From soap star to Strictly contestant, Gemma Atkinson loves a challenge and a daily juice keeps her on track

It’s Wednesday afternoon and Gemma Atkinson has just enough time to catch up with Juiced! magazine before she heads to her next appointment, even though she’s been on the go since 4am. It’s another busy day in a never-ending, crazy schedule, but she isn’t one to complain. In fact complaining doesn’t figure at all in Gemma’s make-up, which brims with positivity, gratitude and a natural care for others.

It’s not that she’s not ambitious, and having joined the Strictly Come Dancing class of 2017, there’s plenty of drive to achieve more than she already has since her first role as Lisa Hunter in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks in 2009. As she teams up with a pro dancer for Strictly Come Dancing, she’s also busy in her role as presenter on the Gemma, Matt and Mike Show, the primetime breakfast slot on Manchester’s radio station, Key 103. It’s a leap from her screen role as Carly Hope in Emmerdale, and several thousand miles from I’m A Celebrity…, Hollywood films and theatre, including a West End run in Calendar Girls.

“I’m loving doing radio for now,” says Gemma. “It’s Manchester’s #1 radio show and I’ve known Matt and Mike (her co-presenters) for years, so it feels very comfortable. But going into Strictly, I’m going to be putting on my stilettos and frocks and trying to compete for that glitter ball. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth”. “It’s a challenge. I think you should always push yourself out of your comfort zone with stuff, and this for me is completely out of my comfort zone. I just want to have fun with it, plus you get to learn a new skill, so I’m going to take the opportunity and run with it. My aim is not to go out first.”

“I would love to get to the final, absolutely. For me learning to dance itself is a milestone, so if I come away from the experience being able to say I can dance, then that itself is great.”

So, with a gruelling three-month schedule of Strictly rehearsals and performances ahead, and having taken to headphones and microphone like a proverbial duck to water, is acting on the back burner for Gemma? “No definitely not,” she says emphatically. “If an opportunity comes along, you’ve got to grab it with both hands. I definitely felt the radio show gave me the chance to try something different, but I am 1,000 per cent not giving up on acting.”

“On the surface, acting looks glamorous but it’s hard graft. I’m still working hard and am on the go from 4am, five days a week. I’m enjoying the experience of radio, but I love acting”. “Since doing the radio show, I have a new routine – once we come off air and have our after-show meeting, I head to the gym, four times a week, for an hour. I can then jump on the train to London to meet my agent if I need to, or to meet up with friends, but I have to be in bed by 9.30pm so I can get up at 4am!”

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Healthy Passion

Whatever the challenge, Gemma tackles everything she does with bags of enthusiasm, and works hard to maintain the stamina a career in show business demands. Passionate about fitness and nutrition, Gemma is in great shape, boosted by a recent stay at Juicy Oasis – her third visit since it opened. “I love it,” she says. “The scenery is breathtaking and I have the chance to switch off and unwind. We never know how hectic life is until we stop. To not have to think about anything and to be able to relax is sheer bliss”. “I love the yoga classes, walks and hikes at Juicy Oasis, and when you’re fuelling your body with such good nutrients, you start to feel amazing”.

“It’s like giving yourself an MOT and I think you need to give your digestion a rest at least once a year”. “I had juiced before I visited Juicy Oasis, but I didn’t really understand it properly. Now I juice every day, even on holiday, and take one to the radio show to have mid-morning, which keeps me going to lunchtime”.

“Juicy Oasis gets better and better and, having stayed when it was brand new, it’s been brilliant to see it flourish. Jason has worked so hard and the team are passionate about what they do. Lots of people I chat with are on their second or third visit, which I think is proof of the value of a stay.”

“This time I visited with my mum and her husband, and they loved it too – they lost 10lbs each and thought it was fabulous, they’ll definitely be back.” Family and home life are important to Gemma, who is more than happy to switch her LBD for nights in. “I’m a home girl at heart,” she says. “I love going to my mum’s and sister’s and hanging out with her kids. I would like children at some point, perhaps the other side of 35, but I like my life at the moment. Glitzy events are hard work and while I have to go for work, it’s a hassle to figure out what to wear!” Despite a preference for chilling out, all that toil at the gym and juices make Gemma a paparazzi favourite.

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In the Balance

Having modelled in her early career and been voted sexiest ever I’m A Celebrity… star, Gemma isn’t one to let the glamorous side of show business go to her head. “It’s flattering but I take it with a pinch of salt,” she says. “Health is more important and I always believe if your heart’s strong and your head’s in a good place, you’re fine”. “Fitness has always been important to me – I ran for Manchester Harriers & Athletics Club as a girl, and I wanted to be Jet from Gladiators when I was growing up. I had planned to study sports therapy, but I landed the role in Hollyoaks and that shaped the direction of my life. It was a pivotal role for me, so I have no regrets and I’ll always be grateful to the show.”

“Exercise is important to me and I love helping women realise their potential with boxing, which I love. I don’t want to do a DVD or sell a product, but encouraging others is rewarding and I may take it further at some point. I always tell people to be patient and consistent as there are no quick fixes. You have to see fitness and good nutrition as lifestyle choices. Know your limits and your strengths and be kind to yourself, be human. Have a pizza, but get back on it…” It’s Gemma’s healthy, balanced outlook that makes her a hit with fans on social media who adore posts from her daily life. She uses her channels to raise awareness of animal welfare and is president of Lancashire’s Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. “As long as everyone around me is OK, that’s what’s important. I never like to plan ahead too much or put myself under too much pressure. I enjoy living in the moment and I think that’s the best way to get the most out of life.”

Source: Juiced! Magazine (Issue 5)