Danniella Westbrook (born 5 November 1973) is an English actress and television presenter. She is known for being the original actress to play Samantha Mitchell in the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders from 1990–93, 1995–96, 1999–2000 and 2009–10. Away from EastEnders she has presented various shows, and was also a contestant on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2003.Westbrook returned to filming for EastEnders as Sam Mitchell in June 2009 and left when the character was sent to prison in January 2010. She competed in the 2010 series of Dancing on Ice with US Pairs Skater Matthew Gonzalez and finished fourth in the competition.
Westbrook struggled with a much publicised cocaine addiction throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, which caused the complete erosion of her nasal septum/colonna. She sought treatment and no longer uses drugs. She is married with two children, and released her autobiography, The Other Side of Nowhere, in 2006.
Westbrook was born in Walthamstow, East London, but grew up in Loughton, Essex. Her father Andy was a cab driver, later a carpet contractor, while her mother, Sue, was a shop assistant. Her parents were also successful property developers. Westbrook has two brothers, the eldest, Justin — her father's son from a prior marriage — and a younger brother, Jay, who is 8 years her junior. She has commented "I came from a very loving family - you know, 2.4 children with a Volvo".
As a child, she had a keen interest in horse riding, but she has said that she has always had aspirations to be famous. She started off modeling at the age of seven and then progressed to acting. She joined the Sylvia Young Theatre School when she was eight, attending Saturday classes. Throughout the early stages of her career, Westbrook attended a local state primary school, but she was bullied because of her television appearances, and after one bully cut off her hair, Westbrook's parents removed her from the school. She was sent to a local private school, until, at the age of 12, her parents allowed her to attend Sylvia Young Theatre School as a full-time student, where Denise Van Outen, Dani Behr and her future EastEnders co-star, Nicola Stapleton, were among her contemporaries.
Westbrook started off modeling at the age of seven for the supermarket Asda. She went on to launch Next's children's fashionware, became the face of highstreet store "Tammy Girl", took part in a Weetabix campaign and featured in commercials for Opel cars and Coca Cola. Later she did modeling alongside her younger brother Jay. She progressed into acting, appearing as a child thief in Melvyn Bragg's London Programme and the West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.She appeared in a video for the band Queen and had a minor role in Grange Hill. At the age of eleven she appeared as an extra in BBC's EastEnders, roller skating across the soap's setting of Albert Square. At the time her local paper published her picture with the punchline "who knows, one day she may be the show's star!".
At the age of 16, Westbrook was put forward for a much bigger role in EastEnders, Sam Mitchell (the younger sister of Phil and Grant). Her audition was successful and she made her first appearance on the soap opera in 1990.Despite featuring in some prominent storylines, Westbrook decided to leave the soap in 1993 to take another role. In 1995, the producers at EastEnders asked her back to the soap a second time. However, Westbrook was regularly using cocaine and it began to affect her work. Due to her off-screen antics and her poor and tardy attendance on set, the producers of EastEnders terminated her contract and she was written out of the soap again in 1996.
In 1999, EastEnders' producers decided to reintroduce the character of Sam Mitchell. Although they initially considered recasting the role to another actress, and despite all her past problems, they decided to give Danniella another chance and she was asked back for a third time. During her time away, Daniella's excessive use of cocaine had completely eroded away her nasal septum. In order to hide this from the audience, Danniella was only filmed in ways that would keep her septum hidden from view.However, Daniella's drug taking continued and in 2000, she was asked to leave EastEnders for a third time. After her departure, the character of Sam Mitchell was recast and played by Kim Medcalf from 2002–2005. After Kim Medcalf quit in 2005, a tabloid rumour suggested that Danniella would be reprising the role in her place, the rumour was, however, denied by the BBC. In March 2009, it was reported by The Sun that EastEnders bosses were considering in writing the character of Sam Mitchell back into EastEnders, and that Daniella Westbrook would be playing her, despite Kim Medcalf being the latest actress to play her. A source said "[Danniella] was the original Sam and the chemistry with Sid Owen as Ricky was exciting stuff. If she returns it will be the talk of soapland for months."
On 7 April, 2009, it was announced Sam Mitchell was returning to EastEnders and that Daniella would be playing her again, taking over from Kim Medcalf, and playing the role she played throughout the 1990s. She will return later in 2009. The news that Westbrook was returning to the role was then confirmed by both the BBC and EastEnders Executive Producer Diederick Santer later that same day, on the official website. In May, Danniella admitted that her addicitions stopped her from returning to EastEnders sooner, as she did not want to risk her recovery. She returned to filming in June. She returned to screens on 4 September 2009 and departed once again in January 2010. Diederick Santer said he hoped Danniella would return to the show in the future.
