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Thread: Leslie Ash: "Why I’ll never say never to more plastic surgery"

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    Default Leslie Ash: "Why I’ll never say never to more plastic surgery"

    Her 'trout pout' and a superbug may have ended her acting days, but with a new documentary about cosmetic procedures Leslie Ash has hopes of a revived TV career. However, she still doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror

    Pitfalls: Leslie Ash is returning to the small screen for the first time since nearly dying from the hospital superbug MRSA

    I am sitting opposite Leslie Ash. Knowing she will be made-up for our photo shoot, she has arrived bare of face, her hair down. It is a sunny day; the light is merciless.

    And what I realise – it’s almost a surprise, given the press coverage – is that she looks absolutely fine.

    Of course, she has a tracery of delicate lines, which you’d expect, because she’s 48 and has endured four years of hell since contracting MSSA, a strain of the superbug MRSA, in London’s Chelsea and Westminster hospital.

    But with her enviable figure – a size ten displayed in figure-hugging top and jeans – her pretty eyes, that neat little heart-shaped face, she is much less changed than I’d expected. Which is a big relief.

    To be honest, I’d rather feared that my gaze might remain glued to her upper lip, which was supposed to be irrevocably over-inflated after a disastrously bodged cosmetic procedure in 2002.
    I mention this to her. ‘I’m not staring at your mouth, Leslie.’

    ‘I know!’ she chirps. ‘Considering what it looked like at first, I’m happy with the way it looks now. But if you can imagine, this man-made plastic [silicone] has been injected into me, gone into the muscles around my mouth and become hard. I had steroid injections which helped soften it a bit but it won’t ever go away.

    'So these are the worries I took with me on this journey.’ She winces at the cliché. ‘I hate that word, journey.’
    The ‘journey’ is an ITV1 documentary on cosmetic intervention – ‘They asked me, for obvious reasons’ – called Leslie Ash: Face to Face, investigating Botox, collagen, dermal fillers and the like.

    She agreed to do it because, ‘It would show me whether I had any future in television at all,’ she explains (she has spent four years away from work recuperating) and because, ‘I wanted to show the pitfalls of these procedures.
    ‘They are even more widespread now than when I had mine. People who can hardly afford it are having it done.
    'Yet the industry is very open to abuse. It really interested me how unregulated it is in this country.

    'Beauticians can get a qualification in about 24 hours and then start injecting.’
    She was nervous in front of a camera again. There was also a culture shock.

    From the luxury of yesteryear, when she starred in Men Behaving Badly, Where the Heart Is and Merseybeat, and the only concern was ‘how big the Winnebago was’, she had to adapt to ‘travelling around in the back of a van, buying sandwiches on the motorway’.
    Leslie and husband Lee Chapman in 2007

    I am trying to imagine this. Leslie looks absolutely normal perched on the edge of a couch.

    But because the MSSA attacked her spine and has
    left her permanently injured, she walks with a
    stick (though it is an elegant silver-topped one, bought from James Smith & Sons, the gentleman’s umbrella and stick manufacturer).

    She edges along gingerly, with one foot at an odd angle.

    It must have taken great determination to shoot the documentary. She is in constant pain.

    ‘It sounds such a hard luck story,’ she says, laughing. ‘You get used to it and I’m on painkillers. I’m prescribed six a day, but I cut it down to three. They make you a bit, um, very forgetful.

    'You’re halfway through a sentence and forget what you were talking about, go into a room and forget why. And dates! I have to write everything down!’
    Leslie Ash was a stage-school kid, a graduate of the Italia Conti Academy – her contemporaries included Bonnie Langford and the late Lena Zavaroni – which helps explain why she is such a trouper.

    But stage school may partially explain why such an attractive woman felt the need for cosmetic intervention in the first place.

    She acknowledges this paradox. ‘Lots of people have said I didn’t need surgery, but I’m sorry, it’s what’s inside.
    ‘I went to stage school to get out of my mother’s hair. She used it as a crèche,’ she explains.

