Suzanne Shaw: ‘I quit booze to beat my demons’

The former Hear’Say star talks to Closer about her history of depression and why it’s putting her off having another child

Suzanne Shaw

by Jane Oddy |

Opening up about her battle with depression during an emotional video during lockdown, Suzanne Shaw revealed she had struggled with her mental health for the past 18 years.

Now, speaking to Closer, the former Hear’Say star admits that, at its worst, she used to drink to numb her feelings.

Revealing that she has taken antidepressant medication on and off for years, Suzanne, 38, confesses, “I would self-medicate with alcohol after a hard day, but then I would wake up the next day after a binge-drinking session and feel so low, I’d cancel weekend plans and have a duvet day. That did impact my family.”

Luckily, in the last year, Suzanne – who has four-year-old son Rafferty with her businessman fiancé Sam Greenfield, and 15-year-old son Corey with her ex, actor Darren Day – has made big lifestyle changes to improve her mental health, including ditching booze and becoming vegan.

And while the star would like to expand her family with Sam, she is fearful of postnatal depression, having suffered from it following the birth of her two sons.

“Paranoia was a big factor of my last bout of postnatal depression. It was extreme. I hated myself, too, and had such dark thoughts,” Suzanne says. “I would like to have another baby but I am really worried, as I don’t want to have another horrible episode. I’m in a really good place and pregnancy does mess with hormones. I just want to get a little bit stronger, but I am thinking about it.”

Over the years, Suzanne has been open about her battle with depression, which began when Hear’Say were at the height of their pop fame in 2000.

Suzanne and her bandmates – Danny Foster, Noel Sullivan, Kym Marsh and Myleene Klass – formed Hear’Say after winning Popstars. Weeks later, their debut single Pure And Simple sold over 1.1m copies.

Noughties icons Hear'Say - where are they now?

Gallery

Hear'Say - where are they now?

Kym Marsh
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CREDIT: Getty Images

While in the band, Kym was extremely popular, becoming one of the most famous members thanks in part to her high profile relationship with EastEnders actor Jack Ryder.

Kym Marsh
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CREDIT: Getty Images

In January 2002, it was announced that Kym was leaving the band to pursue solo projects. She later revealed that part of the reason for leaving was because she often found herself clashing with fellow bandmates Myleene Klass and Noel Sullivan. In 2006, Kym joined ITV soap opera Coronation Street as Michelle Connor and has won various awards for her acting, including Best Newcomer and Best Dramatic Female Performance at the Soap Awards. Kym announced she was leaving the soap in 2019 after 13 years. Kym has since gone on to present Morning Live alongside Gethin Jones and is now married to army major Scott Ratcliff.

Danny Foster
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CREDIT: Getty Images

Danny was successfully picked to be in the band, after competing against thousands for a place. However, when the band split 18 months after being put together, he was left high and dry.

Danny Foster
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CREDIT: Getty Images

Since their split, Danny has taken a step back from the spotlight. He currently performs in his own group, "Danny Foster & The Big Soul Corporation", singing soul and Motown songs. However, he did audition for The Voice UK in 2013, but failed to impress any of the judges and didn't make it through. He also formed a drag act with his Hear'say bandmate Noel Sullivan called Do Blondes Tondres but they split after a few months due to "musical differences." Danny is now married to Victoria Goddard and if you have a scroll on his Instagram you'll see a lot of positive quotes.

Suzanne Shaw
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CREDIT: Getty Images

Seen as the "Baby Spice" of the group, Hear'Say split just after Suzanne's 21st birthday. But that didn't stop her rising star as she went on to establish herself as a leading lady on the West End, starring as the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2005 and as Janet in The Rocky Horror Show national tour in the same year. She also joined the cast of The Bill in 2007.

Suzanne Shaw
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CREDIT: Getty Images

In recent years, she is best known for playing Eve Birch in Emmerdale, but left in 2011 to pursue other opportunities. She also won Dancing on Ice in 2008 and returned in 2014 for an All Stars special, when ITV announced the show was ending. She's a mum to Corey (from her relationship with Darren Day) and Rafferty (from her relationship with Sam Greenfield). In 2021 she announced to her followers that she's sober.

