My Secret Life: Claire Sweeney, 41, actress


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The Independent Online

My parents were... great role models, especially my mum – she was my best friend. My dad really helped push my career, to the extent of taking me to gigs in the back of his meat van.

The household I grew up in... was a terraced house in Liverpool. It was just a normal area, but with great neighbours who all looked out for each other.

When I was a child I wanted to be... From the age of 11, I went to stage school so I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to perform. But before that I went to a Catholic school and wanted to be a nun! Really, I wanted to be a nun until I discovered disco dancing.

If I could change one thing about myself... I would love to have a photographic memory.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... tap dancing.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... learning lines.

I wish I had never worn... my whole wardrobe from the days when I was on the cruise ships. Particularly, a pair of gold hipster trousers with a yellow Caribbean-style blouse with puffy sleeves and a gold leather bra – but it was the Eighties.

What I see when I look in the mirror... I just see me. I don't analyse.

My favourite item of clothing... at the moment it's a cashmere cardigan from Marks & Spencer. It's the comfiest item, it's like my comfort blanket.

It's not fashionable but I like... my cardigan from Marks & Spencer!

My house is... a four-storey townhouse in Pimlico.

My favourite work of art... anything by Toulouse-Lautrec. He really inspired me when I was at school, and I fell in love with Paris through his art. I was lucky enough last year to meet someone who owns a lot of his original sketches and I got to see them – it was brilliant.

My favourite building... the Houses of Parliament. Every time I drive past that building, it amazes me.

Movie heaven... anything with Barbra Streisand in.

My greatest regret... not accepting a job at the Moulin Rouge to be the lead singer in my early twenties... I'd agreed to do a summer season in Llandudno! And I hadn't even signed the contract, I just felt quite loyal.

My secret crush... Ray Winstone.

My real-life villain... cakes and sweets. They immediately find my bum.

The last time I cried... when a friend of mine told me she was engaged a few days ago – I was so thrilled for her.

My life in six words... blessed with good friends and family.


Claire Sweeney was born and raised in Liverpool. She went to the Elliott-Clarke Theatre School, and started singing in working men's clubs at 14. After a stint on P&O's cruise ships, Sweeney had her break in Brookside. She's appeared on reality shows including Celebrity Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and My Big Fat Diet. Last year she was in the musicals Tell Me on a Sunday and Legally Blonde. Sweeney is starring in Educating Rita at the Menier Chocolate Factory, till 12 May, and on tour. She lives in London