    Her mum Ellie and husband Moe ran a wallpaper and decorating shop in Clapham, South London, and Leslie began with Saturday lessons, got hooked and then went full-time.

    ‘She wasn’t a pushy stage mother and I wasn’t that competitive. But I do know what you’re referring to – the pressure – ‘“Eyes and teeth!”’ she mimics her former teachers.

    ‘I used to hate it, actually. ‘“Smile, girls! Eyes and teeth!”’ Forced brightness can be admirable, of course, but I think Leslie has struggled to cope with the darker emotions that have swamped her since becoming a semi-invalid.

    She credits her family with helping her through. Their encouragement sounds pretty blokish to me, which may actually be a good thing, bustling her through self-pity.
    Her change in circumstances has been abrupt. From being constantly in work since the age of 15 – she began modelling for teen magazines after photographer Brian Aris spotted her during her Saturday stint in Jean Machine on London’s King’s Road – she suddenly has all the time in the world to think.
    ‘That’s the thing I can’t get my head round – how the pace of my life is so slow, I can’t do anything spontaneous, which annoys me. Because I can’t walk very fast, it’s like this energy is pent up inside me.’

    Each day, she and her husband, ex-footballer turned club-owner and restaurateur Lee Chapman, drive to the gym from their glass palace apartment on the Thames.

    ‘When I’m working out I’m not in pain. I’m doing something, something fast.’

    Unchanged: Leslie's 'trout pout' caused by botox injections into her lips has subsided

    But what can she do at the gym? ‘I go on the cross-trainer. As long as I can hold on and I’ve got some point of reference to the ground, I’m fine. I do a power walk on an incline. OK, I’ve got no balance but you use your eyes, your ears, everything, to bypass those [dead] nerves.’ (This regime isn’t in expectation of an improvement; it’s because otherwise she will deteriorate.)
    ‘After that, I walk home, I make lunch, faff a lot – I potter! – I love that word! About four o’clock, I’ve had it. I’m exhausted. I like watching Deal or No Deal – I’m really, really sad,’ she laughs again. ‘But my problem is, I’m too deep now.

    'My kids [sons Joe, 19, and Max, 16] say, “Lighten up!” Those moments when you’re lying on the bed in the afternoon, just after Deal or No Deal, and your mind wanders deep and dark, you need something to counterbalance that. That’s what they do, between them, Joe, Max and Lee. Can you imagine? I would be in tears continuously without them. I was just so emotional all the time. Get a life, girl!’
    Leslie met Lee, who was playing for Sheffield Wednesday, at a nightclub in 1986.
    Both their jobs served up lionisation and belittlement in equal measure, so they understood each other.

    Yet it was a tempestuous relationship from the start, regularly involving jealous rows about football groupies who threw themselves at Lee, or Leslie storming off in hissy fits because she wasn’t the centre of attention.

    When Leslie says this dynamic ‘kept us both on our toes’ I’m inclined to believe her. Much has been written about the Chapman marriage, but the fact is, it endures.

    They have just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. At the time, Leslie was in Los Angeles interviewing a plastic surgeon for the documentary, so Lee flew out.

    ‘We spent the day on our own at the Chateau Marmont. We’re very lucky to have got through 20 years with everything that’s happened, and I hope for another 20,’ she says.
    Early days: Leslie in 1981

    In 1997, there was a well-documented row with Lee at actress Caroline Quentin’s flat that led to Lee being arrested.

    (Leslie had stormed off and begged a berth with her co-star from Men Behaving Badly).

    At that time, Leslie was a national sweetheart, her image inseparably tied to the character of Debs in the popular sitcom.

    By 2002, though, her public image altered overnight with the lip job.

    She’d already had her upper lip area plumped by injection, two years before – ‘it was amazing, exactly what I wanted and no one noticed’ – following dermal filling with Restylane to ‘smooth out some creases’ and a breast-lift after having her two sons.
    ‘I had been hearing about face-lifts for a long time. It was definitely, "If there’s something that is going to help me cope with ageing, I don’t see any reason not to be involved."

