IT’S a freezing cold afternoon in Manchester, and behind a steaming cup of coffee Samia Longchambon is playfully rolling her eyes at rumours her Dancing On Ice husband Sylvain was snubbed by producers on this year’s series.
For the first time since he joined the professional line-up in 2011, the French skating champ wasn’t partnered with a celeb and was “relegated” to watching last week’s final from the sidelines.
“He wasn’t just sat at home sewing socks! It was a family decision, because we prioritise what’s right for the family,” says Samia.
“Sylvain would have had to sign his contract knowing he’d be based in London and wouldn’t have been home for months – the kids would miss him, I would miss him, and I was busy at Corrie…”
What’s clear within minutes of chatting to the 37-year-old Coronation Street star is that her husband and two children, Freya, 10, from her previous marriage to property developer Matt Smith, and Yves, five, her son with Sylvain, are her world and she’ll do whatever it takes to defend their family unit.
Few believed the Dancing On Ice couple’s romance would last when they first got together while partnered up on the show in 2013.
Samia, then known by her maiden name Ghadie, was dating actor Will Thorp, her co-star in Corrie. Sylvain, 39, was dating his former skating partner Hollyoaks star Jennifer Metcalfe, 36, who he’d met on the show two series before. The romance made headlines when both left their partners to be together. But now, as happily married parents with a beautiful home in Cheshire, Samia and Sylvain have proved the doubters wrong.
“It’s been over seven years,” she says. “I’m still Samia Longchambon! I’ve had my fair share of [abuse] over the years, people judging my life when they don’t know me or the circumstances that led me to that in my life. I’ve always found it bizarre that people can make comments when they’ve not even met you.
“The trolls are horrendous. If there was one thing I could change, it would be that people shouldn’t be able to leave comments on social media. It’s soul-destroying what people say, but there’s no point [hitting back]. It would take so much energy to try and convince everybody of your truth. It’s about the people who know me and love me and know I’m a good person with good intentions.”
With that drama firmly in the past, next month Samia celebrates 20 years since she first stepped on to those famous Corrie cobbles and her character Maria Connor’s turbulent life is showing no signs of slowing down. Most recently viewers watched as the unlucky-in-love hairdresser had an affair with her ex Ali Neeson (James Burrows) in the aftermath of a miscarriage she suffered with boyfriend Gary Windass (played by Mikey North). Maria lost the baby after she was exposed to measles.
After the heartbreaking scenes aired in January, viewers reacted in their droves on social media to praise Samia’s portrayal of the sensitive story line. But the role was closer to home than anyone could have known.
“I unfortunately went through it myself and miscarried,” says Samia. “It was about five and a half years ago, before I got pregnant with Yves. I’ve never spoken about it before.”
Samia, who hopes she can help other women by sharing her story for the first time in Fabulous today, was nine weeks into her pregnancy when she went for an early scan and doctors couldn’t detect a heartbeat. She was told to “give it a week to see if something changed.”
“I have health anxiety, so I’ve always liked to have early scans in my pregnancies,” she says. “I hadn’t experienced any bleeding or anything. It was called a missed miscarriage, which is when your body thinks you’re still pregnant. I had to have a procedure.”
Incredibly, Samia went to work on the Corrie set straight afterwards and took no time off to deal with what had just happened. It was only when Maria’s story line appeared in her script last year that she confided in her bosses about her traumatic experience.
“Corrie didn’t know because I’d not told anyone at work about my miscarriage. They were quite shocked because I still went to work afterwards. In a way, [filming] was actually quite cathartic, because I don’t think I fully ever got to grips with what happened.
“That’s why, with this story line, I really wanted to get it right – for me and my own personal story, and also for all women that have been through it, watching it with their families. I got so many messages from other women, which makes it all worthwhile. A lot of women were saying: ‘Thank you’. I didn’t want to upset people, because I know how I’d feel watching it.”
Samia said she hopes her story can show others that women can go on to have healthy pregnancies after the devastation of losing a baby.
“As horrible as they are to go through, and they really are, I got pregnant three months later and had a really good pregnancy,” she says.
Her son Yves Joseph arrived happy and healthy via C section on September 24, 2015, 11 months after Samia and Sylvain tied the knot in a romantic ceremony at Gary Barlow’s old home Delamere Manor in Cheshire. Freya, then six, walked Samia down the aisle, filling the shoes of Samia’s father Joseph who passed away from cancer in 2009. Five years on, can Samia imagine more babies?
“I think you can hear Sylvain screaming from home: ‘Nooo!’ Two’s enough, one in each hand, and we’ve just got a puppy, Ralph. We’re calling him Wreck-It Ralph because he’s literally wrecking everything. He’s a nutter.”
While the couple are content, they share the same concerns as many parents about guiding their kids through an age of social media. Freya has her first mobile phone and Samia has been doing all she can to protect her from social media’s filter-to-perfection culture.
“She’s got TikTok on her phone and is always on that. I’m not even on that. I say: ‘Put your phone down Freya, don’t be aware of how you look – you’re 10’. At 10, I was climbing trees and getting into trouble for going into the woods, but kids now, they just spend all day on their phones because we’re not comfortable with them going off to play because it’s not safe.
