Fearne Cotton on Finding her Happy Place
To spend time with Fearne Cotton is to discover first-hand just why she’s achieved so much in her life. The author, presenter, podcast host, fashion designer and now festival organiser positively buzzes with energy and enthusiasm, a zest and zeal which has helped Fearne remain such a dominant force across TV, radio and the media at large for a remarkable 23 years. Her brain must fizz and bang with fresh ideas every morning, noon and night, so it’s no wonder she’s a self-confessed bad sleeper. It must be like trying to switch off the Duracell Bunny.
Right now, Fearne is focusing that energy into guest editing Balance, and is doing the sort of thorough, all-encompassing job that might make one or two in the office want to up their game. Ask Fearne for input or a steer and, bang, it’s there. She is, as the kids say, fire.
Balance, a brand devoted to wellbeing, health and a balanced lifestyle, is the perfect fit for Fearne, who has become a pioneer in the wellness space via best-selling books (with our favourite, Happy, kicking things off in 2017), her Happy Place podcast and, up next, her Happy Place Festivals.
“I’ve gone from being 15 on the TV to being nearly 38, and that’s quite a lot of years for someone to develop, change, learn and experience,” says Fearne. “I’ve been into alternative therapies and interested in this area since I was a small kid, because my mum does yoga and likes Reiki. She’s more into the hippie side of things. She likes the angel cards and the tarot, and ‘look at this orb in a photo that I’ve zoomed into 8,000 times, there’s an angel in it’. Y’know, she goes there. I’ve never seen that as being alternative, that’s just been very much how it is. I’ve always wanted to learn more, and I’ve been going and having Reiki and all sorts of different things since I was a teenager.
“But I think, on a sort of personal expansion, in my life and my career, really, yes, I have evolved and changed like anybody. And I think the only real difference is that, as of perhaps five years ago, I thought it was appropriate, and I felt confident and comfortable enough to bring that into my working life. Before, I was still doing all this stuff, but I just didn’t feel the need to talk about it, or I just felt, ‘do I want to be me in that arena?’
“It didn’t feel awkward or jarring for me to talk about the subjects that I’ve sort of delved into, and you get to a place where you go, ‘What’s the point of all this again? Why am I striving to do the biggest show, or have the biggest audience,’ or whatever it is. What’s the point of it? And I think I’ve realised that by talking about things that everybody’s going through is such a deeper level of connection and seems to have much more of a purpose, or certainly invites more drive into my life. So, it felt very natural, and I guess that’s where people think there’s been a level of reinvention: it’s just actually, I’ve transferred all the stuff I was interested in into my career, which has made it even better because I get to do something I love, rather than, ‘this person wants me to do this show, how do they want me to be?’ and I just do my own thing.”
This, explains Fearne, is the true Fearne. And it’s an inspiration to us all to live authentically. When you live a life with passion and purpose, it feels as though anything is possible. “If you can just authentically be you, even if it is a job that feels very far away from your hobbies or your natural passions, maybe there is a way to bring that in to create more joy in the workplace, to create more connections with people you work with, and maybe there is a way of doing that.
“There are lots of big companies now, certainly, and more independents concerned with people’s welfare and mental health. There’s a lot more initiative based around that that I think everybody could get involved in. Or if it’s a charitable arm of what you do; people are feeling more confident to bring that side of themselves into work, but it does take a level of confidence. Because I could go on the TV and be the me that’s on TV that people think they know, get a bit of abuse or take a knock and think,
‘Oh well, that’s just the work version of me.’
“But when you are being you, 100 per cent, you are gonna feel more bruised and more sensitive in those situations. I think you do have to walk into it knowing that you are putting more of yourself out there, you’re giving more, so what are the repercussions of that? And you learn more on your way.”
So, was there a key moment when Fearne decided to open up about her relationship with wellbeing? “You know what? There kind of was. The publisher I’ve been working with on my cookbooks knew I loved yoga and wellbeing, and said, ‘Why don’t you write a book about happiness and wellbeing?’ I’d never spoken to anyone about it and said, ‘Well, I can either write a book that is along those lines, that’s fluffy and skirts around the meaty stuff, or I can go there.’
