SHE was one of the highest-paid female TV hosts and the whiter- than-white presenter of Blue Peter.
Ironically, then, it was a humble bar of white chocolate which almost cost Anther Turner her career and marriage.
Now, 20 years after she was pictured tucking into a Cadbury’s Snowflake on her wedding day with Grant Bovey and accused of staging the photo for profit, the star has spoken for the first time about the episode.
“I was vilified,” Anthea says. “You’d have thought I had single-handedly manufactured Covid-19 in the laboratory and released it to the masses.
“I received this barrage of abuse and was accused of selling out at my own wedding.
“I honestly didn’t receive a penny for that photo and had no idea at the time the furore it would cause.
“The photo wasn’t taken by the official photographer and I never thought it was going to be made public.”
Anthea and property developer Grant were both already married when they met in 1998.
Recalling the fallout from Snowflake-gate, she says: “For years, I felt like I needed to apologise for myself — apologising for just being, apologising for the fact I had an affair with a married man, apologising for the fact I apparently did this heinous thing with a bar of Cadbury’s.
“I didn’t want to see anyone, and to this day there are friends I have lost because I was too ashamed or embarrassed to speak to them after the wedding. I went underground.
“Even walking down the street, I was embarrassed — I felt everyone hated me, or was staring me.
“It was like being naked all the time. I felt absolutely stripped.”
In August 2000, Anthea and Grant were paid £120,000 by OK! magazine for the rights to their wedding.
Anthea adds: “It was nothing like the £350,000 figure everyone was touting at the time and certainly not the million pounds reported to have been paid to Posh and Becks.”
While the magazine had privately agreed a sponsorship deal with Cadbury, the former GMTV presenter had been left out of the negotiations.
The following day the cheesy, grinning mugshot of the pair biting into branded chocolate was splashed across the papers after someone from the magazine’s PR team released it.
Anthea jokes: “I didn’t even like it. I’m more of a Dairy Milk girl.”
The fallout ruined her honeymoon and saw her becoming the forgotten woman of showbusiness as she lost myriad lucrative TV deals.
In the intervening years Anthea had two bouts of therapy, helping her come to terms with the episode and move on.
She adds: “We were in Kenya when I found out what had happened — and obviously that put paid to the romantic honeymoon. It was awful and wasn’t exactly a great start to our marriage.
“As part of their exclusivity deal, OK! had first rights to news of our first baby. Well, that never happened.
“I realise no one died, but at the time and for years afterwards it was devastating.
“Of course, worse things happen, but it was my life — TV, and I guess the culture of celebrity, was what I had been a part of since the age of 26 and was all that I knew.
“Then suddenly the phone went cold, a TV series I was due to do didn’t get recommissioned and I lost so much work.
“I was tainted — no one wanted to touch me. My earnings dried up almost overnight.
“Therapy wasn’t really as prevalent back then as it is now, so while I didn’t have any counselling at the time, I have had two spells of it more recently. It gave me the tools I needed to move on and let go of some anger.
“The therapist unzipped me like an anorak and made me deal with all these issues I’d swept under the carpet and tried to bury.
“I had a great deal of self-hatred. The apologising for being me actually went quite deep and it was good to be able to work on that.
“It helped me compartmentalise things so that one bad thing that happened didn’t pollute all the good things in my life.”
The star, who was married to former DJ Peter Powell for eight years in the 1990s, had loyally stood by former Celebrity Big Brother contestant Grant when his business subsequently collapsed.
They ended their 13-year marriage in 2013 after he was linked to interior designer Zoe de Mallet Morgan, a woman 26 years his junior.
As the face of breakfast TV alongside Eamonn Holmes, Anthea was the second-highest-paid female presenter on the box.
Chatting from her home in Surrey, she says: “People have said to me more recently that I was the original accidental influencer.
“But in the early 2000s, people like me, Ulrika Jonsson, Carol Smillie, Jill Dando and Anneka Rice were doing it all for nothing.
“People would ask us where we got our hair cut or our clothes from and we’d tell them — but we never got a penny for it.
“Today, women like Kim Kardashian, Katie Price and Gwyneth Paltrow — who recently posed naked to promote her body butter — are all multi-millionaires from it.
“It’s become a part of their brand — and all power to them.
“Reality stars flog teeth-whitening strips, and no one cares — they just buy the strips. It’s a completely acceptable form of marketing now.”
Anthea recently turned 60 and next year is marrying businessman boyfriend Mark Armstrong, 55.
The immensely likeable star — whose blonde feathered bob became the most requested haircut of the late Nineties — was back on our screens earlier this year on Channel 4’s Celebrity SAS, winning plaudits for her no-nonsense, gung-ho approach.
With several projects in the pipeline and a dedicated social media following, her annus horribilis from 20 years ago is firmly behind her.
She says: “I’m quite spiritual about these things and actually thank the universe for some of these bumps and upheavals. I wouldn’t be the person I am without them.
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“I’m still alive and kicking, I am still working and I am completely in love with Mark, who is this fantastic human in my life.
“The Japanese call it your second spring, the autumn of your life. I am aware I have more air miles behind me than I have in front of me.
“I can see my mortality but I want to stay fit and healthy, and make the best of those years ahead of me. I am really excited for the future.”
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