Gareth Gates is the surprise winner of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins – but reveals he needed six weeks of therapy afterwards because it brought back memories of childhood bullying.
The singer, 39, was put through his paces with gruelling challenges, from crossing a 300ft ravine to enduring mock gas attacks and vicious fights. However, the toughest part for Gareth was the interrogations with the Directing Staff, which forced him to face his traumatic childhood.
“I’ve had a stammer my entire life, and it was mainly lads at school that mocked me for it,” explains Gareth. “But there was one boy that would sometimes hold me down and say, ‘I’m going to beat the words out of you.’ That would get a rise out of the rest of the kids, so it became entertainment.
“I was five years old and it went on for about two years, so school was a very lonely place for me. Fortunately, my mum saw that something was wrong. She actually went into the school and managed to get to the bottom of it. Shortly after that, I figured out I was able to sing, and that was a big game changer for me. I could actually get words out for the first time. And more importantly for me, I gained the respect of my peers.”
Gareth went on to compete on Pop Idol in 2002, where he came runner-up to Will Young. While he didn’t win the show, Gareth was signed by Simon Cowell ’s record label.
“One of my greatest achievements from Pop Idol was that I was able to heighten the awareness of stammering,” says Gareth. “And to give anybody who has any form of affliction, to give them hope that you can achieve everything you’ve dreamed of and that you can be the person you want to be even though you have these things that hold you back.”
Since Celebrity SAS aired, Gareth has received a huge number of messages on how he’s “inspired people to never give up” – but having to talk about his speech impediment, and the bullying that went on during his childhood years, left Gareth seeking therapy.
“I needed to go to therapy afterwards because they tapped into it again,” he says. “I’ve hidden the trauma for so long and not talked about it. I’ve never let people see those scars, ever. On Pop Idol, I spoke about my speech, but I never told people the true extent of it.
It’s a very personal thing, and so to do it in such a public way, I had to make a decision in my head to do that.”
Gareth was actually asked to do the previous season of Celebrity SAS, but after training, he had to back out two days before filming because he got Covid.
“I was so fortunate they asked me to do it a year later,” says Gareth. “But I had to start all my training again. I do think you train as hard as you can for the physical elements of the show, but I think it’s the mental resilience that gets people right through to the end.
“My speech was at its worst in the camp, and I think the reason for that is because I’m not great at confrontation, at being put on the spot. However, somehow, I dug deep, I managed to tap into that, and that’s what got me through it.”
As tough as it got, Gareth confesses he was never going to quit the process unless he had to.
“It’s odd, I had something in my head where I told myself the only way I would leave is if I was to become injured, and they tell me I can’t go on,” says Gareth. “Leaving wasn’t an option for me. I can’t explain that, but that’s how I felt.”
At home, Gareth has a huge support system, including his daughter Missy, who he shares with his ex-wife Suzanne Mole.
“My daughter’s really, really proud of me. She loves watching the show – the whole family does,” says Gareth. “We have a family WhatsApp group and every time an episode is on, we all chat on there. The amount of support my family has given me is huge, and of course, it’s them who are the closest to seeing the hurt I went through as a kid. My dad had a stammer up until the age of 21, so he understands those feelings.”
Gareth also has the support of a new partner, Allana Taylor, who is part of the ensemble case in West End show Grease.
“She’s really lovely,” gushes Gareth. “And she’s very understanding of my whole issue with my speech and that’s the main thing. Somebody that accepts me for me – and she’s perfect.”
The way Gareth looks after his mental health is through daily gym sessions, where he can have time alone and “not converse with anybody”. The other way is through music, which is what Gareth’s focusing on at the moment.
“I’m currently on a cruise trip,” he confesses. “I’m about to sail over to the Caribbean. I can’t wait for some sun. I perform every night on the ship in the cabaret, it’s a lovely gig. I’ve been working on trips for sometime now and I absolutely love it. I get to bring my family and my partner onboard and my daughter loves it.
“Then after that I’m into rehearsals for pantomime. I’m the Prince in Snow White And The Seven Dwarves this year, then I go back to the Caribbean. After that, I’m starring in The Best Of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons until March. So until then, I have about four nights off.”
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