Is this TV confession Fergie's biggest blunder yet?
Sarah Ferguson reveals her pain to an American audience with Dr Phil . . . for a healthy fee, writes John Costello
Published 03/08/2011 | 05:00
When Sarah Ferguson married her prince charming, she should have lived happily ever after. In reality, her life has turned out to be anything but a fairytale.
And now the whole sorry story is being replayed like a tacky soap opera on American television.
The divorced, disgraced and debt-ridden Fergie is having her past picked apart by TV shrink Dr Phil, in an attempt to help the former royal confront her demons and turn her life around.
She now not only wants to share her pain, but to find out why she failed to find happiness in what should have been the perfect life of a princess.
The six-part series, Finding Sarah, described as "her toughest challenge yet" and which is airing on Oprah Winfrey's Own channel, is a desperate attempt to "rebuild her life and career" after a series of scandals left Ferguson at "rock bottom".
But to rebuild Fergie, Dr Phil had to break her down first.
He pulls no punches as he tells her: "You are emotionally bankrupt," -- proving that the medicine can sometimes seem a lot worse than the disease. "You are depressed, you are anxious, you have self-hatred."
In the true spirit of redemptive reality TV, Fergie wholeheartedly agrees with the world-famous doctor. "I'm disgusting and completely pointless," she adds. "I'm 51 and I have no self-worth."
She blames her downfall on her "people-pleasing addiction" and her tendency to "self-sabotage" and claims her financial woes are simply down to her "over-generous" nature. Dr Phil however urges her to come clean and face up to the facts.
"I strongly believe you cannot change what you do not acknowledge," he tells Fergie, all too aware the evidence against her is overwhelming. Her scandal-plagued descent from princess to pauper reached a new low earlier this year after a newspaper sting caught her trying to sell access to her former hubby for the princely sum of £500,000 (€575,000).
However, when Dr Phil tries to uncover the truth behind this torrid episode things quickly turn tense.
"I am not in denial about anything, okay?" Fergie snaps. "If you cut and dice me, I will cut and dice you."
Sarah, Duchess of York has obviously developed quite a thick skin over years of being hounded by the tabloid press, who branded her the 'Duchess of Pork' and 'Fat Frumpy Fergie'.
But it was all so different 25 years ago, when she married Prince Andrew at Westminster Abbey and, not unlike that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, their romance captivated millions around the globe.
However, since the couple separated in 1992 she has never been far from scandal.
Just months after the split she became the black sheep of the royal family when she was surreptitiously snapped having her toes sucked by John Bryan, an American financial manger, while sunbathing topless in the south of France. Things then went from bad to worse.
"I got divorced, started my life over with two daughters, went broke twice ... I never imagined I could live so unhappily ever after," she says.
Now, as part of her journey of self-discovery, she has allowed cameras to record tearful conversations with her daughters, soulful strolls around the grounds of her former husband's estate and a 26-mile trek through Canada.
Over the six episodes, Fergie confronts the reasons she has squandered her chance at living a charmed life and by the end of her reality-show self-help session, the tough-love drill sergeant Dr Phil finds the cause of torment. Ferguson is an addict to approval and acceptance. But it seems this is a vice Fergie is happy to live with.
"I am so happy that I've been labelled," she says. "I'm an addict to approval and acceptance."
Even though she is still viewed with deep suspicion by the British public, she has frequently managed to charm the Americans. However, this latest effort at plugging the holes in her finances (she was paid €230,000 for agreeing to appear in the show) has left some critics finding her whining about squandering a privileged and pampered existence that few could imagine hard to swallow.
Regardless, the "little girl from a small English village" who married a prince but "inside felt worthless and lost", is determined to endure.
"A year ago, I would never have even picked up the telephone," she says. "I didn't take any calls. I couldn't. I was broken. Now I have started a fresh new page. Now it is time to move on."
However, one nagging doubt surrounding Fergie's reality television redemption remains. Has she actually changed? With the royal family's black sheep continuing to make those in Buckingham blush, the jury, for the time being, is still out.