Fearne Cotton reveals how she unravelled in a moving new book

Fearne Cotton reveals how she unravelled in a moving new book that explores how pretending to be a ‘shinier’ version of ourselves can be damaging

  • Fearne Cotton was just 15 when she first began working for Disney Club in 1996
  • British presenter has spoken about her experience of pretending to be bubbly 
  • She explores how the behaviour can make us sadder and lonelier in a new book

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH  

by Fearne Cotton (Orion £16.99, 256 pp)

As ‘a young, blonde girl from kids’ TV’, Fearne Cotton grew used to bosses and critics assuming she was ‘vapid’.

She was just 15 when she first began working for Disney Club on GMTV in 1996. Ambitious but anxious, the working-class child from suburbia was so thrilled at the prospect of fame, she didn’t question the role she was to play.

Even after she started presenting Top Of The Pops, comedy panel show Celebrity Juice and a Radio 1 mid-morning show, she says she was ‘bullied, overpowered and manipulated’ to be louder, sparklier and more superficial.

Fearne Cotton (pictured) explores how pretending to be a shinier and less honest version of ourselves can make us sadder and lonelier in a new book

Cotton, right, would then lie awake racked with self-doubt. Viewers ripped into the ‘easy target’ she’d become. Her lowest point came when taking part in a televised bungee jump and a journalist wrote that he wished the cord had snapped and killed her. But, in her 30s, Cotton realised it was more important to be herself than try to be popular. Pregnant with her second child by musician husband Jesse (son of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood), she quit Radio 1 and Celebrity Juice.

Since then, she’s spoken out about the depression she experienced while pretending to be bubbly for the cameras. She realised she was happier at home than out in high heels (necking Jack Daniels) and launched a podcast called Happy Place, then wrote a trio of self-help books: Happy, Calm and Quiet.

But the combination of lockdown and a cyst on her vocal cords forced her to be quieter than ever before. After surgery, she was told not to speak for two weeks and spent the time writing this book about the importance of ‘speaking your truth’.

She uses her own experience to explore how we can all end up pretending to be shinier — but less honest — versions of ourselves. And how, in that exhausting effort, we can end up sadder and lonelier.

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH by Fearne Cotton (Orion £16.99, 256 pp)

Being British, she says, often means saying we’re ‘fine’ when we’re not, then wondering why no one cares about the problems we conceal. It means attending parties we hate, or offering to do work we can’t fit in. Which leads to last-minute excuses, lies, disappointment, resentment, passive aggression, guilt and self-medicating.

‘Speaking the truth does not always make for a peaceful life,’ she warns. ‘You will 100 per cent p**s people off.’ She learned this the hard way when trying to text a friend about how she couldn’t face throwing any more huge children’s parties, but accidentally sent the message to all her children’s friends’ parents on WhatsApp.

Although she was mortified, her husband pointed out it would chime with many of those who’d received it. Those who disliked her for that were not people she would count as true friends anyway.

Cotton reflects on how different her TV career might have been if she had offered her opinion more often instead of being such a people-pleaser. She also realises that — although she is sad and angry about the times she was sacked — she is more comfortable out of the limelight.

There is, of course, nothing new about any of this. But her timing is great. Whatever our circumstances, lockdown is forcing us to confront our starkest realities. However we feel, Cotton says we’ll feel better if we: ‘’fess up, speak up, dish up!’

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