Why I’m sharing my house with TWO men: Denise Van Outen, 47, reveals one surprising benefit of daring to take on Dancing On Ice (despite dislocating her shoulder twice in two days)
Denise Van Outen — presenter, actor, star of the West End, general all-round showgirl — signed up for Dancing On Ice to prove a point: that age (and lack of any skating ability whatsoever) should not be a barrier to releasing her inner Jayne Torvill.
She can (sort of) laugh about it today. ‘Isn’t it typical,’ she says, wincing as she moves.
‘I wanted to do the show to show my daughter, Betsy, who is ten, that we shouldn’t be held back by things we are afraid of.
‘I’ve always had a fear of the ice. I’d never skated, and on the two occasions I’d taken Betsy to an ice rink, I’d let her go on with my partner, Eddie, or a friend.
‘When I was offered Dancing On Ice, I thought “I’m going to do this” because I want to set an example to her. Seize the day! You are never too old to try something new, even if it scares you.’
More laughing, followed by wincing. ‘I was trying to do a positive thing. Now look.’
Denise Van Outen says age should not be a barrier to releasing her inner Jayne Torvill
It is rather awful. Today, she was determined to get out of gym gear and into proper clothes (‘for the first time in for ever’) for our Zoom interview, but confesses she couldn’t put her jeans on without assistance from Eddie and Betsy. Suddenly, she’s feeling frail rather than fearless.
Why? Just days before she was due to make her Dancing On Ice debut, after two months of training, Denise stumbled and crashed to the ice with her professional partner, Matt Evers, landing on top of her. She ended up in A&E with a dislocated shoulder.
‘I was taking a corner too fast and just went down, taking Matt with me. We kind of did the Bolero — you know that bit at the end, where they lie next to each other on the ice — but unintentionally.’
Dancing On Ice has always been one of our more dangerous reality TV shows. Celebs are always coming a-cropper on the ice.
Last year, comedian Michael Barrymore had to bow out with a broken wrist, while TV presenter Joe Swash was rushed to hospital when his professional partner sliced his ear with her blade. Actress Jennifer Ellison went one better and managed to slice her head open with her own blade.
Presenter Denise Van Outen ended up in A&E with a dislocated shoulder ahead of her Dancing on Ice debut with professional partner Matt Evers
Denise may have trumped them all, however, having suffered the same injury twice.
On Saturday — the day after her first catastrophic fall, and the day before her TV debut — she put her skates on (or rather ‘Matt had to put them on for me’) and got back out there, in a hastily adapted routine — only to dislocate that troublesome shoulder for the second time.
‘I probably pushed myself a bit too much,’ she admits. ‘But the showgirl in me just wanted to get back out there.’
Performing when you can’t even put your own skates on, though?! It sounds positively suicidal.
She says she was given the option to put off her debut dance until this weekend (half the skaters did their debut last Sunday; the other half do theirs tomorrow), but she opted just to push through.
‘It was like that “falling off a bike” thing. Best to get back on quickly,’ she says.
She did splendidly, considering (OK, she got the lowest score, but who’s counting?). And yes perhaps her routine wasn’t as elaborate as some of the skaters, but she survived. And kept smiling.
They say some of the best friendships are forged in adversity and she and dance partner Matt have certainly become close. So close, in fact, that he Matt moved in with Denise and her family for a couple of months — an unusual situation, but one that seemed right during lockdown.
‘He’s from the U.S. and all his family are over there. He was due to have gone back after the last series, but because of Covid he couldn’t.
‘He was feeling lonely and my house is very close to the ice rink where we are training, so I said: “Come and stay.” ’
Denise and partner Eddie Boxshall have been joined in their home by her professional partner, Matt Evers- although the skater has to strip his own bed
Matt has said himself that Denise’s home was like a five-star hotel. She laughs. ‘I don’t know about that, but we did look after him. Eddie loves to cook and since we were out training, he did most of the meals at night.
‘And Betsy loved having Matt here because he would help her make TikTok videos.’
Did he pitch in with the household chores? ‘Well, he had to strip his own bed, but I did the washing,’ Denise admits. Before eyebrows are raised too much, we must point out that Matt is gay, so the chances of a Strictly-type curse scenario were always slim.
The neighbours did wonder about her having two men coming and going, though.
‘I did worry that they’d think I was breaking some Covid rules. One neighbour texted me when she saw us on TV, saying: “Ah. It makes sense now!”’
I interviewed Denise six years ago after she had just landed an acting role in EastEnders. She was clearly a showbiz trouper then, but her personal life was in turmoil at the time.
