Kimberley Walsh: 'I've been feeling broody since I was 15'
Former Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh is successfully combining work with being a mum to her year-old son, Bobby Jay. She tells Gabrielle Fagan how her fiancé, Justin Scott, helped her survive the spotlight and how they have big plans for their wedding - and more children
Kimberley Walsh is looking proud, but a little apprehensive as she watches her son, Bobby Jay, test his standing skills.
"He's got bored with crawling and now he loves standing up all the time and wobbling until he suddenly topples over or sits down with a bump, it's so sweet," coos the former Girls Aloud star, Strictly Come Dancing competitor and musical theatre actress.
It's easy to see she's besotted with motherhood, and admits she hopes to have more children with her fiancé and partner of 12 years, Justin Scott, who was in British hip hop band, Triple 8, and is now a property developer.
"I absolutely love being a mum. Every day I fall more in love with him. I love looking after somebody else. It's about being selfless, putting Bobby first and doing what's best for him. I was totally ready for that. There's no two ways about it, he's the priority and I think if you're not prepared to do that for a child, you're not ready to be a mum," declares the 33-year-old, who's looking glamorous, radiant and slim, although this down-to-earth Yorkshire girl insists she didn't, 'celebrity style', get straight back into her skinny jeans post pregnancy.
"I honestly didn't think about my figure until Bobby was six months old because that really wasn't my concern - I was focused on my son. Since then I've gradually cut down on carbs and done exercises when he has his naps. I'm not far off being 'back to normal', but I'm a mummy so I still have a bit of a tummy and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Kimberley found fame aged 21 when she auditioned for the reality ITV show, Popstars: The Rivals in 2002 and became one fifth of Girls Aloud. The band had 20 consecutive top 10 singles, six platinum albums and five Brit award nominations in 11 years, finally splitting to pursue solo careers in 2013.
As well as presenting roles, in 2011 Walsh made her West End stage debut as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical, was a joint runner-up in Strictly in 2012 and last month starred in Sweet Charity with Denise Van Outen in London. She is now beginning rehearsals for her role as Jovie in West End musical, Elf, which opens in October.
Having a baby is something she's dreamt about since she was a teenager though, but put on hold while she fulfilled her show business ambitions. "I've actually been quite broody since I was about 15, but I wanted to establish my career, and have proper security and a good lifestyle before I brought a child into the world," she says.
"I'm not quite ready yet, but in the not too distant future, we'd like [Bobby] to have a couple of brothers or sisters, if it works out. Justin adores Bobby and is a very hands-on dad, so we share the work and are a good team. We're determined not to have a nanny and to do everything ourselves, with help from my mum when I'm working."
The baby's birth last September coincided with Justin's proposal too. "The doctors and nurses had left us alone and we were in that euphoric stage of staring at this new little baby and feeling so elated. I'd just handed Bobby to Justin and he had him in one arm and then he slipped his other hand in his pocket and suddenly went down on one knee and pulled out this gorgeous diamond ring," she says, beaming at the memory.
"I have to admit I'd dropped hints over the years about what I'd like for a ring and I've got to hand it to him, he got it absolutely right. It was so romantic. We were both in floods of tears because we were so happy and overwhelmed."
She says their relationship weathered all her years in the spotlight and the relentless touring and performing schedule during Girls Aloud because: "I always felt, with Justin, I had that solid support and the best friend you need amidst all that stress and pressure. Obviously we've had ups and downs in that time but we both thought it was a relationship worth working on and neither of us wanted to be anywhere else, so that's why we stayed together, I guess.
"The wedding will be sometime next year. We've just started looking at venues and making plans. Although we're doing it with Hello! Magazine, it's only going to be close family and friends, not a cast of hundreds, so it'll be private and quite intimate.
"Bobby will be a page boy, but I'm not sure how much he will contribute on the day! It will depend on his mood."
Former bandmates Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Nicola Roberts will be bridesmaids and both are regular visitors to Walsh's home.
"Cheryl and Nicola have been really amazing at coming over a lot since Bobby's birth and helping me out, which has been so nice," says Walsh, who's the second member of the band to start a family. Fellow bandmate, Nadine Coyle gave birth to a daughter, Anaiya, 16 months ago. The fifth band member is Sarah Harding.
"Cheryl lives nearby and it's great that she can chill at mine away from the attention of the media and have proper quality time with Bobby and lots of cuddles. I don't think it's made her feel broody though. If anything, I think she realises it's nice to have babies for a bit then hand them back and go back to your civilised existence!
"I think she feels how I felt with my young nephews for a long while - it was great to be with them, love them and spoil them and leave. Then eventually you're ready to have one of your own."
Walsh already had experience of parenting as a step-mum to Justin's 16-year-old daughter, Chloe, from a previous relationship. "I've known her since she was five and watched her grow up and she's a lovely girl, so it's been a pleasure being a step-mum. To be honest, when she comes round, she spends more time with me than her dad because we have more in common," she explains with a smile.
"It was very nice for me to have a preview of what Justin was like as a dad - he's great with his daughter - and I suppose I might be able to draw on that experience of having a teenager in later years to help me with Bobby!"
She's anxious to ensure she successfully juggles her career and motherhood. She returned to hosting a weekly shopping slot on ITV's This Morning in December.
"I'm so lucky that what I've been offered is brilliant but for quite short periods. I'll probably be very tired with shows until late in the evenings and looking after Bobby in the day, especially during Elf, but that's only a 10-week run so I'll be fine. I'm determined not to miss things like his first steps and words, so I'll just have to keep fit so my energy levels are high. Anyway, my years in the band taught me how to work hard and cope with long hours," says Walsh, who recently launched Comfort's new Intense range, designed to deliver "intense freshness from wash to wear".
"The only thing I know I'll be upset about initially is missing out on putting him to bed every night. That's such a precious time, but he'll be with his dad."
She looks back on her days with Girls Aloud with affection. "I have such fond memories of our times together. We had an amazing run of nearly 12 years and achieved everything we hoped for. We all felt we ended on a high, there were no hard feelings and nothing was left unfinished. Now we've all grown up and moved on to other things," she says.
"I don't feel like I've changed hugely from when I first started out except then I was rather shy and reserved and now I'm more confident and the girls helped me toughen up, which I needed to.
"What was really important was always having family and good, long-standing friends around me throughout those years, which helped me stay grounded. My advice to anyone going into this business is to surround yourself with people who share your values, so you stay the person you are and don't get caught up in all the fickle, shallow aspects of it, and enjoy it while it lasts. You never know what is going to happen. I've always tried to be a good person and to treat people as I'd like to be treated. That's the way I was brought up and I'll pass that on to Bobby." PA