“Let me say that what happened in Paris was by far not the worst thing that happened to me in that relationship,” Ulrika Jonsson declares, almost visibly flaring with defiance.
“It was not the physical damage, it was the psychological bullshit that went with it. The bruises heal but those things stay with you.”
It’s an odd, not to say ignominious, position I find myself in: bullying the bullied; trying to force the victim into re-living her most traumatic experience, especially when I only have the opportunity to so do because she is only here because she is – of all things – doing her bit for charity.
But that is what I’m doing, as we sit almost knee-to-knee on the floor of a photographic studio in North London, like some sort of wacky therapy session – trying to coax Ulrika Jonsson into talking about the very thing she says she’d rather not think about ever again, namely the time she was attacked by Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore in a bar in Paris last June, and the way it has affected her public image, her career, and her current relationship.
There’s something rather poignant about the way, that in the end, her resilience cracks.
I can’t help thinking it’s because she’s used to it.

Ulrika made her name, and won a place in the nation’s hearts, on Shooting Stars as the butt of Vic & Bob’s playful practical jokes and gentle ribbing (“Ulrika ! Nordic, Ryvita-eating, Ulrika !”).
She would invariably end up gamely doing whatever they wished, without necessarily always understanding what was going on.
One of her favourites, she beams gaily, was the time they had her on all fours up on a car bonnet (in skin-tight leather trousers), cleaning the windshield with her backside, wiping away the dandruff that, they explained, had amassed since she had given up her Heads & Shoulders commercials.
Such heady, innocent fun, she concedes, seems a long time ago now.
These days, she finds dismayingly, that she is almost just as well known for the assault that took place during the World Cup when Collymore (her boyfriend at the time) after he found her pouring drinks for a bar full of Scottish football fans.
Drunk, he told her to leave, and then, when she refused, dragged her to the floor, and began punching and kicking her.
Pictures of “her bruised and battered face” dominated the front pages for days.
Some people might think that the public nature of the whole episode (the attack as well as the ramifications of the aftermath) would have been one of the worst aspects about it.
But Jonsson seizes on the opportunity to deny that this was the case.
“I was very lucky that it was so public,” she asserts firmly. “I was very lucky.”
The psychological complexities of such an interpretation are obvious, and she admits that in fact the public nature of it helped stop her from “brushing it under the carpet”, and forced her to accept the attack for what it was.
“I might have pretended it hadn’t happened, even to myself, because nobody would have known about it.”
But the actual explanation for her viewpoint has a more practical foundation.
“Because I think I would have been injured alot worse otherwise, if it hadn’t been in public. If three people hadn’t jumped on him and stopped him.”
(Collymore’s public apologies afterwards included the football fan who had to resort to head-butting him to stop him.)
Besides, Ulrika Jonsson has grown used to undergoing private ordeals in public.
Collymore’s assault was just the apex of a series of trials and tribulations she has spent the last five years suffering this way.
“I guess it started with the breakdown of my marriage and a month later my father died,” she reflects distantly as if the full grimness of it is only just beginning to dawn on her.
“Then it was almost like a domino effect. There were moment of happiness since then, but never true contentment.”
As a cautionary tale about the perils of celebrity – the casual, almost random manner in which it is bestowed and then, just as easily, destroyed, and the price you may, ultimately have to pay for it – Ulrika Jonsson’s story would be hard to beat.
She is in many ways, the ultimate celebrity of the 90s: famous for her name (you always want to add that exclamation mark that always seems to accompany it), famous for her looks, her body (in particular the 32inch DD bust she used to tout as “perfect”); famous for the tabloid romances with other celebrities: famous for being in the papers.
For the first few years of her fame, Ulrika seemed to combine all the classic credentials of harmless, minor celebrity, like a real-life version of Nicole Kidman’s ambition-ridden weathergirl in Gus Van Sant’s film, To Die For: the bubbly small-town/girl-next-door blonde who got lucky.
Having been plucked by chance, from secretarial obscurity, to present the weather (on TVAM), her career snowballed all the way to the centre of the mainstream television jackpot – presenting Gladiators and The Big Breakfast, winning awards like Rear of The Year, The Woman Most Men Would Like To Go To Bed With, and being raved about as “the new Joanna Lumley” before being re-invented by Vic & Bob as a post-modern pin-up, the dolly-bird it was cool for even broadsheet columnists to drool over.
