…Going on stage aged two
Me and the family all sang together and I remember walking out into the ABC Theatre in Blackpool and singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” I walked out in a little nightie with a teddy bear tucked under my arm. I remember everyone going, “Aaah,” as I walked out.
…Living in Blackpool until I was nine
Colleen aged nine with her sisters
All my family moved from Ireland—they were all born over there—I was the only one born in England, which was hilarious because I was the only one with an English passport. In those days the TV always ended with the national anthem and I used to stand up and all my family used to go, “Sit down, you’re Irish. And I’d respond, “I’m not. I’m English.”
…Our house in Blackpool was a really small, terraced house with three bedrooms, one tiny bathroom, a lounge and a kitchen and the ten of us lived in there. I don’t think my brothers ever got to use the bathroom because obviously there were six girls and two boys. It was crazy and loud and just great, really. I remember noise, neighbours in and out and playing on the street.
…Being obsessed with horses
I used to spend my life down at the riding stables. I used to go and help with the horses and stay there all day, and then we were normally gigging at night, which was very bizarre.
…When we first moved to London, we stayed in businessman Joe Lewis’s house for about six months and he had this big mansion in Wentworth overlooking the golf course. He had a swimming pool—it was incredible. And then we found a house in Ilford and it was a big double-fronted detached house so it was just amazing for us all.
"My parents always assumed we were all going to be singers so we didn’t need to worry about what grades we got in geography or history"
…My sisters were contracted to sing at a cabaret club but it turned out to be a nightclub and so I wasn’t allowed to do it. All of a sudden, I went from having this weird childhood of going round all the clubs to having a normal childhood where I would go to school and come home, and my friends would come round because I didn’t have to go to any gigs. It was a lovely time for me.
…The first tv show that we got was the It’s Cliff Richard show
So, although I couldn’t perform with my sisters at the cabaret club, I could perform on telly. Thinking back now, it was a huge deal. Those were the days when there were only three channels and you would get 20 million people watching. But, because I’d sung with my family since I was two, it didn’t feel any different. It just felt like what we had always done.
…As a child I wanted to be a vet, then I thought about being a social worker. I don’t know why—they’re so opposite ends. I think it was because one of my friends at school, her mum was a social worker and I absolutely loved her mum.
…Although my mum and dad had eight kids in the house they never stopped any of us from having friends over, so on top of having eight kids we also had friends sleeping over. It was never a case of, “No, there’s no room.”
…Getting very little in terms of an education because I was always moving.
I missed a lot of school through going round the country and singing. I don’t think it was ever on the top of my parents’ agenda. I think they always assumed that we were going to all be singers so we didn’t need to worry about what grades we got in geography or history.
…Joining my sisters when I was 15
We went off touring to Japan, Australia and Russia and places like that and I had kind of left school. It sounds weird, because nowadays they come down on you if your child misses one day of school, but no one ever seemed to question it back then. It was certainly an incredible experience—there aren’t too many 15-year-olds who manage to tour the world and perform on stage.
"The Nolans had this squeaky-clean image. People didn’t think we kissed boys, let alone got pregnant"
…There were times when I just wanted to be a teenager
Sometimes, my friends would be going out and I’d think, Oh I really want to go out, but I couldn’t because I was gigging. I really wanted to join the Brownies but I couldn’t because we had a gig that night and I remember being really upset about that. There was a massive part of me that, although very, very happy, very much yearned for a normal life.
…When I had my eldest son, Shane [with Shane Richie], we weren’t married or anything and obviously The Nolans had this squeaky-clean image. People didn’t think we even kissed boys let alone got pregnant. Initially it was a bit nerve wracking, like, “How am I going to break this?” I just phoned my dad and said, “Dad I’ve got something to tell you and I’m really happy about it and I hope you are OK with it but I’m pregnant,” and he was brilliant, actually.
…Christmas was a special time and my mum and dad made it so magical. They loved it and made sure we loved it and I still love Christmas. We watched all the Christmas films and we had Christmas songs and Santa was so special—they really didn’t have any money but every year there was one main present under the tree for each of us.
We used to have about 24 dishes for dinner—Mum used to cook. We didn’t have any microwaves or dishwashers and she had a four-ring hob, and to this day when I’m doing Christmas dinner, I always think, How the hell did my mum do it?
…Getting my job on Loose Women when me and my husband Shane Richie split up. I did a documentary called Celebrity Heartbreak, which was hosted by Trisha Goddard and they had five or six celebrity women who had gone through, or were going through, divorce. And to promote the show I got invited on to Loose Women.
I got on so well with them all that they asked, “Would you like to come back and be a guest panellist?” It just went from there and I soon became a regular. I love it. I can just be myself. It’s just like sitting with your girlfriends.
…The first time I did Celebrity Big Brother I came away thinking I had enjoyed it. I love social experiments and I love watching people and it was fascinating. Big Brother are the best at what they do, which is to play a mental game with you. There was the odd test now and again but there was no massive fall-out or anything like that.
…The second time on Celebrity Big Brother, the one I won, was horrific. It was nearly five weeks, and Big Brother was much crueller. If it hadn’t been for James Cosmo, Brandon Block, James Jordan and Calum Best, oh God...
In the end I was really mentally damaged by it. You have nothing to do for five weeks—you’re incarcerated and you just have these people who keep going mental. I was just sitting there and had to keep reminding myself, “Okay I’m in here because I need a new kitchen.”
…When I went to bed after winning Big Brother, I cried. I’d been with 17 people for five weeks and here I was in this room on my own. It was a scary feeling, like I wanted to go back in the house. I wanted them to put me back in with the people I liked, shut the door and not play all the games like I did on telly.
…My manager phoned me and said, “You’re going to do The Full Monty, they’re doing a women’s one to raise awareness of breast cancer”.
Every time I spoke to the producers they said, “We want to make sure that people are comfortable and make sure you’re comfortable”. I phoned my manager and said, “I think they think I’m getting my kit off.”
She replied, “Oh, did I not tell you? You are.” It was too late then. It was nine weeks filming and I enjoyed every single day of it.
…The Full Monty was very, very close to my heart, as it was for all the women who took part. The amount of women who got in touch afterwards and said, “I went to the doctor’s after your programme,” and then either, “I got the all-clear as it was nothing,” or, “They found it but they found it really early”. It was an incredible feeling because you think, We did actually get the point across.
…I was presenting This Morning—my daughter Ciara was only two months old at the time and the boys were still young. We moved to London and then nine months later I lost the job, so we had to uproot and move back to Blackpool because I couldn’t afford London living , and that was a tough time. It was quite stressful.
I’m not blaming This Morning; it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
…My sister Bernie’s death from breast cancer was very hard
I’d only just done The Nolans reunion tour. It was the best thing we ever, ever did. We loved it so much and then we were going to do it again and then of course she was diagnosed and we never got the chance. That was a really hard time and in that time my second marriage split up too.
I got through it by thinking, Whatever happens will be fine, we’ll be happy. You can either let it force you under the duvet and never come out again or you can just get up and face it. There’s no point in worrying about what’s going to happen in ten years time. I guess her death made me question if I was happy in my marriage and I thought, I’m not.
…I definitely had a mid-life crisis
Not that I wanted to go out clubbing or wear miniskirts but I started to reassess everything. So, Bernie’s death had a massive impact on my life, but I think for the better because I feel stronger, I feel more independent. Me and Ray, my ex-husband, now get on so well as friends, as really good friends. Everything is really exciting.
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