LEANNE BROWN is perhaps best recognised from the television show, The Real Housewives of Cheshire.
But there’s much more to Leanne than a reality TV star.
She is big in the beauty, fashion and sportswear industries and is also a passionate campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM), working closely with the One Woman at a Time charity, having been to Africa to learn about the girls and how they live their lives.
Married to former Manchester United footballer, Wes Brown, and mother to their three daughters, Halle, Lilia and Lola, Leanne is also just about to publish a book.
If you’d have asked me two years ago would I be writing an article about Leanne Brown, I would have looked at you as if you were mad.
We connected and agreed to meet for lunch at Harvey Nics Manchester. Sipping prosecco and eating deep-fried halloumi cheese looking out onto the Manchester skyline, I commence my interview with the very down to earth, beautiful, Leanne Brown.
What was life like before meeting Wes Brown?
We met when I was 21, so I was having a lot of fun as you can imagine. I was living with some girlfriends, having moved from Cumbria to Manchester when I was 18, and at the time of our meeting I was working as a table dancer so, yes, I was having fun, loving life. Dancing is part of my journey. I made a lot of money doing it, and it’s not something I’m ashamed of.
I had just come out of an abusive relationship before I moved to Manchester, so I do feel when I look back, doing that job was almost a part of healing for me. I had a sense of empowerment and, in a weird way, getting back control over a man if you will, and that was just what I did.
Although saying that, as a mother, it’s not something I would like my girls to be doing in the future, but I’ll always try to support them no matter what they choose to do.
What have been the significant challenges in your life?
Leaving an abusive relationship was one of them. It was a very toxic, unhealthy relationship, but I was very young and very easily impressed. It made me realise that I possess a strength I never knew I had, and it was just part of me growing into the person I am today.
Another challenge was having the opportunity to visit Africa, being involved in my charity One Woman At A Time – is just incredible, but it was tough going there.
Jean Anderson, a dear friend of mine and founder, started the charity when she visited in 2012 and met a lady that sadly died in childbirth, Margaret left six children behind two of them being girls which were at risk of FGM, Jean immediately stepped in and said she would pay for the girls’ education!
Jean is the most selfless inspiring woman I have ever met. I love her dearly and am so happy I can work with her to help empower these women in Africa and all over the world! On telling me her story, I knew I had to go!
I wanted to be there and experience Africa. When I found out about FGM and what these girls go through, with forced marriage and gender-based violence, after being through what I’d been through, I wanted to be able to see for myself the hardships these young girls face and learn first hand so I can talk about it passionately,
I visited the school and met the girls it was emotionally and mentally draining, but it was great connecting with the girls and just finding out the struggles they face daily.
We take just so much for granted living in the UK, like the life choices women get to make, being able to choose precisely who they’re going to marry, to be ready to go to work, to get an education.
It just made me so grateful to have my girls grow up in the UK, and I just can’t even comprehend being born into a culture where you have no choices!
FGM happens in a lot of places in the world including the UK, it’s been around for thousands of years, and there are still three million girls a year at risk of FGM, making people aware is vital to stop this horrific abuse.
I feel so grateful for everything that I have in my life, down to a carpet on the floor and a bed to sleep in at night and switching a light on, not having to worry about the electricity, turning on the tap and water coming out of it – not like the living conditions when you go over there. That was a challenge in itself, but it was an amazing one and one I will never forget, and I do hope to go back to Africa.
Another challenge is to change people’s preconceptions of me. Obviously, I am labelled a Cheshire housewife, and before that, a WAG and that comes with judgements. Changing those perceptions is a work in progress. People that know me, know who I am, and those who wish to find out can keep following my journey and find out!
I am grateful for the platform that being on “The Housewives…” has given me and the opportunities that have come with it and being able to raise so much awareness for the charity having that profile, but I want to make people see that there is a lot more to me than that.
This includes writing my book, being able to help people and to empower other women, other people, to believe in themselves.
My book is a journal-book, so it’s not an autobiography, but I have touched on parts of my life. This book is life advice, how I dealt with my experiences, what thing helped me, what books I have read, people I have met that have had an impact on my life.
I have found meditation to be such a fantastic experience which has helped me so much. It takes practice, kind of like working out at the gym. You have to keep doing it to get results.
If you can switch off your mind, to just clear it and to give it a rest and once you do, trust me, you feel so much better.
I am so much calmer and much more focused since practising meditation.
I am absolutely loving being part of the beauty business that I am involved in; obviously, it’s part of a much larger business as I’m a beauty representative within NuSkin.
Growing my team within that industry, going to the big conferences that they hold, I have realised that everything comes down to the same thing.
It’s what I am doing – women empowerment, empowering other people and the girls that are on my team.
