Watch: Lisa Riley reveals how she used to question men to test why they were speaking to her
Lisa Riley is used to the media glare.
Acting professionally since the age of 12, she currently plays iconic soap character Mandy Dingle in ITV’s Emmerdale, to a weekly audience of five million viewers.
Her highly successful career also includes an acclaimed role in the BBC sexual abuse drama Three Girls, becoming the first female presenter of ITV’s You’ve Been Framed and reaching the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing.
Yet with fame, has come intense scrutiny.
In particular, Riley has had to live out in public, as she described to Kate Thornton on podcast White Wine Question Time, a series of “failed relationships”. This included a convicted conman, and a married man who returned to his wife.
It was an experience, the actor said, that left her feeling “stung by so many bees” and created “trust issues” with new partners.
“I didn't want to let my guard down,” she told Thornton. “I used to test men, I used to have, like, questions… for what reason were they even talking to me?”
She continued, “You know, they just want to walk the red carpet for an inside Soap Awards and get a free suit. I mean, but it's true.”
At the time, Riley said, she believed there was “never, ever going to be a person out there for me.”
Happily, her fortunes changed in 2014, when she met Al, a professional American musician, at a Strictly Come Dancing tour event.
To her delight, he didn’t know who she was, and they were “just chatting away.”
The pair, she claimed, bonded over a self-help book they’d both read.
While Riley said she attempted to “play it cool”, the hair and make-up team spotted their mutual interest in each other, and started match-making.
Read more: l hair and make-up, anything, they put paprika on the story and times it by 65,” Riley joked.“If you tell hair and make-up, anything, they put paprika on the story and times it by 65,” Riley joked.
Soon after, she began sending Al book recommendations, “and casually put my email on the bottom”, she laughed. They eventually became a couple, and were engaged in 2018.
Riley attributed part of their success to Al being “laid back… and I’m, you know, a Catherine Wheel, and that’s what works and that’s what I needed.” She revealed that the couple enjoy going “to football” and travelling together. “The world is both our oxygen,” she said. “I found my little travel buddy.”
Al, Riley, also revealed, is “the only person alive excluding my beloved mum in heaven, who says no [to me], and that’s what I needed”. She also said he doesn’t “pander” to her in the way that can happen to people in the “public eye”.
Listen to the full episode to hear Lisa Riley discuss her infertility struggles, being sober for the past seven years and finally finding love.
This new stability in her personal life, was followed by a decision, in 2019, to return to Emmerdale, the soap she left in 2001.
Riley told Thornton that she was tempted back by the “mind-blowing storylines” created for her character Mandy Dingle. “It wasn't the show that I'd left and I was a better me, I was a new version,” she said.
It was also when Riley and Al decided to try to start a family. “I knew it was the right time, and I knew it was the right person.” She continued, “And in my career, I could make it work because I was going back to Emmerdale.”
Sadly, Riley suffered four “massively failed attempts” at IVF.
“For any woman out there that’s been through what I've been through, it's horrific,” she told Thornton.
Despite this, Riley bravely agreed with producers to explore a storyline about early infertility through her character Mandy Dingle. It was during talks with producers that she told them that her own experience of infertility had left her feeling “like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle”.
“That line was put in, and I'm so proud,” she said.
The impact of the storyline was immense.
‘All these girls of 21 were talking to me on social media,” Riley said, “sending me messages and saying, ‘Thank you, this has never been done.’” She continued, “I'm so proud of that storyline, even to this day.”
Recently, Riley and the cast have tackled another “really serious story of the year”, with an attempted suicide storyline.
“Mandy being the rock that everyone needs at a time like that,” Riley said.
Today, she and Al are heading towards their 10th year together, happily settled, splitting their time between America and the UK.
“My Al would say, ‘You've still got trust issues,’” Riley told Thornton. “It's true, and that will never go.” Yet, she continued, “He's changed my life around… made me understand me more.”
“There'll be days when I'm [filming]… 3pm till 3am, and coming in at five, all giddy because I've played Mandy Dingle, but I’ve done a night shoot and I've got to like wind down,” she revealed. “And before you know it, it's coming daylight again, and he… gets it.”
For support with fertility issues visit Fertilitynetworkuk.org
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