Tom Fletcher teaches Giovanna how to do the Pasodoble
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In primary school she was badly bullied: “It involved lots of name calling and being pushed into bushes.
“A low point for me was having to go to the school nurse so that she could pick rose thorns out of my butt.
“That was pretty bad. As a nine-year-old, all I wanted was for people to like me. So we moved, and then I went to a normal secondary school near where we lived and that was all lovely.”
The bullying led to a “huge desire and need” for people to like her, she admits.
“I wanted them to approve of what I was. But I now think part of growing up and part of having kids is realising that you’re never going to please everyone. And that’s fine.”
The move changed her life. The inner creativity she says she developed while alone at school playtimes flourished through a new interest in drama.
Through it, she says, “I found a whole other world, a whole other side to me.”
At 13, Giovanna applied, off her own bat, to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London and won a coveted place.
She made new friends with students who shared her love of drama. She had found her calling.
Today, Sir Kenneth Branagh still speaks about the unflappable brilliance Giovanna demonstrated as a young theatre understudy, stepping on stage at a few seconds’ notice to act opposite him and Tom Hiddleston when co-star Andrea Riseborough fell ill.
Meet Giovanna, 37, face-to-face and she has what Simon Cowell calls “likeability” in spades. Dressed today in an ankle-length dress in midnight blue, she is wreathed in smiles, the sort of person you immediately feel you have known for years.
But, combined with this girl-next-door easy charm, it does not take long to detect the sharp focus behind the sunny exterior.
There are only so many hours in the day but Giovanna manages to be wife to pop band McFly’s Tom Fletcher, mother to their three young sons and yet achieve so much else. Little wonder her chosen Instagram monicker is “life juggler”.
For someone who says she frightens easily, Giovanna’s clearly a sucker for punishment. The star, who was crowned Queen of the Castle in I’m A Celebrity….Get Me Out Of Here! in 2020, recently finished a spell in the West End run of the spine-tingling 2:22 A Ghost Story.
From next month she is touring in the stage adaptation of Peter James thriller Wish You Were Dead, also starring Clive Mantle and George Rainsford.
“I must say, I did enjoy making the audience jump, which is exactly what I hope will happen this time round.”
Giovanna’s three little lads – Buzz is eight, Buddy will be seven in February and Max is five – will have to stay at home. “Not that they’re old enough to see a play like this,” she says.
The boys have clearly been an inspiration to their mother for her successful podcast, Happy Mum, Happy Baby, which, famously, featured the Princess of Wales in 2020 when Kate discussed her work with Early Years, the organisation dedicated to young children.
It was quite a coup, encouraged throughout by Prince William.
Kate spoke of her much-loved grandmother who devoted a lot of time playing with her grandchildren, doing arts and crafts, cooking and gardening.
“I try and incorporate a lot of the experiences that she gave us at the time,” she revealed, “into the experiences that I give my children now”.
Kate also talked about the importance of creating happy, safe environments where children can learn, grow and explore the outdoors.
It was at Sylvia Young that Giovanna met a young Tom Fletcher. So how does she explain the longevity of their relationship?
“We’ve laughed a lot throughout the years of knowing each other. And we talk all the time.
“Despite the fact we both carry on working once the kids are in bed, we always end up together on the sofa, watching something like The Office, maybe with a glass of wine, what I call us-time.”
They have gone through so many different phases down the years.
“We met when we were teenagers – we went out for two days, then we had the whole teen drama stuff, ‘I love you, no I don’t’.
“Then he snogged all of my mates in the way that teenagers do. We did date other people growing up but I think, because we shared a childhood together, we have a lot of the same memories and values that we learnt from school.
“There’s always been this sense of being grounded. If we hadn’t shared the same upbringing at school, maybe we wouldn’t have what we have now. The feeling of knowing what’s important and not getting lost in the ‘fluff’ is really what’s kept us so strong together.”
Giovanna, Tom and the boys live in some style in a £2.5million house in Northwood, Middlesex, with Tom’s family close by as a back-up support team.
And Giovanna says it is that security which gives her the confidence to tackle so many disparate projects.
● For more information on Wish You Were Dead (February 16 to July29) and to book tickets, visit peterjames.com
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