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Emmerdale’s Leyla star Roxy Shahidi opens up for first time on premature daughter’s traumatic birth and mum guilt struggles

When actress Roxy Shahidi signed up to appear on ITVBe’s fly-on-the-wall documentary series Drama Queens, she was looking forward to taking on an exciting new project away from her day job on Emmerdale. But as the first episode of the show aired earlier this month, she admits she was suddenly overcome with nerves.

It follows the behind-the-scenes lives of some of the nation’s favourite soap stars as they juggle work commitments with their personal lives. Roxy bravely allowed the cameras to roll during moments when she felt incredibly vulnerable – such as opening up about the sudden death of her father when he was 41 and she was just 17.

Even though she says she felt safe and comfortable filming those very personal scenes, the thought of them being shown
to millions of viewers filled her with panic.



Roxy Shahidi is just one of several soap icons taking part in ITVBe's Drama Queens
Roxy Shahidi is just one of several soap icons taking part in ITVBe’s Drama Queens

“When the camera is rolling, it’s just you, the other ladies and this crew you’ve got to know and trust,” says Roxy, who teamed up with fellow actresses including Coronation Street ’s Lucy Fallon and Ellie Leach, and former EastEnders and now Hollyoaks star Rita Simons, for the eight-parter.

“But a few weeks later, you realise it’s actually going out on television and you can’t quite remember what it was you said! All you do remember is feeling vulnerable. I kept thinking, ‘What did I say? And how upset did I get?’

“On Emmerdale, you perform a script and you’ve got that character to hide behind – but this is you, in the moment, being as authentic as you can be. And that leaves you feeling a little bit exposed.”

The fact that Roxy, 41, is naturally quite a private person meant it was an even bigger decision for her to commit to the show.

“Doing a lot of press or reality stuff, or anything that really exposed me on a personal level, is something I’ve previously shied away from, because it made me feel vulnerable,” she admits. “Rather than brave it and put my toe in the water, I just kind of hid away from it.”



Drama Queens stars Amy Walsh, Brooke Vincent, Ellie Leach, Jamelia, Jorgie Porter, Laura Norton, Lucy Fallon, Rita Simons, Roxy Shahidi have all opened up about their lives behind the scenes
Drama Queens stars Amy Walsh, Brooke Vincent, Ellie Leach, Jamelia, Jorgie Porter, Laura Norton, Lucy Fallon, Rita Simons, Roxy Shahidi have all opened up about their lives behind the scenes

Drama Queens is something totally new for the star, who has played Leyla Harding on Emmerdale since 2008. Earlier this year,
she also stepped out of her comfort zone to appear on Dancing On Ice. The reason? After turning 40 last year, she decided that, when new experiences came her way, she needed to grab them with both hands.

“Something happens when you hit that age – you realise that, if you’re lucky, you’ve got another 40 years left; that life is pretty short,” she says. “I just wanted to embrace new things. I think doing Drama Queens and Dancing On Ice was part of that.”

One of Roxy’s toughest conundrums, when she was offered Drama Queens, was whether to let viewers into her home life in Nottingham. She has always been private when it comes to her six-year-old daughter, who she shares with her husband of 14 years, actor Arsher Ali. In fact, the couple have never publicly revealed her name.

“With my daughter, we didn’t feel quite ready to put her on screen,” she says. “Arsher and I have never shared her before on social media or anything like that, and we made the decision not to do that with this as well. My husband doesn’t appear either, but that’s just because he was away working at the time. He’s been really busy filming the second season of Everyone Else Burns for Channel 4, and Sky’s Funny Woman, so I didn’t manage to drag him in front of the camera. But if we get a second series, I’ve threatened to do it!”



Roxy recently stepped out of her comfort zone to take part in Dancing on Ice, where she was partnered with Sylvain Longchambon
Roxy recently stepped out of her comfort zone to take part in Dancing on Ice, where she was partnered with Sylvain Longchambon

Even though her family does not appear in Drama Queens, Roxy speaks with the other ladies on screen – particularly her Emmerdale friends, Amy Walsh and Laura Norton, who both take part, too – about “mum guilt”. They are conversations she feels many other mothers will relate to.

“I think every mother has mum guilt, and for me, I feel the most guilty when I’ve actually had a really nice weekend away without my husband or daughter,” laughs the actress. “But it’s so important to work through that guilt, because if you don’t, you never do anything that’s just for you, whether that’s work or socialising. Those things allow you to be your fuller, whole self, and therefore a better parent.”

The Emmerdale favourite is also outspoken on the subject of working mums and the often raw deal she feels they get.

“I know it’s 2024, but in my experience, I feel like women hold that guilt more and feel as though anything they do outside of the home is kind of a luxury – that you’re somehow taking time off even if you’re working, and it shouldn’t feel like that.”



Roxy Shahidi candidly opened up about the pressure of 'mum guilt' when it came to juggling parenting and work commitments
Roxy Shahidi candidly opened up about the pressure of ‘mum guilt’ when it came to juggling parenting and work commitments

In one particular episode of the show, she has a heart-to-heart with Laura, which leads to the ladies talking about their birth experiences. It’s not something Roxy has ever publicly shared, and she says the difficult and premature arrival of her daughter left her with emotional scars she is only just dealing with now.

“I think, for a long time, I held on to trauma from that,” she says. “At the time, I didn’t have counselling, but now I’m seeing an amazing therapist and having EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing], which helps you process trauma. I’m not an absolute wreck about it, but I also think it’s very healthy to talk about the fact that you’re seeing a therapist, because it’s still something shrouded in shame. For me, it’s been the most healing, progressive, empowering thing.”

It’s certainly been a very busy year for Roxy, with three different shows to juggle, and she says she hopes she can now enjoy
a bit of downtime with a holiday and some much-needed yoga practice. She’s a qualified yoga teacher (she has also released yoga DVDs) and plans to team up with her yoga teacher, Jasmine, for some special classes to be shared on social media next month.

One thing she’s not keen to do just yet is sign up for another reality show.



Emmerdale legend Roxy Shahidi went on to tease what lies ahead as she admitted she hadn't ruled out Strictly Come Dancing in the future
Emmerdale legend Roxy Shahidi went on to tease what lies ahead as she admitted she hadn’t ruled out Strictly Come Dancing in the future

“You won’t see me on I’m A Celebrity… this year,” she laughs. “I don’t think I’d ever be able to do it, because I wouldn’t be that person who would take on a crazy challenge for an extra cup of beans. I’d be like, ‘You want me to do what?’ Everyone would hate me – all the contestants, everyone at home.

“I wouldn’t say no to Strictly Come Dancing, although I think it’s too soon after Dancing On Ice. However, it’s definitely something I might consider in the future.”

But Roxy won’t be leaving Emmerdale any time soon. After 16 years of fun and dramatic storylines, she’s still as happy to be a part of the ITV1 soap as when she first joined.

“I absolutely love being in a soap like Emmerdale because you’re able to grow your character over the years,” she says. “It’s a process you don’t really get on many other dramas. And I’m so lucky to play Leyla, because she’s such a fun character.

“I’m looking forward to just settling back into Emmerdale and getting my teeth into a good storyline now. I need to ground myself again for a minute, because it’s been a very busy and very different and exciting time. But it’s also been quite an emotional journey over these last six months, so I think just focusing on Emmerdale and a bit of yoga on the side will do me the world of good.”

Drama Queens airs every Wednesday at 9pm on ITVBe and ITVX

View news Source: https://www.ok.co.uk/tv/exclusive-roxy-shahidi-traumatic-birth-32629595

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