It has, in his own words, been an ‘amazing three years’ for Lee Mead. Bursting onto our screens in 2007, as a hopeful in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit TV show Any Dream Will Do, Lee, now 29 wowed audiences and judges alike. He went on to win the show, landing him the lead role of the high-profile West End production Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
As if that wasn’t enough, Lee then wooed and won actress and presenter Denise Van Outen, a judge on the TV show (and fabulous Prima Baby columnist). The couple married in 2009, and Denise, 36, gave birth to their first child, Betsy, in May this year – just as Lee was scheduled to star in another West End hit, Wicked. Despite a gruelling schedule of eight shows a week however, Lee still finds time to share childcare. ‘It’s hectic,’ he grins. ‘But I wouldn’t change any of it.’
Not only did Lee prove himself an incredibly worthy winner, he also met his future wife. ‘I could never have predicted meeting my wife on a TV show,’ he says. ‘We didn’t start dating straight away, despite what the papers said. We were both with other people at the time. Then six months later, when I was doing Joseph, Denise was starring in the musical Rent, also playing in the West End. We were working just around the corner from each other, and were both single by then. So I asked her out for a drink. And things just went from there. ‘Denise is the most amazing mum,’ he continues. ‘She’s just a natural. And I truly love being a dad. I remember my first cuddle with Betsy, not long after she was born. As I picked her up, I was thinking, don’t drop her, don’t move, and please don’t drop her! But despite the new-dad nerves, I’ve never felt more ready to become a father.’
It’s hard work, though, as Lee readily admits. ‘Nothing can prepare you for the reality of having a newborn baby,’ he says. ‘It’s such a steep learning curve, especially as I’m one of the first of my mates to become a dad.’
Knowing what a tough business it can be, how would Lee react if his daughter one day told him she’d like to follow her parents into showbiz?
‘I’d say, are you mad?’ he laughs. ‘Seriously, if that’s what she wanted to do, I’d support her, but it’s a very insecure business. I look at every job
as if it might be my last. Ultimately, I want Betsy to do whatever makes her happy. I hope that as parents, Denise and I can help her feel confident in life, and to know her own mind. I’d definitely encourage her to travel and experience different cultures, which is something I didn’t get a chance to do when I was younger. I want her to experience the “real” things in life – performing is amazing, but it’s not all there is.’
When he talks about Denise and Betsy, Lee’s face lights up. ‘Everything that’s happened has been phenomenal,’ he says. ‘But being a dad is bigger than everything. I look at Betsy and think, ‘life couldn’t get any better’. She’s changing every day. It’s an amazing thing to witness.’
Lee pauses, reflecting on how life has changed since the arrival of his little daughter. ‘Parenthood shifts all your priorities,’ he says. ‘I’m as hands-on as possible. I do the show, and then try to get home by 11.30pm to give Betsy her last feed. Before Betsy was born, I would have been in the gym four or five times a week, but now I’m lucky if I get there at all. It seems ridiculous to spend time on the treadmill when I could be with my daughter. It’s all about the baby now. It’s all about Betsy.