The Lowdown on: Leslie Ash

September 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

leslie-ash-lips.jpgA cheeky, south London girl that has literally lived her life in the spotlight, Leslie Ash has been the fodder of first pin ups and then tabloids for many years.

Born on 19th February 1960, she plopped straight from her mother’s womb and into a TV commercial. Ok so maybe it was four years later in 1964, but still it was pretty quick if you see what I’m saying. This first star turn was as the cute little kid asking her mum the famous phrase ‘mummy why are your hands so soft?’

For better or worse this gave Ash a taste for the limelight and it wasn’t long before she had popped on a uniform and got herself into the Italia Conti Academy. Famous for such alumni as Noel Coward, Kelly Brook, Sadie Frost, Louise Redknapp, Patsy Kensit, Leona Lewis and Martine McCutcheon, the Italia Conti Academy has given us generations of B list celebrities, wag wannabes and soapie actors.

Leslie Ash in the SunSilk ad from 1978 (it is the 6th out of 9 ads).

She appeared on the cover of several magazines and a couple of ads (including this one for SunSilk hairspray that you can watch above) however her big break came when she got the lead in Quadrophenia, the classic Mod movie released in 1979. In this film she stepped up the ante, playing across from such illustrious types as Sting and Ray Winstone. Her easy grin and relaxed beauty made her an instant pin up of the ‘girl next door’ type.
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Is she happy or crazy…? Ash stars in Quadrophenia

She played a few roles TV roles after this including Nancy in the ITV sitcom The Happy Apple and the computer whizz Frederica Smith in the action crime show C.A.T.S Eyes.

The hilarious intro for C.A.T.S. Eyes

In 1988 she married Sheffield Wednesday striker Lee Chapman, making her a footballer’s wife but not, importantly, a wag. The difference being that a wife of a footballer does what needs to be done and cares more about her husbands career than being an IT girl: whether being barred from seeing your husband on New Years to moving wherever they need to go. As Ash said in an interview with the Observer ‘I moved five times in three years. Footballers need to concentrate on what they are doing. It’d be a shame if players didn’t move to certain places just because of the shopping.’ She should have a word with Posh.

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Look, she’s a total hottie!

In 1992 she nabbed the role of Deborah in Men Behaving Badly, however this did not bode well for her marriage for as her acting career was taking off again, Chapman’s career as a footballer was ending. In 1995 News of The World published a photo of Chapman in bed with another woman; however in time honoured footballer tradition Chapman held up his hands and said ‘Eh? What? Me? No I never!’ Ash chose to trust his word that nothing had happened. Echoes of Ashley and Cheryl Cole anyone?

There was a series of very public bust ups that Ash later attributed to their drunken partying. Some of these hilarious party stories include the time he locked her outside of their flat in her underwear, or the time she threw a phone at his head and knocked out some of his teeth. In one argument Ash retreated to her friend and co-star Caroline Quentin’s house after a row. Chapman turned up drunk and furious and tried to kick down her door. While Chapman and Ash quickly made their peace, Quentin and Ash’s relationship never recovered.

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Ash and Quentin were friends – until Chapman broke Quentin’s door. That’s not a metaphor.

Ash took on several roles after Men Behaving Badly, including Where the Heart is in 2000 and Mersey Beat as Inspector Charlie Eden.

However it was in 2003 after Ash went for a simple cosmetic procedure to inject collagen into her lips that things took a tragic and very public turn. The treatment was a disaster, leaving her top lip huge and swelling the area between her nose and mouth. The injection was a cocktail of collagen and silicon and other substances that became entwined with the muscle and hardened, meaning it would never be able to be removed.

The media attention was enormous. Ash’s private vanity quickly became a very public one and she was harshly judged for it. At the time she was still very visible, both in the adverts she was doing with Neil Morrissey for Homebase but also in Mersey Beat. People smacked their lips with fear and schadenfreude as she became a figure of comedy and mockery. Let’s be honest, she did look like she could eat you.

Leslie aka the GrinchSome people have said Leslie Ash looks like a trout. We wouldn’t dream of making such a comparison.

As if this was not bad enough, it was not long after in 2004 that Ash contracted MSSI (Methicillin Sensitive Staph Aureus) which nearly killed her and after what happened with the botched op, that doesn’t seem right. Give the girl a break already *shake fist at god*.

Again it was after a night on the lash with her husband. Coming home at 7 am they started having sex when she fell off the bed and Chapman (who weighed 14 st) landed on top of her, breaking her ribs and puncturing a lung.

It was while she was being treated in hospital that she contracted MSSI through an abscess in her spine. Having been discharged from hospital it wasn’t until she woke up unable to move that she realised something was very wrong.

The doctors said there were three options: she could recover, she could be paralysed or she could die. We made that bit bold because it was a dramatic moment.

Ash survived the illness but it left her body profoundly damaged and she spent years in physiotherapy learning to walk again.

Today, Ash is able to walk, although she has to use a cane, and she remains happily married to Lee Chapman. Tonight on ITV, she returns to our screens in the documentary Leslie Ash: Face to Face, which takes a frank look at her disastrous lip job and the lack of regulation in the cosmetic industry. The very likeable, slightly fragile Ash definitely gives you a deeply personal glimpse at her life.

If you want to know more about Leslie Ash you can read her biography ‘My Life Behaving Badly’ or watch Leslie Ash: Face to Face tonight on ITV 1 at 9pm.