Brooke Vincent, 28, talks ditching smoking and burgers, Coronation Street drama and changing her life

“Seven months, 24 days and three hours,” she declares. “That’s how long it’s been since I had a cigarette.”

After 10 years of smoking, Brooke went cold turkey on the fags last September. That same day, she overhauled her entire lifestyle, cutting out the mountains of fast food that were leaving her tired and bloated (she has been known to demolish three McDonald’s in the space of 24 hours) and starting an intensive 12-week fitness programme.

The results, which she later posted on Instagram as a before and after, showed an incredible transformation, and it’s completely changed her life.

“I didn’t have a clue how to eat,” she admits. “My diet was so bad. It was a running joke about how many burgers I’d eat.”

Two in a day wasn’t unusual. And then there was the aforementioned Maccy D hat trick.

“So it was a McDonald’s on the Friday night before I went out, then another one in the early hours of Saturday morning, and then again in the afternoon. That’s ridiculous. I’m ashamed.

“It was having an effect on my skin, and as you get older your metabolism changes, so you can’t get away with what you used to. The longest walk I’d ever do would be round the Trafford Centre.”

Brooke, 25, had an extra incentive to sort herself out. She’d signed up for the revived Dancing On Ice and knew she had to be in much better condition if she didn’t want to be wheezing around the rink. She joined Ultimate Performance gym in Manchester and committed to seeing a personal trainer three times a week, as well as sticking to a sugar-free eating plan.

“I never thought I’d be a committed person. I’d sit down on a Monday morning and think: ‘Right, I’m going to be really good this week,’ and then I’d see a bar of chocolate at 10am and think: ‘Ah, I’ll just have that,’ and then it’d be all messed up.

“But it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, and if I can do it, anyone can. I cut out all the rubbish, all the sugar, all the junk food and chippies and became so aware of how it was affecting my personality.

“When I’m eating healthily, I’m so springy in the morning: ‘Ooh half five! Let’s go!’ But if I’ve been eating rubbish I feel stodgy.”

By the end of the 12 weeks, Brooke was toned, full of energy and a stone lighter, and found she could finally fit back into a dress she’d been keeping in the wardrobe since she was 19 “just in case”.

“It’s a Topshop leopard-print number, and it’s so smart. It looks like Dolce & Gabbana. But my boobs had got too big, and my bum and my waist, so I’ve not worn it for years. But now I can just about shoehorn myself into it!”

She’s no longer even tempted by cigarettes, and confesses that she’s turned into “one of those annoying ex-smokers”.

“When someone comes inside after having one, I think: ‘Urgh, you smell.’ I never thought I smelled like that but I must have done.

“Let’s face it, smoking is pretty unsociable these days. It’s definitely not cool, and one thing I rate about social media is that it’s given young people a bit of ambition and aspiration: you can go to this place, you can have that experience…

“I don’t miss it. I cut out so much sugar, I think I was more bothered about that than the cigarettes. It was a massive lifestyle change for me.”

She adds: “Putting my before picture up on social media was so scary because that was me laid bare. It was really bad lighting, I wasn’t in the most flattering clothes or pose, but it was real life.

“One thing I want to stress is that I wasn’t standing there thinking I was big or overweight. This was never me saying I had a terrible body. I just had a really bad diet, and the after picture was to show that this is what happens when you cut out the rubbish.

“The intention behind the transformation was to be healthier, no matter what size, shape or width. I wanted to give up smoking, I didn’t want to get out of breath doing Dancing On Ice – even just running up the stairs you can feel a difference.”

She still has the odd McDonald’s (“It’s all about balance”) and says she’s not the “finished product” just yet.

“When you get a boost, you want to keep going. I still train regularly, but it’s more about maintaining it and getting those endorphins going, setting me up for the day.”

The hard work certainly paid off as far as Dancing On Ice was concerned, with Brooke finishing as runner-up in the March finale.

She describes it as a “crazy experience” but is relieved that the pressure of such a full-on schedule (she was filming for Coronation Street throughout her DOI training) is now off. And being able to focus solely on Corrie and the perpetually unlucky-in-love Sophie Webster, who she has played for 14 years, should be a welcome change, since there’ll soon be a new boss to impress.

News that producer Kate Oates is to leave the soap next month and be replaced by Emmerdale’s Iain MacLeod sparked rumours of unrest amongst the cast, who were said to be fearful for their futures, although Brooke was not one of the actors named as being under threat.

“We’re very much a family, we’re very close, and we know the situation,” says Brooke, choosing her words carefully. “You see the reports saying these bosses are coming in and they’re axing loads of people, but we’re all just excited to see what the future holds.

“Producers come and go, they sprinkle us with love and then move on. That’s the way it goes. Kate’s been there two years and I love her. I really respect her as a woman in this industry – she’s very powerful and strong and I think she’s done the show amazing justice.

“We’ll miss her but Iain is again amazing. We don’t get the riff raff, we always get the good ones – people who love and care about our show. So none of us know what’s coming, but that’s always an exciting moment, I think.”

