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CATHERINE TYLDESLEY’s Instagram is generally a pretty joyful little patch of the internet.
Whether it’s her amusing take on daily life or the video sketches of her alter-ego, Olga (“My husband despairs – the number of times I’ve come back in after recording an Olga and he’s gone: ‘Are you going to take that facial hair off or is it staying?’”), it’s entertaining, uplifting and great fun. Just like Cath herself.
I’d never Photoshop my pictures – I have to graft to stay this size, says Catherine TyldesleyCredit: Mark Hayman
The actress hits back at trolls who accuse her of editing her figure on InstagramCredit: Mark Hayman
Catherine was once a size 22Credit: Instagram
But every so often, something gets her so riled, she can’t help but bite.
That happened a couple of months ago when she posted a throwback picture from a 2014 Fabulous shoot and was accused in the comments underneath of digitally altering her waist to make it look smaller.
“I was gutted, because it is something I’d never, ever do,” she says.
“Not only is Photoshopping bad for that person’s mental health in terms of body dysmorphia, but it also impacts on the mental health of the people seeing that image and comparing themselves.”
‘IT REALLY UPSET ME’
As someone who is passionately against the social-media fixation with airbrushing every image to within an inch of its life, Cath was, understandably, furious – and made that perfectly clear in her responses.
“And you know, I have to work really hard to stay a smaller size. Being strong and healthy and maintaining the size I want to be doesn’t come easy to me, I really have to graft for it. So I won’t lie, it really upset me.”
She’s frustrated by influencers who have created a culture where using apps, filters and surgical procedures to change bodies and faces beyond all recognition has become so normal, it’s assumed everyone is at it.
“One of the things I’ve been paranoid about in the past is my jaw. I’ve always felt like I had a manly jaw – it’s very chiselled and it’s taken me a while to get my head around it.
Catherine says being fit is ‘hugely important’ for her and her careerCredit: Instagram/Catherine Tyldesley
“And I often get people saying on Instagram: ‘Oh, you’ve had so much filler in your jaw,’ and I’m like: ‘This is actual bone that has taken me years to feel comfortable with.’
“Apparently, people are paying for this now, so for the first time ever, my jaw is on trend! But these trolls never know the battle someone may have had.
“I genuinely would sit there asking the make-up artist to elongate my eyes so I could balance my jaw, or I’d ask them to make my hair big to hide my hips. You just don’t know the inner battle I’ve had to get to where I am now.”
It’s been more than a decade since Cath, 37, overhauled her diet and lifestyle and lost 6st, going from a size 22 to a 10.
Being fit is hugely important for me and my career
She says that while she was overweight, her ambitions of working in musical theatre were unlikely to become a reality – the turning point came during a basic jazz workshop when she couldn’t keep up, was “the colour of a beetroot” and the dance teacher compared her to an Oompa-Loompa.
“That stays with you, but it was the wake-up call I needed. Being in a musical is like being an athlete – you’re doing eight shows a week and you have to be fit and healthy.
“It’s the same in TV – the schedules are so fast and if you’re off for the day they lose thousands of pounds, so being fit is hugely important for me and my career.
“But since becoming a mum [in 2015, to Alfie, now six], the main thing is just making sure that I’m on the planet for as long as possible, because I want to watch him grow up. I don’t want to miss anything. I want to be able to keep up with him when he’s running around like a maniac.”
The photo that prompted those accusations
Her own experience has made her a vocal champion of all things health and nutrition – and while she advocates body confidence, she feels some elements of the body-positivity movement are just as damaging as the pressure to starve yourself to get a thigh gap.
“I think it’s hard to find a balance, because you have really beautiful but incredibly overweight people who are trying to normalise that.
“So we’re seeing the teeny-tiny airbrushed people at one end of the spectrum, but at the other there are people saying: ‘I weigh 25st and I’m really healthy.’ And that is scientifically impossible.
“I’m all for body confidence, no matter what shape or size, but we have to remember that statistically we’ve had the highest rate of Covid and a lot of the deaths were people who were overweight.
“And I know how hard it is, I’ve been there myself, but this last year should be a warning to us all to try to be as healthy as we can be. It’s not about being stick thin, it’s about being strong and healthy, eating a balanced diet and staying active.
“I don’t profess to know everything in nutrition, I’m learning all of the time – but now, more than ever, the government needs to look at that really seriously.”
