A regular role as a Loose Women panellist introduced the world to the woman behind the characters before she twirled her stuff on Dancing on Ice and won Channel 5's sophomore series of Celebrity Big Brother.
There have been downs as well as ups, and her battles with drugs, booze and depression were covered in first autobiography Pulling Myself Together. This month she releases the follow-up Starting Over and Digital Spy spoke to her all about it.
How much do you think you are in a new phase of your life?
"Oh, I really do - I really truly do. I've been through a lot in the last three years - especially this year. So much has changed in my life and at the beginning of the year I felt like my whole life was in free fall and it was out of control - it was pretty horrendous.
"I've taken the madness of alcohol out of my life. I'm with [fiancé] Lincoln [Townley], he's done the same. We're getting married. [Ex-husband] Tim [Healy]'s happy, the kids are good, I really do feel that I am completely starting over."
Congratulations on the engagement - have you started planning the wedding?
"No, we just know that it's going to be next year - it's not going to be a ten-year engagement. I did Piers Morgan's Life Stories the other night... it's over now and I hope it was a success - according to everyone there it was. It was quite emotional and it was a big, grown-up thing for me to do. I feel in a good place and it was a good time for me to do it."
Is there anything in the book that will shock people?
"I think when people hear about my life it always surprises people. It's my fault in lots of ways. People like to pigeonhole you... This autobiography's not so shocking, but it's eventful, and I talk about my marriage breakdown and my relationship with Lincoln and my constant battle with the booze, which I've won for the last four months."
Do you worry about putting so much of yourself out there for people to judge?
"People are judgemental anyway. This is why I do it really... Sometimes I have to pull the reins back in, because it tends to be open season on me, whether I've done anything or not. Loose Women, for all the good things it does, it keeps us on the front of all those magazines and they like to make up their own minds about us a lot of the time.
"We all know those headlines don't always conform to what's in the middle of the pages - that's always out there and sometimes in my position I get offered vehicles where I can put the record straight, and sometimes I take them."
Was it true that you advised Coleen Nolan not to do Celebrity Big Brother?
"I didn't actually say, 'Don't do it'... I just said to the manager we used to share, 'Does she know what she's letting herself in for?' She clearly did and she was runner-up, so good for her. Everybody's experience is different."
Did you watch her on the show?
"Yep, I loved watching it. I was obsessed with it. I mean, f**king hell, it's a lot better sitting at home watching it than it is being in it. I can tell you that."
What was it in particular that made you so unhappy?
"It was the people. People changed in there. Their allegiance moved. Once Natalie [Cassidy] and Kirk [Norcross] went out then the whole structure of the house changed. I was in there with a nutcase - with Michael Madsen, who was a bully. That was really it. You find yourself talking so pettily about this gang and that gang, but it becomes your world when you're in there, and I was going through lots of personal s**t as well.
"To be honest that wasn't really what made me so unhappy, it was just that everybody ganged up when they realised you're quite popular. When they hear the cheers and the boos. The boo people start to stick together. We all know that doesn't mean who wins or loses... I can understand why the people wanted me and Michael in there - because it was car-crash television."
The second series didn't do as well as yours - did it come a little bit too soon?
"I don't know. That's news to me. Obviously I was quite fascinated by the whole Julie Goodyear thing. I was gripped, like with anybody once she went out it got a little bit lame. Not that I condone her behaviour in there, I don't. You need that kind of person in there to make it interesting."
Would you ever return to Benidorm?
"It's amazing the power of that show. I did one scene in Benidorm. I did it because I was spending quite a bit of time out there because Tim was in it and I was taking [our son] Louis over a lot. The writer Derren said, 'I've got this baddie Reg - what about if I change him to Scary Mary - do you fancy doing it?' I said, 'F**king brilliant, yeah'.
"Being in Benidorm has been a bit like being in Corrie. People want to do a little cameo, so I did. It's incredible that people think I was in it properly. Yeah, I'd love to do more Benidorm. I'm in a good place, I'm not in the madness anymore. I want to concentrate on getting my acting career back on track, because that's my first love. That's my main love and the one I'm best at. I just need to remind people that's what I really do."
Are there any UK or US shows you'd really fancy a role in?
"Yeah, I really love American stuff. I love American comedy. I'd love to do a new comedy over here. Not a sitcom 'Wa wa wah' studio audience one, but I'd love to do a really good comedy here. I've got a couple of irons bubbling.
"I'm very lucky that I am able to diversify and have my Denise Welch side as well, but with that comes the tabloid, magaziney stuff. This day and age the industry has changed - you have got to keep a profile up. You just do or people think you've died otherwise."
So these things are done partly for the profile, partly for the experience...
"Partly for the money as well, don't forget the money. We're not stupid. Everybody says, 'I did it because it was this, because it was cathartic'. We've all got bills to pay, and this industry doesn't pay the money that it used to pay. I'm the first one to say, 'Of course I did it for that - and I also did it for the money'."
Would you go on I'm a Celebrity...?
"I don't think I'd do that one. I have been asked to do that several times. I don't think I would. I don't want to jump out the plane. I'm not mad enough to say 'Never'. I said never to Dancing on Ice and Big Brother, and lo and behold there I was. I'd look an idiot if I said I'd never do it. I'd like to think that I can go back to my main love this year and leave reality behind a bit."
It's hard for people with depression to get access to support...
"It's very difficult. I don't try to give people advice on what to do, I just talk about my own experience. I'm in no position to tell people what drugs to take or not to take. People absolutely grasp on to anybody talking about mental illness.
"People are transfixed by people's experiences, because there still is a stigma around it, and they want to see someone who's still dealing with it now and again, but who has come out the other side. Someone who's still living with it, but living with it successfully and winning the battle with it successfully."
Who would be your dream guest on Loose Women?
"We always say Victoria Beckham, because we've had all the other Spice Girls on. Most of them have been on as a Loose Woman. We don't know much about Victoria Beckham. I've met her several times and I think she's a great laugh, and I think I'd like people to see that side. I'm very keen on people seeing the other side."
Starting Over by Denise Welch is available in Macmillan hardback now.