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Authors: Michelle Mone

My Fight to the Top (18 page)

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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Believe in yourself. Just believe.

he whole episode with Peaches came at a pivotal moment in my life. I’d been asked to star in a new TV show called
71 Degrees North
, which follows ten celebrities as they try to make it to the North Cape, Norway, at 71 degrees north of the equator. None of the other TV work I’d done was anything like this. I’d starred in
Celebrity Apprentice
for Comic Relief but this was something else. This was going to be a month living in a tent in Arctic conditions.

I couldn’t believe they were asking me.
– who has blow-dries three times a week and is used to all the luxury and comforts of a millionaire lifestyle. Why not me? I thought. I’d been to hell and back in nearly losing the company and nothing could ever be as bad as that. Walking through a bit of snow certainly wouldn’t come close, so what did I have to fear? Plus now I’d lost just over five stone, I had a chance to get fit with it.

I told my mum I’d be living in a tent for a month, without washing my hair, without restaurants, wearing no make-up (because it would freeze) and – most importantly – no Blackberry. She said, ‘I’ll help you pack your bags.’ Her response followed on from the chat I’d had with my parents about turning into a diva. Mum thought that the challenge would be the perfect way to help me remember who I really was and get back to the Michelle they once knew and loved before I had the big house and the five cars. ‘That’s what you need,’ she said.

I got serious cold feet when the time came for me to leave. Firstly, I was nervous about leaving my kids – I was worried I’d really miss them. And I was worried about not having my Blackberry. As I packed my bags I thought, Am I doing the right thing here? Am I going to cope with this?

But I did need a break, from everything – work, Michael and fighting with Michael. I’d left school at 15 and all my friends had gone on holidays, partying in Spain and Ibiza, but I’d never had that. I was pregnant at 19 and I’d worked every day God sent since I was 15. I’d never had an actual break away from the kids and the business. I’d never done anything for
. I was excited to find out about me, because I didn’t really know who I was any more. I’d lost my way a bit.

I remember meeting everyone at the airport at Gatwick and thinking, Oh, God, that Joe Absolom from
, I’m going to really fight with him. He’s just rude. Susie Amy from
Footballers’ Wives
was there and I thought she was beautiful. Gavin Henson, I thought, He loves himself. Shane Richie was also starring in the show and my first impression was that he seemed like the same guy you see on the TV. I had these preconceived ideas but it didn’t turn out that way at all. We became close because we were all stuck in the middle of nowhere under extreme weather conditions.

The others actually relied on me a lot to organise things. I was sharing a tent with Shane, Joe and Gavin and it was an absolute mess the first night. Shane Richie’s boots were everywhere. Gavin was looking for his socks. ‘They’re your socks… these are my socks,’ said Gavin as he rummaged through the mess.

My OCD took over. I called the boys to attention. ‘Enough, guys,’ I shouted. ‘I am not putting up with this for the next month, so here are the rules.’ They all stood to attention like school kids. ‘Number one: you do not bring your dirty snow boots into this tent. You leave them outside the door. One beside the other, left boot next to right boot. Because you’re bringing them in and soaking all the sleeping bags and it’s not fair.

‘And you,’ I said, pointing to Shane, ‘that’s your area there. You keep your socks, your goggles and your gloves in the netting there where you sleep. You are not going to leave them all over the floor. You all need to organise your sleeping bags because I don’t want to see your sleeping bag on my patch, okay?’

‘Yes,’ they said in chorus.

‘Great,’ I said and dusted off my hands.

Four days later they all thanked me. ‘This is running like a company,’ Shane said.

We were tested to our absolute limits by taking part in challenges like swimming in frozen fjords, kayaking for five hours at a time and jumping into the icy sea. The team who won the challenge got to spend a night in a cosy log cabin while the losers went back to a freezing tent to sleep in minus 25° temperatures. I was completely out of my comfort zone and I was forced to overcome a lot of my fears, such as my phobia of heights.

One of the challenges was to cross a ravine on a web of rope, and I was terrified, absolutely terrified. I also had this heavy rucksack on my back and I thought I was going to topple over at any second. ‘I can’t do this,’ I screamed. My legs had turned to jelly. ‘Get me down, get me down.’

