in Eternal. And at the end of the day, being in this isn’t just about me.”
Although she’s successfully forged a career as a television presenter on the likes of Farmer Wants A Wife and Something For the Weekend, and was a judge on the UK version of So You Think You Can Dance, she’s been wary of returning fully to the spotlight, which will be an inevitable consequence of being on Strictly.
“I love the programme and have been linked to it a couple of times in the past, but I’ve never thought of doing it because I’ve always been extremely nervous about the prospect,” she admits.
“This time for me it was now or never really. In life, everything’s about timing. I couldn’t have done it before because when the kids were little, they were such a huge part of my life and I had to be at home for them. They came first. Now they’re older, their school days are longer, and it felt like just the right time.”
Her parental devotion is perhaps heightened because she feared at one stage she would never have children. Redknapp suffered from endometriosis, a disease where tissue which behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside it, and can cause infertility.
She and her husband, who married in 1998, spent years trying for a baby and finally had their first son in 2004, followed a few years later by Beau. They faced anguish shortly after his birth when he was hospitalised with suspected meningitis.
“Family life’s everything to me. Jamie’s definitely not worried about my being on Strictly. After 19 years of marriage, he knows me and knows I’ll go into this with the right approach and will only do what I’m comfortable with,” she says, referring to the so-called ‘Curse of Strictly’.
A parade of celebrities have found romance with their professional dance partners, often at the cost of their relationships outside the show, including rugby player Ben Cohen who split from his wife and now has a baby with dancer Kristina Rihanoff, and TV’s Countdown star, Rachel Riley, who left her husband for dancer Pasha Kovalev.
Rednapp’s only focus is turning the clock back to her youth. She was just 16, and a former pupil of the renowned Italia Conti theatre school, when she joined Eternal and toured the world achieving chart success. A solo career followed, with platinum-selling albums including Naked and Elbow Beach.
“I hope Strictly will take me back in a way to the feeling of those amazing days with Eternal. I think deep down that’s why I’m doing it. Being part of the band and part of the music industry was about doing what I love to do - perform. When you finish music, that disappears and you don’t ever get that opportunity again. This is the nearest I’ll get to going out on stage and having just one little last crack at enjoying that,” she says.
“Also, when I was in the band, I was very young and homesick a lot of the time and it was punishingly hard work. So this time around, I just want to try and enjoy the show and make the most of my time out there.”
She dismisses any suggestion her past dance training and career gives her an advantage and hoots with laughter as she says: “In Eternal videos most of the time I was doing running-man moves! I don’t even know the names of half of the dances we’re going to be asked to do and, frankly, I’m expecting plenty of criticism. I’ll take it on the chin and try to do better next time. I hope to stay as long as I can and then get back home for normality again.”
While she paints a picture of domestic bliss, there’s one issue which, she reveals, does cause family tension - when Jamie and the boys are glued to their mobiles at the meal table.
“I’ve just banned mobiles from the table and tried a great ‘pepper hacker’ gadget to block a technology signal,” says Redknapp, who’s fronting Dolmio’s tech-free meals campaign. “I’m threatening to take it on date nights with Jamie as he’s always checking sport results! While I’m away I think they may slip back to their bad old ways, but I’ll be back regularly to sort them out and distract them from their screens with my new dance moves.”
:: Louise Redknapp’s launched Dolmio’s campaign for tech-free meal tables and tested Pepper Hacker, a gadget that blocks out technology at the table. To see Louise trial it at home visit vimeo.com/181509584. For more information visit www.dolmio.co.uk