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Daily Mail Article - Monday March 19,2001


Until last week she had enjoyed minor success playing bad-girl Lindsey Corkhill in the Channel Four soap Brookside. But as she stepped out of the Celebrity Big Brother house on Friday night, dressed in a dazzling white suit and sky-scraper heels, Claire Sweeney looked every bit the A-list star she is likely to become. 

Her common-sense attitude had been a refreshing alternative to the out bursts of her five better known housemates, including Vanessa Feltz, who were locked in the secure compound a week ago to raise money for Comic Relief and voted out by the public one by one.

Last night the 29-year- old actress told how she was determined she would not succumb to the histrionics.

"It was a difficult experience and after the first two days we felt we had been there for weeks," she said.

"People like Vanessa find it therapeutic to air their unhappiness in public. I don't. I believe that some things are just better kept private."

" At the end of the day whatever we said in that house was going to be broadcast to the nation."

"I was there to have a bit of fun and raise money for charity, not to bare my soul. But you have to remember that Big Brother is all about breaking down your defenses."

Many had dismissed Celebrity Big Brother as a stunt to revive the careers of a handful of B-list stars: comedian Jack Dee, Boyzone singer Keith Duffy, boxer Chris Eubank, plus presenter Anthea Turner and Miss Feltz. 

But stranded without scripts, make-up girls or agents, viewers began to get a glimpse of the not so pleasant side of celebrity - and the ratings soared. 

Miss Feltz was the first to fall apart under the pitiless gaze of the cameras. She sobbed, swore and scrawled a barrage of bitter words about her life on the kitchen table. 

She likened the "mass humiliation" of her eviction to the feeling of worthlessness she endured when she was left by her husband.

Miss Sweeney was reticent to criticise her famous housemates, but she admitted to finding Miss Feltz's petulant reaction to her nomination a little "extreme."

"I was surprised," she said. "If I got upset, I used to go off and sing in the toilet."

"You have to put it in perspective. We were there to raise money for Comic Relief. There are people starving in the world, there are people dying of Aids. But Vanessa had been though a lot of pain in the past few years and people have different way of dealing with their emotions."

Miss Sweeney's mother Kathleen had urged her to be cautious about taking part in the show. "She asked me if I could handle the intrusion into my life" It was wise advice, for Miss Sweeney has also suffered her share of problems. 

Her adored step-father Kenneth was jailed for either months last year for eight months last year after being convicted of dealing in contraband alcohol and tobacco, while her four year relationship with Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Alan Miller fell apart shortly before Christmas.

But Miss Sweeney decided to go ahead with the show finding out only two days before it began who her housemates would be.

She had already met Miss Feltz socially and shared a mutual friend with Duffy. Miss Turner, however, was an enigma.

"Like most people I have read all the recent press about her," she said. "It would be fair to say that I was pretty skeptical."

"At first Anthea was extremely nervous and quite fragile. She was devastated to be nominated for the eviction in the first round."

"When Chris was finally chosen instead I breathed a sigh of relief. Chris was strong, he could take it."

"I felt Anthea had a better chance to prove herself and I think she needed to do that. Anthea is one of the nicest people I have ever met. I was really sad to see her go and we plan to keep in touch."

Miss Sweeney is please by the recognition Big Brother has afforded her. Her contract with Brookside runs out in October and she has made no secret of her desire to embark  on a musical career, just like former East Ender Martine McCutcheon, now stunning audiences in My Fair Lady at the National Theatre.

Miss Sweeney is already on the books of leading theatrical agent Jonathan Shalit, who discovered Charlotte Church.

"I am still committed to Brookside but I have always been a singer first and foremost," she said. "My ambition has always been to do a West End musical such as Chicago or South Pacific"

**At Miss Sweeney's request, the Daily Mail has made a donation to Comic Relief**