My Celebrity Life

Lee Mead on how tough it was finding love as a single dad after Denise Van Outen split: ‘There were some bad dates early on’

Singer and actor Lee Mead, 39, on blended families, finding love in a coffee shop and putting on a ‘corona stone’.

Why have you brought out a Christmas single?

I’ve never released one before but after the year we’ve had, the sentiment of this song felt fitting. It’s about being with the ones you love at Christmas.

It’s quite a simple song but often the simple lyrics are the strongest. It’s feel-good and I wanted to release something that would make people happy.

We hear your girlfriend, Issy Szumniak, makes a guest appearance in the video…

Because the song is called In My Arms For Christmas, you can’t have a video for it and not hug somebody at the end! Because of the social distancing guidelines it would have been difficult to hug an actress so I hug Issy.

She wasn’t sure about doing it because being in the public eye isn’t her sort of thing but it was nice to have her involved and make the hug at the end genuine.

My Celebrity Life –

Lee met Issy in a coffee shop after having some bad dates as a single dad (Picture: Dan Wooller/REX)

Doesn’t your dad pop up in it too?

Yes. My dad’s been a postie for 40 years so he’s a key worker. My mum is a cleaner, my brother is a customs and excise officer and his wife is a nurse.

I very much come from a key worker family, so I’m giving away 1,000 free tickets for key worker members of the GMB union for my tour next year.

How will you be spending Christmas?

This will be the first one that I’m going to be with Issy, her son, Alfie, and my daughter, Betsy [from his relationship with ex-wife Denise Van Outen], which I’m really excited about. Issy and I got together four years ago and we got a place together in Kent at the start of the year.

I also have a place in Southend because Betsy is based with her mum in Chelmsford. Betsy is with me for half a week in Southend and then I spend the other half of the week in Kent so I do about 400 miles of travelling a week.

What’s it like having a blended family?

When you have a daughter and you meet someone, that dynamic can be tricky, but it’s helped that Issy is a parent as well. Alfie is three years younger than Betsy. He’s seven and she’s 10.

They met when Alfie was three so they’re pretty much like brother and sister, really, which is quite sweet. They get on really well and are excited about having their first Christmas together.

How did you and Issy meet?

When I was picking Betsy up from school I used to get there early and go into a little coffee shop. One day I saw Issy sat there with Alfie. I thought she looked nice, caught her eye and smiled, and went over and introduced myself – it felt very natural.

A couple of days later I went back and asked the coffee shop owner if Issy was single. He said she was and I asked him to let her know that I was interested next time she popped in!

My Celebrity Life –

Lee and Denise were married from 2009 until 2013, and they welcomed daughter Betsy in 2010 (Picture:

Was it hard to meet someone when you’re a single dad?

It took me a while. I had a good couple of years being on my own. Being a parent, you want to meet someone who understands that your child comes first – Betsy is my whole world.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of dates early on that didn’t work out. I was in a musical and only had Sundays off. This particular lady said, ‘I’ll see you on Sunday,’ and I explained I was seeing Betsy.

She said, ‘Oh, really?’ and it became an issue. I realised it was never going to work if she didn’t understand that I needed to see my daughter.

Do you get on well with Betsy’s mum, Denise van Outen?

We are still very close. The transition takes time – for any couple going through any kind of divorce, it’s a hard part of your life – but ultimately we both adore Betsy so much and want the best for her so we make it work.


Will you be making any new year’s resolutions?

To make more contact with friends. After this year of lockdown, I’ve had time to reflect and I want to try to make more of an effort to see people I haven’t seen for a long time.

Talking of lockdown, did you gain the dreaded ‘corona stone’?

I did! By the end of the first lockdown I’d put on a good stone. I drank a lot of red wine and ate anything and everything – burgers and fried food. Then it got to July and I thought it had got to stop.

So I went out running and Issy said, ‘OK, that’s enough. It’s time to start eating a bit healthily again.’

What’s left on your bucket list?

Professionally, I’d love to do my own show at the London Palladium or the Royal Albert Hall and I’d like to still be performing in 20 or 30 years’ time. Personally, I just want to enjoy the children growing up. I’m very much about family.

In My Arms For Christmas is out now. A ballot for 1,000 free tickets for key worker members of the GMB union for the 2021 tour Lee Mead, My Band And Me, is open at


Credit: Original article published here.

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