“Everyone’s favourite babe,” The Guardian tagged her. “The perfect light entertainment figure for the modern age.”
Her instantly identifiable, heavily marketable name, helped secure a string of £ 100, 000+ commercials for Walkers Crisps, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Berlei. “Ulrika-ca-ca-cash”, one paper called her.
She was popular, rich and even, amazingly, happy – and in 1994 had a son Cameron with her husband, cameraman, John Turnbull.
Since 1995 though when Vic & Bob decided to stop doing Shooting Stars, Ulrika’s life has become a savage example of how celebrity turn on its head and turn in on you.
People think famous people are protected from the problems of real life, because fame puts a vacuum round them.
But when things start to go wrong, it only makes them worse.
In the second half of the 90s, even Ulrika’s name turned from a blessing into a burden, guaranteeing every minor or major crisis became fair game for public consumption.
Her marriage fell apart when she was photographed kissing another man in the street.
The paparazzi, who she says, “physically make me shake” – have tracked her down taking her son to school, looking like a bag lady, doing her shopping.
They even turned up at her father’s funeral.
Even her tattooist took the chance to see his story.
“Ulrika pulled down her knickers, pushed her bottom in the air and asked me: Tattoo My Bum !”
Since her solo show It’s Ulrika !, written by Vic & Bob and so painfully laboured it was re-christened Vic & Bob’s Revenge, flopped, she has got used to the delight of people noting the way her career has dived – the relish with which they have pointed out how her singing voice or her abilities as a comedienne have let her down.
She has been told she has lost her looks, run out of money, and become an embarrassment.
Only the other day, she laughs, a woman came up to her in the street and told her “how much fatter she looked in real life.”
These are minor problems compared to some that she has faced.
Whereas many celebrities suffer from stalkers, Ulrika (again unwittingly) found her name all over the front pages as a man due to appear in court under new anti-stalking laws committed suicide – the second time this had happened to her.
The previous man had stalked her for two years, “bombarding” her with obscene letters and phone calls and turning up at her house.
Just as if seemed finally to be fading from the public eye, stories emerged that Collymore had tried to ingratiate himself with his team-mates at Fulham (where he has just finished playing on loan for three months) by showing polaroids and even playing videos of himself and Ulrika on the team coach.
As if the actual assault itself was not bad enough, above all the public nature of it seemed to inspire an almost endless series of attacks tearing her to shreds.
Feminists have disowned her. Men’s magazines have dismissed her as a tart. Her character and morals have been branded a disgrace. “How Low Can Ulrika Sink ?” being a fairly common theme.
Her previous relationships have been picked over and pulled apart (“Why is Ulrika So Attracted To The Wrong Man ?”), with her relationship with Hunter from Gladiators and a one-night stand with Chris Evans put on a par with the bad judgement she showed towards Collymore.
She has seen her relationship with her mother (who abandoned her for years at a time when she was a child) and her father (“a compulsive womaniser” who subsequently raised her) have been pored over in public.
Even her relationship with her 5 year-old son, who she has brought up virtually alone, has been mocked and damned, with one story claiming that Cameron had refused to call her mummy, complaining: “you’re not mummy, you’re Ulrika Jonsson.”
“Such a fucking lie !” she explodes, grabbing my knee as if to emphasise the outrage. “Bullshit ! Of course he calls me mummy, he sleeps with me every night !”
What she had done to deserve all this is anyone’s guess – except of course enter the world of celebrity.

When we first meet Ulrika Jonsson is being photographed lying on the floor bursting out of a black Azagury dress she is nearly wearing – all part of the promotion she is doing for ITV’s annual fund-raiser Men For Sale, in which she will be auctioning off nights out with the likes of Davide Ginola, Jean-Claude Van Damme and, somewhat improbably, Michael Bolton to raise money for children’s charities.
At first it seems as if the events of the last year have taken their toll on her.
She has changed. Her hair is longer and the figure slightly fuller but the grin she gives to the camera looks forced and hollow.
Her attempts at the kind of laddish flirtation and bonding she perfected on Shooting Stars shows precious little of the charm it had before. The light seems to have gone out of her.
