Love her or hate her, reality star Kerry Katona is a survivor. She opens up to Hannah Stephenson about rejoining Atomic Kitten, her battles with drugs and her latest love interest.
By Hannah Stephenson
Kerry Katona is one of those celebrities who (annoyingly for some) remains famous for being famous.
The ex-pop star and former winner of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! has been tabloid fodder for more than a decade, her torrid love life, drug abuse, bi-polar, rehab and cosmetic surgery reported in minute detail.
The endless revelations, incessant photo-shoots, reality shows and Iceland ads have kept her in the public eye for years, although some might say her star has been on the wane for a while.
She's almost running out of reality shows, having done Dancing On Ice, I'm A Celebrity and Celebrity Big Brother, although she'll be appearing in an even weirder programme entitled My Fair Kerry this year, a comedy reality show in which she'll be taking etiquette lessons from music mogul David Gest.
Katona, 32, has also been reunited with Atomic Kitten for a forthcoming show on ITV2, which also features Five, B*witched, 911, The Honeyz and Liberty X, followed by a 14-date arena tour.
"I've always been in touch with Tash (Natasha Hamilton) and Liz (McClarnon). I'm really nervous because it's been like a full circle for me. People forget I started off as a pop star in a girl band," says the chirpy singer.
On one hand Katona, 32, says she's never happier than being a stay-at-home mum with her four kids, yet a day after our interview, she is pictured in a skimpy mini-dress and mile-high glittery heels posing for the paparazzi at a well-known magazine's party, bubbly and blonde, all smiles for the camera.
She claims, though, that she hasn't always sought the publicity she's received.
"A lot of people think, Kerry Katona, publicity whore, she'll do anything. Most of the stories which contained my addiction, my bankruptcy, the cheating, I didn't want those on the front pages. People thought I was selling my life and that wasn't the case at all."
Despite her claims, she's recently brought out her second autobiography, Still Standing, six years after her first book, Too Much, Too Young, charted her traumatic childhood, and descent into drugs after the break-up of her marriage to Westlife singer Brian McFadden.
The latest instalment reveals her disastrous second marriage to cabbie Mark Croft, her battle to quit drugs and experiences in reality TV.
"I've been clean for three years now," she says. "Hopefully, after everything I've been through (which includes bankruptcy and two divorces) it's my time to get everything across."
Cynics may say this book is just another money-spinner, another way to keep Katona in the public eye and the tabloids interested.
In it, she admits that she took cocaine while her daughters Molly and Lilly (by McFadden) were in the house, but kept herself away from the children so they wouldn't see her taking it.
"They didn't have a clue about anything until I did the documentary Kerry Katona: The Next Chapter (about her battle with drugs) and I eventually let them watch the show.
"Cocaine became my best friend, helped with the grieving process of my first divorce and then when I met Mark (Croft, her second husband) it went completely out of hand.
"I'm mortified, embarrassed and ashamed," she says now. "I'm not blaming anybody else for what happened. I was too weak to say no."
In 2010, a spell at bootcamp was the catalyst to her ditching drugs for good, she says.
"My exercise regime had been a kebab and a line of cocaine. When I went to bootcamp it was the first natural high I'd felt since I was 14. It was like coming out of a coma."
She hasn't been on medication for bi-polar for several years and wonders now if she was misdiagnosed. If she's having a down day, she deals with it, she says.
"Even from my young days my life was a rollercoaster, but I got through it and wasn't on medication until I became an adult. The only tablets I take now are headache tablets if I've got a hangover, and that's not very often."
Katona remains a survivor, despite her desperately unhappy childhood.
Growing up in Warrington, Cheshire, she had to provide the emotional prop her alcoholic mother Sue needed following several suicide attempts, and also lived in fear of her mother's violent boyfriend.
By the age of 11, Kerry had been to seven different primary schools and at 13 she was taken into care after her mother was knifed by her boyfriend, but decided to stay with him anyway.
They always kept in touch and in the latest book, Kerry reveals that she took drugs with her mum to help them 'bond'. She was 14 when they first tried speed.
"It was what we used to do, it was our thing," Katona said, revealing they did it regularly until she was 28.
Yet her up-and-down relationship with her mother - who has now quit drugs - seems to be at a good point at the moment, although Katona worries about her drinking.
"She is forever on the vodka still - her liver is screwed, but what can you do? At the end of the day, she's my mum and I idolise her. Our relationship is much more healthy and adult now."
Katona moved from Warrington to a farm in Surrey, near her close pal Peter Andre, and has help from a nanny. Her eldest daughter Molly is at boarding school.
Although she has two divorces behind her, she still talks about how devastated she was when McFadden left her.
Then last year when he made comments dismissing their marriage - saying he had no idea what he was doing and that he didn't grow up until he was 30 - she was furious.
In an angry retort on Twitter, she wrote: "I will never let anyone take away my first marriage not even my ex husband! We may have been young but I knew full well what I was doing!!! And never in a million years would I ever dismiss it, especially bringing two amazing children into it..."
Her second marriage to cabbie Mark Croft, which she says she rushed into, also ended in divorce. They have two children, Heidi and Max.
Now she is dating ex-rugby player and personal trainer George Kay.
She recently revealed: "I've known him for 18 years, since I was at school, but I literally bumped into him one night and we've been together ever since.
"I've kept him off-radar because he's been in jail for blackmail, which sounds a lot worse than it is, but people have said, 'He's bad news, he's another Mark Croft'. He's nothing like Mark."
She says McFadden - who has remarried and now lives in Australia - sees their children Molly and Lilly about once a year, while Croft hasn't seen Heidi and Max since February.
With four children in private school and bills to pay, she can't rely on maintenance payments so it's understandable that she needs to remain in the public eye.
"If there is one thing I have proved to myself, it is that I can bounce back from anything."
:: Still Standing by Kerry Katona is published by Orion, priced £18.99. Available now