"Internet troll urged me to get an eating disorder": Heidi Range says she's happy with her curvy body despite pressures
After years in the pop limelight, the Sugababes star and former Atomic Kitten has learnt to live with criticism of her looks
She wowed audiences with her moves and stunning figure on Dancing on Ice and her girl next door beauty has made Sugababes singer Heidi Range a pin-up for men everywhere.
But good looks usually come at a price when you’re in the public eye and Heidi’s curvy shape has made her the target of Twitter trolls.
“Someone once tweeted me saying: ‘Why don’t you get an eating disorder, you look fat next to the other girls in the band,’ which was a bit harsh.
“Now when people criticise me I just think, ‘Get a life!’” she says.
The Liverpudlian is now a trim size 8 but says she has always had to watch her weight having yo-yoed over the years.
“I have never been really heavy but I have gone up and down,” she says.
“But the older I get, I have learnt to accept myself and when someone on a website is commenting on my outfit, I think, ‘Haven’t you got something better to do?’ I have. I don’t have time to comment on what earrings some stranger is wearing!”
Heidi, 29, admits she has noticed a big difference in her body shape since she was on Dancing on Ice last winter and has maintained her new slinky shape having started sessions with a personal trainer three times a week.
“I’ve always worked out and I enjoy the benefits of keeping fit. I like the way it makes me feel. But since I’ve been using my personal trainer, I feel so toned and healthy.
"I’m 30 next year and I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Heidi is the longest serving member of all-girl band the Sugababes – their current line-up includes Jade Ewen, 24, and Amelle Berrabah, 28.
A member of the original Atomic Kitten before she joined the Sugababes in 2001, the sexy Scouser has been in the public spotlight for years.
But she says negative criticism about her body image and dress sense over the years has affected her confidence in performing live.
“Of course it hurt, I’ve had moments when it has bothered me. But I get paid to go on stage – it’s my job – so sometimes I have had to force myself.
"I don’t buy those magazines which make a point of criticising.
"I used to, but now I’m older, I know that all people have good and bad days, and who are they to judge people on what size their waist is or whether they are a nice person or not?
“I realise that if you eat well and look after yourself, you feel so much better about yourself.
"But that is an age thing. If I was my younger self and I was reading one of those magazines and saw what they say about cellulite, then I would be ashamed of myself. But now I know that 99% of women have it, so I’m not on my own.”
Heidi admits the weight crept on gradually without her noticing until she took control of her diet and eating habits.
“I was touring and I wasn’t buying my own clothes – my stylist was.
"I was very happy with my boyfriend and having takeaways and nice bottles of wine and dinners.
"I was really bloody happy until I got on the scales! It was a bit of a shock then so I changed my diet about a year ago.
“At my peak, my weight was probably nine and a half stone and at my lightest, seven and a half stone. I’m just over eight stone now and I’m content with that.
“But I have even been criticised for saying that I don’t want to go back to a size 10!
"People have had a go at me, saying: ‘What’s wrong with being that?’ I just want to say, there is nothing wrong with being a size 10, and I have been that size for most of my adult life, but I just like being a bit more toned.
“I think anyone would be lying if they said they don’t want to be more toned. I don’t have the perfect body but I’m happy with the one I’ve got.”
Heidi credits her positive attitude to health and fitness in helping her bounce back from her break-up with MTV presenter and Capital Radio DJ Dave Berry last year. They had been together for eight years.
They appeared to be one of the happiest couples in showbusiness and got engaged when he proposed to her on holiday in India on New Year’s Eve 2009.
They were due to marry this year until Heidi announced their amicable split on Twitter in December 2011 and told followers about her heartache.
Although she is single, Heidi reveals she would love a family but frets that she would be concerned about any kind of bullying over their weight as she was acutely aware of the issue herself when she was growing up.
“Kids are so cruel to each other. I hope one day I’m blessed with children but it must be the worst thing in the world to have a child who is being bullied because of how they look; it would destroy you as a parent.
"There is a lot of pressure for children to look a certain way and it’s not fair as we are all made different,” she says.
“There is a big issue with obesity but I’ve always been conscious of my size from a very early age.
"I think because I was dancing in leotards from about three years old, I didn’t want to look fat. I was never one of those kids who ate loads of crisps and chocolates. From my experience as a little girl, the images you see from a young age of skinny girls with flawless skin are not like real life.
“Even in the band, we all have very different bodies. For example Jade – she has legs longer than my entire body and can eat whatever she wants.
"She’ll be sat there with a club sandwich and her long legs and I’ll be there with chicken salad and no dressing with my little legs!
"I’d love to have longer legs but that’s the one thing I can’t fix – and no amount of running will change that.”
Heidi did the Race for Life last weekend to raise awareness for Cancer Research.
“It’s a really special race as it’s all-female and everyone there is supporting or remembering someone that has been affected by the disease. Most people have been touched by cancer at some point, or a loved one will be,” she says.
She admits for the first time that she had her own cancer scare last year after a routine smear test found a problem.
“I went for my usual test and they found some abnormal cells and I had to go and have laser treatment,” she says.
“I was just like every woman who goes to the doctors and has been a few times for a smear and expected it to be clear. I thought I’d get the letter back saying everything was OK – only this time, it wasn’t.
“When I found out something was wrong, I felt sick and panicked. I was terrified.
"I did some reading about it and it’s not uncommon but still frightening. I went the next day for my laser treatment.
"I was only in for half an hour or an hour and the procedure sorted me out.
“This is why girls should go and have their smear tests every three years, because even if it was abnormal, it would still take more than three years to develop into something more serious. If you don’t go, you don’t know what’s going on inside and surely it’s better to be safe.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to have done and I was in a fortunate position where I could see a private doctor but it’s so important to do it.
"If I had not had it treated, it could possibly have developed. I know so many women who have never even been for the test, even my friends’ parents.
“Now I go every year rather than every three years and fortunately I had a letter a few weeks ago telling me everything was fine in my latest smear.
"Cervical cancer is something that can be prevented. Girls should just make an appointment and go!”
Heidi met Jade Goody a few times and the Sugababes performed at her wedding to Jack Tweed in 2009 shortly before Jade passed away from cervical cancer.
Speaking about her own scare, Heidi says: “I was aware it might not turn out well. Jade’s story is so sad and you can’t help but think of her. If fans are going to look to me for guidance I would hope it would be about their health.”
Taking part in Race for Life has added significance for Heidi as she lost her beloved grandad Peter – who she called Pop – to lung cancer when she was 14: “I remember him being ill and him suffering for a long time and going to a Marie Curie centre,” she recalls.
“It was awful as I saw the physical change in him and watched him lose his shape.
“He was always quite slim but he was also fit as he’d been a builder but he lost loads of weight. Everyone called him ‘Pop’ and he used say ‘smashing’ all the time.
“I went to stage school in Liverpool and he came to all the shows to watch my sister and I.
“It’s sad he never got to see me grow up and have success.”
Heidi, who ran the Race for Life with her mum Karen, adds: “It was especially moving for us both to be thinking about him.”
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