Tragedy turned actress Holly Matthews’ world upside down. She tells David Johns how she refashioned and recharged her life to become an inspirational vlogger, speaker and ‘no-bullshit’ development coach
Photography by Kayleigh Pope www.kayleighpope.co.uk
Life could hardly have been better for TV star Holly Matthews. After starting her acting career at the age of 11 and being part of award-winning kids TV show Byker Grove for seven years, Holly went on to appear in Waterloo Road, The Bill, Doctors and Casualty, among others. She was also a regular of stage, films and radio.
Then Holly’s life was turned upside down and her world changed forever when husband Ross was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Despite two-and-a-half years of gruelling surgery and treatment, Ross – son of ex-Aston Villa footballer Andy Blair – passed away just two weeks after his birthday in 2017. He was 32.
HAPPY ME PROJECT
With two young daughters, Brooke and Texas, Holly had a decision to make. Them or acting. It was no contest. “I pulled back from acting to be the mum that my girls needed,” she said. “There was no headspace for acting in my life.” Yet… in the way that these things are supposed to work out, from tragedy came hope – and a whole new career and life for Holly as an inspirational self-development coach.
After Ross’s death, Holly launched the Happy Me Project online and has toured the UK with motivational workshops and seminars. Her Bossing It academy has run coaching courses of six, eight and 12 weeks. She is also a paid vlogger creating content for Channel Mum. She has been asked to blog for founder Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post. And her YouTube channel has more than 2.5million views. She has also been a regular spreading her motivational messages on daytime TV with the likes of Lorraine Kelly.
“Sometimes I don’t realise quite how I fit everything in to my time,” said Holly. “I am the mum on the school run, I run workshops in places like Manchester and Nottingham, I do interviews with local radio, press interviews, film and create content for my YouTube channel and I’ve just started writing a new book.” (She has already co-authored two books which are Amazon best-sellers.)
Holly adds: “I’ve never worked in a structured job – with acting it is always feast or famine. I think I have a naturally entrepreneurial mind and as an actor I always worked in self-development and got used to always bouncing back. I was what I guess you could call a closet meditator. I was doing it all intuitively. These days people are more aware of the mind, its health and development.”
Holly will be part of an inspirational line-up of speakers at the inaugural Being Well Festival at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena next month. The free-to-attend event aims to promote happier and healthier lives by educating people about their health and general wellness.
In typically direct fashion, Holly calls herself ‘actress, vlogger, speaker and no-bullshit development coach’. She says: “I adore helping people see their own potential and live a life where they can be free to choose. I want to show you that life can be tough and yet it can be amazing at the same time. It just depends on how you look at it.”
When we spoke to Holly she was just launching a range of necklaces with Mantra Jewellery in Leamington Spa, in gold, rose gold or silver each bearing on a bar of metal the word ‘Unbreakable’. A visible and constant reminder of positivity to the wearer and all those around her.
Holly is well aware that what she does could be seen by some as almost evangelical, but she says: “I’m not into that American guru stuff, it’s not about me. The Being Well Festival allows me to be very straight-talking and because it is a free event, allows me to reach people who haven’t experienced this kind of thing.”
Holly says creating a good life for herself and her daughters is “what I live and breathe every day”. And she adds: “That doesn’t mean tough stuff isn’t happening. It means looking the tiger in the eye, facing life head-on and choosing happiness regardless.”