Everyone’s favourite correspondent Steven Smith asks ten questions to gay icon, DIVA Ally of the Year 2017, actress, presenter, mental health campaigner, and all-round wonder Loose Women’s Denise Welch.
You are such a gay icon and an inspiration to the LGBTQ You won Ally of the Year at the Diva Awards in 2017. Your son, Matt Healy, lead singer of The 1975, won the award this year for his incredible charity work and community support. How would you advise parents raising a child on how to talk about people who love the same gender?
I have never understood prejudiced attitudes. Growing up, my mum Annie and dad Vin had many friends that had same-sex partners, and it was no big deal!
My boys were so used to growing up with Uncle Paul and Lester (and many others) staying over – it just did not faze them. My answer is that if it’s part of your everyday life, then really there’s nothing to talk about.
Matt and Louis are incredible men who just don’t see labels.
At the same time, I understand that LGBTQ issues are still something that some people struggle to explain. If you don’t make a big deal of it and don’t hide that people love the same sex, it’ll be okay. It’s not going to be traumatic.
You have been incredibly open about your own mental health issues. Those identifying as LGBTQ statistically have a higher risk of suffering from depression at some point in their lifetime. What would your suggestions be for those struggling with their mental health?
Get help ASAP. Do not be afraid to tell others. Mental health is nothing to feel guilty about. I recently did a series of tweets dialoguing my “visitor”, as I call my depression, in order to help others understand what it is actually like. Many found it painful to watch, but equally, I received so many messages saying it had helped people.
LGBTQ depression can come from the trauma of not being accepted, or from prejudiced behaviour, but as with many people, it can also happen out of the blue.
I had a very happy childhood, but one day I was in a newspaper shop, looked down at the paper, and saw the headline for the Hillsborough disaster. The next thing I knew, a huge black cloud surrounded me.
My mum, who was a psychiatric nurse, was with me and saw the signs right away. From that day on, the visitor comes and goes. Being sober for eight years has helped, not self-medicating, talking about it. Again, I would urge people to seek help.
You’re greatly loved, but you have also had your fair share of trolls and abusers. How do you manage to get over the negatives?
Cut any negatives out of your life and social media. I never search #DeniseWelch or #LooseWomen. For the most part, I only look at positive comments and block anyone nasty.
I have learnt to surround myself with my wonderful family and friends. Their opinions are what really matter, so I simply don’t allow myself to be hurt by trolls and the like.
You appeared in the wonderful Different for Girls playing a later-life lesbian. In your real life, you’re married to artist Lincoln Townley. If you did have a girl crush, who would it be? What would your advice be to women who, in their golden years, want to come out?
LOL. Well, I think I have the same answer as every woman I know, straight or gay: actress and singer Heather Peace. I even have a male gay friend who says she’s his crush. I have worked with her and been in her company, and she is amazing.
My advice is: we’re not in the ‘70s anymore! You have the right to be who you want to be, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. So many LGBTQ people back in the day lived in loveless marriages and hid who they were due to pressure from society to conform to a mould. Be with who you really love. It’s not about others, it’s about you being happy.
You judged Porn Idol at G-A-Y a few years back with “Baga Chipz”, who now is starring in Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. Are you a fan of the show and would you like to be a judge next year? OutNews Global thinks you would be great!
My god, I love the show and watch every season. Having grown up with a drag queen for a dad and spending most of my life with some truly amazing drag queens as friends and colleagues, I feel I am very qualified to be a judge!
The Music Hall Tavern queens led by Mrs T and Peggy Lee are a sensational drag act, they’re appearing at my ball again this year. The wonderful Miss Rory – Newcastle royalty – appears at the Boulevard and does the auction at the ball, she’s a great pal.
I am just really pleased Ru Paul and Michelle Visage have brought the show to the UK and that it’s such a big hit.
What would your drag name be?
