Rachel Stevens: “Not Ready to Date – Focusing on Myself After Painful Split”
RACHEL Stevens previously described meeting her husband as being like a scene from a romcom.
Following a string of failed relationships, the S Club 7 star had sworn off men and was planning a move to LA.
Rachel Stevens opens up about her marriage split, reuniting with S Club 7 and how therapy has made her a better mumCredit: Mark Hayman
The star previously described meeting her husband and childhood sweetheart Alex Bourne as being like a scene from a romcomCredit: Mark Hayman
But in July last year, after more than 12 years of marriage, the pair announced they had splitCredit: Getty Images
But after bumping into childhood sweetheart Alex Bourne, now 45, in London’s Selfridges store, they rekindled their relationship and tied the knot at Claridge’s in 2009.
But in July last year, after more than 12 years of marriage, the pair – who have two daughters, Amelie, 12, and Minnie, eight – announced they had split.
Speaking for the first time about their break-up, Rachel, 44, says: “It’s very hard to articulate the feelings, because there are so many. It’s been really painful, really sad. It’s been the biggest decision to make in our lives, obviously, with our kids.”
Rachel and Alex’s biggest concern has been protecting their children from the fallout. Rachel’s own parents, Michael and Linda, split when she was 17 and it had a monumental impact on her life, leaving her feeling lost for many years.
“I worried about the girls having the experience I had,” she admits. “We’ve had some amazing advice on how to speak to them. They know how much we love them and we are not going anywhere.
“Our split is very amicable and that’s really helping. It’s only the last two weeks that we’ve not been living together. That was definitely difficult. We’re doing it with love and respect, but it’s a process.
“It’s taken a lot of navigating. We are going to mess up and make mistakes. But we are acknowledging that to them, and I feel so lucky.”
She credits a therapist, who she started seeing twice a week after her own parents split, for guiding her through the break-up .
“I’m so grateful for having therapy,” Rachel admits. “Having that outlet to talk to someone with no judgement or emotional attachment. She just gets it. I think it’s so important for all of us to feel seen, heard and understood.
“Through my therapy, I’ve learned how to parent better. I want to be the best mum I can be. And I say to the girls: ‘I’ve made a mistake.’ It’s important for them to see that we’re not perfect – that parents are human.”
She says communication has been key to getting the family through the break-up.
“When my parents divorced, I didn’t know what was going on. As parents, you will do anything to protect your children, but you are actually not protecting them by keeping them in the dark. You need to be honest with them.
“We need to respect that they are emotionally smart. Otherwise, they make things up in their own mind and that’s more damaging. It’s a balance and you have to park your stuff and focus on them.
“It’s been very planned how we’ve told them that we were separating. But you can’t always get everything right. It’s just not possible.”
Starting again as a single mum after more than a decade, Rachel is trying to embrace new beginnings.
She recently moved out of the family’s north London home into a new place with her daughters, admitting that she had been “drowning in boxes” and a “mix of emotions”.
“Moving house has been stressful, but it’s really exciting. Choosing interiors and decorating – I love that.
“It’s my place with the girls. That feels empowering. We’re creating a home, which is wonderful, but there are so many feelings around it. Mainly good, but also scary,” she says.
Speaking for the first time about their break-up, Rachel, 44, says: ‘It’s very hard to articulate the feelings, because there are so many’Credit: Mark Hayman
Rachel, who will reunite with her S Club 7 band mates for the group’s 25th anniversary, added ‘I’m so grateful for having therapy’Credit: Getty Images
Throughout the ’90s and ’00s, posters of Rachel adorned the walls of teenage boys across the country, with even Declan Donnelly joking on SMTV Live how much he fancied her.
She frequently graced the covers of lads’ magazines and appeared in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women list a whopping 11 times – even being voted “sexiest woman of all time” in 2014. And she admits men have wasted no time in asking her out now she’s single again.
“Yeah, there’s been a few [offers to take her out],” she giggles. “But no, I’m not ready to start dating. I’ve got enough going on for now. But I love love. I’m the soppiest person. We should be happy to be in love and deserve all the great things in life.”
As well as adjusting to single life, Rachel is set to be rather busy career-wise.
Not only will she be performing solo at Mighty Hoopla festival in June, but earlier this month it was announced she would be reuniting with her S Club 7 band mates – Jon Lee, Hannah Spearritt, Jo O’Meara, Paul Cattermole, Bradley McIntosh and Tina Barrett – for an 11-date tour across the UK and Ireland this October, to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary.
She explains: “Simon [Fuller, the music mogul behind the Spice Girls, who put the band together] got back in touch with us. It was 1,000,000% yes, absolutely, from me. It’s crazy how quickly that time has gone. Our music stands the test of time. People need fun and nostalgia more than ever.
“And we just want to ‘bring it all back’ [laughs] – no pun intended. We want to bring that joy back and get back out there.
“We’ve kept in touch on and off through social media or WhatsApp. Everyone’s just kind of gone their separate ways. But when we’re back in a room together, there’s so much love. We’re like a family.”