    'Restylane came on the scene. Quite a few people I knew were having it, and I noticed certain people in magazines – “Oh, they look a bit different, they have had something done” – but Restylane didn’t last long on me.

    'Then a friend of mine told me that her mother was a surgeon in Venezuela and she was coming over to do her [lips] and would I think about having mine done.

    'Two years later, just before I was going to do Merseybeat, I looked in the mirror and I thought, “I’ll just have a top-up.” I had been through a period where my mum had died and so I was feeling quite low.’

    Second time around, under the care of the same surgeon, Leslie was understandably confident that the procedure would turn out well.
    Though she says she is happy with her facial appearance today, she is still self-conscious.

    ‘The way everyone reacted!’ she cringes, acknowledging the ‘trout pout’ tabloid furore. ‘But I should’ve known better.’

    Making the documentary allowed her to redirect her anger and humiliation, ‘I did have to channel it. It could drive you mad.’
    If that was bad, worse was to follow. In 2004, Leslie contracted MSSA while in hospital for treatment to a cracked rib and punctured lung: about this there was a mass of speculation.

    Someone had tipped off the press, so that while Leslie was in hospital she was also calling her contacts to tell them that actually the injuries were due to tipsy sex and they’d fallen out of bed against the furniture.

    Back home a few days later, Leslie woke up and found she could no longer feel her legs. She was rushed to A&E and was lucky to survive.
    She makes light of the physical challenges. It was readjusting mentally that was the problem. ‘I still don’t think I’ve got over it. It is very difficult to make a good living in this business, but I had been.

    Also, my job was my identity because I started so young. So when my accident happened, it was the hardest thing ever, the rug being pulled from under my feet and this career is no longer there.

    'I think Lee understood. He was a footballer and then at 30-something he gets told he’s too old. He’s been my carer for four years now. Unbelievable!’ she adds, as if she can’t quite fathom how long it’s been since she lost her independence.

    Joe is at Newcastle University studying English; Max is at boarding school. ‘Lee and I enjoy each other’s company, thankfully. He works from home so we’re together continuously.’

    She is teetotal now and says because of this they no longer row. ‘Very difficult for me to be drunk in charge of a walking stick,’ she deadpans.

    Leslie and Men Behaving Badly co-stars Neil Morrissey, Caroline Quentin and Martin Clunes with the National Television Award for most popular comedy series in 1995
    She gained confidence through the documentary. ‘I forgot about my body, the pain and stuff, and really got into it,’ she says, and thinks she might have a future in presenting.

    Now that she has researched the subject so intensively, she is amazed at how credulous she had been: she didn’t sign a consent form; knew little about the procedure, nothing of the potential hazards.

    All the same, in Leslie Ash: Face to Face, the singer and actress Toyah Willcox explains how a face-lift in her mid-40s led immediately to the revival of her career.
    So might Leslie consider further intervention in the future? She answers with characteristic honesty. ‘Doing the documentary, I’ve met some practitioners who weren’t so good and some who were very good. I hope it shows people what not to do, and, more importantly, what to do.
    And I just thought how wonderful Toyah looked and, you know, never say never.

    'I want to live my life looking in the mirror and being happy with what I see.’ Does she not? ‘No, not really.

    'My posture is dreadful because I have to look at my feet. There’s so much in my body that doesn’t work. I’m all right about my face, my hair. I do like looking good, but I don’t want to be one of those actresses who looks pinned, you know?’ She shrugs. ‘But in my industry, I’m damned if I don’t have surgery and damned if I do.’
    • Leslie Ash: Face to Face, by Transparent TV, will be shown on ITV1 at 9pm on September 23
    Leslie Ash: 'Why I’ll never say never to more cosmetıc surgery' | Mail Online

  2. #2
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    I mean... a bit of plastic surgery, it's fine, but some people are just a bit too much in to it....

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