She visibly blanches and virtually flinches the first time I mention Collymore’s name, but rather touchingly, even the slightest show of sympathy towards her seems to brighten her spirits.
I mention the answer Liza Minnelli gave when I asked her whether all the extraordinary traumas she had been forced to deal with had made her stronger.
“No,” Minnelli said, “they only make people think you are.’

The comparison seems to flatter her into candour.
“I think that’s true, because there are times when you want to just lie down and be run over, but you do have to march on. I mean, I have a 5 year-old son. I have to keep going. And there are times when I despise the fact that I have to be strong. I really despise that because you want to be able to be weak and you want to be able to have that ability, to not cope actually because that’s very human.”
“In a way, the most difficult thing about it all,” she muses, as if she’s almost making an observation about someone else, “is feeling you’re not supposed to moan – because you’ve got money, and you’re famous and doing these fantastic things… What you really want is to accept is that you’re not as strong as you think you are, or as capable of coping as you think you are.”
She is by now, presumably coming to terms with the fact that the incident with Collymore is what someone once called “a paragraph” – meaning an incident worthy of a paragraph in anyone’s obituary.
We are used to reading about celebrities such as Pamela Anderson or Lesley Ash being attacked by their partners but hers was such an extraordinary incident it continues to hold a fascination for us.
It’s hard to think of another celebrity who has been beaten up in public at all – let alone by another celebrity, and in the company of other celebrities (Ewan McGregor, Richard Wilson, Ally McCoist) and in front of the press.
“I felt rather embarrassed by it actually,” she admits rather bashfully. “I felt slightly awkward that everybody knew and there was all this anger about it. I was in shock for a long time – because of what happened, but also because of what was happening to me afterwards, publicly.”
One of the most shocking things about the Collymore incident is that the fact that it took place in public seemed to turn it into a public event, and turned Ulrika herself into public property; a symbol for all sorts of social ills.
“It was like you could imagine them holding a forum – holding some sort of fucking big debate about Ulrika Jonsson and her past….”
It was used to explore theories that her sense of abandonment as a child (by her mother, and, more temporarily, her father) meant that she was attracted to womanisers like her father or people whose anger could match her own – but turn her into the victim rather than the problem.
It was speculated that she had an irrationally jealous nature herself (like Collymore) – ever since her mother had re-appeared in her life with half sisters usurping her place in her mother’s affections and that this explained why she always sought to be the centre of attention.
All of it seemed intended to imply, at some level, that she had in some way contributed to or even deserved the attack.
One of the things that had fuelled Collymore’s jealousy was said to be the fact that – to the cheers of the Scottish fans – Ulrika had repeated her much-publicised trick on Shooting Stars of downing a pint of lager in seven seconds.
Stories were brought up again of the times she turned up paralytic on stage during one night of the Shooting Stars live tour and drank 7 pints of Guinness during an interview in Loaded (in which she was – to make matters worse – photographed wearing handcuffs.)
The briefest mention of this re-ignites her outrage.
“One columnist – it was a woman – wrote: ‘listen, no man should ever beat up a woman, Ulrika, so you keep having all the beers you like !’ But this wasn’t an issue of me being drunk ! Or about me flirting ! If I had wanted to run through that bar topless, I did not deserve to get my head kicked in.”
Even now, she still feels the need to defend herself – a classic victim symptom.
“I am such a boring person in terms of going out,” she beams.
“I’m at home six nights out of seven. I live out of London. I don’t go clubbing or to restaurants. I go to the occasional film premiere. My son is my life. I don’t have friends in showbiz. All my friends are fellow mums.”
Somehow, somewhere along the lines, the tide had turned against her – especially when it was reported that she had gone back to him.
“That was my second chance gone !” she laughs brightly – seemingly acknowledging herself that this was her own fault.
“It was like, ‘well now you deserve everything you get. Now you’re sober and you went to see him !”
She denies they ever got back together (“absolutely !”), and again finds herself going to some lengths trying to justify herself, reasoning (as much with herself as anyone) that she was still virtually in shock.
“There was nothing romantic about it – it was just a way of resolving things for myself. I didn’t understand what I was going through. Or what I needed to do to get rid of this situation.”