S Club 7 had phenomenal success. They sold more than 10 million records between 1999 and 2003, embarked on three arena tours, won two BRIT Awards, starred in numerous BBC TV series and even a feature-length film, Seeing Double.
“There are already discussions to get the shows on streaming services, as well as the possibility of recording new material after the tour.
“I’m so proud of what we achieved with the music, and for my kids to be able to see it as well,” Rachel says. “Last time we did a tour, my eldest was three.
“At the minute, I’m just Mummy. I sing on the way to school and they’re like: ‘Mum, stop, you’re making me cringe.’ But they are proud, too. If our songs come on the radio, they love it, so now this is a chance for them to really be a part of it.
“Between the seven of us, we have seven kids, and it’s the same ratio of three boys and four girls. We have this little mini-me ready-made S Club 7 ready to go. It’s S Club Junior Juniors!”
A mini version of the band could actually be a reality, as both Rachel’s girls are keen to follow in her footsteps.
“They are TikTok mad. Amelie has just done a year in Les Misérables and now she’s a first year at drama school. It was hard, as she got offered the part before lockdown.
“There was this massive excitement, getting the part after all these auditions, finally getting in front of Cameron Mackintosh, and then this massive disappointment when it all closed.
“But it was an incredible learning curve and she had no idea if she would still get it when it opened up. She had to do the whole process again and got the part.
“There is no question about what she’s going to do. She’s sung ever since she was little. It’s not me, she’s driven by herself, but I am supporting her. It’s so ingrained in her, this raw talent.
“I can’t get her to do her homework, but if you give her a script or a song, she’s so passionate about it. She just loves singing and performing. She’s a natural. Then my little one wants to be an actress, but she’s still finding her way.”
As well as the thrill of performing again, Rachel is most excited to see the band’s costumes, though some of the ’90s relics will not be making a reappearance.
“I don’t have any of the outfits from that time. It’s probably a good thing. Like hankybandanas or a crop top tied with a string – we probably need to leave them where they were. Although, ’90s fashion is back and kinda cool now.”
While Rachel went on to record two solo albums, as well as competing on Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing On Ice and releasing clothing collections with Oasis, some of her band mates have not fared so well.
It was revealed in The Sun that Hannah and her long-term partner, Adam Thomas, 42, had spent Christmas living in a friend’s office with their two daughters after losing their home.
Rachel with her two daughters, Amelie, 12, and Minnie, eightCredit: Instagram/Rachel Stevens
Rachel was voted ‘sexiest woman of all time’ in 2014
“It’s horrible knowing someone’s going through a tough time,” Rachel says. “I think we’ve all faced challenges, especially through the last few years.
Life is full of ups and downs. And you know we’re all there for her. We’ll be able to support each other.”
Part of S Club 7’s appeal was that there were seven personalities and fans could all identify with one. Rachel was often dubbed “the hot one”, but despite her undeniable beauty, she struggled with her appearance.
“I put such a pressure on myself to feel perfect and be in control,” she says. “I wanted to be perfect in everything. It was very much about appearance. I grew up feeling like everything was outside-in. I struggled with that and I went into S Club feeling very guarded.
“It was at a time when my parents were divorcing and we moved house and I had no sort of grounding. I was so lost.
“Everything I had known had gone. I didn’t know who I was. Then this amazing thing happened at 19. I was still quite young. It was incredible, but I ended up becoming this person who I thought I kind of have to be.”
In fact, she put up a persona of “Rachel from S Club” and lost the real Rachel Stevens in the process. It’s taken years of therapy to find herself again.
Despite it being 25 years since the band’s formation, Rachel looks almost exactly the same. But she admits she is nervous about putting herself back in the public eye at 44.
“I’ve been moving house with no make-up and wearing tracksuit bottoms. I’ve been in my bubble of dealing with a lot of personal stuff.
“Now I’m about to go back out there. I have all my insecurities and I’ll be in front of hundreds of photographers. I’m someone who, when I feel vulnerable, I want to hide. But I’ve realised it is OK to feel those things and that is empowering.
“More than anything, when you are happy, it shows on your face. If you are comfortable in yourself, that’s the most beautiful thing.”
And looking at Rachel today, her happiness is there for all to see.
- Watch the S Club 7 Reunited tour nationwide from October 13 (Sclub7.co.uk).
Rachel also admits she is nervous about putting herself back in the public eye at 44Credit: Mark Hayman
Fabulous Parenting Club
What’s your funniest parenting memory?
I once got the kids ready for school well ahead of time. I thought I was winning at life, then we got there and it was closed for an inset day! I just had to laugh.
What’s been your biggest win?
I want to teach them to be opinionated and strong, but I can’t bear bullying, so when they are kind, that’s a win.
Have you had any notable fails?
I’ve had loads – I can’t name them all! I care so much about being the best parent I can. But we can’t give ourselves a hard time. You have to think: “How can I learn from that fail?”
Any top tips?
Listen to your children. Empathy is a powerful thing, and kids just want to be heard.
Who is your parenting inspo?
I don’t have one. We are all learning and I don’t think anyone has got it right. It’s the hardest job – it’s really bloody hard work – so we are all inspiring.
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