DANNIELLA WESTBROOK is hoping surgery will not only help rebuild her face but also restore her shattered self-confidence.
Years of drug addiction have left the former EastEnders star with crumbling bones and a collapsed jaw and cheekbone — damage she now believes was caused by cocaine laced with lethal animal de-wormer.
The mum of two has already had two of FIVE reconstructive operations at Liverpool’s Aintree Hospital, and one of the procedures will see part of one of her ribs inserted into her cheek.
The former soap star hopes improving her appearance will end the daily tirade of abuse she receives from online trolls that is destroying her self-esteem.
Danniella, 48, says: “I hate the way I look. I’m constantly made fun of, and trolled for it.
“People message me, saying, ‘You’re so ugly, you’re a junkie, you should just go and kill yourself’. I’ve also had messages saying they are glad I’m not coming back to EastEnders because no one wants me scaring their kids on the telly.
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“I pretend I’m fine, always happy to bounce back and fight every battle. But it’s not the case inside, and feeling like this makes me really lonely.
“Sometimes I wake up and think ‘I don’t want to die today but I don’t want to face the world either’.”
Danniella, who took her first line of cocaine at 14 and is thought to have blown £250,000 on drugs, is adamant she is not undergoing surgery to silence the trolls.
She says: “After I relapsed (in 2014), for years I didn’t care what I looked like because I was on a crazy whirlwind of destruction.
“But I’ve got to a point where looking like this upsets me, so I’m going to make a change — not because of what others think but so I can be happy with the way I am.
“It will change the way I look but also help my breathing and sinus issues.
“So it’s about my health as well. I’ll be in for the big surgery, which is the bone replacement, at the end of April. And then the final operation to tweak and finish the nose is at the end of May.”
After speaking to a consultant, Danniella is convinced that the deterioration of her face is the result of using cocaine cut with the veterinary drug levamisole.
Normally used to de-worm cattle, pigs and sheep, it causes human flesh and bones to rot.
She says: “That’s what eats away at your skin.
‘RISK OF RELAPSING IN ESSEX IS HUGE’
“When you stop taking drugs, your immune system is weakened and the effects are still slowly working. I’m convinced that’s what has happened with my face.”
Danniella has quit her home in Essex and moved to a village near Harrogate, North Yorks, where she is studying for an NVQ in therapy and helping to set up an holistic wellness centre.
She has also been celibate for the past year, which has helped her.
She says: “Abstaining from sex and being on my own has let me figure stuff out. I’d been in and out of relationships since I was 15.” The actress finds living where she does also keeps temptations at bay.
She says: “The risk of relapsing in Essex is huge, and I can’t put my recovery on the line by living there again.
“You get caught up in that lifestyle, and the drink and drugs that come with it.
“I just can’t do the whole keeping up with the Joneses thing.
“It’s such a fake lifestyle — you might have the body of a gym bunny but at the weekend you’re in the toilet doing drugs. To me, that’s not life.
“It’s all show and no go — champagne taste and lemonade money ’cause everything is on HP, hire purchase.
“As long as they’re driving the Range Rover and living in a mock Tudor house, then life’s wonderful.
“Forget it — I would rather live alone in my cottage in the country and drive my Fiat 500.
“I love feeling part of a community and that’s what you get in the North. I find the people are a lot more genuine.
“I love their kindness and the fact they’re less judgey.”
Danniella first found fame in EastEnders, playing Sam Mitchell for a decade from 1990, before returning in 2009 and again in 2016.
Producers announced in January that the character would be coming back to Albert Square, but played by Kim Medcalf, who took over the role between 2002-2005 — news Danniella only learned through the newpaperss.
She says: “Sam is as dead as Peggy Mitchell to me. She’s RIP.
“Even if they came back to me in a couple of years’ time, I’d tell them they could stick it where the sun don’t shine.
“That’s if the show’s even still running.”
Danniella is now clean, after briefly relapsing last autumn — a blip she shared on social media, saying she was sick of “feeling like a fraud” and vowing to “rework every step” of the 12-Step Programme for addiction recovery.
Although she no longer keeps track of how long she has been sober, she plans to “smash” her previous 14-year record, a time she now recognises as the best of her adult life.
She says: “I’m going to keep going for ever but I don’t keep dates or a record of it any more because when I’ve done that, I’ve ended up relapsing. So I’m not going to go jumping for keyrings, but I do a lot of meetings.”
Her son Kai, from a relationship with car dealer Robert Fernandez, is 25, while daughter Jodie — by businessman ex-husband Kevin Jenkins, who Danniella separated from in 2014 — is 20.
Danniella says: “I’m so proud of my kids, they haven’t had it easy.
‘NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD MAKE IT TO 50′
“They had a lovely life for the years I was clean but then a terrible time of it when Kevin and I split and I relapsed.
“Kai picked the pieces up from that. He was the one who got me back on my feet. When my family couldn’t talk to me because they couldn’t take any more pain, my son gave up his home and came back to look after me.
“Kai is the one I go to for advice — he’s very bright. He bought into crypto right at the start and has just bought a house off it.
“And Jodie is my best mate. She’s a very strong person, very clever and stubborn like her dad.
“I put my addiction ahead of them. And I have to take responsibility for that.”
The divorce from Kevin came through in 2020 and Danniella admits there is still some sadness around the split, although she has not seen or spoken to her former partner for years.
She says: “I love my ex-husband to bits and it’s actually my biggest regret that we split up. There’s no chance of us getting back together but there are no hard feelings.
“I’ve not even seen him, although I can’t say that, if I did, I wouldn’t fall in love with him all over again.”
Danniella turns 50 next year — a milestone she intends to celebrate at a yoga retreat.
She says: “I never thought I would make it to 50.
“I want my body in the best shape possible. I’m not interested in having big bangers and looking like I’m 25 any more.
“I just want to be a woman who looks good for her age, like Cindy Crawford or Jane Fonda.”
And while Danniella is happily single, there is someone who might soon become more signifiicant in her life.
She mentions an old friend who has been in prison for the past five years and is due for release next year.
But she is playing her cards close to her chest and will not reveal more than that.
She says: “You can’t really have a relationship with somebody who’s in jail, but we’re very close — put it that way. And I wouldn’t want to go looking for anybody else at the age I am.”
So how does she see herself now? “I see a woman who can change other people’s lives with my story,” she says. “I have inner strength and self-love.
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“I’m not an expert, but I can inspire other people and change the way we see mental health and addiction.
“I have a platform and I’m going to use it to help other people, and I feel blessed for that.”