By Louise Gannon
For years, CHLOE MADELEY, daughter of TV royalty Richard and Judy, struggled to establish her own identity. But then she discovered a passion for exercise and nutrition.
Not so very long ago, Chloe Madeley bore all the hallmarks of yet another showbiz child destined to go off the rails. By the age of 22, the daughter of television icons Richard and Judy had been charged with drink-driving and pictured smoking cannabis, posed in her underwear for a men’s magazine and left a trail of selfies and minor TV roles in her wake.
She was, as she says, ‘a bit of a mess, very lost and insecure’. Today, aged 30, she is in a different place. She’s happily settled in a relationship with England rugby player James Haskell and is the head of a burgeoning fitness empire, which has seen her progress from personal trainer to social media star with her own training business, apps, book – The 4 Week Body Blitz, out in December – and a clothing range in collaboration with Elle Sport launching in October.
When we meet, Chloe is wearing a cropped sports top featuring her trademark moth-like design, with her initials hidden in the outstretched wings: ‘Bugs, to me, represent strength, beauty and metamorphosis.
‘My fitness followers [152,000 and counting on Instagram] often have no clue I’m the daughter of Richard and Judy, which is a massive deal for me,’ she says. ‘I’ve found my own identity and am happy with who I am.’
But despite having fought hard to establish her own individuality, Chloe is evidently a perfect mix of her famous parents. She has Judy’s pale blue eyes and emotional warmth along with Richard’s frankness. ‘I’m so like my dad it’s not funny,’ she says with a grin. ‘I look exactly like him and there’s absolutely nothing I get embarrassed about.’
Indeed, when she posed naked for a women’s magazine two years ago she asked her father’s advice on which photos to use. ‘There was a topless shot of me that I loved but my boyfriend was against it. My parents agreed with James, so I went with their choice, which was artier and more discreet. The topless shots were never published but I didn’t have any issue showing them to my dad.’ Does it bother her that those pictures got more exposure because of who her parents are? She shakes her head: ‘Not at all. That used to be the sum total of who I was; now it’s just a platform for my business, which I’ve built on my own.’
To understand Chloe, you have to understand something of her upbringing. The year after she was born in Manchester, her parents – then both jobbing television news reporters – began hosting ITV’s new daytime show This Morning, which became one of the biggest programmes on television and catapulted them to instant fame.
Chloe, who has an elder brother Jack, 31 and two elder half-brothers Dan and Tom Henshaw from Judy’s first marriage, grew up immersed in life on the small screen. Her parents’ dressing room was a second home and guests at their house included the likes of George Michael, whom she remembers as ‘a very kind and funny guy; my mum was devastated when he died. She cried for days.
‘I always assumed I would work in television,’ Chloe says. ‘I thought it was expected of me to do it as well as my parents had.’ After quitting university in Leeds after just one term in 2006, she worked as a runner, then a researcher in television production (for programmes from Loose Women to The Alan Titchmarsh Show), while grabbing every on-screen opportunity that came her way, including hosting Big Brother’s Big Mouth in 2007.
Anyone would have assumed she was having the time of her life but the reality was very different. ‘For five years I was constantly trying to prove myself,’ she says. ‘Emotionally, I’m like my mum. I get anxious and put a huge amount of pressure on myself. If I did something, people would write that I’d only got work because of my parents, so to try to justify it I’d take on job after job. I’d get in early and leave late to show I was working hard. I’d go out because I also thought it was important to have a profile, but I was completely miserable. My mum felt guilty because she felt responsible for my unhappiness.’
Then Chloe was arrested for drink-driving in 2009. ‘What I did was stupid,’ she says. ‘But the only thing in my head when I was standing in the police station was a vision of a newspaper headline. I felt I’d let my parents down so badly. And, of course, they had a massive go at me, but they also hugged me. I felt so awful that every mistake I made was going to reflect on them.’
But the final straw came when she returned to TV production after a stint competing on Dancing on Ice in 2011. A producer accused her of nepotism during a row, but instead of pushing on regardless, she drove to her parents’ home in Cornwall (where they spend much of their time, having quit This Morning in 2001) and had ‘a total breakdown. I was a complete mess,’ she says. ‘I was lost, anxious, paranoid and unhappy. I was having heart palpitations because I always felt I was being judged.