“I spoke to all the people around me: ‘Do you think it’s a good idea that I just tell the truth and say it as it is?’ And nearly everyone was like, ‘Why not? Why not just say it like it is and be honest? You know, what have you got to lose? There’ll be opinions, but there is with everything you do. So, if it feels right, why not?’ “I tentatively started writing the book, just to see, almost like when you’re writing a diary: what would come to the surface and what would feel OK to write.
“It was very much writing the book Happy that was, ‘Here we go,’ and then the night before it was released, absolute terror, regret, ‘why am I doing this?’ And then the day it was released, ‘Oh, actually, this isn’t so bad.’ People are reacting nicely and in a connective way, so I just carried on doing it since then, really.”
And the process continues to prove life-changing? “Yeah,” reflects our guest editor. “It’s changed my career massively and heightened my interest in those areas. I’ve delved into it more professionally and personally, but my career has totally flipped which is great, because I don’t know how much longer I could be out there hustling, ‘Please put me on the telly.’ You get to an age where you think, ‘It’s exhausting trying to make everyone like me all the time.’
“I don’t care if people like me or not anymore: I care if people connect with what I’m saying. There’s a big difference in that, so it’s given me more autonomy and joy, really, to get to do stuff I want to do.” The next step in Fearne’s journey is Happy Place Live, with both a north (Tatton Park, near Manchester) and south (Chiswick House, west London) version. As she enthuses: “These are two days of everything that I have found helpful in my life when I haven’t felt so good: meditation, yoga
classes, healing therapies, sound therapy, the transformational breath, Reiki, reflexology, massage, mindfulness classes, arts and crafts.
“One thing I’m very excited about is the Talk Stage. The most incredible line-up of people are going to be sharing their stories, doing interviews, offering their own personal take on things, ranging from depression, addiction, family estrangement, cancer – everything.”
There’ll be live podcasts with Joe Wicks, Russell Brand, Dame Kelly Holmes and many more. There’s vegetarian food, a shopping area, classes, a kids’ area and all manner of things to nourish the body and soul. It is, as fans of the titular podcast can imagine, Fearne’s very own ‘happy place’. Some wellness events and products have come under fire for simply being too expensive, which is why Happy Place Live is just £35 a ticket. It’s something Fearne feels passionately about.
“Nothing I do in my life that combats stress, depression or anxiety is extravagant. The fact that I go to weekly therapy is, but you can get that and access that. You can do it via the NHS; it might take a little bit longer, but you can.” As Fearne points out, her exercise regime is done for free: yoga, running, going for walks without her phone, a Wim Hof-inspired ice cold shower, arts and crafts with the family and interacting with nature.
“None of it is in that kind of, ‘I need to buy this rose quartz mask and go to a Pilates thing, go to a retreat.’ I’ve never been to a retreat in my life. It doesn’t interest me. The festival is £35 a ticket for that exact reason; a price that is fair, that you could perhaps put some money towards, save up for if funds were really tight, or that a friend could treat you to. We’re not talking, ‘Here’s £200 to come and experience…’ It’s £35. You’d spend that on alcohol on a night out. It’s thinking about things differently.
“My dad has been a sign writer for 50 years. My mum worked four jobs. We were a working class family, but my mum was still very much into, ‘Let’s look at the alternatives.’ So, I don’t worry about it in that sense, because it’s so not where I’m coming from and it’s not actually my background. My background is the working class, suburban kid growing up being very excited and curious about what else is out there. All of my line of thinking – my books, the podcast, which is free, thank God – I want it to be a conversation that starts up that isn’t just for this group of people. I want to connect with a group that’s not my friendship circle.
“All my friends are people I went to school with, and people I’ve met along the way that I’ve connected with who have interesting stories. I don’t care about where they’re
from, what their background is. I’ve got friends from all walks of life that I connect with because we go to that level. We want to chat about deep stuff, and I think conversationally, it’s one of the biggest helpers. And again, it’s totally free, listening to conversations and having these in-depth conversations.”
Balance can speak on behalf of everyone who’s joined forces with this remarkable woman: as long as Fearne keeps having conversations, we will always be listening.
To buy tickets for Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Festival, please visit happyplacefestival.com