EXCLUSIVE: Your Mum, My Dad star Natalie Russell, 44, has been jailed five times and battled drug addiction before son Kaliel, 20, signed her up for ‘middle-aged Love Island’
Your Mum, My Dad contestant Natalie Russell is a former drug addict who has been sent to prison five times, MailOnline can reveal.
The single mother, 44, is now a self-esteem and relationship coach after turning her life around following years of substance abuse, which also led to stints in rehab facilities and a spell in a psychiatric hospital.
She opened up about her ‘chaotic’ past on a self-love podcast, in which she explained how the childhood trauma she experienced sparked her addiction issues and a ‘deep hatred’ within her.
Summing up how bad her drug use was, Natalie says: ‘Those people you see running around on the street looking to get their next fix, that was me.’
Natalie, who is no longer in contact with the fathers of her two teenage sons, believes she was trapped in a negative ‘cycle’ triggered by the ordeals she experienced as a child.
She explained: ‘I had a lot of trauma as a child – there was sexual abuse in teenage years, there was rape, broken home, ran away from home and I ended up abusing substances which led to prison and psychiatric hospital, suicide attempts – just utter chaos.’
And her trauma has also seeped into her ‘toxic and abusive relationships’, admitting every partner – bar one when she was just 17 – has cheated on her.
But in recent years Natalie admits she’s been able to build herself back up and find self-love, via countless therapy and counselling sessions, sparking her move to help others who have suffered similar trauma.
She says: ‘My heart is seeing people heal from their trauma and getting people to love themselves fiercely.’
Natalie, who is based in Bournemouth, has been single for six years and she believes her past makes it difficult to introduce somebody new into her life.
Speaking on the Little Girls Aren’t Taught This podcast, she explained: ‘If you wrote a list of the traumas that have happened to me, it’s a long list.
‘I knew when I left my last relationship there was a lot of healing to do, like the self-hatred ran deep, the repeated patterns ran deep and I needed a lot of space and time to invest on learning to love myself deeply before I ever brought anyone new into my life.
‘I’ve got two children and I refuse to ever play out that pattern again in their lives and have them impacted and that’s probably a little part of why I’m still on my own.’
Natalie is one of eight singletons looking to find love on Your Mum, My Dad – dubbed the ‘middle-aged Love Island’ – which starts on ITVX on Monday.
She was nominated to appear on the series by son Kaliel, 20, who will also feature on the show – hosted by Davina McCall – assisting his mum’s bid to find love.
Asked why he applied for Natalie to feature, he said: ‘I wanted her to find someone and be happy. I saw it advertised and thought it would be perfect for her.’
Revealing what he’d write for his mother’s dating profile, he said: ‘caring, ambitious, funny, thoughtful and kind.’
He described his mum’s perfect partner as ‘someone who is respectful, loyal, and has integrity. Also, someone with ambition too, and what they want in life aligns with my mum.’
Discussing Natalie’s dating history, he confessed: ‘I would say she’s been unlucky.
‘She’s probably picked the wrong people before that don’t have the same morals and aren’t on the same path as she is.’
As for why Natalie agreed to feature, she explained: ‘The journey of discovery for myself.
‘There was a big turning point after my last relationship where I knew I had to look at myself and do some real work on how I viewed myself and showed up in relationships and why I kept on ending up in very similar situations.
‘I think the journey of that and learning to love myself, and understanding what healthy looks like has led me to a point of having the confidence to do this.’
The male singletons Natalie could be set up with include decorating firm boss Paul, 51, pastoral support officer Clayton, 57, P.E teacher Elliott, 53 and postman Roger, 58.
The remaining single women looking for love are 50-year-old therapist Monique, tech-advisor Caroline, 51 and safeguarding and welfare officer Sharon, 53.
My Mum, Your Dad starts September 11 at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX. The series will run on consecutive weeknights for two weeks.
If you would like confidential advice on substance advice you can talk to FRANK on 0300 123 6600 or text 82111
Meet the parents … and their matchmaker kids!
Location: Winchmore Hill
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Kind-hearted, a believer in God and positive. I radiate love!
Why did your daughter nominate you for MMYD? To dip my toes back in the pool of dating, and try and connect with someone and find love, and experience living with other people again.
Profession: Safeguarding and welfare officer in education
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Fun, genuine, personable.
Why did your daughter nominate you for MMYD? She was getting desperate! I’d lost all confidence in myself. I think for Tia she was wanting to give me a bit of a helping hand.
Location: South Lanarkshire
Profession: Tech advisor/scan assistant at a private baby clinic
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Charismatic, outgoing and fun. I can be a bit fiery at times!
