The defiant actress on why the engagement to her Wanted man Max is off, but the romance ain’t over
Photography by Mark Hayman
Michelle Keegan is a girl after our own heart. With a couple of days’ grace before her Fabulous Ibiza cover shoot, she heads straight out to par-tay minutes after her plane touches down on the White Isle.
“I think I’ve peaked too soon!” she groans the next day while nursing what she describes as the worst hangover she’s ever had in her whole entire life ever.
Luckily, the Coronation Street star is made of strong stuff and recovers to carry on the craziness for the rest of the weekend. She hits the Fabulous Hed Kandi party, hangs out at our rented villa for beers and giggles the next day, and on our last night dances till dawn at super club Space.
After the couple of months she’s just had, Michelle, 25, has been looking forward to a bit of fun in the sun. Not only has her Corrie alter ego Tina McIntyre just endured yet another gruelling, sob-a-thon of a storyline, but Michelle has been through the mill a bit herself after breaking off her engagement to The Wanted’s Max George, 23.
Everyone assumed the announcement meant they’d broken up. Not so, says Michelle. They’re still together and there was never a split. In fact they’ve just come back from a romantic holiday together. They simply called off the wedding in order to ease the pressure on what is a fairly new relationship.
Michelle says: “We’re not engaged any more, but not because we fell out or there was an argument. It was just there was no chance of us getting married any time soon because of our schedules.
“He’s away in America most of the time now and we just had a word about it. I’m a traditionalist so if I’m engaged, I want to get married and that’s not happening soon.
“I was getting asked by everyone: ‘Have you set a date? Have you been shopping with you mum? Have you chosen your dress?’
“So we just thought that we’d just say we’re not engaged and then nobody will ask and there’s no pressure.”
Michelle never expected it to open such a can of worms. An American radio interview with Max where he said he was “enjoying the benefits of being in a boy band” was misinterpreted. As was Michelle’s choice of slogan T-shirt
that screamed “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” at the time split speculation was hitting its peak.
The truth, according to Michelle? A pure coincidence.
“I didn’t even think about that T-shirt, which I had bought in Topshop three days before, and so when I saw it in the papers I thought: ‘Oh for God’s sake!’ There was just no story behind it, but apparently I was all devastated.” She rolls her eyes. As if.
“But that’s the thing you have to deal with and I find that difficult, as I’m quite private, especially with my relationships. That’s part of your life that you don’t want everyone to know about. It’s difficult when you’re in the public eye together.
“Max and I have never done a joint interview or talked about it, but it’s going really well. I keep seeing reports saying he’s proposed again and I honestly don’t know where that’s coming from.”
And we can’t help but wonder what has happened to the ring? “It’s at home,” she smiles. “I’ve still got it. It’s still mine. I think what we want to do is live together first. There’s no point in getting married without living together.”
She laughs as she recalls the unconventional way they got together. It was actually Max’s dad who acted as the initial matchmaker between the two at the wedding of Simon Gregson [Steve McDonald in Corrie] in November 2010.
“Max’s family were friends of Simon’s and Max was actually meant to go to the wedding, but couldn’t make it. His dad came up to me and said: ‘My son really wanted to meet you… Can I pass your number on?’ I was single at the time, and so I was kind of like: ‘OK, then!’
“So Max then sent me a text saying: ‘My dad gave me your number…’ which was a bit weird. But it worked!
“I went to one of his gigs in Manchester and we met properly afterwards and that’s how it happened. Max is just so down to earth, such a nice, genuine guy. He’s a proper gentleman as well,” Michelle says.
“We just do normal things. We don’t tend to go to big clubs together, we’re quite happy just chilling with a takeaway or going to a local pub. I think because he’s from Manchester as well and he was thrust into the limelight, it’s nice when he comes back to a bit of reality.”
While Max and the band are slogging away in the States, where their single Glad You Came reached No.3 in the charts, it means long spells apart. But Michelle insists they’re used to the separation and their relationship doesn’t suffer.
“I’m used to the long-distance thing – it’s been a year and a half now. It’s been the same since the beginning. We just try to see each other as much as we can. That’s just the way it is.”
Trust isn’t an issue either, despite The Wanted’s groupies who must surely offer it up on a plate.
“I couldn’t be with someone that I don’t trust,” says Michelle. “I don’t even think about that really. I think if someone’s gonna cheat, they’re gonna cheat. But with Max, I do trust him 100 per cent.
“I’ve been cheated on before years ago. You don’t forget that. In the past I was paranoid and insecure about myself, possibly because I was cheated on.
“But since I’ve been on Corrie, I’ve become more confident and I feel I’ve done something for myself and I’m really proud of that.”
If there’s anyone who captures the Ibizan spirit it’s Michelle. Apart from looking like a goddess (our make-up artist doesn’t even need to use foundation on her flawless skin), she’s laid-back and determined to have a good time.
She’s brought her best mates – old school friends Rachael, Hayley and Elizabeth – with her for the Fabulous weekend away and they throw themselves into the fun-fest headfirst.
Having holidayed here several times in the past, Michelle knows her way round the island well and has fond memories of bygone Ibiza escapades. She has a well-hidden tattoo (we won’t reveal exactly where…) of a bow, which was inked during her first trip here at the age of 17.
“I was here with a group of friends for a week. Oh my God, back then, I could have drunk every single day, but not now, I’m too old and my body couldn’t take it!