The odds of Denise and boyfriend Eddie Boxshall (pictured) becoming a victim of a Strictly-style curse are reduced as Matt is gay
She’d split from her husband, fellow performer Lee Mead (they’d met when he won the 2007 Andrew Lloyd Webber search-for-a-star show Any Dream Will Do on which she was a judge), and had just embarked on a new relationship, with stockbroker Eddie Boxshall.
It was early-ish days, and she didn’t want to talk much about him ‘because he isn’t in the business’. Well, he is now. Sort of. In lockdown they appeared together on Celebrity Gogglebox, which was quite a departure, but their shared wit, warmth and banter proved a massive hit.
‘They asked me to do it and wanted to know if I had a friend or someone to do it with. Well, it made more sense for it to be Eddie, because he’s who I watch TV with normally, and we have a right laugh. He was quite up for it. It was interesting to see him do it, because he just wasn’t bothered by the cameras being there.’
She agrees that she’s much more relaxed these days. ‘I’m content,’ she says. ‘I think that’s what it is. Maybe it’s an age thing.’
There have been reports that she and Eddie are planning to marry. ‘We have been talking about it. We talk about it a lot, actually. I mean, we are grown-ups, we are not young any more. He’s 48 and I’m 47, so yes, it’s something we’d like to do. And if anything puts a relationship to the test, it’s lockdown, isn’t it? We’ll wait to see what happens, but hopefully . . .’
Why has this relationship worked? ‘I think we are very similar characters. Even other people comment on it. He’s like the male version of me and I’m the female version of him.
‘We just laugh a lot. We have exactly the same sense of humour. We bicker a lot — banter, really. It’s an East End thing, but we really don’t have any arguments.’
Eddie has a daughter, Leah, 21, and, of course, there is Betsy, Denise’s daughter with Lee Mead. All the adults involved have worked hard at making the domestic set-up as stress-free as possible.
Denise and Lee always worked hard at keeping a good relationship, even after their split — not just for the sake of Betsy, she says, but ‘because why would you want to make things more difficult?’.
During lockdown, Betsy has spent a lot of time with her father, too: ‘We’ve tried to keep it equal.’
Betsy is keen for her mum and Eddie to tie the knot. ‘We will be sitting eating dinner and she will say: “Are you going to get married?” She’s very up for it.’
Denise’s short-term goal, though, is to get back on the ice. Despite the ongoing pain, she hopes to be back out there next weekend.
‘I’m getting a second opinion, and having an MRI scan on Tuesday to get checked out, but Matt is at the rink at the moment, working out a routine that I’ll be able to manage. Until someone says “No, you can’t”, I’ll try to keep going.’
The other celebs taking part in this year’s series must have watched the unfolding drama with horror.
There have already been a few near misses. Myleene Klass — who fell on her head — has been in touch to see how she is. ‘She FaceTimed me from the bath,’ Denise giggles. They’ve been swapping injury tales: ‘She’s got inflamed knees.’
Jason Donovan, an old mate, has been in contact, too, swapping stories of bruises, as has Rebekah Vardy. There but for the grace of God . .? ‘Well, I don’t know if my fall scared them, but it’s like skiing isn’t it? Accidents happen, and skating is a dangerous thing to do.’
Difficult, too. Denise was taken aback by just how hard dancing on ice has turned out to be.
‘I have to admit I was expecting it to be easier. I thought that with a dance background, I’d be at an advantage, like I was with Strictly, really. But it’s very precise and technical. I found it much harder than I expected.’
She was also a little floored to discover that she was the oldest female contestant in this year’s line-up.
At 47, she is hardly ancient, but perhaps she is feeling her age for the first time? ‘I’ve suddenly become that one, the Mother Hen,’ she admits. ‘I’m the one asking the younger ones if they are OK, telling them they need to make sure they get a good night’s sleep.’
She’s OK with this turnaround? ‘I am, actually. I was them for a time. I’ve been in this business since I was seven years old, and it’s nice to see new talent coming through, so I am always supportive to the younger ones.
‘I’m in a different place myself, too. I’m not out to win — not in the same way I was even doing Strictly. I don’t think I’m putting the same pressure on myself.’
Not that there is much sign of her relinquishing the ‘showgirl’ tag. ‘No chance. Look at Kylie — she’s still going strong, and she looks amazing. But maybe on the ice I’m just going to be a bit more cautious.’
It’s still all-hands-on-deck to get Denise ready for her next performance. She will be at the studio tomorrow for the traditional group dance. While Matt is busy getting their routine sorted, Eddie is being roped in to assist with another task she can’t manage with her arm in a sling: doing her roots.
‘It’s the live show on Sunday and my roots need doing, so I’ve asked him. He did it before in the first lockdown. ’
The sling will be abandoned as Denise glides (possibly gingerly) into the spotlight, and the bruises will be covered with sequins and sparkle, in the best showbiz tradition.
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