Depression helped me to find bliss

Date
Published in
Evening Standard (UK)

Kim Wilde says that depression was the best thing that ever happened to her. In 1991, 11 years after she first topped the charts, aged 20, with the pop-perfect Kids in America, the beautiful blonde singer had 30 hit singles and 10 albums to her name, but a personal life in shreds. "I burned out. I felt empty. The challenge had gone," she recalls. "I was bored and people were bored of me. It was like nothing I'd suffered before or since."

Wilde was eating and drinking too much, and a string of failed relationships made her worry the perfect romance she'd dreamed of might never arrive. So, to the surprise of her father, Marty Wilde, the veteran rocker who co-wrote her songs with his son Ricky, Kim extricated herself from her record deal, moved from London to Hertfordshire, and withdrew from the world for six months. "Dad couldn't believe I was turning my back on the phenomenon that was Kim Wilde," she says. "The experience shook me up, but it also made me stronger."
The depression took a while to shift, though. A psychiatrist prescribed pills she believes her subconscious persuaded her to lose them) and hypnotist Paul McKenna helped her over her compulsion to binge. She reinvented herself as a TV presenter on the Big Breakfast in 1994, but a six-week fling with Chris Evans did nothing to boost her hopes of long-term love. "I thought I'd spend the rest of my life being this serial dater," she says.
A further 11 years on, the cheerful, ecstatically married and still exquisitely cheekboned figure before me has burgeoning (if unlikely) second career as a celebrity gardener, and even feels confident enough to "be Kim again" and join the roster of acts in the Here and Now Eighties revival tour for the second year running.

"Last year it was hard work, psychologically rather than physically," she admits. "But I felt so relaxed when got on stage. I had nothing to prove, the audience hadn't been marched into the auditorium at gunpoint, and I was part of a gang, rather than carrying the show." That Bardot mouth splits in a grin. "And they are paying me very well."

Wilde doesn't blame pop music for her problems, and points out that for every casualty of the business, like her old touring cohort Michael Jackson, there's a Teflon survivor like Madonna. "I just had this monkey on my back saying, 'How are you going to stop yourself becoming a hostage to your own career?'" she says. The only advice she'll venture to pop youngsters entering the profession is simple: challenge yourself. "If you are offered something that makes you tremble, go down that road."

Wilde followed her own dictum, emerging from her doldrums to make her acting debut in the West End stage production of The Who's Tommy. Her costar was seven years her junior, and his name was Hal Fowler. They met in January 1996, had their first date that March, and were married in September. "As soon as I met him, knew," she says. "I had always wanted a great love story to tell my kids and it happened. I very quickly got fat and had babies." Harry was born in 1998, Rose Elizabeth in 2000, and Kim's gardening career came as a "by- product" of pottering in the garden of her converted barn with the children (she also has impeccable credentials from a local horticultural college).

We talk briefly about Celebrity Detox, a reality show due on Five in January, in which Kim and the likes of Tamara Beckwith and Richard Blackwood not only fasted for a week on the Thai island of Koh Samui, but also administered their own enemas twice a day, sometimes on camera. This seems an indelicate note on which to end, so I ask Kim Wilde pop star, wife, mother and gardener - if she has any horticultural tips for Standard readers.

She barely hesitates: "If you have any plants in containers that are vulnerable to frost, move them close to the house, so they get more heat." What a star.