“I really like Ibiza Town. We stayed there a few years ago and we really enjoyed it. I just like the vibe of Ibiza; it’s so chilled out. You can go really hardcore partying, or there are nice chillax spots. And obviously I like the weather!
“I always come with the girls, never with a boyfriend. And we just have a really girlie time. I love it here.”
The Corrie producers might not love it when they see the deep tan Michelle, courtesy of her Spanish heritage, has developed – it’s surely going to play havoc with continuity… She’s been in the soap for nearly five years and is brilliant in her role as Tina despite having had little formal acting training.
Astonishingly, Corrie was only her second ever audition. After her A levels, she spent two years, working in Selfridges at the Trafford Centre and then as a check-in agent at Manchester Airport, while wondering what to do with the rest of her life. She admits she struggles to get her head around how quickly it all happened.
“Even after nearly five years I think: ‘Why me?’ I feel like I’ve blagged this and they’re going to find out that I’m not a proper actor. I still feel like a rookie. Before this job, I was just a normal girl and didn’t know what I wanted to do. My younger brother Andy has always known what he has wanted to do from day one and is now a secondary-school teacher.
“I really didn’t know if I wanted to go to uni, so after a couple of years I started acting lessons. In a matter of six months, my life flipped and I was on Corrie. I started lessons in the May, got an agent in October and joined Corrie in November.
“I didn’t think for one second that I could go into acting because I thought it was one of those jobs you start from a really early age and you have to know people in the industry.”
The Street was always part of Michelle’s childhood in Manchester. Retired police inspector dad Mike, 52, and cleaning company manager mum Jackie, 51, who divorced when Michelle was 10, are big fans.
“Corrie was always on in our house. It was tea, bath, Corrie then bed. I always knew that when that theme music came on at the end it would be: ‘Right you, bed!’ That’s why, even now, I still get a bit star-struck working with these people.”
When she says fame hasn’t changed her, you believe her. Michelle is the most un-celeby celeb you could possibly meet.
“I still hang around with the same girls from school, I still go to the same places, like the charity night at my dad’s local club. I used to work in there as well behind the bar. I never buy designer. I’d rather buy 10 dresses for the price of one,” she says. “I still go to Tesco in my scruffs. I see people I knew from years ago and they say: ‘God, you haven’t changed, have you?’
“The only thing I feel is that some people have changed towards me. That can be quite upsetting sometimes. I remember going out in my local pubs and people just didn’t know how to approach me. One person said: ‘Tell me the truth, how much money have you made?’ I don’t like all that.”
Her immediate future, at least, remains very much with Corrie. The soap is flying at the minute with strong storylines, particularly in the form of Peter and Leanne Barlow’s increasingly poisonous marriage split. Michelle says the cast
is buzzing as a result – the show is at the top of its game.
“It was like this around the 50th anniversary episode last year as well because the writing was amazing then. You know when you’re on it, and the storylines now are just so good.”
Which must make it a kick in the stomach each time EastEnders beats them to bag Best British Soap at The British Soap Awards – a feat they’ve managed for five years running.
“Yeah, it can be, especially after the live tram crash 50th anniversary episode when we didn’t win Best Soap. We didn’t get why – we really thought we would win. But we always get the best ratings, and that’s what I go on.
“I haven’t even thought about leaving. I still get a buzz when I read the script. When that ends, I’ll think about moving on.”
The show might be continually pipped at the post by their Albert Square rivals, but Michelle personally isn’t doing at all badly in the gong department.
She recently won Sexiest Female at the British Soap Awards for the fourth year, and as she sits in the shade wearing a black chiffon kaftan draped over the top of a bikini, it’s not hard to see why: super-tanned, flat-tummed, wasp-waisted and all topped off with gravity-defying, entirely natural boobs.
“The boobs run in the family,” she laughs. “On my mum’s side, we’ve all got big boobs. Sometimes I wish they were ‘done’. I can’t wear a backless dress cos I need an underwired bra to hoik them up.”
After years of avoiding the gym, she’s enlisted the help of a personal trainer after being inspired by co-star Catherine Tyldesley, 27, who slimmed from a size 22 before winning the part of Eva Price.
“I’m really bad. I go through phases of going to the gym and then not going at all. I’ve had a trainer for the last two months. I feel good when I’ve got someone pushing me. The gym used to feel like a chore, but after seeing how much Cath enjoys it I thought I’d give it a try,” Michelle says.
“I tend to eat what I want – I love my food and could never give it up. But every girl has insecurities about her body.
“Thankfully over the past few years I’ve been able to push my own insecurities aside. I’ve grown up and become confident as I’ve got older.” She certainly seems content.
“Yeah it’s happy days for me,” she nods.
Especially when the temperature is 30ºC, and the party’s about to start all over again and continue through the night.
Michelle Keegan, we salute you.
Space, because it caters for everyone. Every time I’ve been there, we’ve had a fab time.
Blue Marlin. It’s on the beach and serves amazing cocktails.
I don’t drink it at home, but I’ll say vodka and Red Bull. It’s great to have an energy drink in Ibiza to keep you going! I also like cocktails, especially a piña colada!
Ibiza in five words
Vibrant, beautiful, friendly, fun, addictive.
Favourite place to stay
The Ibiza Rocks House at Pikes Hotel. It’s out in the hills and definitely not your standard hotel. The decor is quirky, stylish and fun and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.
Best night out this trip
Probably the Friday. We went to Cafe del Mar to watch the sunset and then we headed to the West End for a really cheesy night.
A stag do, with the groom wearing a pink bear costume and an owl mask!