‘Toxic abuse could have broken us – we endured’ EastEnders’ Cheryl Fergison defends 21-year age gap romance with Moroccan ‘soulmate’ – 14 years on

In TV soap-land, storylines about love against the odds with couples facing hurdle after hurdle in order to achieve a happy ever after are a common feature.

But for Cheryl Fergison, who played loveable Heather Trott in EastEnders for half a decade, it is very much fact rather than fiction.

Her marriage to 38-year-old Moroccan born Yassine Al-Jermoni attracted hostility, abuse and enormous attention with naysayers casting doubt on whether their 21-year age difference would work.

But, 12 years down the line since their marriage, the couple remain as happy as ever – and thrilled to have proved the doubters wrong.

“We went through the mill. It was horrendous,” admitted Cheryl, who only recently revealed she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb in 2015, undergoing a hysterectomy and radiotherapy.

Cheryl and her husband Yassine
Cheryl and her husband Yassine ‘went through the mill’ when it came to their relationship

“Obviously there’s always speculation when somebody in the public eye meets somebody else, whoever it is, but we have had things thrown at us that should never have been thrown at us; things that would have broken others.”

“But we got through it. We kept our heads down, we ploughed on. And we’re still here.”

Now living in Blackpool with Yassine and her son, Alex, 24 from her previous marriage to Jamshed Saddiqi who she divorced in 2008 – father and son are estranged – the actress said she believed the past hostility was a mix of fame, ageism and racism.

“Everybody feels like they should have a piece of you but if you then don’t fit the box of who or what they think you should be then it can be toxic.

“People don’t bat an eyelid if an older man meets a younger woman but it’s not the same the other way round. Yassine is an intelligent man, he speaks languages, yet he was being called a ‘goat herder’; he and his family in Morocco hounded.

“We endured a lot.”

Cheryl Fergison says she and her husband faced racism and ageism
Cheryl is convinced that the hostility she and her husband faced was a mixture of racism and ageism

There were also raised eyebrows about why the couple lived apart, with Yassine remaining in his native Morocco for nine years and Cheryl visiting when her schedule allowed.

The reason for the enforced separation, Cheryl explained, came down to a collision of circumstance combining her husband’s family commitments in the country, visa problems and then an earthquake – Yassine helped with the relief effort – topped off by Covid.

“We try to keep our business private but yes financially it can be a strain to get these visas. But we’re here now, we’re in Blackpool – the Vegas of the north! – and we’re settled.”

The couple met online with Cheryl, who has also appeared in Dr Who and Little Britain and who won Best Comedy Performance award at the 2008 at the Inside Soap Awards, initially keeping her tv profile from him.

“You have to be careful – you have to be able to trust people. So we spent the first few months, in a very old fashioned way, writing letters to each other.”

Former EastEnder Cheryl knew she would marry Yassine moments after meeting
Former EastEnder Cheryl realised Yassine was ‘the one’ from the moment they met

She flew out to meet him, arriving at the airport in Agadir ‘frightened’ and wondering what she was doing travelling thousands of miles to see a man she had only ever known via a screen.

“Then my suitcase fell over, a hand came out to pick it up and I locked eyes with this man. It was then I thought ‘I am going to marry you.

“I’d waited all my life for that ‘ping’ feeling. I’d been married before, had relationships before, thought I was in love before but I’d never felt like that,” she recalls of the moment she first clapped eyes on Yass in the flesh.

“I wasn’t frightened or scared any longer. We got in the taxi, he held my hand. It was soulmate stuff.

“I remember thinking when I met Yassine, this is so wonderful and if all this only lasts for another 30 seconds, at least I will have experienced it.

Cheryl Fergison with husband Yassine and her son Aldex
Together with husband Yassine and her son Alex Cheryl is now looking forward to exciting future plans

“Fortunately it has lasted. We’re still strong.”

The family is now looking forward to new beginnings, with Cheryl preparing a one woman show and planning to be on stage with Alex in panto later this year.

Now the family are looking forward to putting the past few years to bed and ‘just getting on with their lives’.

Yass also has dreams of running his own restaurant – Cheryl admitted her fantasy dinner party guests would have to include Barbara Windsor, June Brown and George Michael.

As for any advice she might give to her younger self, the answer is simple:

“Be strong. And remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

View news Source: https://www.ok.co.uk/tv/soaps/toxic-abuse-could-broken-endured-32680928

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