‘OK. This is who you thought I was — but that was just a tiny veneer of what was me. Now I want to show you what I’m actually all about.’ With its bright, rainbow cover, Fearne Cotton’s new book Happy chimes perfectly with the person we think she is — the bubbly blonde presenter turned hip mum and healthy cookbook author.
Cotton is all those things, and more — and a charming interviewee, to boot. But her book also reveals, for the first time, the debilitating depression she has suffered for many years. Triggered in part by hereditary factors (Cotton’s mum and grandma both suffer from it), things came to their murkiest head a few years ago. All the while, Cotton maintained the same effervescent exterior in the public eye.
‘I was physically recoiling when writing about the darkest dark I have experienced,’ she says, curled up like a pale, pretty pixie with a coffee. ‘It was the first time I had ever uttered the word “depression” to anyone bar a doctor. But I think being massively honest is the only way to get a lot of people doing the same. Perhaps I can help people feel less alienated.’
Cotton used medication, alongside other methods, to slowly get better, and Happy doesn’t pretend to be a magical cure-all. With a mixture of autobiography, practical tips, illustration and Fearne’s own artwork, it’s an accessible and empathetic compendium for feeling good.
‘I don’t want it to be perceived as something preachy, or a guide,’ she urges. ‘I certainly don’t have it all sorted. It’s very much a work in progress, forever, for all of us, unless you’re some sort of enlightened monk in Tibet.’
Now 35, Cotton first hit our screens presenting The Disney Club as a fresh-faced 15-year-old. The Celebrity Juice star lived on an adrenaline rollercoaster of ‘chaos’ for years, partying until dawn and working just as hard. Then, in 2015, she quit her job at Radio 1 after ten years.
‘I didn’t sleep for six months before I announced it,’ she says. ‘I wanted to leave on a high, but everybody thought I was bonkers. I thought, “Let’s jump off a cliff!” I had an inkling there was other stuff in me.’
Cotton’s life now revolves around cooking, writing, fashion projects, part-time working and looking after kids Rex (nearly four) and one-year-old Honey. It’s a good work-life balance, but an entire shift in gear. ‘I am a homebody,’ she says, ‘but I felt like I was boring, so I embraced the culture going on in the industry. At times it was really fun, at others I wanted to be home with a book.’
At the core of this new steady life is Fearne’s husband Jesse, 40, guitarist son of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. They met in Ibiza. ‘Neither of us was hoping to meet anyone,’ says Cotton. ‘He’d just got divorced, I’d come out of an engagement. And then, BAM!’
Cotton, from a ‘very normal, working-class family’, married into an interesting set-up. Wood senior, 69, has baby twin girls who are younger than Honey, while Cotton has also become a (devoted) stepmother.
‘When I first met my father-in-law it was a bit surreal,’ she says. ‘We just see him being Jesse’s dad, this amazing, colourful character. I don’t think about that side of it until I go to a Stones gig and I’m like, “F***!”’
Ultimately, Happy is a book about uncovering what makes you, personally, feel good. ‘It’s the simple things for me,’ says Cotton. ‘Fresh air, walking, dancing in the kitchen with my kids.’
Happy (Orion Spring) is out now
It’s not about elitism or being cool because I’m not either. I just love clothes! When I was younger I wore some awful outfits and got it so wrong. Not that I’m getting it right now, but I know what suits me. Like all women, you want to enhance what you feel. Some days I want to be tomboy, and some days I want to be loud. It might be from a charity shop, or River Island. And if it’s expensive it’s got to be something I’m gonna wear until I die.
My family is both at the core of my happiness and the hardest thing I’ve done. Because you care so much, and you want these little people to be set good examples, and then you cock up and feel awful. It’s a whirlwind, but it is my anchor to everything in life. Work I love and I care about but family, that is my absolute everything.