Christine McGuinness' anorexia struggle was spotted by school dinner lady
Reality star and model Christine McGuinness, 33, on being diagnosed as autistic and why she’s never watched Paddy’s Phoenix Nights.
Who or what made you decide to write your autobiography, A Beautiful Nightmare?
Four or five years ago, me and my husband [comedian/TV host Paddy McGuinness] were at an event and I sat next to a director. I couldn’t tell you what her name was but we got on.
She asked to know a little bit more about me, which no one’s ever really done before. I’ve done so many interviews with daytime TV about my children [twins Leo and Penelope, eight, and Felicity, five, are all autistic] and my husband but no one’s ever really said, ‘What about you?’
I told her some little bits and she asked if I would be interested in making a short film about it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, absolutely no way!’ but that planted the seed.
What was the hardest part to write about?
My dad [who has been addicted to heroin]. I suppose it’s just because I love him and I’ve got young children and I wish he was in their lives.
I feel like we’re all missing out. I still see him now again, and I can have a laugh with him, and I always tell him I love him but he didn’t raise me. So there isn’t that special bond there that I would like to have but, you know, there’s still time.
How do you think writing about the trauma of your early life — when you were assaulted as a child — has helped you?
Being able to write it down has definitely helped. Talking to my family about it, my husband and my mum. I’ve kept conversations brief with them because it is a difficult subject to talk about but more for them than for me.
I feel at peace with it. I’ll never be completely ok about it but I feel healed, if that’s the right word.
There are some wonderful instances of kindness, such as the school dinner lady who looked out for you when you were struggling with anorexia. Have you ever seen her again?
Yeah, that was Mrs White. She was just the loveliest lady. Her daughter, Louise, was in my year at school. Back then, no one noticed that I had really strong food aversion.
She was the only one to notice. This was in junior school. She made sure I had something to eat every day. She would do it secretly. She kept me a plain sandwich with no butter on with cheese. I’ll never forget her.
You write that until the age of 30, things just happened to you and you had no control over anything. What’s changed?
Realising that I’m autistic. It was a massive eye-opener. I figured it out a couple of years ago when the children were diagnosed but I never spoke to anyone about it, even my husband.
Then this year, when we started filming our documentary for the BBC [about autism], we always had this burning question as to why have we got three autistic children?
The only way for us to really find out was to take part in an AQ test with somebody who could diagnose. I scored really highly — 36 out of 50 — and then every penny just dropped. It’s helped me a lot. I understand a lot more my quirks and my funny ways.
Has Paddy read A Beautiful Nightmare and have you read his autobiography?
No, I haven’t. I don’t know. We’re not really big readers. I’ve never watched him too much on telly, either. I haven’t watched Phoenix Nights or Max And Paddy’s Road To Nowhere.
When I first met him he hadn’t done TV, he was a stand-up comedian so he was touring. At the time I was only 19, and I was busy partying and enjoying life. I didn’t think I was going to marry him and have three kids so I suppose I just wasn’t really interested [laughs].
I’ve always found it quite difficult to watch things that aren’t real. I love Louis Theroux documentaries.
You are taking part in ITV’s The Full Monty to support your mum, who is in remission from breast cancer. How’s she doing?
She’s just doing incredible. She’s trying to get on with life. She’s started doing the weekly shop again, which is quite a big thing for her.
How are the dance rehearsals going?
Seeing Mum made me realise I need to stop complaining that I can’t remember the bloody dances! Honestly, I’m the worst one.
My memory is fantastic with things I don’t need to remember — I’m getting to know all the service stations on the route from Cheshire [where the family live] to London but remembering whether I need to go left or right or put my arm up or down? I can’t.
Didn’t you used to be a paid bar dancer in Paris and Zante?
Now I’m doing this I’m thinking, how on earth did I ever blag that job? That was just me being out partying and they paid me to do it, which was great.
What are you doing with the rest of your day?
I’m going to try to nip in the gym. We’re filming so much with The Full Monty at the minute so today is a rare day off.
A Beautiful Nightmare is out now.
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