Linda Barker’s changing face as TV star undergoes treatment to ‘feel happier in her skin’
TV’s interior design guru Linda Barker – best known for Changing Rooms – reveals transformation at 58 as she opens up about ageing, the menopause, and why making big changes keeps her life fresh
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Your figure or your face? The old wives’ tale goes that post 40, women need to choose between having a slim figure (and risk looking a little gaunt) or a youthful-looking face (and accept a plumper bottom).
Sounds like sexist nonsense? Of course! (The same dilemma is never levelled at men.) When we pose this cheeky question to TV’s Linda Barker, the petite blonde is surprised.
‘Oooh, I’ve never heard that before!’ she giggles over Zoom in her native Yorkshire tones. ‘I think you can have both!’
Sports-mad Linda, now 58, has been ‘somewhere between a size 8 and a 10’ for decades.
She famously dazzled us all with her fabulous bikini body in reality diving show Splash in 2013 and she’s looking just as trim today – and enviably fresh-faced after recently having a couple of non-surgical facial rejuvenation procedures.
‘I like to look after myself and just be the best that I can, and happier in my skin,’ confides Linda. ‘As I have each birthday, I look in the mirror, pull back my fine lines, and think, “Ooh maybe it’s time to do something!”
‘In my 20s I never thought I’d have Botox but I’ve tried it. It didn’t suit me, I didn’t like what it did to my face. I want to look completely natural and feel good about myself. I felt a little bit nervous beforehand. You don’t go into these procedures without a little anxiety. I’m about the natural look.
‘I don’t think I would have a procedure involving a general anaesthetic, I’m too squeamish, I just want any results to make me feel happier in my skin.
‘I am stronger in my 50s than I was in my early 40s, when I was busy with my career and bringing up a young child. I only ran a marathon when I was 50. I wanted to look as good on the outside as I feel on the inside.’
Linda first made her name in the mid 90s as one of the designers on hit interiors show Changing Rooms, along with the likes of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Compared to her flamboyant colleague, down-to-earth Linda created rooms in soft muted palettes that viewers adored and actually wanted to live in.
Then there was House Invaders, and in 2003 she came third in I’m A Celebrity…, before pushing herself out of her comfort zone for Splash.
She’s recently launched her own line of paints, but since lockdown Linda’s interior design skills have been put to use in her own home. After years of living in London, her and former TV executive husband Chris Short decided to up sticks to East Riding and have settled happily up north.
‘I’ve always had a strong Yorkshire connection, we’ve had a cottage here for 20 years and my siblings are here,’ she smiles. ‘We fancied another project, so we put everything up for sale, and got on RightMove.
‘We fell in love with a beautiful old Georgian house, five miles from the coast. I love Hull as a city and grow fonder of it every week.
‘Lockdown galvanised us into changing our lives. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from London. But I’m happy growing my vegetables and painting and decorating our home. This is us now, and it’s beautiful.’
Today Linda seems blissfully happy with her new life. But she’s honest about her struggles during the menopause.
‘It’s a difficult time – so much happens, it can really undermine you as a woman,’ she admits. ‘I remember these hot flushes coming, it starts like a beat or a pulse inside you, and it comes as a surge of hormones and results in a hot flush.
‘And with that flush came something that triggered some brain cells so I’d feel uneasy. It would zap my confidence before a meeting. I felt more anxious about life generally. I’ve always felt sure of who I am, but that anxiety tapped away at my confidence and it was disarming.
‘I learned that if I exercised and only drank a glass or two of wine a week – and no more – it made a difference.’
Was she tempted to go down the popular yet controversial route of hormone replacement therapy?
‘I tried it and came off it, I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do was. In the end I had my DNA tested which was fascinating.
‘My DNA profile revealed that my body does not metabolise oestrogen, so the worst thing for me was to go on HRT. My body couldn’t cope with it. I’d heard it would give me all this energy, but all our bodies are different.’
One benefit of growing older is that Linda has enjoyed her relationship with her daughter Jess, 27, a charity worker, blossoming.
‘She and her boyfriend came to live with us in lockdown, which was incredible. We’ve always had an amazingly close relationship. She’s a passionate, strong independent woman and I love the dinner table conversations now she’s older.
‘I feel less in the “mummy” role now, and more in the friend role. Relationships change with your children. She educates me more than I educate her these days, it’s enriching.’
Weekends for Linda are spent wild swimming, walking (she does the Yorkshire Three Peaks every year) and hanging out with hubby Chris, who she met at art school.
‘We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in April, and we were together before that, so it’s been forever,’ she laughs.
‘I think change is good for everyone. We have always done different things, which is good for our energy as a couple. It keeps things fresh, it keeps you thinking, talking together and exchanging ideas.
‘There are always surprises to be had. Chris said he was going to work on our house solidly for a year. He became very practical, fixing gutters and the roof, building a pond. Did I know he had it in him to do all that? Well possibly, but that was great for our relationship!
‘He’s more romantic than me and we don’t bicker very often. We’ve got beyond all that and having those kinds of exchanges. I hope he still fancies me, he’s all for my fitness and beauty regimes because it makes me feel happy. I’m very lucky and blessed.’
What has Linda had done?
Linda goes to Harley Street Skin Clinic, run by cosmetic doctor to the stars Dr Aamer Khan and his wife Lesley. Linda had her first treatment with Ellanse dermal filler, injections to restore the volume in her face.
Then later, Linda had a Silhouette Soft thread lifting treatment, which uses re-absorbable surgical threads – dotted with absorbable ‘cones’ – for an immediate tightening effect.
This is particularly effective for sagging jowls, redefining the jaw line and tightening the neck. It can also boost the body’s natural production of Type1 collagen, resulting in less sagging skin.
– To find out more about Linda’s procedures, CLICK HERE
How does Linda Barker spend her Sundays?
Up with the lark or lazy lie-in?
I like getting up in the morning. The alarm goes at 7am and Chris will bring me a cup of tea most mornings. On weekends though I might stay in bed until 8am.
Hungover or full of beans?
I can’t bear hangovers these days. Once you’re over your 20s and 30s it’s easier just to be fresh as a daisy in the morning. I have the odd glass on weekends with friends.
Fry-up or fruit and muesli?
It’s always a healthy option for me. I eat fruit mostly, though occasionally I’ll have a scrambled egg.
Gym or yoga?
I swim most Sundays, and I do yoga on Zoom. It’s changed my life now I can attend one of my favourite lessons taught by friends in Windsor, despite me being in East Riding.
Home cooked roast or pub lunch?
If Jessie is at home it will be a roast. We are lazy though, we will go for a walk and then come home and see what’s in the fridge. We will roast a load of veg but only have meat occasionally. I don’t have a sweet tooth.
Netflix or newspapers?
I love reading the papers on a Sunday. Most of the time I get my news fix online, but it’s better to relax with proper papers.
I can’t get through Sunday without…