Kerry Katona talks to Ulrika Jonsson about abuse, drugs and her three failed marriages

I DEFY anyone to be as upright and functioning as Kerry Katona after having been subjected to the horrors she has.

Her childhood makes for depressing and distressing reading, fraught with deprivation, neglect, drugs and abuse.

And her adulthood, until recently, turned out not to be much better.

The former Atomic Kitten singer has married three times, and had five children by three men. Again she was caught up in drugs and domestic abuse.

Her life in the limelight has been overshadowed by bipolar disorder, depression, body dysmorphia, dyslexia and ADHD. And she has suffered near destitution, bereavement and constant public scrutiny.

In many respects, this woman is a walking miracle.

In a frank and, at times, shocking interview with me, Kerry, 40, lays bare the true horrors of her marriage to third husband George Kay, who beat her so badly she was forced to lock herself and her young daughter in a cupboard in fear for their lives.

She reveals how her first husband, Westlife’s Brian McFadden, cheated on her numerous times — but also how her relentless pursuit of love has finally paid off.

She has a wonderful new fiancé and has found solace in Christianity. And to top it all off, after being declared bankrupt twice, she has just made her first £1million on her OnlyFans page. This girl is on fire.

I have known Kerry from a distance for many years and always had a deep affection for her. But we did not meet properly until October last year, when we spent time working together.

There is a tremendous vulnerability about her, but also something unbreakable.

And Kerry is very loud. “I know I’m gobby,” she says with a big grin across her childish face.

“I may be little but I’m feisty,” she beams, in reference to the three times in her life she has been arrested. She has packed a lot into her 40 years.

I reflect that similarities in our life paths could be why we get on so well.

And I tell her that I refer to us as, “Sistas with kids from different mistas”. She laughs out loud, telling me she “bloody loves” that.

But in between our hours of laughter, there are serious issues to confront.

She recounts the horrors of her past and her childhood with the ease of someone reading out the weekly shopping list.

“I was in and out of foster care. Worked as a lapdancer. I was doing drugs at 14 and when Atomic Kitten broke up I went back to live with my mum and the drugs started all over again, because if you lie down with dogs you’re going to get fleas.”

She adds: “There was always a little girl inside me wanting someone to look after me, but I realise now that I’m the only one who can look after me.”

Like me, she pursued three marriages. She believes she was so desperate for a perfect family set-up because she never had it as a child. She was constantly chasing the permanence she hoped marriage would bring.

She explains: “I didn’t stop to realise how much my kids loved me. It wasn’t so much that they needed a dad, it was me craving that nuclear family.”
You and me both, Kerry, I tell her.

“But marriages aren’t families,” she says astutely. “And the failures made me want to try again.”

There was always a little girl inside me wanting someone to look after me, but I realise now that I’m the only one who can look after me.

Sad to think, then, that she had married at 21 to Brian, moved to Ireland to create a life with him and their two daughters, Molly, now 19, and Lilly, now 18, but ended up being on the receiving end of repeated infidelities when all she needed was stability.

Four months after their wedding, she discovered his first affair.

And yet, during that sad time, this little dynamo taught herself to read and write properly because she had never had a full education.

The end of that marriage nearly broke her — the heartache almost too much to bear. But with two young daughters she knew she had to go on.

“My failures do not define me,” she says. “The way I see it, anyway, is that there are no ‘failures’ in life, only lessons. I learn something new every day.”

She married taxi driver Mark Croft, 50, shortly after, and had children Heidi, 14, and Max, 13. She does not talk about Mark much — she has nothing positive to say.

If Kerry is driven in any way, it is predominantly as a mum. She enjoys work and tells me she “bloody loves showbusiness” but it is as a parent that she truly excels.

Her self-assessment is that she is a strict, fun mum who has kept her children grounded.

She says: “I’ve had kids so they will all have each other when they grow up. And if anything happens to me, they have each other.”

There is an underlying fear of death running through our conversation. Kerry has lived death and it has left a profound mark on her. Recently, she lost her aunt Angela to addiction.

“Our Ange” had been like a sister to Kerry and the loss was devastating. She has a huge tattoo of an angel on her right arm to commemorate her and it is clear she still carries a lot of pain.

