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Reality TV Interview

'I'm a Celebrity' Fatima Whitbread interview: 'I know myself again'

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Former Olympian Fatima Whitbread left the jungle after a surprise second eviction on Friday night.

In a frank and honest interview conducted after her departure from the celebrity camp, the athlete reveals the real reason behind her appearance on the show and her quest to return to the spotlight…

Fatima Whitbread in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here 2011

© ITV



How are you feeling, Fatima?
"I feel absolutely elated. I'm a Celebrity has been a fantastic experience and the biggest single thing I took away from this was the fact that I learned to know myself again. I learned a lot about Fatima Whitbread. Not the athlete; not the mum – but the person. I learned to love myself like the person I've evolved into. As a single mum, you're always juggling lots of balls in the air and wearing different hats – but it was nice to have new challenges put before me."

The celebrity contestants usually leave the jungle craving loads of bad food. What did you eat when you got out?
"It wasn't like that for me. I tried to maintain my weight in the jungle, but I lost 12 kilograms in there, which is an awful lot for me. The last thing I wanted to do was over-work my digestive system as soon as I came out, so I the first thing I ate was some fruit, dry bread and bananas."

What was your lowest moment in the jungle?
"The first few days were really tough. I was trying to carry on as normal, so I had a couple of big logs that I used as gym work. Generally, I did a lot around the camp but I usually came crashing down quite quickly because my energy levels were low. The lack of nutrition led to muscle spasms and my concentration went fairly quickly after that.

"I was in pain for quite a few days before I started to pick up again. The conditions were quite severe in there. You're up against the elements and you've been thrown together with complete strangers. It was extreme. You're cut off from the outside world and you're not allowed to get in touch with loved ones. It's hard."

Were you ever close to quitting the jungle?
"That wasn't an option for me. I don't like failure. I always try to find a way through. I've embraced living in the jungle. I tried to cut myself off emotionally from my ties at home and my friends and family. Rather than torment myself emotionally, I lived the life in front of me and I embraced that."

What was your highest moment in the jungle?
"Peter Andre was my highlight. He is an adorable man, so it was lovely to see him turn up. On a personal level, it was a dream come true. When I was asked who I'd like to be stuck in the jungle with, I said Peter Andre. When he turned up in a box, I was ecstatic. He's a beautiful man, both inside and out."

What do you think of Dougie?
"Dougie is a lovely boy. Dougie came of age towards the end of the show. Mark and him were bosom buddies in the jungle. There's always a leader and a follower – and Mark was the leader. Dougie is a quiet force. He wouldn't hurt a McFly."

Crissy lost loads of weight in the jungle. She said she did lots of training with you in the jungle and wants to do a fitness DVD with you. Are you up for it?
"I've got to be honest with you. I wanted to do the show because I've always admired the programme – but as a single mum I saw the show as a window of opportunity to help my son and I. It's been very hard to get work over the last years. Especially with 2012 on the horizon, I still find myself on the outside. There are a lot of us who have a lot to offer, but sadly there isn't room for everybody to get a job, so I had to throw my net a bit further. This is why the jungle was so appealing to me."

Fatima Whitbread

© Rex Features



What do you want to do?
"Not only am I hoping to do a fitness DVD – but I also think there's a human interest story in my life story. I released a book in 1997, but there's so much more to write as a sequel. I hope to have it released in time for the 2012 Olympics. I think it would make a human interest story and an inspiration for a lot of people. It's not just an ordinary biography."

How would you describe your life story?
"I think my story came before its time. I was abandoned as a baby; some would say I was left to die. I lived in children's homes for 14 years. In between that time, I never really knew I had a mum or dad. The one time I went back to my mum, I was sexually raped by her lover at 11 years of age.

"The story has been told and documented because when somebody becomes high-profile they become public property. Rather than let the press try to paste together my life story, I was told to write it in a sensitive way."

Did you put yourself forward to help with the 2012 Olympics?
"Yes, I have. My late husband was an organiser of British athletics and world athletics. Sadly, he left under a bit of a cloud and it's like any government; one out, all out. I've never felt that I've been truly involved or invited back into the sport as much as I could have. I've got all of my qualifications. I've been coaching internationally for the first ten years of my forced retirement.

"I ran a sports marketing club and I looked after people like Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell. I've got a wealth of knowledge. Since my husband passed away four or five years ago, I've been out of work for quite some time. Sadly, there were a lot of debts that came with my husband and I need to get out there again."

Who is preventing you from becoming involved with the Olympics?
"I wouldn't say it's a matter of somebody preventing me from becoming involved. It's just because there's a vast host of people out there. There are a lot of former athletes who have a lot to offer and they can't possibly involve all of us. You see a lot of regular faces, but I'd revel in having a role somewhere. I'd love to try to inspire young people and change lifestyles, especially with young families.

"Having said that, being in the jungle has probably helped my profile. I'd love to be attached to a company that would help promote single mums or mothers or women. Anything that would help me help them help the younger generation – and also help me pay my bills, which is ultimately what we all need to do."

How do you manage financially?
"How do I manage? I don't. I'm struggling. Anything that I earn, I use to help my mum and my family. My son is in private schooling and I've had a lot of debts to cover since my husband died. The small investment I've got is barely enough to live on. I make £11,000 a year and that's it. That's hardly enough. My son's private school fees are £12,000. Hence why I'm here."

Have you got any immediate plans for work?
"There's nothing happening right now, but I hope something comes from doing I'm a Celebrity. If it does, then I'll be happy and the small window of opportunity has worked. You can only make hay while the sun shines, so I don't know how long this will last or whether I'll be successful enough to make enough to get me to my pension stage.

"I have got a pension system that I've paid into, but that doesn't start until I'm 60 years old. I'm 50 now, so that's ten years away. That's an awful long way to go when you've got a child and bills to pay. I hope the jungle turns my life around. Please, help me in any way you can."

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