The past year has been an extraordinarily successful one professionally for Cath (more on that later), but a tough one personally, and she reveals that she briefly struggled with her mental health for the first time in her life.
Her problems began last February with “horrendous headaches”, which turned out to be caused by a drop in oestrogen levels following a gruelling Strictly tour that she had to withdraw from after injury.
The 37-year-old says the past year has been an ‘extraordinarily successful one professionally’Credit: Mark Hayman
“I was put on HRT to get my oestrogen back up and to stop the headaches, but it made me feel horrendous. I gained over a stone, my body thought I was pregnant so I had morning sickness, none of my bras fitted and I cried at the drop of a hat.”
Then came Covid, which hit her family especially hard. Her parents fell seriously ill with the virus and her grandad, Derek, died from Covid-related complications in May, aged 90. The culmination of everything caused Cath to crash.
“When we lost my grandad, it was the last straw for me and I had a couple of very dark weeks. I’ve never suffered with depression before – I’ve been really lucky – and so if it can happen to me.
“Thankfully, my dark weeks were over quite quickly, but for people who experience this all the time, it must be hell. So I made a point of trying to learn more about mental health and trying to use my platform, because so many people really struggled last year.”
There is very little help, there aren’t many places you can go to in a mental health crisis
She says she knows five people who have taken their own lives in the past year.
“It’s horrific. They were all guys, and with what I went through on Corrie with Aidan’s suicide story line, it’s been at the forefront of my mind for a long time.
“There is very little help, there aren’t many places you can go to in a mental health crisis, and conditions like bipolar are misunderstood and can take years to get diagnosed. The more research I’ve done, the more I am like: ‘Wow, this is an epidemic in itself.’”
Getting back to work was what helped Cath. Next month she can be seen in new ITV drama Viewpoint, which follows a gripping police surveillance operation and also stars Noel Clarke and Alexandra Roach.
Cath is renovating the home she shares with husband Tom Pitfield and AlfieCredit: Instagram/Catherine Tyldesley
They only managed one day of filming before going into lockdown last March, but it was one of the first shows to resume production after the restrictions started to lift. The call back to work threw Cath a lifeline.
“I couldn’t wait. I’m a workaholic and work is a big part of my happiness, so it was a godsend. It was a totally different way of working and it was weird in rehearsals, doing kissing scenes in masks.
“It reminded me of that scene in The Naked Gun when they’re both dressed as giant condoms. We were actually tested three times that week when we had intimate scenes coming up. It was incredibly strict.”
She says the series is one not to miss.
QUITTING THE COBBLES
“The writing is brilliant, real edge-of-your-seat. And the cast are just amazing, it’s a stellar line-up. I felt so lucky to be working with these people.
“My character is super-strong, very glamorous. She has this perfect lifestyle that she’s constantly putting on Instagram – she’s that school mum everyone hates because she turns up to the gates looking amazing, full face of make-up.
“It was great fun because the further away characters are from myself, the more I enjoy it.”
Nearly three years on from quitting her role as the much-loved Eva Price on Coronation Street, in search of greater variety as an actress, Cath has certainly found it.
Credit: Mark Hayman
She’s done drama (15 Days), comedy (Scarborough) and, of course, Strictly Come Dancing in 2019 – and even managed to write a play in lockdown, pulling together an all-star cast and streaming it, with all the proceeds going to charities supporting the arts.
Her play, The Ceremony, has been recommissioned for another online run in April, with a view to putting it on in the flesh when theatres (“god willing,” says Cath) reopen later this year.
Cath, who honed her writing skills via Zoom classes with playwright Jim Cartwright, is also getting ready to film a pilot for TV and has hopes of it becoming a series.
“It still doesn’t feel real, it feels like a dream. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous, but we had nothing but positive feedback. I’m on cloud nine with it all.
Corrie was 7am till 7pm every day, with no luxury of time…as an actress, to develop my skills and to grow, I was craving more variety
“I have so much more time to do the writing side of things now. I loved Corrie, but now I’m out of it, I might have six months on a drama but then a few months off.
“Corrie was 7am till 7pm every day, with no luxury of time. And as an actress, to develop my skills and to grow, I was craving more variety.”
However, there have been some disappointments, too.
