Melanie Sykes tells Chris Evans about her new book and autism diagnosis: ‘I’ve found myself and I understand my worth’

Virgin Radio

26 Apr 2023, 10:56

Chris Evans and Melanie Sykes at Virgin Radio.

Melanie Sykes joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to talk about her debut memoir, Illuminated: Autism & All the Things I’ve left Unsaid.

In her book, which is out tomorrow (27th April), Melanie tells her story in full for the first time and reveals how her recent autism and ADHD diagnosis has shed new light on her own life. She told Chris: “The medical model is completely wrong. It isn't a deficiency. In fact, it's how I'm wired, it's how people are wired, it's how they see the world. There are neurodivergent people and there are neurotypical people, and people who are neurodivergent or autistic, ADHD, there's a whole umbrella of different conditions that go with it. And it's just that you think outside the box of what is mainstream, what you should do.” 

She continued: “We're programmed from the minute we get we were born to behave a certain way, to look a certain way, and then you go to school and it's even more so, and then you go into the workplace and again, you've got to behave a certain way, and all your natural inclination is squashed. So, my diagnosis made me realise just who I actually am and what I've been hiding, because it hasn't been required of me. It's not even been asked of me. Can you imagine being in broadcasting, but people don't really want to know the true you? 

“You become a certain way due to exterior forces. And I no longer do that. I am the force. I am my own force and I will operate in every which way I choose. I just had to remove myself from industries that don't take care of you.” 

Melanie first came to the public’s attention in the ‘do you want a flake in that love?’ Boddingtons advert in the 90s. Speaking about the casting, she said: “They just didn't think I was the real deal. I mean, everybody just laughed when I just did my northern accent. And they were like, ‘Sorry, where are you from?’, and I said, ‘Manchester’, and they were like, ‘No!’ because they had actresses, models queuing around the building to cast for that. So, some people were obviously pretending to be northern, and then I walk in!”  

Her career quickly moved from modelling to TV and radio presenting, but in recent years she has taken something of a step back from the industry. She said: “I'm just a really authentic person and show business is obviously fake. It's a show. Yeah. And my being so grounded, and so normal, it just goes against my grain and actually hurts me to be in an environment that’s fake. And when you are autistic, you are in pursuit of the truth at all times, and you don't find it in show business. 

“Now I know who I am, I'll be able to find the people that I want to be around. And I've had a lot of people use me to elevate themselves, or use me for various reasons.

“I am spiritually awake. I am so grounded, and I am whole. So there's nothing anybody can say or do that's going to affect me. I just have love for everybody, you know. I'm so happy.”

Speaking more about her new book, Melanie said: “I wrote it to help heal people, and I want to heal people. I want to talk about all the subjects that are in the book, because it has got lots and lots of different themes. It's not just obviously misogyny at work and all that. It's about, you know, medical cannabis, it's about domestic abuse, it's about all sorts of things and themes, and all I want to do is go and talk to and help people who are going through it.

“I’ve found myself and I understand my worth and my light and my spiritual self and my energetic self, and I just want to go and share that and help people find theirs. That's my mission. I will do that every day, until the day that I die. That's it.” 

From 2006 until 2009 Melanie regularly filled in for Paul O'Grady as presenter of The Paul O'Grady Show. She attended his funeral last week. “He's very much part of my motivation now to live every day like it's my last, because you've got to drink it in, you've got to drink in every breath. Because it's so beautiful to be here. And I want to do that in the name of him, and be like him, because you've got to lead by example. And he did. He did,” she told Chris.

“At the church, I was not great the other day, and one of the Sally Army ladies came over to me and she said to me, ‘Paul said if anybody’s struggling at the funeral, to go over and say that he loves you, and he's so happy that you're here’. And that's Paul. And that's Paul. And that is what I want to be like, because he was taking care of his congregation, and he wasn't there. But he was there. You know what I mean? So, of course, I cried even more. But what an amazing thing to do to make sure that all your people are being looked after on the day of your funeral. That's an extraordinary thing.” 

Illuminated: Autism & All The Things I’ve Left Unsaid’  is out tomorrow, 27th April.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.