Pop princess to panto queen

Words by:
Barbara Young
Featured in:
December 2022

Kerry Katona is looking forward to returning to the panto stage at the New Theatre Royal Lincoln this month, as Barbara Young finds out.

As a former chart-topping girl band member, TV reality show winner, author, social media influencer and now popular panto star too, it comes as no surprise that Kerry Katona describes herself as “a grafter”.

The Atomic Kitten singer was once labelled the nation’s sweetheart, going on to enjoy international stardom and finding herself regularly in the gossip columns.

The 42-year-old mother of five, who remains one of the most recognisable faces in showbiz, has packed a lot into her colourful life. However, in spite of her ups and downs being played out it public over the years, she remains positively sunny and upbeat as she prepares to return to Lincoln’s New Theatre Royal as Ugly Sister Botox in Cinderella, which runs from Tuesday 6th December 2022 to Sunday 8th January 2023.

erry proved popular with Lincoln audiences when she first appeared in NTR’s 2016 Christmas pantomime, Cinderella, as the Fairy Godmother and she has remained keen to return to the theatre’s stage ever since.

However, she says this year will be extra special as her 19-year-old daughter Lilly-Sue, from her first marriage to Westlife’s Brian McFadden, is joining Kerry on the stage for the first time in her role as Baby Botox.

Kerry is proud to be working alongside her daughter, who coincidentally previously worked in the theatre, albeit behind the scenes in the foyer’s sweet shop in 2016.

“It’s Lilly and my first panto together on stage. She’s been on the stage with me before, but not to a

“My kids have been born into this industry, so they know no different really as they’ve been brought up in theatres and arenas. It’s going to be fun and we’re both looking forward to it. I’m sure there are going to be times when we get on each other’s nerves, but that’s what happens no matter how much you love them.

“We loved working together on TV’s Coach Trip. I know Lilly better than anybody and she knows me better than anybody, so we know how it works with each other.

“We’re definitely mother and daughter, 100%. I know some relationships are different, for example with my mum, I’m the mum in our relationship and my mum’s almost like the daughter, however with Lilly I’m definitely the mother!

“We also have such a great friendship. I’m very open with all my children and they are all, including Lilly, very open with me. I want them to feel like they can come to me about anything.”

Kerry, who joins the Cinderella panto cast which includes X-Factor and I’m A Celebrity… star Jake Quickenden, describes being asked to return to the stage in Lincoln as “awesome”.

“The theatre is absolutely beautiful and it was here that I did my first-ever panto and Mike and Nat [theatre directors Michael and Natalie Hayes-Cowley] and their team are more like family than co-workers, so I feel very blessed to be fortunate enough to work with friends and family.

“It’s not an ordinary job, so I’m very lucky in that aspect that I get to work with people who I love.”

Panto performances
Kerry has appeared in about 20 different pantomimes during her career, but has only played “the goodie” twice: “I actually prefer playing the baddie because you get to have more fun! Don’t underestimate how much hard work panto is – I wouldn’t say it’s that much different from other performances, it’s just more full-on.

“I think having a really outgoing personality is helpful and having a good level of kindness and being able to have fun is important too.

“Panto is probably one of the hardest gigs I’ve ever done. I remember when I first got asked to do panto and, honest to God, I thought ‘Oh, no… my career’s over’. But I kid you not, your career has not started until you’ve done panto.

“It’s a lot tougher than people realise. I think there are five three-show days in this year’s panto, with a show at 11am, 3pm, then 7pm – all in one day!”

In spite of this hectic schedule, Kerry says that what she loves about pantomimes is the interaction with the audience.

“It’s so much fun and it brings people together – it’s just a proper good giggle. More than anything, making memories with my family is what I love doing, so, to be part of that and make memories for other families is brilliant.”

Overcoming challenges
Kerry, who has been busy with her book tour promoting her new tell-all autobiography Whole Again – Love, Life and Me: My Story in the run-up to rehearsals, has overcome numerous challenges throughout her childhood, teens and adulthood, most notably her time in an abusive relationship which she addresses in her book. She doesn’t deny that her strength of character and determination have helped her bounce back from the bad times and get her life and career back on track.

“I think it’s down to my childhood, which was really challenging. My difficulties started well, well before Atomic Kitten existed, so I think that before that I already had the resilience to just crack on with my life,” says Kerry, who is now happily engaged to fiancé Ryan Mahoney, whom she met on a dating app in 2018.

“I think you just get to a certain point where you realise, stop the self-pity party, you’ve got one life, just live it and be the best you can be. There are no mistakes, only lessons. If you carry on making those mistakes and don’t learn from them, then that’s on you.

“I’ve had to learn from these mistakes, and I just try to be the best version of me, the best mum, best friend, and best fiancée.”

Kerry says that in spite of many bumps along the road, she hasn’t let her past define the person she is today.

“Again, it goes back to my childhood. I’ve always been a grafter. I was brought up as an only child, I had four sets of foster parents, three refuges and went to eight different schools.

“I had a really, really tough childhood and never wanted to rely on anybody. I didn’t actually want to be rich and famous, I wanted to be a mum and a wife. That was my dream and that’s what I wanted, but I got rich and famous, and had a great life, which unfortunately fell apart and just nosedived from there.

“But my kids keep me going. They didn’t ask for me to be their mum. In fact, it’s quite embarrassing for my kids that I am their mum! It wouldn’t matter if I was the sweetest, cleanest pop star in the world, because when your mum is famous, it’s quite difficult because there’s a lot of jealousy out there.

“Looking ahead, I just want to give my kids the best life they can possibly have and if that means working ridiculously hard so that I can create memories, adventures and travel the world with them, then so be it.”

To book tickets for Cinderella, contact the box office on 01522 519999 or visit www.newtheatreroyallincoln.co.uk

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