When the BBC didn’t recommission Scarborough, despite respectable regular viewing figures of over 2 million, Cath says it came as a huge shock to her and co-star Jason Manford, since all the rumours had suggested it would return.
In Viewpoint with co-star Dominic AllburnCredit: Backgrid
“I will never fully understand the decision-making process. I was truly gutted about Scarborough and so was Jason, because it was such a joy of a job.
“It’s always more difficult with comedy, because it takes time to grow and develop. I know the BBC is making an effort now to produce more shows up north, so maybe we were a year too early!
“But now I’m on the other side of it somewhat, with writing and commissioners, it’s a real eye-opener – the whole process takes a couple of years from submitting a first draft to getting anywhere at all. It’s a learning curve and I think sometimes they don’t give things the chance to breathe or grow. It is brutal.”
‘COVID HITS YOU LIKE A SMACK IN THE FACE’
Former personal trainer Tom is now a full-time photographer and busy getting his fledgling business back on track after a challenging 2020.
“Obviously last year was really difficult, but all the clients have been phoning him back up recently, so we’re all starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. He’s doing really well, but starting up a new business, Covid hits you like a smack in the face.
“But he’s flying again now and I’m so proud of him. I’ve had top photographers say he’s genuinely brilliant and Tom has not always believed that of himself. From the moment I met him he’s wanted to be a photographer, and he’s finally started to see how good he is.”
Lockdown has brought the couple closer than ever, with Tom being particularly supportive when Cath was struggling last year.
The beauty took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2019Credit: Getty – Contributor
“It’s made us stronger, completely. Especially in the first lockdown – I don’t know what I would have done without Tom. My parents were poorly and I lost my grandad and it seemed to be one thing after another. I feel emotional talking about it, because he lifted me in every
way he could and was a phenomenal dad to Alfie. There were some days when I felt like I couldn’t parent, when I was feeling really down, and Tom was like: ‘I’ve got this.’ Just wonderful.
“I suspect Tom would tell you I drove him slightly mad – I think if he’d heard the word oestrogen one more time he would have cracked.
“So, bless him, he’s been put through the mill. But for me, there was no better person to be in lockdown with than him. He is amazing.”
This past year, we have all felt like we’ve needed to pull together and play our part in whichever way that might be
“He’s been great, but before Christmas we noticed a bit of a change in him. He’s so close to his cousins and he was asking why he couldn’t see them and why he couldn’t hug Lala, which is what he calls his grandma. It was like he was really aware of it suddenly.
“As much as I love pretending to be five years old, they need other little people. And Alfie is an only child, so I spent a lot of lockdown wishing I’d had another one sooner.”
Like everyone, Cath is looking forward to the world getting back to normal, but hopes some of Covid’s complicated legacy will be positive.
Catherine enjoys treating fans to sexy snaps on Instagram
“This past year, we have all felt like we’ve needed to pull together and play our part in whichever way that might be. And that’s been lovely.
“I’m guessing we’ll all get caught up in the rat race again, but that sense of community spirit really did come back. I’m so hoping that will stay, because we all need it – now more than ever.”
- Viewpoint is coming to ITV this spring. The Ceremony will run April 5-11 – tickets can be purchased through stream.theatre.
In The Make-up Chair With Catherine
What’s your skincare regime?
I use micellar water and Murad Exfoliating Cleanser, followed by Zo Skin Health Oil Control Pads and Daily Power Defense. At night, I use a Murad serum.
One product you never leave home without?
What’s your best beauty bargain?
If my skin feels sensitive, I swear by aloe vera gel.
Your luxury item?
I love Zo Skin Health Vitamin C cream, but it’s £82 a pop!
Any make-up bag essentials?
Tarte concealer and Benefit Bad Gal Bang! Mascara.
What’s your top beauty tip?
Bronzer doubles up for contouring, eyeshadow, blush and body make-up.
Describe your beauty evolution?
I take care of my skin much more in my 30s and love my facials at One Aesthetic Studio in Manchester. I adore make-up – I like to think I was a drag queen in a previous life!
Hair: Dino Pereira using Kiehl’s Since 1851 Magic Elixir Make-up: Aimee Adams using Rodial Styling: Nana Acheampong Catherine wears p12: jacket, trousers, both Mango; top, Warehouse: jacket, trousers, both Nastygal.com
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