I gave up halfway through but then Joe appeared behind me. ‘Keep going,’ he shouted. He knew I had it in me to fight on.

‘I can’t,’ I cried. The tears froze to my cheek.

‘Trust me, you can,’ he encouraged me. So I slowly put one foot in front of the other and I kept going until I reached the other side. It was the scariest moment of the whole show for me and also my proudest when I finished.

I had not anticipated how tough it would be and simple things became huge challenges in those conditions, like having to light a fire to boil some snow because I was thirsty in the middle of the night. We were tested in other ways too, such as through Shane Richie’s snoring. God, it was unbelievable, it was so loud. Joe and I were next to him and couldn’t get a wink of sleep.

Life out there was an emotional rollercoaster. There were some moments when I was freezing and so exhausted that I thought, What the hell am I doing out here? I don’t need to be here. I woke up one night with ice all over my eyelashes and I burst into tears. ‘That’s it. I’m packing up and going home,’ I cried to Joe.

‘No, you’re not,’ he shouted and he warmed me up, zipping me into my sleeping bag and telling me to shut it. He was right, of course, and the fighter in me said that giving in went against everything I stood for. When I first met him I thought he was going to be nightmare to get on with, but he was the total opposite. Joe turned out to be one of the most incredible guys.

There were also moments when I found myself reflecting on my life. I realised how spoilt I was and how I didn’t need half the things I owned. I had some peace and quiet for the first time ever and thoughts were racing through my head, like, You only live once and why should you be unhappy? Work isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. You need money to survive but happiness is more important.

I probably should have used the time to reflect on my marriage and ask myself why I was putting up with so much crap. Why I just didn’t leave Michael. But believe it or not, I never actually thought about getting a divorce. Like I said before, I came from a place where you just get on with it, no matter what. I had kids and a business with Michael and I suppose I was very loyal. I know so many couples who are miserable but they’d never leave their partner because of the kids. To be honest though, I didn’t really think about Michael that much when I was out there. I was so relaxed and I was getting a lot more mellow and calm and appreciating things.

I thought, Why have I moaned at the Dorchester? It’s like living in a fairy tale to stay there. As long as the bed is clean and it’s safe and tidy, does it really matter? We were sleeping on top of rocks and snow, which kind of put everything into perspective.

I missed my kids dreadfully though. When it was Mother’s Day the producers handed me a box. I opened it up and it was full of cards and presents from all of my kids. Usually they just signed their name but this time the left-hand side of the card was a long message: ‘Can’t wait until you get home, so proud of you, Mum.’

‘Really miss you, Mum.’

‘How are you getting on with the heights? Ha, ha, ha.’

‘What’s it like not having your blow-dry?’

They were funny and sweet and I broke down in tears. I missed them so much. That’s when I realised I’d had enough and I wanted to go home. ‘Please vote for me. I want to go home now, I’ve had my time,’ I said to all the guys when it came to voting to send someone home. I’m still friendly with all of them to this day. The whole experience changed my life – and for the better. I decided I’d work to live rather than live to work. I started to question if I still wanted to run a business in the next few years and let it take over my life. I decided I would learn to put my Blackberry down. I was addicted to my phone before. I used to sleep with it under my pillow. I’d say I came out of there a much nicer person. Business is like a train that you can’t get off and I think I finally got off.

I came home on a high. But no sooner had I landed than the press began to make out that I was having an affair with one of the guys on the show. We’d organised a night out for everyone to laugh about our crazy adventure. We met in the Dorchester bar in London for a quick drink before heading out to a restaurant. Michael popped in to say ‘Hello’ and meet the cast. He left to meet one of his friends and the rest of us went shortly after to have some food. I was wearing really uncomfortable shoes and teetering along the pavement at a snail’s pace. Shane Richie turned around and said, ‘Come on, you Scottish pain in the arse.’ He grabbed my arm to help me along.

