As much as Gemma Atkinson misses the fact that her daughter is no longer a tiny baby – “It goes really quickly” – the fitness guru and former Hollyoaks actress is delighted that the toddler is turning into a mini-me. “A lot of the time with Mia it’s like having a conversation with myself, which I find hilarious,” she tells us!. In fact Mia, Gemma’s child with Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer and fiancé Gorka Márquez, has just celebrated her third birthday with a party in the back garden.
“We had all the friends and family around; there was about 30 of us, and we had food and drink, got balloons up, little inflatables and stuff and she absolutely loved it, she had a whale of a time.”
Hot topic at the party, however, was the couple’s wedding. Gemma, who got engaged to Gorka during a romantic walk on Valentine’s Day last year, says: “It was actually at Mia’s party my relatives were all saying: ‘Are you getting married then? What’s the score?’ So we were like: ‘Well yeah, we probably will do…’
“We’ve started the process, although very laid back and very casually.” They’d like to marry in 2023 and have now started looking at venues. “We are slowly cracking on with it, but we’ve just been so laid back, it’s untrue. “I’m the most chilled bride because as long as it’s just close family and friends, we wouldn’t want anything big,” she says. “We know we don’t want a massive, big, glitzy occasion, just something nice and chilled.”
They’ve also been taking advice from Strictly friends and couple Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec, who had no fewer than three weddings. “We went for lunch with them and Janette said: ‘We had one in Miami, one in Slovenia and one in England.’ And I said: ‘How was it?’ And she went: ‘Don’t do it!’” she chuckles. “‘It’s too much hassle. Just do one and we’ll be there.’” While the couple are based in Manchester, their plan one day is to have a place in Gorka’s home country of Spain. “That’s the nextthere so Gorka’s family are able to drive and see us.” And for Mia to improve her Spanish. “She can count to ten and says ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in Spanish,” says the ever-proud mum. venture, we want a house over
Gemma, who reached the final of Strictly with Aljaz in 2017, has clearly embraced the role of parent and brims with pride when she talks about how much her daughter has developed and learnt. “It’s nice every day to see something new and hear something new, so I love it. “And seeing her when she goes to toddler group and the teachers say: ‘Oh she got a sticker today for being kind,’” adds the star, who has teamed up with Family Action, supported by Fisher-Price, on family-focused campaign Creating Happy Memories, aimed at inspiring parents and caregivers with easy-to-do, accessible ways to play with their children over the summer.
“We had our first parents’ meeting recently and they couldn’t praise her enough, they said she’s a level above what she should be for her age in her communication skills. You give yourself a little pat on the back because as parents it’s so daunting not knowing – because she’s only in the group for three days a week, and half of me thought: ‘Is that too much, is it not enough?’” At least it gives Gemma, who earlier this year published her second book, The Ultimate Body Plan for New Mums, time to keep up her fitness schedule. “My me time is when I’m in the gym. I love working out, I love having a good sweat. Just time to yourself – I absolutely love that window.”
Although it’s probably in short supply when Gorka, her partner of four years, returns to Strictly, and it becomes more difficult to navigate the work/life balance. “Well, I know, from August onwards, that I can’t really do anything else other than my radio show because obviously, it’s Strictly time,” says Gemma, who has the drivetime slot on Hits Radio.
“So, it’s just kind of taking on jobs as and when the other person isn’t working, and making sure we spend time as a family as well. Sometimes for us that’s just putting a blanket in the garden and lying about playing and chatting together. Or it’s going for a walk with the dogs – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big trip out. It’s things that we love doing at home.”
As soon as the rigorous Strictly schedule starts however, Gorka will be at home even less – although as Gemma points out: “That’s all we’ve known. We got together in the February, and he was off on tour in the March.
“And then we had a year of him touring and me being at home or travelling with him. Then Mia came along and he was on tour again when she was three days old, so we’ve always made sure we don’t go more than two weeks. So, wherever he is on tour we’ll either go stay with him or he’ll come home for a few nights. “Because it’s all we’ve known it doesn’t really affect us. We’re almost five years in next year and to still miss him when he’s away after that amount of time for me is good because normally after a year I’m like: ‘Oh just go away,’” she jokes.