That is such a good question. As other actresses have been described as a gay man trapped in a woman’s body, Attitude magazine described me as “just a gay man”. Jacqueline Be Dazzled, or something like that, as I like bright colours.
Let’s not forget the drag kings I have been hearing about Landon Cider from Dragula Season 3. Let’s see more Drag Kings!
Your Dad, Vin, does drag as Raquel. Have you ever dressed him up, and was it hard growing up in the ’70s when he would pop a frock on?
To be honest, dad does his own make-up and looks sensational. He likes to make Raquel look a little tarty. We have had some great people do his makeup, but it was not his style.
I have had dad at Drag Idol and Porn Idol. At 82, he clubs and parties more than any of my younger friends.
I have always loved my dad dressing as a woman, but Debbie, my sister, didn’t cope as well. She once got mum and dad a free trip when she was working on cruise liners. It was a Greek liner and Debbie warned dad they could be a little conservative.
One evening dad was partying and complained of a funny tummy. He was gone for a while, so Debbie went out to find him, only to see Dad coming along the corridor dressed as Shirley Bassey. Debbie locked herself in her room and cried. On her return she found out Dad had won King and Queen of the ship.
Your son, Louis, is starring in Emmerdale and several other productions. You must be bursting with pride. So many LGBTQ young people want to break into the arts. What advice would you give them?
Well, the same advice I would give anyone: work at your craft, be the best you can be, and keep at it.
I used to get a little annoyed at reality show people who had never done any training yet appeared to be walking into television and theatre roles. To be truthful, it is a little worrying that the apprenticeship in many crafts is dying out, but I accept that there are different routes now and I am the last to knock reality shows as I’m hooked on many of them. But, if you’re given the opportunity to work with very experienced actors, learn from them – like on-the-job training.
The entertainment industry has been a haven for the LGBTQ community work-wise and so many of my friends are so, so talented. I am so proud of both my boys.
Everyone loved you on Dancing On Ice and our hearts broke when you were a victim of EvilQueen.com. Of course, we all fell in love with your gorgeous skating partner, Matt Evers. Matt is going to make television history this year by dancing as part of a same-sex couple. Do you think it is about time? What do you feel about the new judge John Barrowman?
Matt and I are really good friends but we keep missing each other! I am about to dash off to L.A. just as he is jetting into London. It is about time we had same-sex couples dancing together and I am really proud of Matt and Ian H. Watkins.
Shirley Ballas, the Strictly judge, was on Loose Women with me, praising Dancing On Ice. She said that, for her, it’s movement to music, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s two men or two women. I could not agree more. It’s going to be amazing, it’s just a shame it has taken so long
John Barrowman will be superb and is just what the show needs. He is so multi-talented. He’ll bring humour and be able to be both firm and kind (and he’s just gorgeous). Jason Gardiner went over the mark and was cruel. As you say, he was an evil queen on the show. That’s ok in a panto, but he went well overboard, and he’s not a panto character.
It’s almost time for your annual ball in aid of the GEM Appeal. How do we get tickets and what is about this year?
Oh, I am so excited! It is my nineteenth year hosting the ball and I’ve been a patron of the GEM Appeal for 20 years. It has become one of the highlights of the Cheshire/Manchester social calendar, and it is held at The Principal Hotel this year.
Inspired by a trip to The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, this year’s theme is Magic. We have all sorts of acts coming in from all over the world. Plus, a host of celebrities, including my Loose Women, will be in attendance.
The ball is aid of the GEM Appeal on the 16th of November , the charity was founded in 1994 by my friend Karen Johnson. She was approached by Dr Ed Wraith with a request for money to be raised to extend the Willink Unit at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and to fund research into the disorder that her sons, Simon and Mike, were dying from. At that time, there was no treatment and no hope for children diagnosed with these rare genetic disorders and inborn errors of metabolism. Very little research was being done into these diseases. All the profits from the ball go to the unit. There are few tickets left and details below.
For tickets to the ball contact Emily: 0161 484 0876 | Mobile: 07483162239