‘I spent most of that Christmas in tears with my mum sobbing too because she was so upset for me. My mum and I are a terrible combination because we are both so emotional, but my dad was brilliant. He’s incredibly practical. He told me to think about what I wanted to do. My brother’s girlfriend had just done a Pitman shorthand and typing course and I decided to do that and use it as a way of giving myself time to think.’
Next came temping work, and a year later – after taking a job in pantomime (‘for the money and just to have a laugh’) – she started dating her panto co-star, Coronation Street actor and personal trainer Danny Young. ‘When I met Danny I was curvy and I wasn’t particularly health conscious. I loved drinking, and eating junk food. But then Danny asked me who I’d love to look like. I said Britney Spears, and he told me if I followed his training plan, he could make me look like her in three weeks.’
One week in Chloe almost gave up, but by three weeks her body had, as Danny promised, been transformed after hours of cardio and weights in the gym and carefully regulated meals of good fats, vegetables and protein, and no alcohol. ‘It was weird,’ she says. ‘The day Danny put an Olympic bar [an elongated dumbbell] on my back in the gym, I felt I’d found my thing. I became obsessed with nutrition, with training.’
In a matter of months, Chloe began posting images of her newly honed, toned muscles. The reaction was mixed. While thousands flocked to her site, trolls called her ‘ugly and unfeminine’. In previous years this would, she admits, have ‘destroyed’ her, but the reaction made her more resolute.
She embarked on a three-month course to become a certified trainer, working with celebrities including the TV presenter Melanie Sykes (‘I loved trading info with her’). Chloe set up her own company (named Fitness Fondue, ‘so you can dip in and out’) and continued blogging and Instagramming. ‘For me, changing my physical self is about liberating myself through discipline. Tough rules and structure are good for me both mentally and physically.’
Chloe now sticks to a strict routine to keep her diet on track. ‘You don’t have to go mad, you just need to think of it in terms of single ingredients – foods such as chicken, oats, vegetables, salads, grains – rather than buying ready-meals. Keep it simple, fresh and natural. Every week I have an off-day where I eat and drink whatever I like. I think I look strong and healthy – you only see my muscles when I flex.’
Chloe admits there are moments when she considers having breast implants as since she started exercising in earnest ‘you lose your body fat and my boobs just went’, but, ‘then I think, “No, this is me.”’
Two years into her new fitness-focused life, Chloe – who can now deadlift more than her own body weight – lost Danny. ‘He told me that he wanted to be single and go to Ibiza and enjoy himself,’ she says. ‘I was heartbroken. I couldn’t call my mum because she would have cried. I called my dad, who was very sad for me but told me to accept it and move on. It took time, but I did.’
Then rugby player James Haskell contacted Chloe after her Instagram feed caught his eye. ‘We had mutual friends and they told me to steer clear because he was a real player,’ she says. ‘But after months of messaging me he made them give him my number. He called me and asked for a date. I said, “No”, then he asked me if I would consider fronting a health supplement line and I agreed to meet him.’
Three and a half years later, the couple live together in the Midlands. He is, she says, ‘the one’, but it has not, she admits, been plain sailing. ‘When we first started going out he told me that I would always come second to rugby. I got that – it’s the deal when you go out with an athlete. But living with that reality can get very hard. He is away on tour for months at a time and that can cause issues. We’ve had huge rows and ups and downs, but we’ve got to a place of communication and trust, and I can honestly say I know I am with the man I am going to be with for life. My parents love him. When my mum first met him she went all girly and flirty and said, “If you are not interested, I am.”’
With such a strong union as her parents’ to live up to, does Chloe want marriage and children with James? She nods her head: ‘We live together; every spare moment we can spend together we do, and we have talked about getting married – largely because we both get asked about it. But as for children, I know I’m definitely not ready yet and neither is James. I have absolutely no yearnings to be a mother at the moment. I told my mum and she smiled and said: “Well, just wait until you do.” They are both completely chilled because they know I found my path myself and that I’m very happy.’