She looks amazing on OK!’s exclusive shoot, but actress and presenter Claire Sweeney admits to having a “right old wobble” about turning 50.
“It’s freaking me out!” laughs the former Brookside star, who hit the milestone at the weekend. But Claire does add that she feels more comfortable in her own skin as she gets older.
“Ten or 15 years ago I was a lot thinner, I had a lot more money and I was doing a lot more work, but I have to say I am so much happier now,” she says.
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Claire divides her time between London and Liverpool, where she also has a home, but today she is welcoming us into her stunning four-bedroom house in central London’s Pimlico, where she lives with her son Jaxon, six, who she shares with her former partner Daniel Reilly. Claire separated from Daniel soon after Jaxon was born and she has raised him by herself ever since.
“I’ve always stood on my own two feet and supported myself,” says the star, who most recently appeared in BBC drama Scarborough.
Here, Claire, who now has her own BBC radio chat show, opens up to OK! about having no regrets, her career highlights (including kissing Patrick Swayze!) and why she’s happy being single…
Hi, Claire! How are you feeling about turning 50?
I have friends saying, “Embrace it”, but I’m having a right old wobble. It suddenly seems old, but I know it’s not, because I feel great. I have my little boy and a nice life. I couldn’t be happier than I am now. I think as you get older you get more comfortable in your own skin and your own mind. You know more of what you do want than what you don’t.
Now that we’re able to meet people outside, how did you celebrate your birthday?
Jaxon’s godfather is my best friend and he’s in our bubble so I saw him. I’m also doing a nice lunch at my favourite restaurant in Soho, Little Italy, with my closest friends. Hopefully the sun will be shining and I can have a glass of rosé! I’d actually rather do that than a massive shindig. And I’m having a gathering in Liverpool with close friends and family.
Do you have any regrets from the last 50 years?
None. I’ve had a wonderful 50 years. Jaxon was worth the wait and I’m glad I had him later on in life. People said to me, “You’ll have him and wish you’d done it sooner,” but I don’t. He came along when I was 43 and it was right for me. I’ve lived a very full life and ticked most boxes in my career.
Was one of those boxes to meet the Queen and Prince Philip?
I met Prince Philip a couple of times. I sang at the Horse Guards Parade for a VE Day concert. I remember shaking hands with the Queen live on TV and the Prince shook hands with me and said, “Nice dress!” I was laughing. He was just so charming.
Do you have any other special memories of him?
I also sang at his 80th birthday party at the Royal Albert Hall. For me it was a wonderful thing because I was sharing a stage with Shirley Bassey, who is my idol. He was absolutely charming. It’s very sad and I really feel for the Queen. What is really highlighted now is what an amazing man he was and what a fabulous career he had.
Is there anything on your bucket list for the next 50 years?
I want to travel more because I love it. My mates laugh at me but I’d also love to buy a caravan somewhere on the coast around an hour’s drive from London. I had such happy memories as a kid. I had a villa in Majorca for 16 years but I sold it a few years ago. From a villa to a caravan – I love it!
How have you found lockdown?
Part of me has enjoyed it. There were moments when I struggled, of course, like with homeschooling. There were times when my son and I locked horns and that was really hard. But since the day Jaxon was born I’ve been doing shows and touring, taking him with me or going off for a few days, so just to be at home with him and read him a bedtime story every night and not be rushing around was amazing.
Were you relieved when schools reopened?
Yes! It was causing too much disruption between us. I have so much respect for his teacher. I messaged her one day, saying, “I’m crying and he’s crying. We’ve been fighting. What do we do?” She said, “Put the books down and start afresh tomorrow.”
What sort of things is Jaxon into?
He loves music but I discovered during lockdown that he’s a wonderful artist. I didn’t know he was into Andy Warhol! He’s very clever as well. I wasn’t very academic at school. I started singing in clubs when I was 14 and all I wanted to know was my wages and my tax. I was on a mission to work, but I want Jaxon to get a good education.
How do you find being a single parent?
I’ve not known any different really because I’ve raised Jaxon on my own from the beginning. He’s got wonderful grandparents and his family are all so involved. I’ve always stood on my own two feet and supported myself. I’ve never relied on anyone. He and I have a great little time together.
