Dawn French turns 61: ‘It’s ok to make mistakes’

-Oct 9, Hannah Hargrave, Living -

Like a fine wine Dawn French really does seem to get better with age and as she celebrates her 61st birthday it’s clear she’s got no plans to lose her fabulousness or her flavour.


Dawn French is an actress, author and presenter has built an incredible comedy career with her self depreciating wit at it’s cornerstone. But while her larger than life personality has stuck, over the last few years her famous fuller figure has been transformed. She lost an incredible eight stone in order to undergo a hysterectomy and she’s maintained her sleeker physique.

But what is so refreshing about the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘Delicious’ star is her down-to-earth and often comical attitude towards body image and ageing, neither of which she lets govern her life. She might be at an age, which she admits as a child she thought was ‘ancient’, but that definitely doesn’t mean that she feels it.

Over 60 isn’t old!


“When I was a kid I used to look at people who were 60 and think ‘you should just really die, because what is the point of you now?’” Dawn hilariously revealed. “When I was little that’s what I used to think about people being 60.  But actually 60 doesn’t feel like anything. It feels like 40 or whatever.”


Losing weight was ‘practical’


Dawn relishes her countryside lifestyle in Cornwall where she lives with her husband Mark Bignell – she was previously married to Lenny Henry for 25 years. But while you might see her walking her dogs on the beach you won’t find her pounding the treadmill and living off lettuce in a bid to keep the weight – which she says was lost for purely ‘practical’ reasons – off.

“When I was due to have my hysterectomy the doctor told me that if I could lose some weight before the op, they would be able to do it via keyhole, and I would recover in three weeks or so,” she said, adding that the alternative was open surgery and three months recovery.

“It was grim. I lost seven-and-a-half stone. I could have the keyhole surgery. Great. That’s all it was, practical.”


‘I liked the old Dawn’


She did it through plenty of walking and a serious reduction in her food intake.

“I set about dropping a few stone. No magic wand, just tiny, joyless low-cal eating and lots more walking for weeks and weeks.”

Don’t think just because she’s lost weight that she’s lost her sense of humour or her appetite for life….and food though.

“I go up a bit, down a bit, feel no different. I’m still Dawn, I liked the old Dawn, I may go there again, depends how many doughnuts I decide to eat.”


‘Try to love your body’


Dawn looks back at her life and her body with fondness and says she only wishes that she could have appreciated herself more when she was younger.

If she had some advice for her more youthful self she said: “Try to love your body because I never did actually and when I look back at pictures of myself I think ‘I was absolutely gorgeous’.”

She said so was her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders and pop diva friend Alison Moyet, but yet they couldn’t see it.

“We were all gorgeous when we were younger and yet we thought we were revolting. Great humungous gargoyles who spent our time hating what we got. I’d just say, ‘relax and like your body a bit’.”

Believe that you are beautiful 


If she could, she would also tell herself to believe the people around her.

“You don’t really when you are young. For instance my dad told me lots of things that were very useful. He told me I was very beautiful, and although of course he’s my dad and he’s going to tell me that, I have to say it did lift my spirits up and I did believe him a little bit. That has stood me in good stead my whole life.”


‘It’s ok to make mistakes’


Although she’s had an illustrious career spanning almost 40 years Dawn is the first to admit she’s made a few mistakes down the line, but she’s absolutely ok with that.

“It’s ok to make mistakes. Like big mistakes, like certain boys,” she said. “I’m not mentioning names. Or other small fashion mistakes like hot pants. It’s actually ok to wear hot pants when you’re short and a bit fat. They actually look quite good.”

And when there have been trying times the wise words of her own mother spring to mind.

“She told me when I was quite young and it always helped that the only way out is through. That means you have to go through stuff to get out the other side. So while you’re in the middle of crappy stuff happening to you, it’s ok because it’ll be over soon and you have to go through it anyway.”


If you enjoyed this, perhaps you would like to read our inspirational interview with the wonderful Melanie C. Or read what Emma Forbes had to say about ‘phase two’ of her life meaning that she feels better than she ever did! 

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