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Fearne Cotton: ‘I’ve been to hell and back’

Fearne Cotton discusses mental health, imposter syndrome and recovery in the latest edition of the Big Issue

Fearne Cotton isn’t one to shy away from opening up – and getting her celebrity friends to do the same.

A regular fixture on TV and radio since the late ’90s, her award-nominated podcast Happy Place, which stars notable people talking about mental health, has taken the audio world by storm. 

But while Cotton got to live her dream as a presenter, she has found the price of fame to be costly. 

In The Big Issue’s Letter To My Younger Self, she tells Jane Graham that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. 

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“It was really intense in my 20s. I had a very unhealthy relationship with the press,” she says. “You feel misrepresented and misunderstood, which is a really horrible feeling. And you lose your sense of who you are. You’re so busy trying to be what everybody else wants you to be, and to avoid being attacked.”

“Now I don’t care, people can say what they want. I’ve been to hell and back, so now it’s about being me and if people don’t like that, it’s really none of my business,” she adds. “My business is to do what makes me tick. I don’t go anywhere exciting or glamorous. 

Cotton talked about her battle with depression after entering her 30s, and how it helped her get to where she is today.

So many of us go along, silently worrying we don’t fit in, and not saying it out loud

“I did have a couple of things change in me as I went into my 30s. Firstly, women’s hormones change dramatically around about 35. There’s a huge sudden descent which can result in depression or anxiety. And for me specifically, there were lots of things in my late 20s, early 30s that I felt really not OK about. 

“I dropped into this depression for a couple of years and I had to sort of start from scratch again. It was quite a drastic disenchantment. I didn’t believe in all the dreams I had previously held. I didn’t believe in the myths of what the job or the industry meant. I didn’t believe in the grandeur of it. I didn’t believe in having this insane fear-based respect for everybody in it. 

“I just dropped all of that, and wanted to start again. And that was terrifying, but it’s been essential in me ending up where I am now, doing a job I care deeply about.” 

Fearne was talking to The Big Issue ahead of the release of her Happy Place Album, which includes tracks curated by the presenter and contributions from an array of well-known musicians.

She said it was only until she started doing the podcast that she began to feel comfortable in her own skin. 

“From the start, I definitely had this anxiety that I didn’t belong. I remember so clearly standing in the studio looking around thinking, how are they so accomplished, how are these pop bands taking up that space and feeling really solid about it? I feel like I’m still the suburban schoolgirl. And I felt that until I got into my 30s, I’m not joking.

“It’s really only since I started doing Happy Place that I really felt I could occupy this space confidently. Later I realised that lots of people feel like that. So many of us go along, silently worrying we don’t fit in, and not saying it out loud. Actually there’s a real liberation in just saying it and having this person who you assume is incredibly confident saying they feel the same. You realise we’re all in the same boat. It’s really lovely knowing that.”

Happy Place: The Album, is released on Decca on October 30. 

Read the full interview in this week’s copy of The Big Issue.