Why did your daughter nominate you for MMYD? I’ve been single for such a long time, it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been single! I’ve always been quite happy being single but I think she thought, ‘Mum, you need to get out there!’
Profession: Self-esteem and relationship recovery coach
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Adventurous, deep and outgoing.
Why did your son nominate you for MMYD? I’ve been on my own for a long time. I think he thinks it’s my time for me now.
Location: London, lives in Bath
Profession: Owner, decorating company
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Very chilled, laid back and loyal.
Why did your daughter nominate you for MMYD? She feels I need to sort myself out when it comes to dating!
Profession: Pastoral support officer
How would you describe yourself in a few words? I’m pretty effervescent. I’m all about balance in terms of fun – I’d say there’s a cheeky side to me.
Why did your son Christian nominate you for MMYD? He’d like to see me settled with someone I could have a future with.
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Fun, loving, conscientious, struggling to get old – I don’t want to get old. I lost my wife, I know that you can get up and life can be over in a split second.
Why did your daughter Jess nominate you for MMYD? She’s a lovely girl. Her mum was really thoughtful in everything – she could plan things to a detail – and Jess has got that. She is so thoughtful and it was just a lovely thing for her to say, ‘Dad, look, we understand that you’re struggling and it’s been hard and we know that you’ve got a lot of love to give and we’re OK if you were to see someone else’.
Following my wife passing 18 months ago, I didn’t really want to meet anyone. You don’t expect it to be you and you don’t expect it to be your wife. But I’m going on the show to get some confidence. I must have subconsciously wanted to meet someone by saying yes to the show.
Profession: PE teacher/football coach
How would your son describe you? He’d say I am good fun, easy going (I’m not easy going).
Why did your son nominate you for MMYD? He wants rid of me! I think the prospect of me being in his life for too much longer was a burden. No, he just wants me to be happy.
Location: West Sussex
Profession: Singer/recruitment manager
How would you describe yourself in a few words? Fun, kind, outgoing and creative.
Why did your son nominate you for MMYD? Because he’s lost all hope for me, he thinks I’m undateable! He wants me to meet someone.
Location: North London
Why did you nominate your mum to go on the show? I nominated my mum because I think she deserves love! She’s put everything aside to raise me and my sister for so many years so I thought now is my mum’s time.
Profession: Social media influencer
Why did you nominate your mum to go on the show? I feel like it’s finally her time to be happy. I think she’s put herself on the backburner to bring up myself and my sister. In the last few years I feel like she’s given up on love, so she didn’t want to try anymore. I hope putting her forward will be the push she needs to put herself first.
Location: South Lanarkshire
Profession: Flight attendant
Why did you nominate your mum to go on the show? She was single for a while and she doesn’t seem to have any luck with guys. So I thought why not?
Profession: Gas and plumbing apprentice
Why did you nominate your mum to go on the show? Because I wanted her to find someone and be happy. I saw it advertised and I thought it would be perfect for her.
Profession: University Student
Why did you nominate your dad to go on the show? I want to see him settled. The way he was dating before wasn’t working. I wanted him to date outside of the box.
Profession: Graphic artist/warehouse employee
Why did you nominate your dad to go on the show? I just want him to settle down, find the right person – he’s getting on now! I want him to live life with someone. I want him to travel with someone and get out there.
Profession: Network rail planner
Why did you nominate your dad to go on the show? It was a joint thing with my brother and sister and it was our way of basically telling him that we were happy for him to start dating, if that was something he wanted to do.
It was a cop out on our part really, as it meant we didn’t need to sit down and actually say it. It was a sneaky way of saying, ‘Oh look at this, do you want to look into this?’ Never actually expected anything to come of it.
It was about putting dad first. We’d never really thought about us, or about ourselves in that situation. I wasn’t thinking about how I’d react, I was thinking about him.
The reason for that is he does the same for us, he would always put family first. So it was just a way of saying to him, stop worrying about us. If he wasn’t ready, that was also totally fine. It wasn’t an ultimatum. It was just, if you want to, you can, don’t worry about us.
Profession: University student
Why did you nominate your dad to go on the show? He deserves a chance to be happy and he hasn’t had that. I want him to have what a lot of his friends have done; get married and settle down. He deserves the opportunity to find the ‘end stages’ of love.
Location: West Sussex
Why did you nominate your mum to go on the show? It’s getting a bit desperate now! We need a good chance of getting her to find someone.
If it takes me to get involved, then that’s apparently how dire things have got!