How brilliant does Myleene Klass’s dad sound? Somehow our conversation – which charts a chaotic course around her career, her music, her kids, her horror of a (soon-to-be-ex) husband, even her bikini body – always comes back to her dad, Oscar, who sounds like just the sort of man you should have at your side in choppy waters.
‘He was a captain in the Royal Navy,’ she explains. ‘He’s retired now but loves water so much he’s retrained as a plumber!’
It was Captain Klass who steered the young Myleene – or ‘Leeney’ as she’s called at home – back on track when she rebelled as a teenager and decided she didn’t want to play the piano any more, but wanted to hang out with boys and drink cider instead. ‘It was a big rebellion, given I was supposed to be heading for a career in music.
New start: It's 18 months since Myleene's world collapsed around her after her husband left. But now, she's turned her life around and is better than ever
My dad’s way of dealing with it wasn’t to go on about the money he’d spent on lessons, but to agree with me and lock the piano. It was a surefire way of getting me back to it. When your parents are suddenly agreeing with you it’s not so much of a rebellion, is it?’
It was her father who insisted she get a proper education rather than running off to stage school, and who rammed home the importance of being able to stand on her own two feet financially. Curiously, it’s her father she credits for her ‘not-at-all-perfect’ bikini body.
While she gets her small frame from her Filipina mother, it’s his Anglo-Austrian parentage she has to thank for her ‘Helga hips’.
Most importantly though, it’s her father who provides the anchor to her life. It was in his arms that she wept when Graham Quinn, the father of her two children and her husband of just six months, told her their marriage was over on her 34th birthday last year.
Her mother provided ‘life-saving’ support too (‘she makes food parcels because she thinks I won’t eat properly if left to my own devices’) but it was Captain Klass who stopped her from going under. ‘All my life Dad’s been there with his sea-dog analogies, like “Don’t be a rudderless ship”, or “Panic costs lives” – but they’ve never been so apt before.
There’ve been times when I’ve just cried and asked him what on earth I do now, and his reply is always, “You pick a course and you hold your nerve and you go on. You’re the captain of your own ship. You sort your girls out. You steer them out of this.”
‘My dad’s the most practical person I know. He thinks calmly. I’m not like that. I can be quite erratic and I act on my emotions a lot. He’s taught me to see the bigger picture. In this case it’s my girls.
From the start he was adamant, “Get the girls through this and you’ll be OK.” He’s right. I have to be in charge of this ship. If I don’t know where I’m going, we’ve all had it.’
Heartbreak: Graham Quinn, the father of her two children and her husband of just six months, told her their marriage was over on her 34th birthday last year
It’s 18 months since Myleene’s world collapsed around her. With no warning, and before they’d even picked up the marriage certificate, Quinn – her one-time bodyguard from her Hear’Say pop band days and father to Ava, six, and Hero, two – announced their marriage was over. Their honeymoon period has been spent in the divorce courts, with him claiming a sizeable chunk of her £11 million fortune.
For legal reasons (‘and because I refuse to wash my dirty linen in public, for the sake of my children’), she can’t talk openly about that side of the split. She did tweet recently, however, about one of her big regrets in life being that she didn’t ‘get a pre-nup’, which she says she stands by today.
She also says, tellingly, ‘I believe money is the root of all evil.’ Finances aside, it’s been, she admits, a ‘monstrous’ time. ‘You know what annoys me? When I read of some celebrity couple splitting up and it seems so neat.
'You read, “He had an affair; they’ve split; it’s over” and everyone thinks it’s that easy. Let me tell you: it’s not easy – it’s horrific. I’m still in the middle of it. I’m still at that stage of thinking, “Is this actually happening? Am I in the middle of a nightmare and about to wake up?”’
Outwardly – as is so often the case when it comes to the extraordinary force of nature that is Myleene Klass – all seems rosy. She’s dating again and has been pictured in the papers in leopard-print dresses, accessorised with a new man. She declines to name him today but confirms that he is, as reported, Scandinavian.
‘I call him the Great Dane,’ she grins. She’s been seeing him for a few months now, and says she’s as surprised as anyone to be ‘back in the game’. ‘I certainly wasn’t out there looking – nothing could have been further from my mind. I was still licking my wounds.
'It actually came as a big surprise. But it’s nice to actually think, “OK, I’m a mum, but I’m still a woman.” My girls can see that I’m happy and getting back to my old self again, and that’s reassuring for everyone. Believe me, I never thought that would happen. I thought I’d never smile again. I couldn’t imagine laughing.’
Family: Myleene Klass (L) and Ava Klass attend the UK premiere of The Lion King 3D
It was her children, though, rather than any new love, who convinced her that life goes on. ‘The first time I laughed out loud was when Hero took her first steps. I couldn’t help myself. We had her christening recently. It was the happiest time. I looked at all the friends and family around me and I genuinely thought, “I’m blessed”.’
