Brooke Vincent on wedding plans, stretch marks and quitting Coronation Street

Brooke Vincent has been up since 6am when she arrives at our shoot a few hours later. The actress has already put a clothes wash on, had her food shop delivered and made sons Mexx and Monroe packed lunches for when they join her for photos in the afternoon.

Since becoming a mum-of-two, the self-confessed super-planner admits she is obsessive about organising her family – but she is clearly more spontaneous when it comes to love.

She’s only been engaged to West Bromwich Albion footballer Kean Bryan, 25, for five months and she confesses they almost got married in secret while on holiday on a Greek island in June.

“When we were in Santorini for my 30th birthday I literally said to Kean, ‘There’s a little chapel in our hotel, let’s go and get married now.’ I was like, ‘Come on!’ I think if we had the boys with us and our immediate family we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. I’d go to the town hall and marry him tomorrow.”

Brooke boldly left her career-defining role as Sophie Webster in Coronation Street to focus on family life in 2019 and has put all of her being into bringing up Mexx, two, and 16-month-old Monroe ever since. But on our shoot, the actress is intent on marking a new chapter – one where she is reclaiming her identity beyond motherhood and focusing on herself.

“I had a full-on meltdown before I turned 30,” she says. “I did that thing you do at Christmas where you reevaluate everything. Since becoming a mum, I’ve been on the backburner, I’m always thinking about the kids. So last October, when Monroe was six months, I thought, ‘I’m 30 next year. I want to have a really good year and I wanted to make more time for me – I want to get myself back.”

Brooke recruited a personal trainer and has been doing gym sessions every Monday and Friday, while Mexx and Monroe are at nursery. The schedule means she starts the week with some much-needed me-time and she now has a new sense of confidence.

“I got back to the gym and now I’m back in my old jeans, and I’m at a point where if I want to wear something, I’m going to wear it. I used to dress in oversized stuff and was so cautious of what other people thought. You spend all those years thinking you’re fat and you haven’t got a bloody clue! When I was eight-and-half-months pregnant, I was like a double-fronted detached house with a garden. That’s huge!

“I don’t know where I’ve got this newfound confidence from but I’ll wear dresses and tight skirts because that’s what I like. My friends are like, ‘Where have you come from?’ I just appreciate myself and my body more.”

Posing in an orange bikini beside the pool, Brooke shows no sign of lingering insecurities and owns the postnatal changes to her body. She says she has learned to love her stretch marks, seeing them as a reminder of bringing her beloved boys into the world.

“I’ve got stretch marks from having the boys – I’ve got them on my stomach and legs. I already had them on my bum,” she laughs. “They came on at the final two weeks of my first pregnancy, then I got more with Monroe.

“Some people are so worried about showing or even saying they’ve got stretch marks, but I’ve accepted they’re my new body now. There’s nothing I can do about them and I got them from my babies, so that’s pretty cool.”

Her journey of rediscovering herself comes after a roller-coaster few years. And even though Brooke is intrigued by the idea of adding a daughter, she says her family is complete for now after facing the challenge of adjusting to parenting two children.

“In terms of the dynamic of a girl, I think it would be interesting,” she says. “But I found the transition from one baby to two really hard and I’m not going to sugar-coat it.

“It was a real shift as I’m still trying to be a parent to a toddler, making sure they are both getting the best of me, then trying to take time for me and my partner, and making sure everyone’s happy and sleeping – it’s hard. It’s the shift of thinking you’ve done a good job with your first baby and then the second comes along and their needs are completely different.

“Mexx slept really well and Monroe didn’t. Monroe had reflux and Mexx didn’t. They’re just different people. I think bringing another person into your family, it can be really hard to make sure you’re still getting a bit of you while you’re giving everything.”

True to her ambitions of celebrating herself as she turned 30, Brooke went all out and threw a huge party at Manchester Hall for her milestone birthday on 4 June with two cakes, a tropical selfie wall, a star-studded guestlist – including Corrie pals Ryan Thomas, Helen Flanagan and Sally Dynevor – and a garden party for close friends and family. She also had a three-day girls’ getaway to Ibiza with 11 school friends, before Kean whisked her away for three days.