I like to connect with other people, and I think that one of my strengths is my emotional intelligence.
Recently I have been asked to speak at some women’s conferences, which is something I never thought I would be doing, it’s all quite new to me and its definitely pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, it’s like I’m finding myself, since doing the show, I’ve grown so much as a person.
I’ve learned so much, not just about myself but about the world around me and other people in it and I am continuing to do so!
I’m just really looking forward to the future and being able to go on and help other people, whether it be in speaking, with my book or through NuSkin.
Is it true you’d really like to star in Coronation Street?
I did see that in the paper. It was quite funny, although it would be fab to have a little part in Coronation Street. Ha-ha!
I did use to have acting lessons for a short time before I started the TV show when I was just in talks about doing it. It did help me gain confidence.
You never know what the future may hold. Never say never!
Why did you get involved in the charity “One Woman at a Time”?
I met Jean Anderson, founder of the charity One Woman At A Time through Hypnobirthing.
She helped with my hypnobirthing with my third child, Lola. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and something was telling me that I had to get back in touch with her.
I thought it was going to be about hypnobirthing, and I know this is going to sound corny, I had this vision that I was going to go to Africa, a vision of me with these women in Africa and I wanted to do some charity work there.
So, when I met up with Jean, the intention was to spread the word about hypnobirthing because I had an incredible experience with Lola, and I wanted to try and promote that.
But when we met, Jean started telling me about her trip to Africa, about the FGM (female genital mutilation) and what it actually was.
For those who don’t know it’s a procedure, which partially or fully removes a young girl’s genitals by cutting away the clitoris, inner labia, and in some countries including parts of Africa the outer labia are sewn together, sometimes leaving an opening as small as a matchstick head!
This is the only way for them to pass urine and menstruation, you can imagine this can lead to a whole lot of problems including infection complications in childbirth and sometimes death, by haemorrhaging.
I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I said I wanted to help, I wanted to sponsor a child and to go to Africa. I wanted to help and see for myself and it kind of escalated from there, learning about FGM, women and girls, in general, having no rights.
As for FGM, I can’t comprehend that someone would do that to another human being, let alone their child.
I’ll do anything I can do to make people aware that it’s wrong, to try and stop it in this country and anywhere in the world where it still happens.
It has been happening for thousands of years. It’s barbaric against women, and yet it still happens. It’s the most horrific thing that you could ever do to another human being. It just makes me stick to the stomach.
Do you worry about your girls?
It’s not so much that I worry for them. Living in this country I am so lucky, and they are happy and healthy, and it’s just down to Wes and me to keep them grounded and ensure that they have their self-worth and they believe in themselves, to make sure they know they can achieve anything in life but they have to work hard.
Wes’s career as a professional footballer, his mindset is insane! He knew what he wanted to do, and he didn’t stop till he got there and I admire him for that. I hope the girls can take something from their dad’s drive and determination, and their mothers’ strength and empowerment!!! There will be no stopping them.
They are not into football, but if they get half of his mindset, I’ll be so happy.
I don’t worry about my girls because they have got good heads on their shoulders, and I want them to do what makes them happy, to grow up to feel confident and be aware of the world and not just live in that bubble, and realise how lucky they indeed are.
What would you tell yourself a younger self?
Everything that has happened has got me to where I am now, and if I could go back I wouldn’t change anything, apart from probably telling myself not to worry so much and that bad times will pass.
I have no regrets in life because it is all part of the journey I am on.
Maybe I would tell my younger self that the way people treat you is a reflection of them, it’s nothing to do with you and when people show themselves to you, believe them the first time, don’t wait for them to do it again, I guess that’s all part of growing and learning.
And I think it’s like “Sliding Doors” going back and telling yourself something and who knows, maybe my life would have gone in a different direction.
But would I particularly want that? Well, I’m happy where I am now so maybe I would say nothing and give myself a big hug and tell her you are terrific and you are going to be fabulous, to love yourself and be comfortable in your skin because everyone is beautiful in their way. And spread beauty, love and happiness, enjoy every moment!
Who is your biggest role model?
My mum was a great role model growing up for me, and I am very close to my brother, so I am the woman I am in part because of them both, and I am so happy my girls have got a great family unit around them, both mine and Wes’s family, as well as having each other too. They are truly blessed!!
They make me proud every day. Watching them laugh and play makes my heart sing, and I know I am doing a great job – even at times, I feel like screaming at the top of my voice.
The other week I was asked if we should tell children they are pretty or beautiful or handsome and, of course, I do tell my girls all the time. So I asked my Lola what makes a person beautiful, and she said “being kind.” I must be doing something right!
EDITOR – Caroline Dowse
To order Leanne’s journal, GRACE GRATITUDE GRIT
go to leannebrownoffical.com