She’s got a footballer boyfriend and a successful career on the nation’s favourite soap. But write Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent off as a vacuous WAG at your peril
Photography by Kate Martin
Brooke Vincent certainly looks like butter wouldn’t melt. She is softly, girlishly spoken, unflinchingly polite and smiles ever so sweetly.
But don’t be fooled. Because beneath the almost-angelic exterior is a surprisingly forthright and gutsy lady, never afraid to speak her mind, even when the simpler (maybe smarter) option would be to keep schtum.
“I’m opinionated and always have been from being a kid,” she says. “So if someone says something to me on Twitter, for example, I can’t keep my mouth shut.
“I get really wound up because I think: ‘Who are they to tell me that? Who is this writer to tell me I don’t look right in this outfit? Well, what do you look like?’ And that’s my downfall, I can’t keep quiet.
“Recently I was in Kenya [filming a documentary – more on this later] and I uploaded a picture to Twitter, and someone commented: ‘You’re obviously in the posh part of Kenya, go to the rough part.’ And I proper flipped.
“Things I’m passionate about and things that are close to me, I do start mouthing off.”
Brooke, 20, admits her gift of the gab has landed her in trouble before.
“Ah, definitely. I was on the train to London once and this old man was really rude to me, so I referred to him as a ‘coffin dodger’ on Twitter. Next thing I knew I had Age Concern calling up and shouting at me saying that I was ageist!
“But I just think that people are so quick to try and see you do wrong or be on your back, no matter what.”
She might be a tough nut to get on the wrong side of, but we do like feisty Brooke an awful lot, especially when she’s on such garrulous form.
“I get the odd nasty comment on Twitter,” she continues, “but they don’t know me and I don’t know them so… It’s just sometimes I’ll snap and think: ‘I’m not letting them get away with that!’ It depends what mood I’m in.”
Finally, she pauses for breath.
Her cheeky, outspoken nature, she says, would often cause problems at school in Bury, Greater Manchester. In fact, joining the cast of Corrie in 2004 at the age of 11, the third young actress to play Sophie Webster, may well have saved her from going off the rails.
“Acting definitely kept me on the straight and narrow,” she says.
“Having Corrie there was kind of like a bit of support for my mum, because whenever she used to say I couldn’t do something, I would challenge it and challenge it and challenge it. So she’d go: ‘Right, we’ll ring Corrie and ask them, then.’ Being in the show has given me discipline.
“If I hadn’t got into acting, I’ve no idea what I’d be doing. Probably making a nuisance of myself somewhere.”
Brooke admits she was never particularly academic and often struggled to concentrate. It meant she would easily drift off in lessons, much to the exasperation of her teachers.
“I used to get into trouble at school for things like answering back and talking, always talking!”
Oh, really Brooke? You don’t say…
“I’m still in touch with a few of my teachers and when I look back, I say to them: ‘God, I was so naughty!’ My problem was that I didn’t like being told to sit down and shut up. I wasn’t good at concentrating on things.
“I remember I set a pan on fire [in home economics] and the teacher was like: ‘Whose is this pan?’ And everyone was like: ‘It’s Brooke’s.’
“When [the teacher] asked where I was, I was busy dipping my fingers in another girl’s bloody cake mix. She caught me, didn’t she, and started going on about cross-contamination. I was like: ‘Oh for God’s sake’. But then, she said she fancied my grandad so it was all right.”
Okaaay… It’s no surprise, really, that Brooke’s teachers’ patience was tested on occasion. Her conversation often meanders randomly off on tangents, like this, but it’s a rather endearing trait and she really is as cute as a button.
In fact, the only point that her guard goes up and that quick-fire stream of consciousness comes to an abrupt halt, is when her Chelsea footballer boyfriend, Josh McEachran, 19, is brought up.
They’ve been seeing each other for just over a year now, but Brooke is reluctant to wax lyrical (or otherwise) about him. “Everything is good with Josh,” she says, followed by a long pause.
“I don’t want to talk about it, only because every time I talk about something it gets twisted. I’m not saying you’re going to twist it but… at the end of the day, he’s my age and we get on and we have fun and it’s a privilege to be able to go away together and that’s just it. It’s just nice.”
The 200-mile distance between Manchester, where Corrie is filmed, and Surrey, where Josh lives, doesn’t faze Brooke. She’s certainly not planning on leaving the soap’s cast à la her on-screen sister, Helen Flanagan, 21, who left Weatherfield this year, reportedly to spend more time with her Swansea City player boyfriend Scott Sinclair, 23.
“I think Helen wanted to leave the cast anyway, despite how far away Scott lived,” says Brooke.
“Long distance isn’t a problem for me, it doesn’t bother me. I get in the car and drive and it doesn’t take that long so it’s fine.”
One thing Josh might like to be aware of is just how broody his girlfriend has become of late. Brooke’s recent trip to Africa to film Corrie Goes To Kenya, a two-part series in which Brooke and three co-stars travel to the east African country to help educate local people on the dangers of HIV and drug abuse, has stirred feelings of extreme cluckiness.
“I can’t wait to be a mum,” she says. “I’ve never had this feeling before. When I’ve looked after my goddaughter, Daisy, who is three, I’ve always liked to give her back. I like kids for a bit but then I like to give them back.
“But since being in Kenya and feeling the warmth from those kids… All in due time though.”
Growing up as an only child has made Brooke determined to have a large family of her own.
“That and the fact Josh has got a big family and just being around that has made me want lots of kids. I want a crazy house where these kids are throwing things about!
“I said the other day when Josh’s little brother had come in from playing football: ‘My kids are not playing football, their feet stink!’ But I just want to be part of a busy household.”
The bond between Brooke and her mum, Nicola, 42, is incredibly close. Nicola split with Brooke’s dad, Anthony, when their daughter was a toddler and raised her as a single parent.