Myleene Klass
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CREDIT: Getty Images

A year after the band split, Myleene signed a five-album deal with Universal Classics and Jazz, and released a classical music album in 2003. The album, Moving On, peaked at No. 2 in the UK Classical Chart and was later certified gold. In 2007, she split from the record company but quickly signed another, releasing, Myleene's Music for Romance, in July of the same year, which went straight to Number One in the Classical Chart.

Myleene Klass
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CREDIT: Getty Images

Aside from her music, Myleene has hosted The One Show (2007), Popstar to Operastar (2010–2011), BBQ Champ (2015) and currently has her own radio show on Smooth Radio. She's appeared on I'm A Celeb back 2006 and came second on the show. You may also recognise her from those iconic Littlewood adverts... Plus, Myleene is a mum to daughters Ava and Hero (from her relationship to ex-husband Graham Quinn) and her son Apollo from her relationship with fiancé Simon Motson.

Noel Sullivan
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Similar to Suzanne, Noel has also had an extremely successful career in theatre. He appeared in productions such as Fame, Love Shack, What a Feeling and Grease, before moving to America for 18 months. However, he was quick to return when he was once again offered the lead role of Danny in Grease in the West End.

Noel Sullivan
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CREDIT: Getty Images

Noel then moved into TV, landing a cameo appearance in Gavin and Stacey in 2010 before moving onto a role in the second series of the BBC drama Ordinary Lies in 2016. In 2019, he appeared in BBC's Years and Years. In 2017, Noel announced he had married his husband James.

She says, “We had big success and it was wonderful – but then within two years, a rapid decline. We were more of a soap opera than a band. It was as if the public had turned on us and I was petrified of going on stage and being booed. That’s not normal stuff for a 19 year old to deal with. I thought no one liked me. It’s no surprise I got really low.

“I never felt I wanted to kill myself when my depression was at its worst, but it was an overwhelming feeling of ‘I can’t see my way through today.’ I wanted to be somebody else. I didn’t want to be me.

“It has sometimes got to the point where I don’t want to see people or even go out. I was paranoid people were looking at me. I didn’t want to be ‘The Blonde One’ in Hear’Say – I have wanted a pause on life and an ‘out’ of my situation.”

After the band broke up, Suzanne began acting. She starred as Eve Birch in Emmerdale between 2010 and 2011, and had lead roles in London’s West End shows, including Chicago and The Vagina Monologues. But she says that, while being on stage is still her “first love”, she finds the rejection that sometimes comes with it hard to deal with.

Hear'Say
With her Hear’Say bandmates in 2001 ©Shutterstock

She reveals, “The entertainment industry can be so brutal, as it’s very competitive. I was auditioning for shows from the age of nine, and I was told I was too tall, too small, too fat, too thin. It was constant rejection over the years.

“It is my first love, but it’s not good for my mental health, so I am considering moving into the wellness sector.”

Suzanne says that filming the video of her breaking down during lockdown helped her move forward in her recovery and has given her the confidence to stay sober. She has also “found strength from fans and her peers” after being inundated with supportive messages, including from her good pal Myleene, who called her “mega brave” for her revelation.

“I’ve always kept my depression to myself but, since the video, I feel I’ve been able to move on with my life,” she explains.

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Her engagement to Sam, 37, is also going well, despite her admitting she has tried to push him away in the past.

“My depression has impacted us as a couple, but we’ve stayed strong. I have tried my best to push him away sometimes, because I have a lot of trust issues, but he hasn’t gone anywhere. We have a great relationship,” she reveals.

Suzanne has kept her mental health on track during the COVID-19 pandemic by overhauling her diet and fitness regime, along with family activities.

She explains, “Running is my mental therapy. I wake up early almost every day and go for a run. It stops the mind chatter and I meditate, too. Quitting booze nine months ago has given me so much confidence. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel amazing. Some days, the demons do come back, but now, I have the tools to handle them. I accept they are part of my make-up.”

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In the past year, she’s lost a stone and two dress sizes, going from a size 12 to 8.

“Last summer, I was at my heaviest apart from when I was pregnant. Now, I am vegan and I try to stick to fruit and vegetables as much as possible. My diet is plant-based, but it’s not about weight loss – that is just a bonus. It is about putting the right nutrition into my body, so I feel happy. I look at myself so differently now, too. The better I eat, the better I feel,” she says.

“I’m 40 next year and now I’m ready to move into a new phase of my life. I feel really good and uplifted about it! The bonus with age is you have experience, and you care less what other people think.”

If you’re struggling, call Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

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