Arlene Phillips’ family heartbreak – mother’s death to dad’s dementia diagnosis

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Arlene Phillips, 78, came back into the public eye for this year's series of I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, which launched on Sunday evening.

The Strictly star was full of smiles on the first episode of the show, but her life has not been an easy one – from her life before fame to her struggles later in life, it hasn't always been an easy ride for Arlene.

When she was only 15, growing up in Manchester, her mother sadly died after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

Arlene, who is one of three siblings, was forced to grow up at a young age and frequently had to take care of her father after her mother passed.

From her experience of pregnancy, loss and heartbreak, Arlene has faced complete devastation across her life, but she's brought it around and boasted an incredibly successful career in the years since.

Arlene later went on to build on her dance career and ultimately landed a top spot on Strictly Come Dancing, which remains one of her most famous roles.

But what challenges has Arlene been forced to overcome?

Mother's tragic death

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Arlene's mother died aged 15 following a battle with leukaemia.

Speaking about the death of her mother, Arlene told The Guardian: "I was 15, still a child. I loved her so desperately."

Both Arlene's parents were big fans of dance, particularly ballet, which saw the star build on her passion and ultimately create a career from doing what she loved.

Dad's dementia battle

Although Arlene had her two siblings to help, she often had to stay home from school to take care of her father.

"Life was extremely difficult as my dad was not a healthy man – when he wasn't well we would take it in turns to skip school to look after him," she told The Guardian.

Although her father lived a long life, Arlene had to take care of him again in later life after he was diagnosed with dementia.

As she juggled caring for her two daughters and her father, Arlene said it was a very difficult time in her life.

"When I was caring for my father, I was working full-time. I also had two daughters, so my life was very full.

"I wanted to remain physically strong. I was emotionally unsteady, because living with someone who has dementia is very difficult, and it can be dangerous at times too."

Financial struggles

Although Arlene had to care for her father, she was grateful to have money and resources as she got older, unlike in her childhood.

Growing up money was always tight for Arlene and her family.

She recalled: "We always had to watch the money when I was young. My sister had dance lessons too, but she stopped so I could have an extra class. She loved dance and it is incredible that she gave it up for me. I have never forgotten that."

Despite their family's money struggles, Arlene always managed to dance.

"I always knew I wanted to dance and when I was eight, I started ballet lessons at a church hall.

"They all wore pink ballet shoes but I wore green, as they were cheap, and I remember everyone staring at me."

Arlene decided to move to London when she was 23 and her career took off when she became the choreographer for the steamy dance group, Hot Gossip.

Single motherhood

Despite making leaps and bounds in her career, Arlene still struggled with her personal life.

After welcoming her first daughter, Alana, when she was 36, her partner at the time was out of the picture. She was a single mother for five years before she met her partner Angus.

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Arlene met Angus, a set builder, on the set of the music video for the Freddie Mercury song I Was Born to Love You.

The pair have been happily married ever since. To Arlene's surprise, she manage to conceive another daughter when she was 47.

Arlene is now a grandmother, but won't get to see any of her family until she is out of the I'm A Celeb castle.

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  • ITV
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here
  • Arlene Phillips

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