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The Real Me - Emma Atkins: I was bullied by a girl at see her now I'm a soap star was sweet revenge; THE REAL REAL ME: Emma Atkins reveals all to NINA MYSKOW.


MEETING soap star Emma Atkins is quite a shock if you've only seen her as Charity Dingle in Emmerdale. Quiet, polite and almost shy, she is nothing like the loud-mouthed bad girl she plays in the ITV drama, screened Mondays to Fridays at 7pm.

The minxy Charity is currently making Chris Tate very jealous. Emma landed the role a year ago, while she was still at university.

She lives in Leeds, which is where we met, in the offices of Yorkshire TV. Slight, sweet, pretty and younger than her years, she nevertheless has a determined streak.

I'M basically happy with myself. Yeah, I am. Is that bad to say that? I mean, it's not that I look at myself and go: "Ooh, wow!" Because I don't at all.

I'm really hypercritical. Especially when I have to watch myself. I hate it. I have to watch myself a lot, don't I? On telly, and it's horrible.

It's absolutely disgusting, looking at yourself. I don't like it. No, I don't. The first time I saw myself on screen, I just went: "Oh, no! It's awful, it's awful!" I just used to cringe.

Because every woman has insecurities. I hate my bum. I just hate my bum! There's something about it. My bum is my bum and it never changes. I can lose weight on my hips and my thighs, but my bum is just always That Bum.

I would like Jennifer Lopez's arse. But then, wouldn't we all? I don't lose sleep over it. I refuse to be obsessive. The society we're living in now is so body-obsessive. You hear about kids at school, obsessed. Everybody. It really freaks me out.

But it's so easy to fall into that trap. I'll flick through a magazine, and see the most amazing woman. And I'll look at her bum, and I'll think: "Wow!" And it's like: "Is that unhealthy, or what?"

I've never got my kit off for a photo-shoot. I was asked to do one for one of those saucy magazines like FHM, and I turned it down.

I'm just not one for revealing my body, I'm very private. I choose not to. For instance, I'd never wear a low top. It wouldn't seem appropriate, because I don't have the boobs to show off. I've got really small breasts, but I'm quite happy with that.

EVERYBODY has paranoia, but you've got to be level-headed. Deal with it, basically. Especially in this industry.

It's ruthless. People want to put you down. But my mum has helped me. She makes me appreciate what I've got.

So you just sort of think: "This is the way I am. I'm lucky that I don't have a weight problem. I'm lucky I'm not anorexic. There's the bum, but hey!"

My weight does fluctuate - between 81/2st and 9 - but it's never that visible. It completely goes on my arse. And my thighs. But it's not to the extent where I have a weight problem. I'm 5ft 6in, a size 8 up top and a 10 to 12 in my hips.

So I'm lucky, I don't have to really watch my weight. And I've never had a problem with food. I don't think I could ever be anorexic, because I eat like a pig. I do! Really big meals. And I enjoy them. But of course, when I eat crap food, I can binge-eat. And then I find I put on a few pounds.

But I exercise so much. I'm a complete fitness fanatic. I run. When I started Emmerdale I got roped into running for charity. I used to run at university, but I was never, like, a runner. I was just skint and couldn't afford to go to the gym.

I did my first half-marathon last year - the Great North Run in Newcastle - and I was terrified. But it was one of the best days of my life, because it was a real challenge. I just thought: "Thirteen miles? No way!"But I did it.

You start by going for small runs. A mile, three times a week. A mile's nothing - about 10 minutes. Then the week after, you build it up to a mile and a half. Then two miles. Before you know it, you're running six miles. And the next day you're not aching. And it is the most amazing feeling.

The only problem I've ever had running was when I was a student. I got shin splints. Really severe pain - here, just across the front of your shins. Like lightning, little streaks of lightning. You can't run. You have to rest until it goes. It's running on concrete that does it. You should run on grass. And I was running in crap trainers. Really cheap, crap trainers. Fashion trainers.

But for the half-marathon I invested in a pair of really good trainers, and I was fine. I go for six-mile runs now. It takes just an hour, and I've done my exercise. Brilliant!

I LOVE running outdoors. Perhaps because I was brought up in a beautiful area called Silverdale, near the Lake District.

It was a very sheltered upbringing, very safe. I feel very blessed in that respect. I owe a lot to my mum and dad.

The acting started as far back as primary school. I loved "Let's pretend". That world of make-believe. And I used to hear an accent and want to copy it. My dad used to give me a newspaper to read and say: "Do Irish. Do so-and-so." I used to love it.

I started amateur dramatics when I was 13. I've just turned 26. It was fantastic. But my only problem was that I was a bit of a wimp. In fact, I still am. It bugs me, because I think: "For God's sake, Emma, toughen up." I hate being intimidated - can't quite cope.

It goes back to my schooldays. There was always one girl at school who terrified me, two years older. Not physical bullying. It was just a certain look, things she said. But it was still bullying. She made me cry.

I saw her in Manchester recently. At a bar, standing with a group of girls who were in her year. I went up to them and chatted, and she stood in the background. Away from the rest. Not looking.

I didn't look at her, but I knew she was there. I glanced and thought: "Oh my God!" Freaked me out.

