Andrea McLean says ‘bravest’ moment of her life was quitting Loose Women

When Andrea McLean walked on to the Loose Women set in May 2020, she had no idea she was about to bare her soul on live TV. Under the glare of the studio lights, the 52-year-old found herself opening up about having a nervous breakdown – something that she had previously only discussed with her friends and her fellow panellists.

But despite her fear of the viewers knowing what she had been through, Andrea said it felt therapeutic to be honest and she could finally start to come to terms with her ordeal.

“Like most things in my life that I’ve been open about, it happened accidentally,” she says. “I can’t remember who asked me but they said, ‘How are you coping with it [the Covid lockdown]?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m really glad that last year, I had a breakdown. I’ve spent a year building my mental strength back up so that I’m actually in the best place I could possibly be to cope with something like a pandemic.’ And it kind of came out my mouth before I realised I was telling the whole world that I had a breakdown.

“You’ve overheated, you’ve broken down. We’re all just human beings. And I think I’m actually really glad I said it because we need to be more open about the fact that there are moments in our lives when we aren’t coping. It’s all very well to say, ‘Oh, it’s good to talk and reach out,’ but there’s still a stigma and shame, especially for women who are seen as doing well and holding it all together. And that’s the joy of Loose Women. You forget the people watching and just have a conversation. But the beauty of that was I actually opened the doors for me to realize there’s no shame.”

Looking back, Andrea describes 2019 as a “really rough year” where she was trying to be the “perfect mother and wife”. She left the ITV talk show in December 2020 to concentrate on her mental health and spend more time with her family – her husband of seven years Nick Feeney and her two children Finlay, 20, and Amy, 15.

“I’ve always been brave, but I kind of lost it for a while, because of various circumstances in my life and relationships that I’ve been in. And people in my life made me feel not brave,” she tells us.

“But I think, actually, the bravest thing I ever did was leave my job in my 50s because it’s a lot easier to make a brave move, when you have nothing to lose. With a bold move, potentially you have everything to lose, not just your reputation, but also, financially. I’m so glad I did it.”

While Andrea is in a much better place these days, she admits she can still feel lost at times.

She says candidly: “I know how it feels to feel stuck, scared and burnt out, overwhelmed, thinking, ‘I don’t know. I’m a capable woman, I’m really good at what I do but I don’t know, I feel lost – I feel like I’ve kind of lost my direction.’”

Since quitting Loose Women, Andrea has written a book, This Girl Is On Fire: How To Live, Learn And Thrive In A Life You Love, which she has also made into an app, and we see less of her on screen.

“I love what I’m doing so much and I just felt ready, and I’ve been trying to keep both going at the same time,” she says of why she hasn’t been back on TV. "My energy has just grown more and more towards This Girl Is On Fire. The day I left Loose Women, I cried because I was leaving my friends. But when I got home, I actually got a real sense of peace because I just knew I was starting a whole new chapter. It was scary but it just felt like the right thing to do.”

When asked if she watches her friends on TV, she reveals: "To be honest, I don’t watch any telly. I’m too busy working, doing longer and harder hours. But I still keep in touch with the ladies. Denise Welch and I were texting this morning and I’m catching up with her tomorrow.”

And Andrea, who had failed relationships with Finlay and Amy’s fathers, couldn’t be happier with her family set-up now. “When I met Nick, I had sworn off men, as I just clearly thought, ‘I’m not very good at this’ or ‘This isn’t meant for me’.

“I got to the point where I thought, ‘But I’m kind of alright with that. If this is how it is, then this is how it is.’ I was in my 40s then. And weirdly, right at that moment, the universe went, ‘OK, now that you’re fine on your own, here’s someone for you.’

“What I would say is, be cool with yourself and then you will find someone who is cool being with you. I don’t believe that someone completes you. You make a really good team. But you choose to be with each other.”

“What I would say is, be cool with yourself, and then you will find someone who is cool being with you. I don’t believe that someone completes you. You make a really good team. But you choose to be with each other.”

And there is no sign of the seven-year itch for Andrea and Nick – they recently enjoyed a romantic trip to Paris and returned to the spot where he proposed.

“We have a few favourite places in Paris but we went back to the bridge he proposed to me on. And we’ve been going back to that bridge every eight, nearly nine years and we put a padlock on there. [Our trip] had been in the diary for ages and our flights got cancelled but we thought, ‘Right, we could just cancel it all. But actually, we very rarely take a break.’ So we drove by ourselves. It was nice, being just the two of us.

“We went back to our favourite restaurant or favourite coffee shop. There is a line in the film Forrest Gump where he says, ‘Jenny, you’re one of my best good friends.’ I sent it to him laughing and he said, ‘You know what, you’re my best friend too. I’d rather hang out with you than anybody else.’

“You can be a couple and work together and co-parent and everything else, and still feel that you’re hanging out with your best mate.”

Andrea McLean is the CEO of female mindset app This Girl Is On Fire which available to purchase from the App Store and Google Play.


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