'I thought I’d never smile again. I couldn’t imagine laughing'
She tells me that, far from accepting that their marriage was over, she was in denial for a long time. ‘This wasn’t what I wanted for my girls, or for myself. My parents have been married for 38 years – that was my blueprint.’
She says that far from moving on immediately – as some reports at the time suggested – she pleaded with Quinn to reconsider. ‘I fought as hard as I possibly could. I thought it was worth saving. I did everything. Pride? I didn’t have any. I don’t know if it’s feminist or anti-feminist or what, but I would have done anything, put up with anything, to keep my family together.’
She still seems bewildered about what actually went wrong. ‘Did I fail to pick up on something? If I did I’d been doing it for a decade, because that’s how long we’d been together. Nothing had changed. We were doing exactly what we’d been doing for all those years.’
Nobody's perfect: She has spent much of her career trying to correct the impression she's smug, or that her life - or body - is perfect
Yet all was not perfect in the Quinn household. For years they’d been hailed the ‘odd couple’ of showbiz. While she was a permanently sunny soul, he was a shadowy character who was fined and given a suspended prison sentence in 2005 for possession of heroin.
In every interview she ever gave, she defended him. No more. I ask if her family and friends warned her Quinn was no good for her. She says, ‘I can’t even begin to go there, but everyone had an opinion.’ And was ‘everyone’ right about him? ‘Yes.’
Quite what role Graham Quinn had in the family has never been clear. In interviews Myleene has always chatted about trying to combine childcare with work, and famously always pitched up at events with a child or two under her arm.
She jokes today about how her friend, the presenter and DJ Lauren Laverne, had to bully her into getting a cleaner ‘because I was trying to do it all myself. It’s the Filipina in me. I can’t stand the idea of having help.’ Where was her husband in all this? It’s unclear. ‘Put it this way, I don’t feel in my home life there’s been that big a change. I did it all.’ So she was a single mother before she was a single mother? ‘Yeah. In a weird way, the adjustment hasn’t been too crazy.’
Her work ethic has always been phenomenal. Today she’s promoting her new bedding range, the latest in a long list of products – from kids’ clothes to prams to scented candles – that bear the Myleene Klass name. After we meet she’s jetting off to Germany to play a private concert. Why? ‘It’s what I do. I provide for my children. I want them to see that things carry on as normal. I want them to be proud of me.’
She’s spent much of her career trying to correct the impression she’s smug, or that her life – or body – is perfect. At one point she leaps to her feet to show me the stretchmarks where her back meets her bum. ‘I flippin’ earned these,’ she says. ‘I put on 4½st with my babies.’
Mind you, no one thinks her life is perfect any more, ‘because they’ve seen it get hit by a bus. Now they think, “Oh, she’s normal. S**t things happen to her too.”’
She talks movingly about the day it all collapsed. ‘I called my parents and said, “I need to see you” and I just went over. I took the girls and they picked up the pieces that no grown woman ever wants their parents to have to pick up. When you’re my age you want to be the one looking after your parents, but as my mum says, “You never stop being a mother.”’
The practicalities were huge. ‘I had to move house, get Ava into a new school – big, life-changing things – all in the space of a few weeks. Then there was the job to keep going. I still had commitments. Often my manager would have to meet me at the school gates. At night I’d crawl up the stairs, feeling like I’d been run over.’
She won’t be drawn on what she’s told her girls about the split, or about whether they see their father at all, but it’s telling that when she chats away about Ava learning to ride her bike, she says it’s grandad Oscar who’s teaching her.
‘They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that now – I couldn’t have done it on my own. In a funny way it’s been a blessing because it’s made our family unit, the Klass family, strong again.’
Protective: Myleene doesn't want her daughters to grow up thinking men aren't to be trusted
What of her new relationship? ‘I’m a realist. I know I don’t need someone else to heal me – I have to heal myself. I’ve never really been one of these people who thinks a partner is a second half of you. It’s my belief you have to be whole before you go into a relationship.
'You have to learn what it’s like to be yourself again.’ Is it scary? ‘Yes, but it’s liberating too. I don’t need a man. I can support myself and my family financially. I’m in the privileged position of being able to look at things and say, “What do I really want?”’
Mostly, she wants not to be destroyed by the events of the last 18 months. ‘I can’t let what happened sour me against the world. I know how to love. I know how to trust. I’m not going to turn against every man because of one person’s action – or inaction.’
Nor does she want her daughters to grow up thinking men aren’t to be trusted. ‘Quite the opposite,’ she says. ‘I’m going to teach them that there are some really good men out there – they should look to their grandad for starters.’