Cherry Healey first appeared on our screens almost 10 years ago. Now the BBC documentary-maker and single mum speaks out about her struggles with body-confidence, her rocky career journey, and the best thing about being a mum
What made you decide to change careers and go from marketing into being a runner at the BBC?
‘I’ve always been an enthusiastic person but when I started my marketing job I felt my energy and excitement gradually ebb away. I remember sitting in my kitchen before work, feeling really low, and thinking, “Is this really the work world? There has got to be more than this…”
Then I met a director at a party and had a lightbulb moment. When he told me he made television I knew immediately that was what I was I wanted to do and I asked him about a thousand questions. By the end of the evening I couldn’t wait for the morning to come so that I could quit my job and try to get something in telly.’
How did you feel at the time?
‘I was really focused. I was like a dog with a bone – finally I had found the thing to fight for and I put all my energy, enthusiasm and passion into making it happen. I had to knock on so many doors, write so many letters and emails, deal with so much rejection and just keep pounding on the door – it wasn’t an option for it to not happen.’
In times of stress you say you often take Rescue Remedy. When did you start using it?
‘I first discovered Rescue Remedy when I was 16 and really struggling with exam stress. I found that sometimes it became so acute that it made learning hard – the intense adrenaline made it hard to focus the brain and that’s when I’d use Rescue Remedy. It just calmed me down enough to be able to actually absorb the information.’
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
‘Don’t get a credit card! When I was a student I ended up with a £3,000 debt which, when you’re working in a coffee shop, takes a very, very long time to pay back.
It meant that when I started my television career I had no money for the bus or to go to the pub with the other runners – I cycled everywhere, took packed lunches and suppers and worked in a supermarket at the weekends for some cash.’
If you could go back and live your life again, what would you change?
‘I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about my body not being stick thin – who cares? It’s never affected my work or being able to get a boyfriend, or the love from my friends – I wasted hours, even days worrying about the diameter of my thighs.
It’s wonderful now to be free (most of the time) from that. And, ironically, as soon as I started loving myself and looking after myself more in a loving way, rather than as punishment, I found it easier to manage my weight!’
A lot of your documentaries have been quite personal. How do you feel about sharing your personal life with the public?
‘I don’t have any problem with sharing things. I do have a private side and I’m quite private about the kids’ life, but I have always been happy to talk about some quite intimate things – much to the horror of my family sometimes!’
How do you juggle your job with raising two children?
‘It’s really hard – I often feel I’m not being a good enough mother and not a good enough colleague. But I am very logistical and I don’t waste time. Like lots of mums, I often work after they’ve gone to bed, which can make you feel a bit frazzled but luckily I do love my job so mostly it’s really fun!
I also qualify doing nothing as doing something – pottering around and staring into space is important for recharging. My job is really busy and loud and people-fuelled, so I sometimes crave being on my own- an hour or two of mooching about the shops or having some food alone in a restaurant can be life-giving.’
How do you find life as a single mum?
‘Sometimes it feels really empowering and sometimes it feels incredibly hard to keep the show on the road. It’s a huge financial responsibility to bring in enough money to pay the bills and mortgage, but I’m hugely grateful that I have a job that I enjoy and that I can show the kids a good work ethic.’
What’s the best thing about being a mum?
‘Having something bigger than yourself to work hard for. I am so motivated by wanting to give them safety and solidity – both in terms of working hard to make myself reliable and loving, and also in terms of making sure the house is safe and they can focus on things like how many fish fingers they want!
On a less profound level it’s those little moments where they come into your bed on a weekend and you can have a proper snuggle with legs wrapped around each other and laughing and being silly – and then the cat jumps on the bed and there’s more laughing! Those moments are absolute bliss.’