Brooke has a tattoo on the right side of her torso dedicated to Nicola declaring: ‘A mother and daughter’s love.’
“She didn’t know I was having it done, because if she had she would have absolutely killed me! I told my grandad about it first because if I get him on my side I’m normally alright.
“So I proper bigged it up, like I was pregnant or something, which is what I do whenever I’m going to be in trouble – I just pretend I’m pregnant and nothing can be as bad as that!
“But I was quite sensible because it’s under my bra strap and not many people see it. And my mum has come round to it now and she likes it.”
Brooke still lives at home with Nicola despite, one imagines, being able to afford a place of her own.
“I’m happy where I am because I don’t have to pay anything!
“Of course, there will be a time when I’m going to move out, break those ties, but I don’t need to yet.
“My mum is my best friend. If something happens or I’m annoyed at someone, I just ring my mum up and I’m like: ‘Right, am I being out of order or what?’ She always tells me the truth.”
It has been Brooke’s sensitive portrayal of her character Sophie’s struggle with her sexuality which has made her one of Corrie’s most compelling characters.
Viewers watched Sophie realise she was gay before embarking on a love affair with her close friend Sian Powers, played by Brooke’s real-life best mate Sacha Parkinson, 20.
It’s a testament to Brooke’s talents as an actress and the brilliance of the soap’s writers that Sophie’s sexuality no longer necessarily defines her.
“I can put it down on my CV: ‘Played a good lesbian’,” jokes Brooke.
“I’m really comfortable with Sophie being a lesbian now, in fact I prefer her being a lesbian. And also, I feel like I’m helping more people this way, like I’m connecting with a lot more people than if she was straight.
“Obviously, we were Corrie’s first lesbian couple, but now it’s just normal and not the first thing people associate Sophie with.
“So I am proud of it, yeah, and I’m proud that they chose me to do that.”
Brooke certainly isn’t letting the plaudits go to her head, though. She keeps her feet firmly on the ground and gets a good laugh out of reports last year saying she had blown her £75,000 Corrie wage and was broke after being photographed working a shift in a Manchester bar for the minimum wage.
“My mate Megan, her family owns a bar and all the girls work there. I’d worked there loads of times before they caught me! I like working there because I’m with all the girls I know. It’s my petrol money, so why not?
“I kept my Saturday job in a beauty salon for a long time after I started working at Corrie, just because it was something to do and I really liked it.”
So, sensible, down to earth and altogether normal. Naturally, Brooke has a healthy attitude to body issues as well, although that can’t be hard with a size-8 figure and a flat stomach.
“Body-wise, I’m quite happy with what I have got,” she says. “I’m not tempted by boob jobs and I’d rather go to the gym than have liposuction.
“I think the one thing people need to remember when they are looking at people in magazines is that money makes people pretty. Take Kim Kardashian, she pays for her teeth, she pays for her hair, she pays for her make-up to be done. I’d look bloody decent if I wore her clothes!”
Out of Africa
Bring up Brooke’s early Corrie scenes though, and she cringes at how she used to look.
“Argh! I hate that! I was not cute,” she insists. “I looked like a little ugly beaver with a square head. I had this awful hairdo, goofy teeth, big ears and puffy hair.
“I looked like a shorter-haired version of Marge Simpson.”
Jokes aside, the real reason Brooke is here today is to talk about Corrie Goes To Kenya, the S.A.F.E. charity project she filmed with co-stars Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw), Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw) and Ben Price (Nick Tilsley).
There are moving scenes as the stars meet people suffering from HIV and AIDS in a country where over 70,000 lose their lives to AIDS-related illnesses every year. Viewers will see them help communicate a life-saving message through a series of soap-style, educational plays, created and performed by themselves and local Kenyan actors.
Brooke, Sue, Ryan and Ben perform the first of the plays in front of a live audience in a remote African community before the local actors take the stories across Kenya to villages, towns, slums and plains to spread the word.
“As soon as I heard about the project and was asked to take part, I knew I had to do it, no questions asked,” she says.
“On the first day we got off the plane we went straight to the slums. To me that was the best part of it as we went straight into it and it made me realise what we were actually working for. To try and make the lives of these people a little bit better.
“I think all four of us brought something different to the mix. Like, Sue would be with the women and the teenagers and she would be quite happy having a chat with them, Ben would be with the men, Ryan would be with the lads and I would be with the kids.
“They were all so welcoming they all just wanted to touch my skin and my hair and everything.
“I just wanted to bring them home with me. By the end of it me and Ryan were learning all these Swahili swear words! When we left them it was so hard.”
The show airs on ITV1 this month. In the meantime, Brooke is enjoying some much-needed time off from her Corrie schedule. She’s already spent a few days down south with Josh and has another week of freedom back home.
“I’m so glad that I have Corrie – I’m off work for another week and I’m already bored!
“I’ve got dreams and ambitions but I’d rather not say them out loud. So, yeah I don’t know, I just want to be happy.”
● Corrie Goes To Kenya airs on ITV1, August 17. S.A.F.E. is a Kenyan NGO and UK charity that uses the performing arts and community programmes to educate, inspire and deliver social change
When are you happiest?
When I’ve been shopping and can’t stop looking at what I’ve bought.
What is your greatest achievement?
Going to Kenya and helping the children there.
What is your biggest regret?
I say what’s on my mind and regret it later. So, my mouth.
What would be your superhero power?
I have one – talking! I’d like to fly though or be invisible.
When was your last kiss?
This morning when my boyfriend went to work.
What’s your best-ever kiss?
In the sea. I’d never kissed in the sea before.
Who would be at your dream dinner party?
Kimora Lee Simmons, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.
● Tell us what you think on Twitter #FabMagBrookeVincent