“I do worry, but we’re really open. I try to encourage her to not hide anything but it is a concern. Times have changed massively since I grew up.”
Samia, by nature, is “a worrier”. Since her parents divorced when she was young she has suffered with health anxiety, which has developed into an anxiety disorder. In 2018 she revealed she had anxiety attacks so severe she thought she was going to die and begged Sylvain to call an ambulance. He was able to calm her and Samia realised she needed professional support.
“It comes and goes but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’m anxiety-free,” she admits. “I’ve always been an anxious person. It can be one little thought, something that I read on the news, something somebody tells me in the day, anything. Like with coronavirus, I’m on the train with my wet wipes wiping down the surfaces. I even tried to buy a mask from Amazon, but they were sold out.
“I have irrational fears as well. I’ve taken beta blockers before, but because I’ve got health anxiety I don’t like taking tablets, so that didn’t work for me.”
Samia does yoga every day to manage her anxiety – and even practises during her lunch breaks at work.
“Yoga is the only thing that’s helped properly. It’s the one thing where I can just switch off for half an hour and slow down my thoughts and breathe. I try and do yoga every day at home. The kids join me sometimes.”
Yoga would explain why Samia is in such great shape with both the body and skin of a 20-something.
“I try to live as healthy a life as I can,” she says. “I drink a ridiculous amount of water. On set, I’m always like: ‘I just need a wee!’ I eat healthily, too. Sylvain [who’s a PT when he’s not on Dancing On Ice] eats healthily. We both cook. I like a glass of wine, though – not every night, but at weekends I’ll have a couple. I can’t really drink a lot, I’m such a lightweight.”
But living with a personal trainer must have its advantages…
“I don’t work out with Sylvain,” she confesses.
“It’s a running joke with my friends, because Sylvain’s a PT and everyone’s like: ‘Why don’t you use him?’ That’s when we argue, because he tries to make me do crazy things that I can’t do. I’ve shouted expletives at him before in the gym and he’ll go: ‘Right, I’m not training you any more. Go home!’ I don’t like exercise where I sweat too much, so yoga’s perfect.”
Gym tiffs aside, Samia must be chuffed with life.
With a career spanning two decades, the dream house, dream man and two healthy children, what’s next?
“It’s always been a dream of mine to own a tea shop where I can offer reflexology. I did a course a couple of years ago because I thought it could help my anxiety. I do Sylvain’s feet. He’s always asking me: ‘Oh, just do my shoulder’, then he’ll throw his foot in my face. He’s got great feet, they’re dead soft!”
And there is one final thing on Samia’s bucket list: to learn French, so she can stop embarrassing herself in front of Sylvain’s family, who are from Saint-Priest.
“I can get by, just about,” she says.
“One time, Sylvain had a hangover, and his mum always rings to get daily updates on how everyone is, she’s dead sweet. I answered the phone and I was really annoyed at him for having a hangover because I didn’t. I said to his mum: ‘Sylvain’s drank so much’.
“I was trying to say hangover, but I didn’t know the French word for it. That somehow translated to: ‘Sylvain’s really thirsty all the time’, so she rang him in a panic and said: ‘Samia said you’re really thirsty all the time, are you diabetic?’ They all laugh at me, but they appreciate me trying.”
For now, though, Samia is happily staying put on the soap that made her, with her most unforgettable story lines to date including her first romance in 2000 with Tyrone Dobbs and marrying Liam Connor, who was then murdered over his affair with sister-in-law Carla. After a spate of big names – Lucy Fallon, Kym Marsh and Faye Brookes – departed last year, she showed her loyalty by signing a big-money contract to keep her on the show for another year, with the promise of more massive story lines. So is there life beyond the cobbles?
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“My first day on Corrie was Easter Sunday in 2000. It was a huge deal as I’d grown up watching it. If you’d have told me then that I’d still be here 20 years later, I’d be like: ‘Dream on’. I feel so lucky and grateful to Corrie. I get to go home to the kids every night.
“Being an actress, if I wasn’t in Corrie the likelihood is I’d be up and down the country doing jobs and I don’t have that burning ambition to do that. I’m a Cancerian, I’m a home girl. I like visiting London, I just don’t think I could live there. I’m a northern girl. I like Manchester and where I am.”
With that kind of dedication to her career and Manchester roots, Samia could one day be challenging Bill Roache for the crown of longest-serving character.
- Book you read? Dawn O’Porter’s So Lucky.
- Album you listened to?The Best Of INXS. I watched the Michael Hutchence doc a few weeks ago. My god, I was such a fan of INXS.
- Box set you binged? The second series of You. There’s going to be another series – we need a new one.
- Movie you watched? One with Colin Farrell – Seven Psychopaths. Sylvain and I looked at each other and thought: “That’s going be two hours we never get back.”
- WhatsApp you received? The Corrie girls’ WhatsApp group. They’re talking about things I can’t tell you about!
Hair: Jay Zhang using Kiehl’s Since 1851
Make-up: Bethan Owens using Clarins
Styling: Lynne Mckenna
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