But it was sweet revenge. One of the girls said: "What you doing now?" And a girl next to her said: "What do you mean: 'What's she doing now?'? She's on bloody Emmerdale! Haven't you seen? She's Charity Dingle."

And it was like: "Thank you, God." I didn't even have to open my mouth.

In fact, I got Emmerdale a year ago, when I was still in my final year at Salford University, doing a four-year `performing arts degree. It was hard work doing both, but I graduated last year with first-class honours. I'm quite chuffed at that.

I started filming last February, and was on screen in March. I just love playing Charity. She's such a wild child, completely ballsy and in-your-face. Isn't scared of anything. She's everything I'm not. She's so mouthy. And not afraid to shout out and say: "Stick it up your backside! This is me. This is how I am."

She's a lady of the night - looks like a slapper, a complete slapper. I wouldn't have it any other way. I get to wear short mini-skirts and things I'd never dream of wearing. Going shopping with the costume people is brilliant fun, because it's like: "Oh God, that's so bad. Yeah, we'll have it."

The outfits say it all. She doesn't have to open her mouth for you to think: "Oh, my God! You're scary."

I'm really having a fantastic time. I just got the keys to my first house on my birthday last week and went round there with my boyfriend. It's little and it's quaint and it's 150 years old, and I can't wait to get in and do it up. It's a shell at the moment. But if I do the bedroom first, I can live there while I'm doing the rest up.

I'll be living there on my own. My boyfriend won't be moving in, oh no. I need freedom and independence, and still being single little me. But I'm very happy at the moment.

He's lovely. It's been about eight months. And he's not connected with work. I just couldn't do that. I'd be frightened of having a row, then having to do a scene with him the next day. It would be so cringe.

I MET him at a party, a friend of a friend, and he made me laugh. He'd been travelling in Thailand and I said: "Did you get to snog any ladyboys?" And he said: "Quite a few!"

That's my biggest turn-on. Someone who can make me laugh. I just don't care what they look like.

Isn't it so sexy, when they open their mouth and just sparkle? Makes you sparkle. That was the weirdest thing. I didn't really fancy him until we had this conversation. And I thought: "Oh, my God, you are wicked!" Who knows where it's going? But I don't care, I'm really enjoying myself. I find him really stimulating. Quite riveting. I don't want to stop talking to him. He's quirky and odd and he's interesting.

I'm really lucky. I've had a jammy life so far. No real problems. I have strength from my upbringing and my family. I'm so excited when I think about everything. When I got my mortgage accepted, I thought: "I'm a grown-up!" I'm very fortunate to be in my position at my age.

I just love my job. I'm content, but I'm never complacent. Sometimes I go on set and I'm shaking inside. I feel so lucky. You hear people say: "I can't wait for Friday night." Well, I had a night shoot last Friday and it was practically my birthday, but I didn't care, because it's Emmerdale and I'm like, "Oooh!"

I'm just thrilled to bits being part of it. In the future, I'd love a varied acting career. Gritty TV dramas. Theatre. Loads of different roles.

But for now, I want to go on being part of it, as long as they let me.

The choc of my lifeMY BIGGEST DOWNFALL OH, Toblerone! Not the white ones - the original, normal milk chocolate. Amazing. I can just binge on them. I don't like the little ones - those small triangles p*** me off. I like big blocks, straight from the fridge, hard. I can just sit there and eat it and eat it. I love it when the triangle hits the roof of your mouth. I love the little bits in it that are left when the chocolate melts. Those hard bits, the nuggety bits. In fact, I just love it. MY FAVOURITE DRINK I DON'Tthink I've got a tipple of my own. I'm always mixing. I had beer last night, and I like wine with a meal. I do like Jack Daniel's and Coke, it feels warm. Like brandy and Coke. And JD and ginger ale is amazing. But I don't discipline myself to one drink. And my biggest pitfall is not putting a limit on it, I kind of drink until the evening ends. Very unwise and stupid. But fun! Well, it was last time... MY EXERCISE REGIME I RUN whenever I can, and I go to the gym two or three times a week. But my new thing is power yoga. Everyone's doing it, aren't they? Geri Halliwell looks fantastic on it. It is amazing. You come out and you feel great, but you're exhausted. I went to a normal yoga class, and thought:"Can't we do something a bit more lively?" With this, your heart rate's up, you have to hold these positions and you're literally shaking. MY BIGGEST FEAR I'Mscared stiff of the dentist. I haven't been for more than five years. When I was little, I had one of my teeth pulled out and it was so excruciating, it left me with a vivid memory of pain. When I was younger, my teeth stuck out and I had a gap. I got picked on, but I never had anything done. It's fine now, and quite distinctive, but I do need to find a dentist I feel safe with. But the very thought of it makes me feel sick. MY HEALTH REGIME I'Mnot a smoker. I have the odd one when I have a drink, and feel really naughty about it. It's just that when I'm p****d, I have a fag. My mum wants me to start taking evening primrose oil. I suffer badly with PMT, and I also have really dreadful period pains, and it's supposed to be good for that.


HAVING A WILD TIME Emma loves playing Charity (right) in Emmerdale but hates seeing herself on TV Picture: PHILSPENCER
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2001
Previous Article:Last Night's View: Wing flaps in a sickly way.

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