Perhaps the hardest pain she is still learning to deal with is the death of her third husband George Kay, or Gorgeous George, as he was known.

He was an Adonis of a man and a rugby league player – but as troubled as he was handsome.

Their paths first crossed when Kerry was 14. When she was 17, George proposed, but their lives went in different directions.

By the time they eventually married in 2014, George was experiencing mental health issues and was often under the influence of drugs.

In Kerry, he found love but also someone to control and abuse, often violently. Together they had daughter Dylan-Jorge (DJ), seven.

Kerry documents his physical abuse without much emotion. Constant beatings, coercive control, degradation, threats.

How is this woman still alive, I wonder. I have had a taste of domestic abuse, but mine was a mere canapé compared to Kerry’s three-course meal.

“The worst thing he did was spit in my face,” she says. Do you have any idea what that feels like?


“I got to the point where I would rather take a good beating than have him spit in my face.”

She recalls the times he would be covering up the bruises on her body with make-up ahead of public appearances.

For Kerry, the worst part was her oldest daughter having to witness George’s treatment of her. The sense of shame was overwhelming.

George’s mental health deteriorated and his need of drugs increased. At one point, he threatened to rape her and her mum and harm their daughter. Kerry was forced to hide herself and her daughter in a cupboard.

“It’s so hard to leave. It’s impossible. Anyone who knows, knows,” she says. And she is right, of course.

For victims of domestic abuse, it is incredibly difficult to get away, and some never do.

The couple split in 2017 and in July 2019 George overdosed on drugs and died aged 39.

“I still can’t believe he’s dead,” she says time and time again, rubbing her arm where her hairs are standing on end.

She was furious for their daughter’s sake that he ended up overdosing. Her anger is palpable.

“He told me he would never leave me, not even in death,” she reflects sombrely.

It is as if she knows she is still having to process his death. He has left an indelible mark on her. So it is a relief to know she has found true happiness with fiancé Ryan Mahoney, eight years her junior.

They have an excellent relationship, a conventional one, which is something Kerry has not really experienced before.

“The balance of power lies with me,” she says proudly. “I interviewed him on our first date. I wanted to make sure he was going to be suitable for me and my life.”

She is clearly enamoured with this disciplined and ambitious man, who cares deeply for her. They plan to marry and there has been talk of another child via surrogacy.

“It would be selfish of me to have another child,” says Kerry. “But I would do it for Ryan. So I’m freezing my eggs and we will see what happens.”

There seems no urgency. Kerry is more interested in running her various businesses and bringing in some big cash.

One way she is doing that is via adult subscription site OnlyFans, where we are talking about seven-figure earnings.

A nice turn of events for a woman who was twice declared bankrupt and left feeling suicidal.

I ask her what it felt like to go bankrupt. She is very clear: “The best thing is that it gets rid of all the d**kheads.”

I guess she must have felt the disloyalty of those who were only with her because of her money.

One of her businesses has been her body. She has modelled topless, been a lapdancer and now sells seductive pictures of herself.

And yet she is deeply unhappy with her body and is shortly going under the knife for a makeover that will include a breast reduction.

She is clearly confident about what her body can do for her, but less sure in her own skin.

“I want to make money, I’m a grafter,” she says. “I’ve been working since I was 14.

“Now, with something like OnlyFans, I’m actually making money while I sleep.

“Those who look down on it need to ask themselves what the difference is between me sunbathing naked on the beach and having my picture taken by a paparazzi who makes money out of me, and me taking control and putting the money in my own pocket.


“Also, why is it OK for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise to do a sex scene on screen, and that’s called ‘art’, but when I show myself in underwear it’s degrading. No, I’m not having any of it.”

These are much the same arguments I have found myself making over the years and we agree fiercely on this subject, so much so that Kerry encourages me to set up my own OnlyFans page.

“You’d do well, Ulrika,” she says. And this businesswoman should know. I might give it some consideration, I tell her.

I ask her how she would define herself. She’s forthright: “As a survivor, first and foremost. I don’t want a pity party. When I was younger, I blamed others for my misfortunes. Now I take responsibility for life.”

Crazy to think she has gone from being an Atomic Kitten to a wise old owl. She has learned a lot about herself.

And one thing I am pleased about is that this life journey has made her, in the words of one of her biggest songs, whole again.

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