Denise Van Outen: You ask the questions

(Such as: are you really a lager-swigging ladette? And have you ever refused to do something because it was too smutty?)

Denise Van Outen, 28, was born in Basildon, Essex, and went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Her break came in 1995, when she was asked to stand in as a co-presenter on Channel 4's The Big Breakfast. She went on to present Something for the Weekend and to star in the sitcom Babes in the Wood. After a very public split from Jay Kay, the lead singer of the band Jamiroquai, she went to New York to star in themusical Chicago. She is currently performing in Andrew Lloyd Webber's one-woman show Tell Me on a Sunday. She lives in north London with her fiancé, the nightclub boss Richard Traviss.

How much do you have in common with your character in Tell Me on a Sunday? What qualities do you wish you shared with her?
Patrick Kelleher, London

I have quite a lot in common with her: she has her heart broken and feels the need to get away - something I felt after I split up with Jay Kay. I wish I shared her ability to just pick herself up and press on with the next relationship. After my relationship with Jay Kay, I spent about three months on the rebound, when I had a short relationship with Nick Moran; and then, really, it took me a year and a half before I could have a long-term relationship again.

Have you ever refused to do something on television because it was too smutty?
Gary Quinn, Telford

No, and I wish I had. On Something for the Weekend, some of the things we did were a bit near the mark. Now that I'm a little older, I cringe and think, "Why did I do that?" People who are desperate to be on television will do anything - including publicly humiliate themselves - and I'm just talking about myself.

So, are you getting married? And if you are, are there any plans for having loads of children and touring the world as the Van Outens?
Paula Henry, Birmingham

Yes, we've discussed getting married - possibly next year. I don't feel we need to rush, as we're very happy, but it has cropped up in conversation many times. A friend said to me that once you've gone through childbirth, you may want only one child. So I'd like to think I'd go for two, or maybe four. As for the world tour, I wouldn't do it!

How do you prepare before you go on stage? Do you have any unusual dressing-room requests?
Adam Beck, by e-mail

I have to do a vocal warm-up for 30 minutes with my vocal director, and I drink lots of hot water with honey and lemon. I can't eat spicy food or drink coffee, as it affects the vocal cords. I also do things such as blowing through straws - it may sound silly, but it works. I don't have any strange backstage requirements. The thing about theatre is that it's not like doing TV - you can't request anything. You do your own hair and your own make-up. You decorate your own dressing-room, and if you want anything for your room, you have to go and buy it. You don't have anyone running around for you - no limousines picking you up and dropping you off. That's why some big movie stars love to get back to theatre, because it reminds them of the old days. A lot of them get bored with people fussing around them.

During your Big Breakfast days, were you ever really a lager-loving ladette?
Arabella Dean, Bradford

I've never had lager in my life. I can see that the ladette image came from the sort of TV shows that I presented, where other people were swigging lager, but I'm not a beer-swigging girl. I drink Cosmopolitans if I'm having a cocktail, and I love red wine.

Who is the greatest blond(e) of all time?
Beth Challis, Reading

Jimmy Savile, because when I was a kid, he made everyone's dreams come true. The greatest female blonde would be Barbara Windsor. She's British through and through - and her career is still going strong.

Is it true that you paid your own way through theatre school? How did you manage it?
Sophie Parkson, London

Yes, it's true. My parents did pay whenever they could, but it was my choice to go to the school and I worked professionally from a young age to pay my way. I worked on TV commercials and did a stint at the RSC.

If you were to eat a big breakfast, what would you have?
Harriet Lupton, Leeds

A full English fry-up. I would have poached eggs, grilled bacon, grilled sausages, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans and a fried slice. Although I would probably take one bite and think, "Why did I have that?"

If you were to win an Oscar, what kind of acceptance speech would you go for: brief or burbling? And is it true that a film of Tell Me on a Sunday is in the pipeline?
Dom Keith, Salisbury

If you win an Oscar, you may as well make the most of it. I'd thank everybody from my infant school right through to now. If the band struck up, I'd just wait until the trombones had finished and carry on. There is a strong possibility that there will be a film of Tell Me on a Sunday, and I may or may not star in it. All sorts of rumours are flying around, and I'm kept in the dark about a lot of things - I read about it in the press, or cab-drivers tell me what I'm doing next.

I hear you're getting back together with Johnny Vaughan for a new TV show. Who made the first move?
Dylan Smith, Norwich

I don't think it was a case of who made the first move. It just seemed the natural thing to do. We met for coffee and said we should do something, because we were a bit bored with reality TV.

Is it true you inserted the "Van" into your name? Why was that?
Tom Gordon, by e-mail

Yes. Our ancestors are all Dutch and we worked out that our family name would have been Van Outen back in the day, so I put it back in. I thought it sounded nice.

You've been a TV presenter, you've been a Broadway star and you once tried to launch a pop career. What motivates you? Is it fame?
Barbara McCaw, Hove

I do enjoy being famous - I don't groan about it as some people do. But I just enjoy working, really. I never get bored. I was lucky that I went to a school where you could learn to be an all-round entertainer. I figured out from a very early age that if I could do a bit of everything, even if I wasn't brilliant at all of it, at least I'd always be in work.

I read that you're moving into a very swanky house in Marylebone and your new neighbours include Madonna, Noel Gallagher and Barbara Windsor. Any plans for a dinner party?
Donna Smith, by e-mail

I haven't moved in yet, because we're having lots of work done, but they do all live very close by. I don't know Madonna and I'm sure she wouldn't come. I've met Noel Gallagher before and he's very lovely, so if I bumped into him I'd definitely say, "Do you want to pop round for a drink?" I'd love to have dinner with Barbara Windsor, to talk about her career and everything, because I'm a big fan.

Denise Van Outen is appearing in 'Tell Me on a Sunday' at the Gielgud Theatre, London W1 (020-7494 5065) to 23 August

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