It has been a life-changing summer for Lizzie Cundy. After spending a summer in Greece on the show Our Shirley Valentine Summer, nicknamed Love Island for the over 40s, she filled us in on how the show has changed her life and why she’s still open to finding love
What made you want to sign up for Our Shirley Valentine Summer?
‘I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life. I felt I was constantly working, with early mornings, breakfast TV, running to another interview, then getting ready and going to an event. I just wasn’t stopping. When the show came along, I thought, “this is going to do me some good.” So when it was offered to me, I grabbed it with both hands.
Was it relaxing for you when you were out there?
‘I was quite scared at the beginning because there was no phone – I wasn’t doing my usual Instagram post in the morning! And I thought, “Oh my god, how am I going to cope with this?” And also living in a house with seven other very strong, very different characters, I thought, “oh gosh, am I going to be able to handle this?” But it was fantastic. It really was a life-changer for me and I’m so happy that I did the show.’
What do you think you’ve got out of the show?
‘It made me realise what I really, truly missed in life – my real friends, my family and what’s important. I tended to try and help people that maybe didn’t deserve my help. The show made me realise who’s good in my life and who isn’t. It was great because I didn’t have my phone – all I had was time to think.’
Wow, that is a serious social media detox! How long were you filming for?
‘We were there for over a month. It was a long time to be away. My boys are my life, so it was pretty difficult because I missed them.
But it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was climbing up mountains, I’m not great with heights. I’m not good in the water so I stood in a boat. All of these things really did push me to the limit and it made me realise that, actually, I can do anything.’
It has been marketed as a Love Island for over 40s. Were you looking for love when you went on the show?
‘I was looking for a bit of love because I’ve not really found it in my life. And I did find someone I did like, but he was a bit of a bad boy. He was a DJ, he ran a club and it was all the signs that I normally go for. And I went there to try and get out of bad habits, so I did knock it a bit on the head at the end of the show. But I did like him and we’re still in touch, so I’m not saying it’s over completely. I’ve got him on WhatsApp and he’s coming to London, so we’ll see…’
How was your experience different to Love Island?
‘On Love Island they’re jumping into bed with each other so fast, it seems like 100mph. And everyone that I’ve interviewed since, on my radio show, has said it’s like you’ve been in a relationship for six months and it’s only been a couple of weeks. Our show was much more laid back and relaxed. We were finding out a bit more about ourselves, rather than trying to jump on some guy. It was a bit slower paced, but I think we had more of an emotional value to our show.’
What has been the viewers’ reaction to the show?
‘I’ve had such a big response from people messaging me on Twitter and Instagram. People have contacted me, saying “I just ended it with my boyfriend, came back, watched the show and you’ve made me think there’s hope.” It’s given people hope that, as we get older, there is life. And it can be even more fun.’
Would you say you’re still looking for love?
‘Yeah, I would say I am. My boys are getting older – they are priority, and always will be, but they don’t want to hang around with their mum anymore! I would really love to get married again and I think, why not? A new chapter of my life and I’ve got nothing to be scared of.’
Back in 2012 when your marriage ended, you said being single was really scary for you, that you were having panic attacks…Now, if you did stay single, how would you feel about that?
‘I’ve grown so much since back then. It doesn’t worry me, being single, because I’ve realised the importance of friendships, girl time and spending quality time with people you really like. If I find someone, that would be wonderful, but I’d rather be on my own than with someone who I don’t want to be with because I think that’s more lonely than anything.
I just feel I’ve suddenly got this confidence. From the show, I feel I can do anything. Nothing really scares me now. But I think a lot of women will get that it’s scary when you first split up with someone – especially when you’ve been such a long time with the same person. But life is for living – there’s no point being scared, you’ve got to grab it with both hands!’
Have you met up with the other women since the end of the show?
‘Yeah, I’ve met up with basically all of the girls. We had a reunion at Ingrid’s house, I stayed after, which was great fun. I’ve seen Annabel a couple of times – Annabel came on my radio show, then I whisked her out to London for some time out – to make her go out more! I’ve seen Aggie, she put me on a blind date – which we won’t talk any more about…! We’ve all stayed in touch. We’re on a big WhatsApp – Shirley Valentine Group – so we all stay in touch with each other.’
Are your friendships as genuine off-screen as they seemed on-screen?
‘Yeah, I think people got that from the show – it was genuine. You could tell there was a good bond there. I think it makes a change from Celebrity Big Brother, which is all fighting and screaming – it’s good to see a feel-good show that was warm-hearted and had girls getting on.’
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
‘I think that show was one of them. I would say getting my first ITV show, which was ITV At the Movies, where I travelled to Hollywood. I’d fly out and meet all the A-Listers. That was great.’
Who was the best person you interviewed on that show?
‘I’d say Tom Cruise was one of my favourites. Another one was Sharon Stone. Pierce Brosnan was another one, where I couldn’t stop laughing. And it made me see that some of the A-listers are so much lower maintenance than some of the people who were in soaps and stuff!’
Looking back towards the beginning of your career, what was it like to be a grid girl in Formula One?
‘I had the time of my life. That is why I stood up for these girls, because we were so well looked after. I love Formula One – I met all of the racing drivers, they all treated us with respect. It was one of the best times ever, so I found it really sad that the PC Brigade came in and said there can’t be anymore and it’s degrading to girls. Because actually it made a good living and I was not only paid very well, but I had the time of my life. Plus I loved the outfits – I’d probably still wear some of them now!’