Although she seen a psycho-therapist after separating from her husband (“stuff to do with my past and all that. Nothing over-dramatic”), she did not have counselling over the attack – even though it was by the man who was her partner at the time.
“In a way that was the problem. That was why I ended up having this fucking stupid meeting with him. That was my way of trying to take it into my own hands. That was such a big mistake. It was just a way of resolving things for myself, in my fucking head about what had gone on. It was almost like the victim talking to the criminal, facing up to him… It would make me steer clear of any situation where you would even be abusive to me verbally now.”
Sub-consciously, she admits, part of what she was doing was probably secretly seeking to find a way of deciding that what Collymore had done was OK, rather than face the reality of accepting it had happened – again a classic victim mentality.
This is the bravura of the bullied – trying to believe that such incidents are, after all, only evidence of love.
“Listen, if you have somebody that tells you these things only happen because we’re so passionate about each other, you believe it. Or I did.”
Even her own suggestion of this seems to wound her.
“It wasn’t in any way a loving relationship, a relationship where I was scared of losing love… It’s what psychologically he had hold of, in here (taps her head). That was very frightening and until you actually are able to exorcise it, you can’t move on.”
When I suggest that you could say the same of ‘love’, she almost physically raises her head as if to proudly declare herself above it now.
“No !” she says firmly. “This was not love. It was not ever love. It was an on-off thing, ridiculous. It was in no circumstances love, and I know that now, because I know real love now.”

Ironically, after all the things her name and her fame has given her, it’s entirely possible that her nine month relationship with Marcus Kempen might not have happened at all if it wasn’t for the fact that he had never heard of Ulrika Jonsson.
It’s only when she starts talking about her relationship with Kempen that her face really lights up and she instantly becomes the animated, pretty presence that used to shine on Shooting Stars.
“He didn’t know who I was !” she giggles, overjoyed. “The most wonderful thing in the world – because he had no pre-conceived ideas.”
In the end it was only the presence of the paparazzi, she says, that made him ask her, in an awkward German accent, ‘Ulrika – are you telling me you are famous ? Then I had to explain I’d presented Gladiators and this other show where I’m just verbally abused the whole time !”
The relationship has helped her finally put everything behind her, she says, although there still seem to be veiled references to Collymore in the way she describes Kempen as “someone with no edge…not a power-seeker who tries to control me.”
Asked if the public price she has paid for her fame was worth it, she says it would “sound very cynical if I said yes, and I don’t feel like that. I think that, somehow, it was fate – you can’t change it.”
She says she wouldn’t have swapped it for “a quiet life, married to someone, being an air hostess, which is what I wanted to be”, but she is thinking about having more children, and even “thinking about packing it all up now.”
“I’d certainly like to give it a fucking go !” is how she puts it.
She has “no idea” what she’ll be doing one year from now. Her current career has fallen back into the kind of light entertainment pap that Vic & Bob used to use her to parody: the Midweek Lottery, the Royal Variety Show, Eurovision, and now Men For Sale.
“The bastards have left me high and dry !” she laughs, seemingly not really caring.
As we make our way out, her good humour has grown so far she even finds herself laughing at the way that sometimes when she’s walking around, she’ll get the occasional van-driver or builder shouting “Oi ! Where’s Stan then ?” at her, which seems pretty awful.
“Yeah, you feel like saying ‘probably beating the shit out of someone else !” she smiles. “But I don’t.”
This is, I suppose, as good a way of any of judging whether she has got over it or not.
If she bumped into Collymore now, she shrugs, blithely,
“I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. There was a time when I think I would have got angry, but not now.”
As we are leaving, she wanders over to a couple of colleagues flicking through the day’s papers. You can almost detect a tinge of jealousy or a touch too much curiosity as she flicks through the first few pages, glancing at pictures showing “Jordan’s New Look”, Sheryl Gascoigne’s new modelling job, or Melinda Messenger’s latest way of getting her picture in the papers.
Part of her mind must think about the fact there was a time when Ulrika’s name could have been on all of these.
“VILLA STAR IN DEATH SMASH” she reads out loud.
It turns out not to be a story about Stan Collymore but his team-mate, goal-keeper David James.
Her interest is duly noted, but so is the ease with which she closes the paper and, as she heads home, leaves it behind her.