We had a really fun evening at a Hix restaurant. I got home before midnight with no idea about the storm that was brewing. I woke up on 16 April 2010 to see that pictures of Shane and I were plastered all over the papers with ‘rumours of an affair’. My heart sank. Of course, it wasn’t bloody true. We were all together in a group but the paparazzi, who were stalking us, honed in on me and Shane linking arms and cut out everyone around us. I knew what was coming. Michael used that to absolutely hammer me.

‘Michael, why are you doing this?’ I pleaded. ‘You were with us ten minutes before at the Dorchester and then we all went out as a group after you left. You know there is nothing going on.’

But he was like a bull in a china shop. ‘
wife has been seen grabbing the arm of a guy,’ he yelled.

‘I was just grabbing his arm in a friendly way because I was crossing the road to catch up with everyone else who were a few paces in front of us and my new shoes were killing my feet and I came back at 11.30 pm and they dropped me home,’ I explained in one breath.

There was no reasoning with Michael. ‘It’s fucking embarrassing. I can’t believe my wife grabbing someone else’s arm,’ he went on. He really laid into me – it was so bad. ‘I’m the talk of the town. Everyone thinks I’m such an idiot.’ Michael turned and glared. ‘How dare you make a fool of me?’

I burst into tears. ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ I sobbed.

I would never cheat on my husband; it wasn’t in my make-up. I felt so beaten down that I went underground for a few days. I then released a statement to the press to try and calm the situation for the sake of my family and Shane’s. ‘Last week was tough. All I would like to say, in order to end rumours, is Shane Richie and I are friends but nothing else. When you live in the Arctic in a tent at minus 35 in extreme conditions you all become close! When the TV show starts, it will become clear. I am sorry I put my family through all this last week.’

I hadn’t thought much about my marriage while I was away in the Arctic, but since I’d come back, it was all I could think about – how I was trapped in a loveless relationship. How the marriage was basically over.

I wanted to believe that Michael would love me again if I lost the weight. It couldn’t have been further from reality. The thinner I got, the bigger my profile grew and the more attention I received, the nastier Michael became. I think he was jealous of all the attention I was getting. He showed it through all the arguments and his total lack of respect for me. I suppose the fact I was earning four times more than Michael, thanks to my speeches and TV work, may have had a part to play. Michael had been the breadwinner when we married, and now the roles had been reversed. To add to that, the spotlight was always on me. Perhaps he felt emasculated?

The good thing was that losing the weight and starring in
71 Degrees North
had given me such a boost in confidence that his words didn’t have such an impact on me any more. I felt like I wasn’t depressed. I was really starting to get my life on track. Yes, I wasn’t in a happy marriage, but I was starting to feel like a woman again. I was starting to feel sexy again.

I remember stepping on the scales one morning, and screaming with happiness because I’d lost the last couple of pounds I’d wanted to shift. I’d gone from 17 and a half stone to 11 and a half stone, I’d dropped from a size 22 to a size 12. I couldn’t bloody believe it. ‘Michelle, you did it,’ I told my reflection in the bathroom cabinet.

It reminded me about a promise I’d made on a beach nearly five years ago. I pulled out my notebook and I read the promise I’d made to Rachel Hunter that I needed to do a photo shoot one day to encourage real women that they too can lose weight. I was to be an inspiration for all those unhappy women out there.

A tear ran down my cheek and splashed onto the page. It was such an emotional moment for me. I thought, I’ve worked so hard for this. I had given my all to my family but this was for me. I felt it was something I needed to do to get closure. And what’s more, I never wrote down a goal without achieving it. It was still there, still on the page, waiting for me to tick it off.

I spoke to Michael. ‘I really want to do this, please,’ I pleaded.

‘No way are you going to do a shoot,’ he said.

‘Michael, it’s not as if we sell tyres. We sell lingerie. I believe in the product and I want to tell people, I want to tell the world I believe in what I sell. I want to encourage women to lose weight by showing it is possible. I am living proof it’s possible to change.’

You know, I couldn’t even wear my underwear at one point because my arse was too fat. Ultimo goes up to a size 18 and I could wear the bras but I couldn’t wear the pants. I had to buy the pants from Marks & Spencer.

‘Over my dead body,’ Michael said. ‘My wife is not going to model our bras.’

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
4.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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