Kerry Katona says Celebrity SAS catapulted her back to abusive relationship but it was like ‘free therapy’

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She’s been married three times, nearly died from cocaine abuse, lost an ex-husband to drugs and been declared bankrupt in her roller-coaster life – but nothing could prepare Kerry Katona for her latest adventure.

Our columnist took on the challenge of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.

Kerry, 41, was one of 12 stars put through their paces by an elite training squad.

The other famous faces taking part included Ulrika Jonsson, Jake Quickenden, Vicky Pattison, James Cracknell and Alexandra Burke.

And Kerry was pushed so hard it triggered past trauma and grief from the death of her third husband, George Kay, who died of a drugs overdose in 2019.

Here, Kerry, who is now engaged to personal trainer Ryan Mahoney, 33, and is mum to Molly, 20, Lilly, 18, Heidi, 14, Max, 13, and Dylan-Jorge, seven, reveals how the hit Channel 4 show altered her perspective…

Congratulations, Kerry! What an achievement to take part in such a hardcore series. How was it?

It was the best and worst show I’ve done all at the same time. Physically and mentally, it was really difficult. And the parts in Scotland were freezing cold. You can’t imagine how hard it was. But it was also like getting free therapy and, trust me, I have had a lot of therapy in my life – I’ve kept my therapists in business for years! When the show ended I walked away so much lighter.

What did it bring up for you?

I grieved a lot over my ex-husband, George. It was like a safe environment with people who were working through their own issues too. It was life-changing. Being away from everything and everyone, plus all the trials are so tough, you’re exhausted.

When they get you in this little room [to interrogate you] and got me talking about my childhood, you’re like an onion where they peel away your layers until you’re in such a raw state emotionally. They got me to look back at my life as a little girl – I spoke more to them than I have any therapist. I realised I’d been through so much…

Why did it throw up so much stuff about George [the father of Kerry’s daughter DJ]?

On the show they grabbed me by the shoulders at one point and shouted: “You’ve got more to prove than anyone, Katona!” But it catapulted me back to a place which I thought I’d got over and clearly I hadn’t. It was a massive trigger.

The shouting took me back to feeling really worthless. It triggered memories of George. The worst thing he did was spit in my face. I got to the point where I would rather take a beating than have him spit in my face.

You broke down in the first episode about what impact that had on your kids too, right?

George was really abusive. They heard the shouting and saw the black eyes. Eventually I left – I just thought 'I can’t let my kids grow up like this.' I’ve made so many mistakes and my actions have had consequences on my kids. You’ve got to hold your hands up to stuff.

You also said that one of the worst moments of your life was watching, as a child, your mother self-harming…

My earliest memory is watching my mum slit her wrists. I was three. She was manic-depressive and self-harmed until I was 15. The SAS guys likened your experiences to people who had been through war.

That’s just the way my life is. I’ve come so far from being a foster kid growing up in a council house. Everything I’ve been through, I don’t regret one thing – not the drugs, the marriages, the bankruptcy. It’s all put me where I am today.

So, with George’s shocking death, you feel you’re in a much better place now?

I thought I was until that f*****g horrid inquest reporter wrote every last word. It was unnecessary to write George’s last moments like that when I’d told my daughter a completely different story… I don’t want to talk about that now as I’m going to cry.

What an awful time you’ve had. How do you cope with it all? Are you spiritual?

Yes, I’m a massively spiritual person. Before I moved back up North, I went to church every Sunday. I have my Bible, my motivations and my affirmations. The amount of coke I was once doing, I literally died. I remember coming back [from the brink
of death] with these beautiful figures around me and I felt so much love – that happened to me twice. I’d stopped breathing.

So I know I have angels looking out for me. You can knock me down but you won’t keep me down.

How were the past 17 months of lockdowns for you?

I had all five children at home and Ryan’s brother was living with us as well – there were eight of us and three dogs. It was really crowded and frustrating but work-wise, I feel so grateful. Every time I get offered something like this show, I think, “Wow, what an amazing experience!”

Did you get time to see your mum throughout that period?

I did – thank God for FaceTime! But last December I got Covid. I felt really bad. I have really bad health anxiety over death, especially since losing two people – George and my Auntie Angela. Ryan got Covid too but he got over it really quickly, whereas I was ill for about two-and-a-half months. Thank God I’d given up smoking a year ago, as I think I’d have been a lot worse.

You seem to be very happy with Ryan…

Yeah, we are so opposite it works really well. I don’t really put him out there – I keep him to myself. I’m doing this for me now.

When do you plan to get married?

Well, I’ve got my dress from when I was on Say Yes To The Dress. We’ll probably just jump on a plane and go to Vegas with the kids.

Who have you kept in touch with from Celebrity SAS?

We all keep in touch – we got on really well. But for me, Ulrika was like a soulmate. And Vicky Pattison was amazing. I loved James Cracknell – he’s such a lovely man. I just feel so lucky.

I have all these experiences and get paid for it! I’ve been to the jungle, Torvill and Dean taught me to ice skate – and now I’ve been trained by the SAS.

What else would you like to do?

I’d love to do acting. I’d be great behind the bar in the Rovers [on Corrie]! I’m living up North now, so I could do it.

Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins is on Sundays, 9pm, Channel 4

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