HER life has been filled with more drama than a soap opera.
So it’s fitting that West End star Jodie Prenger will be joining one.
The singer has just been announced as a new Coronation Street cast member, playing undertaker George Shuttleworth’s sister Glenda.
Jodie, 43, said: “I know I sound like a soppy sod, but it’s been on my bucket list to be in Coronation Street since I was little. It’s an honour, it truly is a very special moment in my life.”
She will be pulling pints as a barmaid in the Rovers Return from August.
It’s just the latest adventure for the Blackpool entertainer who first came to our attention in 2008 when she won musical theatre talent show I’d Do Anything.
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The show to find a new Nancy for a production of Oliver! was overseen by theatre legends Andrew Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh, and hosted by Graham Norton.
At one point, Lord Lloyd Webber revealed his pal wasn’t keen on curvaceous Jodie for the role of Charles Dickens’ tragic character.
He said: “Cameron thinks she is a bit too big and has more or less said so.”
However he gave her his backing, adding: “She has got a lovely voice and a super personality.”
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In the end it was the public who decided Jodie should get the job.
It was ironic, though, that Cameron should make such remarks when Jodie had actually lost half her body weight.
She won the second series of Living TV’s The Biggest Loser weight loss show in 2006, dropping from a size 26 and over 18st to 9st 9lbs – and bagging £25,000.
'Living on KFC'
Jodie admitted at the time she was eating too much of the wrong things at the wrong times. She said: "Because I worked at night, I'd sit around in the day and make a sandwich for something to do.
"I couldn’t cook, so I’d eat in restaurants all the time and then after gigs I’d have a KFC or a cheese sandwich. I knew it was wrong, but it fed my hunger."
But after the show finished, the 5ft 3in star found she was exercising three hours a day to maintain her slimmer figure.
"I found it hard to keep weight off, and it’s never helped that I am partial to a cheeseboard and a bottle of Prosecco. The main thing now is that I do enjoy myself and refuse to beat myself up about my weight," she said.
“Size 10-12 just wasn’t sustainable. Besides, I’d gotten too skinny. I was happy to regain a couple of stone and get some curves back.”
Prior to winning I’d Do Anything, Jodie lived with her parents, Madeleine and Marty, who ran an old folks home.
She then moved to London, with a £120,000 contract to play Nancy – but the down-to-earth lass said she wouldn’t be splashing out.
Jodie, who released her autobiography It’s a Fine Life in 2009, said: “I’ll buy a new pair of shoes but they won’t be Jimmy Choos. I’ll be going through the sale racks as I’ve always done.”
She hoped she and her new fiancé would set up home together.
Size 10-12 just wasn’t sustainable. Besides, I’d gotten too skinny. I was happy to regain a couple of stone and get some curves back
Jodie and engineer Steve Greengrass had a whirlwind romance.
Their third date was spent at her audition for the series in Manchester, and he got down on one knee after just three months, in the bar after she finished one of the live shows.
It perhaps wasn’t such a surprise because Steve had told a national newspaper beforehand: “I’m going to propose. I’m already in talks with the BBC about when I’m going to do it.” The romance!
Needless to say, it didn’t last. In fact, Steve ended up doing a kiss’n’tell with a newspaper after their split.
Jodie said later: “I don’t think he asked me to marry him out of love, but to make money because he even sold a story about the fact he was going to propose.
“I always wonder, did that story pay for the ring?”
Heartbreakingly, he was the second of Jodie’s exes to sell his story.
She recalled: “He saw the nights I spent crying, how much it upset my family and then he went and did it himself.”
Prior to becoming a household name, Jodie had started in showbiz on the cabaret circuit as well as working as an agony aunt.
She also had a few small TV parts, including one on BBC One’s daytime gameshow The Other Half, hosted by Dale Winton, in which she had to pretend to be boxer Chris Eubank’s wife.
Her more recent theatre credits include Shirley Valentine, Fat Friends: The Musical, Annie and One Man, Two Guvnors.
He saw the nights I spent crying, how much it upset my family and then he went and did it himself
It’s fitting that she’s now joining Corrie as she was previously cast as soap legend Elsie Tanner in the ill-fated Street of Dreams, which closed after just a couple of nights.
Her telly work has included Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, in which she finished second place to – another Corrie star – Antony Cotton.
She’s also presented The National Lottery Draw, been in an episode of BBC school drama, Waterloo Road, and sits in for Paul O’Grady and Elaine Paige on their BBC Radio 2 shows.
Yo-yo diet battle
In 2010, Jodie met and fell in love with company director Simon Booth.
She said: “In a way I'm glad I've been cheated on, walked over, had stories sold on me, because God knows it makes you appreciate 'the one' when he comes along.”
At 6ft 4in, Simon has a big appetite, and Jodie started over-indulging again.
Two years later she was plunged into extremes of emotion when she landed a part in the West End show, One Man Two Guvnors, Simon proposed – and her dad, Marty, was diagnosed with cancer and died of kidney cancer.
I was drinking too much and eating whatever rubbish we could find at daft o’clock in the morning, whether it was steak and chips in a posh cafe or a burger from a takeaway
She said: “It was the best of times and the worst of times rolled into one and my natural reaction was to keep busy and go out every night, so there was never time to confront my emotional turmoil.
“I was drinking too much and eating whatever rubbish we could find at daft o’clock in the morning, whether it was steak and chips in a posh cafe or a burger from a takeaway.”
Starting the new show and seeing billboard pictures of herself made her realise she needed to lose weight again, having put on around 4st.
She said: “I was wearing a corset over a pair of Spanx over another corset, and even with all that the fat still managed to escape.
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“I didn’t see it in the mirror, but blown up on a billboard, I looked larger than life.”
Slimmed down, with an exciting new soap career and the man of her dreams, the Oliver star should consider herself very lucky indeed.
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