A week after her initial exit from EastEnders, in 1993, Westbrook landed the part of Dawn in ITV's Frank Stubbs Promotes, which had a second series in 1994. She also played a part in Dave Stewart's directional film debut, Entertaining Mr. Simpson. The film was shown at various film festivals around the world, including Cannes.
In 2003, Westbrook was a contestant in the British ITV reality series I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. Despite being a popular candidate for winning, she found the environment traumatic, saying that she missed her children and wasn't psychologically prepared for the hardship of jungle life. She quit the show before being voted off.
Westbrook was offered the role of Natalie Buxton in the ITV prison series Bad Girls, but she declined because of her nose rebuilding operation . Dannielle Brent went on to play Natalie Buxton. Westbrook also turned down a small role in Footballers Wives and the role of money grabber Suzie Samson in Crossroads. Emma Noble went on to portray Suzie Samson
Westbrook — who has openly had several breast enhancements— co-presented Cosmetic Surgery Live alongside Vanessa Feltz. Danniella has also presented a series of fitness DVDs. She has appeared in the reality series I'm Famous and Frightened! and Most Haunted, as well as the television comedy sketch show Bo' Selecta. In addition, she presented Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns with Derek Acorah on LIVINGtv.
Westbrook has featured in several documentaries, including an interview with British journalist Martin Bashir for the Tonight with Trevor McDonald show and Danniella Westbrook: My Nose and Me for Channel 4. In April 2006, Danniella released an autobiography entitled The Other Side of Nowhere, which gives a depiction of her struggles with cocaine.
Danniella competed in the fifth series of Dancing on Ice and was partnered by newcomer professional Matthew Gonzalez in 2010. She was the only competitor to top the leaderboard above Hayley Tamaddon in Week 10 and scored the second highest score for a prop week performance in Dancing on Ice history with 27.5 that same week, with a chair as her prop. She was eliminated from the show in the semi-finals and came fourth overall.
Danniella famously appeared on chatshow 'The Priory' in February 2001, where she appeared to be heavily under the influence of drugs.
Westbrook's struggle with cocaine addiction has been widely documented in the British press. She has confessed that she first tried the drug at the age of 14, in a nightclub. After winning her role in EastEnders at the age of 16, Westbrook was a regular on the London club scene, and her cocaine usage escalated. By the age of 21, she was spending £400 a day on cocaine. She has commented "I was always in clubs and everyone was doing coke and it was glamorous - except obviously, it wasn't at all. I was just very young, very stupid and very easily led...I think there should be someone at EastEnders to say to young people when they come in, 'Look, your life is about to change, you're going to be invited to things, and you'll be offered drugs.' Someone who can tell them what sort of people are about, and what sort of papers, and how quickly what you've worked for all those years can be gone." It is estimated that she has spent over £250,000 on drugs, used 5g of cocaine every single day throughout her first pregnancy,and has admitted that during her lowest ebb she attempted suicide several times.
In May 2000, Westbrook was photographed at the British Soap Awards, where an image of her missing septum was given to a series of tabloid newspapers, unveiling her secret and highlighting her excessive drug abuse. Danniella was checked into rehab and six months later, she appeared on the Channel 4 show 'The Priory' with the claim that she was clean and had been free from drugs for months. However, hosts Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball struggled to get coherent answers from Danniella, who was under the influence of drugs despite her claims of abstinence. Reflecting back on the event in 2002, Westbrook commented, "I said I was clean, but it was obvious I wasn't. I looked about 50, and my voice was shaky. I should never have been allowed on. They wanted to laugh at me, rip me apart. I despise that sort of thing, but it did me the world of good because watching it I realised, 'I'm so ill.' When it came to the crunch I thought, 'Hang on. I don't want to die.'" Danniella re-entered rehab in order to kick her drug habit, which she has now successfully done. Westbrook has since undergone reconstructive surgery on her nose to replace her eroded septum.
Relationships and family
During the early 1990s, Westbrook notably dated the pop singer, Brian Harvey. Westbrook and Harvey's relationship ended in 1995, and Westbrook began dating Robert Fernandez, the father of her son Kai, who was born in 1996.
In 1998, Westbrook was involved in a car accident, which left her with severe facial injuries, including a dislocated eye. She was flung through the car windscreen, but survived, and after corrective surgery, sustained no long-term or major disfigurement. Fernandez was driving the car, and it has been reported that he was travelling at 85 mph.
After splitting with Fernandez, Westbrook married van driver Ben Morgan in 1998, after knowing him for just eight weeks. The couple went to live in Australia but the marriage did not last, ending in divorce nine months later.
She married again, this time millionaire businessman Kevin Jenkins on 27 December 2001 and their daughter Jody B was born the following year. After appearing on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2003, Westbrook admitted that she no longer wanted to be a 'celebrity', commenting "I made a pact with Kevin I would do no more TV work that would take me away from home. These days, I live an ordinary life. I work occasionally, but I also do the school run and laundry and prepare my family's dinner".