“Santorini was amazing because the whole town was silent,” she says. “It was so picturesque and all we wanted to do was just be Kean and Brooke without the pressures of looking after the kids, you know? It was back to basics and we just sunbathed, drank and ate and caught up after all the chaos of the past few years.”

Brooke adds, “Having had so many big parties, I think I want a small wedding. I just worry so much in party situations that everyone else is having a good time. Our wedding day should just be about us and our boys and family. I just want to keep that feeling throughout. I want to get married for us, not for anyone else.”

Brooke announced her engagement to Kean in April via Instagram, sharing a video of drawings of her family’s hands – with the image of her hand labelled as “Mrs Bryan to-be”.

She has been with the footballer since 2016, when they were introduced by mutual friends, and until now she has kept the proposal top secret, explaining, “There’ve been times with the girls in my group where people have tried to document their engagements with film crews but what I love about it is that everything from that day was just of our memory. It was very personal and very much about us.”

Revealing the tear-jerking moment to OK! for the first time, Brooke says Kean proposed on 17 April – their sixth anniversary – in their back garden, in a rented igloo with a hired chef who served up their favourite dish.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she says. “I’ve always told him, ‘Don’t ever do it in front of people, not even at a restaurant!’ I think I would’ve been very aware of people around us instead of just enjoying a personal moment. So the best thing for me was that it was at our house. We’ve had our boys there, it’s our first house together, it’s been the scene for so many amazing milestones.

“So we were celebrating our six-year anniversary and when we came back home there was an igloo in the garden and it was all beautifully decorated. We had dinner, which was lasagne made by a hired chef. It was really luxurious. Then I went upstairs to fetch a phone charger and was faffing around changing my top – he must have been sweating downstairs as I was taking ages – then when I came back into the igloo he was down on one knee and I thought, ‘Oh my god!’.

“Then I got down on one knee too. I couldn’t believe what was happening. He was crying, I was crying. He told me the reasons he wanted to marry me. I’ve never felt so loved, I was overwhelmed.”

Kean had enlisted the help of Brooke’s friend to help out with picking her “perfect” pear-drop engagement ring, before asking mum Nicola and granddad John’s permission for her hand in marriage. John is one of the most important men in Brooke’s life.

“The ring fits perfectly,” she says. “I have a friend who’s the same ring size as me, so for years I’ve always told Kean to go with her to get my rings. He got her involved to make sure the ring fits and it’s gorgeous. He asked my mum and my granddad for their permission, which I thought was really cute.

“My granddad is so important to me. Kean, as a person on paper, very much reminds me of my granddad. He has very high morals and he’s a very proud man and has a lot of respect. That’s why I was attracted to him in the first place. They’re the morals I have, so it meant a lot to me to find somebody who was really family-orientated.

“Kean is so caring. He lets me chat the socks off him. The best way I can describe him without sounding really cheesy is he’s everything I’d want my boys to be. When I’d just had Mexx and I’d had my C-section, I didn’t really understand the aftermath of a C-section or the pain that I’d be in.

"I couldn’t really move and I remember when we got home, and everyone had come round to look at the baby, he’d just take me off and give me my tablets and blood-thinning injections, and he’d keep on top of it. He’d say, ‘If you take this now, you won’t be in pain.’

“There aren’t many times when I need him there in that way. I am a bit of a control freak and I do take charge, but whenever I’ve really needed him, especially both times with the boys, he’s always been there.”

With the whirlwind of the engagement and her 30th birthday bash, Brooke and Kean are yet to choose a date for their big day – and getting the boys christened is a priority before that anyway. At the moment, partied-out Brooke is settled on a more intimate affair, but what she does know for sure is that a big, princess-style wedding dress is strictly off limits.

“We haven’t set a date yet,” she says. “I’ve just had my 30th birthday party, which will be with the same people that are going to be at our wedding, so I just want to get this year out of the way because I told Kean when we do start planning, I want to start with a fresh pair of eyes.

“I think I want a small do, but then other times I feel, as a woman – and I’m not a princess and I don’t necessarily want a princess day – I don’t want to look back when I’m however old and think, ‘I should have just worn the dress and had the big party’. All I know for now is that my dress won’t be big. I remember when Sophie Webster got married on Corrie and she had a really big dress, and I realised then that was out of the question.”

