When Patsy Palmer landed the role of fiery market trader Bianca Jackson in EastEnders at just 21, her off-screen life was already in chaos.
Living in a tiny damp flat in London’s East End as a single mum to baby son Charley, the star once bravely admitted that her life revolved around alcohol and drugs.
Patsy – who first went on stage at the age of six – started drinking at eight, sniffing solvents at 11, and snorting cocaine at 13.
“By my 20s I was bingeing my life away on cocaine, ecstasy, and enough vodka and Laurent Perrier Champagne to quench a small village’s thirst for several hours,” she wrote in her autobiography, All Of Me .
“I would be out of my head for two or three days in a row – whole chunks of time were lost. I took so many drugs I’m amazed I survived.”
Her first marriage to filmmaker Nick Love in the summer of 1998 lasted just five months. It wasn’t until she entered rehab in September 2004 that she finally got clean.
“I’m an addict. I have it in my genes, but the thing was I didn’t know how to deal with it back then,” she later told Fabulous magazine.
“I don’t know how I survived. It was the producer who first sent me away to get help when she realised things were getting out of control. I was basically having a nervous breakdown.”
Her second marriage, to London taxi driver Richard Merkell in 2000, provided the stability she needed that set her on the road to sobriety.
She once told Mirror Online: “We don’t have drink in our house. Richard is a social drinker but he doesn’t drink at home. I follow the 12-step programme from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.”
And in 2014 she turned her back on the BBC1 show and Blighty for life by the beach in Malibu, California.
Now, her fabulous life is unrecognisable from the dark days she fought so hard to leave behind.
Patsy, 48, Richard and their children Fenton, 20, Emilia, 19, and nine-year-old Bertie enjoy an idyllic life in a sprawling pad by the sea.
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The lavish mansion boats uninterrupted views out across the ocean and features a modern, neutral finish throughout.
One room houses Patsy’s personal passion – her DJ decks, while the children are all home-schooled in the lavish home to free up time for them to focus on their own acting and modelling careers.
“They don’t really like school anyway, I hated it when I was a kid, so I’m never going to push them,” Patsy previously told i-D magazine.
“They’re very creative – I feel like there’s a lot more they could be doing outside of school, anyway.”
Her second eldest son Fenton is a successful model signed to The Dragonfly Agency.
He hit the headlines in 2017 when it was claimed he’s going out with supermodel Cindy Crawford’s lookalike daughter Kaia Gerber, 19, and was last romantically linked to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Rinna’s daughter Amelia Gray.
Meanwhile, his big brother Charley Palmer Rothwell – who Patsy had with former boyfriend, boxer Alfie Rothwell – is more than a rising star on the big screen, having starred in iBoy, Dunkirk and opposite Tom Hardy in Legend.
The 28-year-old chose to stay behind in London when the family relocated, and most will recognise him as Baz from Our Girl.
“He is already a movie star. He is amazing, he has done incredible things,” proud Patsy gushed of her first born in 2016.
Then there’s Patsy’s daughter Emilia, who is signed to the same modelling agency as Fenton, and also happens to be good friends with Kaia.
She’s already starred in campaigns for Calvin Klein and landed high-profile covers for the likes of Tatler and Wonderland.
And finally there’s Bertie. While he’s yet to launch his career, Patsy previously revealed that her entire brood is keen on cracking the entertainment industry – despite her warning them off.
“My kids are looking like they want to do it,” she previously told ITV’s Lorraine. “[I told them] don’t do it.”
As for Patsy, the actress is all about female empowerment and founded the Commonwealth Lifestyle Foundation which helps women make business and personal connections while raising money for charity.
She counts Meg Matthews, Cindy Crawford and Camille Grammer among her closest friends and can often be found hanging with the A-list at private members’ club Soho House.