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Sometimes it can feel like a tsunami of bad luck and tough challenges is threatening to engulf you – that’s the reality Coleen Nolan has lived through this past year.
The Loose Women star and mum-of-three has experienced relationship issues, empty-nest syndrome, a cancer scare and the prospect of losing another sister to the disease. To say it’s been a trying time is an understatement.
As we sit down for a catch-up, the emotional turmoil is visibly etched on her face. “Empty nest is a real thing… who knew?” she tells OK!, referring to her three children Shane Jr, 34, Jake 31, and 22-year-old Ciara who are finally all moving out. It follows her eldest “boomerang” son returning to the family home after initially leaving years before.
“When the children were younger I thought I’d be thrilled when they became independent – but it’s the opposite. I’ve been feeling so redundant, like I don’t have a purpose any more.”
But as a born fighter who clearly has reserves of determination by the bucket load she adds, “I’ve realised, as their mum, they’ll always need me one way or another. Now is the time to concentrate on me. It’s like a new lease of life – I’ve so much I still want to do.
“It’s been scary at times but I’ve turned that into excitement. I’m more confident to take control of my future now – success or fail – and that’s a liberating feeling.”
In July, Coleen’s inner strength was put to the test again when she shared the worrying news that she’s the fourth of her sisters to be diagnosed with cancer. Anne is currently in remission, but Bernie died in 2013 of the disease and Linda’s cancer has now spread to her brain. Coleen was shocked to discover she herself has basal cell carcinoma, a common but treatable form of skin cancer.
“It was very scary finding out I have a precancerous skin melanoma, and also learning that my sister Linda’s cancer had spread to her brain. It puts everything into perspective and makes you realise how fragile life can be. Now I try to live each day like it’s my last and stop sweating the small stuff.”
On the romance front, it’s been a rocky road for her and partner Michael Jones. The couple met on Tinder in 2021 after she and her Loose Women co-star Brenda Edwards both joined the dating app. After a year the relationship began to “fizzle out” and they split in 2022.
Coleen’s children were understandably concerned for their mum. “The first year I was with Michael, they weren’t sure because, one minute I was all about him and the next I was saying I finished it, so they were confused,” she admits.
“They were super-protective of me so they didn’t want me to go back on the dating scene and jump, because they’ve seen me go through things before.”
In the aftermath of the break-up, her children convinced her to go to therapy, where she finally learned to love and accept herself. It was during these sessions that Coleen realised she missed Michael and, after reaching out to him, the pair revived their romance earlier this year.
“Michael kind of lives with me now,” reveals the Cheshire-based star, adding that a new house together is on the cards next year. “I’m staying in the same area, but I’m going to downsize because all of my kids have gone – Ciara, my youngest, is going travelling in January.”
She’s adamant that her kids’ opinions are important, having declared during a Loose Women discussion about reality dating show My Mum, Your Dad, that she would, “never, ever, ever pick a man over my children”.
However, since reuniting with Michael, their relationship has gone from strength to strength. “We always got on,” confirms Coleen. “But now I’m very different and Michael feels more secure, the kids get on great with him. They’re really supportive now, so it’s nice.
"If someone had told me three years ago that I’d find love again I would have laughed hysterically! But I feel so lucky now that it’s happened. It feels wonderful to be forging ahead with someone I love by my side. And if it doesn’t work out at some point then I know I can be alone too and still survive.”
As a self-confessed “homebird” it’s no surprise that Coleen’s favourite place is “sitting at home watching TV”. But to hear that she’s uncomfortable with the notion of “fame” is quite an eye-opener.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity, I can’t fake it, I try, I really try, and especially on the TV,” she insists. But it’s Coleen’s down-to-earth nature and honesty that has endeared her to Loose Women fans since she joined in 2000. In fact, the camaraderie between the panellists is key to the show’s success.
“Ruth [Langsford] and me are really close, and we really connect,” Coleen explains. “So do me and Christine [Lampard]. I get on well with all of them – Jane [Moore], Brenda [Edwards] and Janet [Street-Porter].”
She adds, “Janet is a pain in the a**e, but I just love her. She is actually a grumpy cow, but she doesn’t try to hide it.”
Over the years Coleen’s been a popular contestant on reality shows too, including Dancing On Ice and The Real Full Monty. She was a runner-up on the celebrity version of Big Brother in 2012, re-entering the house five years later to take the crown.
With a new BB series on air, Coleen is hooked. “I get the shudders when they do all the tasks. I know what they’re going through, and what they’re feeling,” she explains. “Physically it’s fine, but mentally it’s traumatic.”
But there’s one show in particular that has a surprising effect on her.
“When I hear the music for Dancing On Ice – I still get nervous, and feel sick,” she admits, recalling her stint in 2009 in which she and professional partner Stuart Widdall came fourth. “Even if you’ve enjoyed it, you remember the nerves and the adrenaline it just gives you that feeling again.”
So what does she think makes her such a hit with viewers?
“I don’t know,” she smiles. “You’d have to ask them! I think no matter how long I’ve been there, or how long I’ve been standing on a red carpet – I don’t feel any different to the women sitting at home.”
Coleen Nolan’s solo tour Naked starts in February, visit coleentour.com for tickets
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