Brooke’s former on-screen sister Helen Flanagan, who played Rosie Webster in the ITV soap, remains a big part of her life and will surely get an invite. Actor and dad-of-three Ryan Thomas, who played Jason Grimshaw, is also a close friend of Brooke and Kean’s. He welcomed his second child, Lilah, with fiancée Lucy Mecklenburgh in May, although the couple are yet to meet her.

“I haven’t thought about any roles for the wedding yet,” she says. “I speak to Helen a lot. It’s hard to get playdates in with the kids but that’s essentially trying to get five kids to be present at the same time. She lives 40 to 50 minutes away from me. We’ve had a couple of playdates but I speak to her all the time. We talk about parenting and kids being chaos. Her kids have the same age gap as mine. There’s a lot of resemblance, and Scott [Sinclair] plays football, so it’s very much like we’re in the same boat.”

“I’ve not met Lilah yet,” she adds of Ryan’s newborn. “When Ryan was up for my 30th birthday, Lilah was only a couple of weeks old, so I haven’t seen her yet. Ryan is a really good friend of ours and it’s nice to have that kind of relationship with him where we’ve both gone off and had children at a young age and can get back in contact and just have a big catch up.”

Like Helen and Scott, one of the relationship issues Brooke and Kean face is the instability that comes with the job of a professional footballer. That can take him away from the family home in Manchester every week if West Brom are playing, and the couple can never guarantee where his job could take him from one year to the next, should he be snapped up by another team in a different part of the country.

“At the minute, Kean is injured – he’s just coming back from an injury so he’s at home, but when he starts playing again he’ll usually be away twice a week for games,” she explains. “But we make it work, you have to, don’t you? You’ve got no other option. You both take on each other’s careers when you sign up for it, so we make it work and as long as we can take time for just us and he’s seeing the boys as much as possible, we’re happy.”

Brooke left Coronation Street after 18 years to go on maternity leave and gave birth to Mexx in October 2019. By November 2020, she confirmed she was pregnant again and had Monroe in May 2021. Her character, Sophie Webster, departed the cobbles at the time to go off on her travels after girlfriend Paula Martin (played by Stirling Gallacher) bought the tickets for her. Brooke says the long and unpredictable hours made it seem impossible for her to go back, without sacrificing time with the kids.

“I left Corrie when I was pregnant,” she says. “From the age of 11, there’s always been something that’s been the main focus that has had to take priority over other things. I’d wanted to be a mum for so long that I didn’t know how I’d feel about going back to work straight away.

“The hard thing about Corrie was that the hours aren’t a normal nine-to-five, or you couldn’t go part-time, or you couldn’t start after 10am. There was physically no way that I could do it without having a nanny. And there’s Kean’s football as well. I didn’t want the pressure of making those decisions when I didn’t know how I was going to feel.

“I didn’t want that to affect my time with my first baby. I thought while I was able to step away, I did, and I felt that was the best decision for me and my family at the time.”

Brooke’s new chapter has opened her up to the prospect of acting work again, but she’s still not ready to make a full-time commitment to the soap.

“Corrie for me will always be home, but Corrie’s ongoing – it’s forever there,” she says. “They don’t have an end date. So for me, smaller projects will be doable because they have a start and an end date.

“It’s hard with Corrie because it’s set in Manchester and I don’t know where Kean’s going to be next season. I don’t want to be in a situation where one of you has to stay in one place, and the other somewhere else, especially while the boys are so young. I think anywhere could be a little adventure before we have to settle down and look for schools and give the kids that stability.”

Meanwhile, the boys are already following in their dad’s footballing footsteps.

“Mexx goes to football class on a Saturday where he practises – my youngest is showing an ability as well. He started walking at 10 months old and he can throw a ball in the air and kick it. He can dribble a ball… he was one in May!”

“They’re both nuisances,” she adds, lovingly. “My life is like a circus! It’s chaos day in, day out. They make me laugh – they have that love/hate relationship where they’re both cuddly and then if one of them has something, the other wants it. Rough and tumble all the time. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


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