Kate’s tenure hasn’t been without controversy, though. Many Corrie fans have grown weary of the slew of bleak storylines, including the grooming of Bethany Platt, serial killer Phelan’s reign of terror, David Platt’s rape and just this week Aidan Connor’s suicide.

There have been complaints that the show has lost its humour and heart, but while Brooke is aware of the criticism, she puts up a robust defence.

“We got stats through the other day about the viewing figures and they’re up, so…” she shrugs.

“I think what Kate does really well is highlight things that are going on that maybe people don’t necessarily want to talk about. She’s an amazing storyteller and she stands by what she wants to do. The scripts are powerful, and we have such a platform as a show, and they help people.

“You can’t please everybody all the time. You hear things that are going on, but although some people sat at home might not have been affected by a storyline, there’ll be someone else watching who recognises something and goes and gets help or speaks to someone about it. That’s what we aim to do.

“And there is balance. The storylines I’ve been involved in certainly haven’t been deep and dark, and we have people like Patti Clare, who plays Mary, and characters like Sally and Tim, who are so funny together. People focus on certain things, but there is still the silliness there as well.”

Some of that silliness has been down to the fabulous double act forged by Brooke and Helen Flanagan as sisters Sophie and Rosie. Helen returned to the Street last year after a five-year absence, and the sibling relationship has often provided a much-needed injection of humour amid the darkness.

Brooke says Helen, who recently filmed her final scenes before going off to have her second baby, is going to be hugely missed.

“She’s like this massive ball of positive energy and I’m really drawn to that in a person. We were filming her last scene the other day and Sally Dynevor [who plays the girls’ mum Sally Metcalfe] welled up. She said: ‘You’re my girls – you’ve been together since you were 11 and now you’re so big!’

“We’re very different people, though. I’m very organised – I like to know what I’m doing. Helen is very much like: ‘Yeah, darling…’ She’s a free spirit. She’s an amazing mother to Matilda, she channels all her love into her, and it’s really nice to see her so settled.

“And she’s absolutely gorgeous. So beautiful. Mesmerising. I can see why they say Rosie got the looks and Sophie got the brains. There’s always one sister who makes you think: ‘God, they’re not sisters!’”

She’s being unkind to herself. With no make-up on ahead of today’s shoot, Brooke is beautiful, with delicate features, cute freckles across her nose and hair so thick and glossy she should be on a shampoo ad.

Away from the Street, she’s been dating Oldham Athletic footballer Kean Bryan, 21, for two years after they met through mutual friends. They took the relationship public with a magazine photo shoot earlier this year, but Brooke says they’re not about to become a celebrity couple cliché.

“We’re not really a couple who do stuff like that. We’re more likely to be going to the cinema with our hoods up. We‘re just very normal, so to have K with me at work was weird. He was good, though, and he got it.

“We got to know each other over time. He’s just a really nice lad, and it is what it is. There’s nothing much more to say other than we made tea last night! It’s very easy.”

Marriage and kids aren’t on the cards just yet, however. A quick look at Brooke’s Instagram shows several pictures of various little people – she has five godchildren aged between four months and 12 years, and says she takes her role very seriously, but she’s not ready for any kids of her own.

“I love kids. I love messing about and being their fun auntie and the one who gives them loads of sweets and then sends them home. They make me so happy. My friends are really good to me, so if I can take the kids for an hour and give them a little break then why not?


Feeling sociable

Favourite platform? Instagram because you can ramble on about anything.

 

Best Insta feed? I love quote accounts that make you happy and positive when you scroll past them.

 

Funniest person on Twitter? Kanye West. He’s always funny.

 

Are you on Facebook? Yes, under a false name so no one apart from my friends can find me! It’s mainly for my nana so she can keep up with what I’m doing.

 

Social media: good or evil? It can be so beneficial but it can be so evil. Me and Kean have a rule that we can’t have our phones when we’re watching a film or TV series – it’s too much distraction.

“But it doesn’t make me broody. The one thing I’m very certain about in life is that I want to be a mum. I think I’d be a really good mum. I’ve had a lot of practice. But my time will come and patience is a virtue.

“They are very hard work, though, so I’m happy to have fun with them and then hand them back for now.”

Brooke was just a baby herself – only 11 – when she started on Corrie, and viewers have watched her grow up on screen.

It makes her feel “really old”, and she talks about how much the industry has changed in that time, not least with the advent of social media.

Could she see herself doing a Bill Roache and staying on the Street for evermore?

“Umm,” she says, considering the prospect. “Being part of an established family means that hopefully if I thought about taking six months off, we could come to an agreement. We’ve seen Helen go off and come back, but I’m massively privileged to still be there.

“So many people would die for a job in Corrie. It’s stable, it’s near to home and all my friends and family and I genuinely love it. I’ve never taken it for granted.”

  • Hair: Sarah-Louise Okin using BaByliss and L’Oréal Tecni.Art
  • Make-up: Aimee Adams using Nars
  • Styling: Nana Acheampong
  • Stylist’s assistant: Georgie Winsor

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