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Melinda Messenger On Berkshire And Being Happy

She may have once been dubbed the “Girl of the Millennium”, but Berkshire’s Melinda Messenger says she couldn’t be more content than she is now

Melinda Messenger has had a quarter of a century to get used to people having opinions of her. As my first interviewee as editor of this magazine, I excitedly told my Absolutely colleagues who would be gracing the front cover. “Really?” replied one quizzically. “The page 3 girl?”

Yes, that’s correct, but as Messenger’s career has developed so too has she evolved. In fact, the vast majority of this interview is spent talking about her current role as a psychotherapist – and judging by the mood I was left in post-interview, she is very good at it. “As young as seven I remember thinking I wanted to be a psychiatrist,” she reveals. “I have always been interested in healing, well-being, what it is to be human, why life can be such a struggle at times and why we suffer.”

When we talk, it’s almost a year to the day when the UK went into its first lockdown and, for many, it has indeed been a struggle. Messenger admits that she has actually enjoyed having the chance to spend more time at her Berkshire home with her children – Morgan, Flynn and Evie – doing things like “gardening, cooking, painting, reading, all those things I normally have to squeeze in at some point”, but is only too aware others are not so lucky. “The psychological impact on people is really difficult to see, and then the financial impact of people not being able to work and losing their incomes is a struggle to witness,” she laments. “I can’t fully enjoy something when I know other people are having a real tough time.”

Despite this, Messenger oozes positivity and I ask if her interest in psychotherapy has made what we have all gone through a little easier. “Oh for sure,” she says. “It has been an absolute blessing just to have an understanding. Psychotherapy has definitely given me a more grounded place to be in.” Does this mean we won’t be seeing so much of her on our televisions? “No, psychotherapy will be alongside my TV and media work. Day to day I see clients, and I have been doing that for the past four years. I don’t look at it as work – it’s more of a vocation really. It inspires and surprises me. It doesn’t feel like I am going to work.”

Reflecting on her TV career to date, Messenger laughs when she recounts what she has done. “I have done so many different types of TV, I think I have done them all, from reality shows to game shows and talk shows.” Do any stand out for her? “That would be Cowboy Builders,” she says, which ran for eight series. “That was a great show to be a part of. It was people’s real lives and it was transformative – I really like that kind of work.”

It’s probably why she has bought and renovated some 14 houses (“It could be more,” she admits with a chuckle) around the UK, including a fair few during her 16 or so years in Berkshire. “This is my fourth move in the county,” she clarifies. “Things for me seem to be centred around transformation. I like seeing that process of taking something old and renovating it. I really enjoy the creative process.”

Considering the length of time she has lived in these parts, she must have a penchant for all things Berkshire. “I love it!” she exclaims. “It’s so beautiful. I love the fact there is so much woodland and so much water. Wherever you go you are not far from a forest, or lakes and canals, and there are lots of nature reserves. It’s like being in the countryside, but with the benefit of being able to get into London easily where I primarily work.”

Melinda Messenger
Melinda Messenger couldn’t be happier in Berkshire

It’s Berkshire house number four that Messenger turned 50 in during lockdown, but you genuinely get the impression this is just fine by her. “I feel great, no different really,” she says. “Age is such a funny concept. You notice how you change over long periods of time, but from one day to the next it’s no different. What I reflect on with getting older is that life tends to go in the direction I want it to and I feel happier with how things are. Some people say they wish they were 10 or 20 years younger, but I personally would never go back in time. I am glad where I am at.”

Conversation turns to dating and Messenger is just as at ease talking about this aspect of her life. She says she is considering joining Sara Eden Introductions, a professional matchmaking agency based in Windsor. “I have got friends who met their partners through dating sites and it’s really worked out. Historically, I would have never used a dating agency, it’s much nicer to be natural and organic, but my opinion has changed over the years.” Given the fact she is in the public eye, perhaps having potential introductions vetted is a bonus? “It is quite a clever way of doing things because you are already filtering towards people you might be suited to.”

It’s yet another strand to what appears to be a busy life, but Messenger has been used to being in demand since the late 1990s. Putting on her psychiatrist’s hat, what advice would she offer her younger self at a time when magazines and newspapers were determined to follow her every move? “Good question,” she says after a brief pause. “I would say to trust my instincts and put that before pleasing other people. That was always one of my biggest challenges.”

Did she enjoy that period of her life? “Some of it was wonderful and some of it was pretty awful,” she openly answers. “It was such a huge psychological shift that I had to get my head around. Nothing can quite prepare you for that. The biggest challenge was suddenly dealing with hundreds and thousands of people having an opinion about you. I realised that I just had to find a way to get through it. It either crushes you or you come out stronger.” There’s no doubt which side Melinda Messenger came out on.

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