Do you co-parent 50/50 with Jaxon’s dad?
Daniel’s in Liverpool so he sees Jaxon as and when we’re up there. But he’s in touch regularly and they have a fantastic relationship. Thank God for FaceTime!
What’s your relationship like with Daniel?
It’s really great and that’s how it should be for Jaxon. For Jaxon’s sake it’s important.
Are you looking for love now?
I’m very happy right now. In the future if I meet someone then great, but if not, I’m very content and feel fulfilled with my life.
EXCLUSIVE TO OK! VIP CLUB
Do you using dating apps?
No, I’ve never had the nerve [laughs]. It takes me a long time to go on a date anyway. I’ve got to really know someone and trust them. Turning up and meeting a stranger? I’d be absolutely terrified! I’m old-school.
Is it harder to date in the public eye?
I’m quite a private person. It takes a lot for me to let down my barriers and trust people. Whether that’s because I’m in the public eye or whether it’s just my nature, I don’t know.
Has the year been tough financially with theatres being closed?
I’ve barely worked. It’s been really hard for people in our industry. I started rehearsals for a pantomime during lockdown and a week in they had to pull the show. The last theatre show I did was Shirley Valentine, one of my dream roles. It finished a week before the first lockdown and I thought, “At least I got to go out on a high.” Thankfully my radio show has come along, which has been a godsend. Not only financially, but there’s joy in doing it.
Tell us about your radio show…
I went to Liverpool a couple of months ago for a lovely radio series for BBC Merseyside called Claire Sweeney Meets. I went through my phone book and contacted a load of friends and because of lockdown everyone was available and happy to do it. I’ve got people like Paul O’Grady, Ricky Tomlinson, Jason Isaacs, Jennifer Ellison and John Barnes. They had to choose six songs and talk about what they mean to them. Paul was wonderful and spoke about his lovely friendship with Cilla Black, which was very touching. It looks like it’s been recommissioned for a second series and there’s talk it might be on all BBC platforms.
What have been your career highlights?
Doing Shirley Valentine and Chicago, and Guys And Dolls opposite Patrick Swayze in the West End. That was amazing and a dream come true. I’ve also been lucky with telly stuff in the last couple of years with Benidorm, and then the writer gave me a part in Scarborough for the BBC.
EXCLUSIVE: Claire Sweeney reveals she's moved on from Daniel Reilly split: 'My life is my baby Jaxon'
EXCLUSIVE: Claire Sweeney reveals moment her son 'turned purple'
What was Patrick like to work with?
He was gorgeous. I gave up 60 Minute Makeover to do it and my agent said, “Why are you giving up 60 Minute Makeover to do this?” And I said, “I have to choose between a paintbrush and Patrick Swayze – it’s not rocket science!” He was great fun. I had to kiss him every night on stage and it was lovely. He was a brilliant actor – he would make you feel like there was no one else watching and it was just the two of you.
You recently had a body sculpting treatment and you look amazing. Why did you choose to have it?
In the past I’ve followed diets and exercise regimes and I’ve been able to shift the weight, but during lockdown, even though I was training twice a day and dieting, I just couldn’t shift my tummy or my thighs. I think when you get to a certain age it gets harder – your hormones change and you gather more weight around your middle. Lots of my friends have had great work organised by the fabulous Lesley Reynolds at her Harley Street Skin Clinic, so I went there because I knew I’d be in safe hands. Because of homeschooling I didn’t want any downtime, so I had a radio frequency assisted treatment called BodyTite. It’s a less invasive version of liposuction which also tightens your skin and muscles. I’m thrilled with the results. I’ll be ready for my swimsuit now if we’re ever allowed to go on holiday.
Your former Loose Women co-star Jane McDonald sadly lost her fiancé Eddie Rothe to lung cancer recently. Have you reached out to her?
I’ve sent her a message. It’s just so sad. I feel for her because she lost her mum [Jean, in 2018] and has now lost her partner who she got back with after all those years – the love of her life.
Claire’s radio show airs on Fridays at 1pm on Radio Merseyside. For more information on Bodytite, visit harleystreetskinclinic.com.
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