Kate Ferdinand: ‘Rio and his children gave me the love I needed’
Watch: Kate Ferdinand talks about feeling judged and how meeting Rio changed her outlook on life
She’s known as the young woman who bravely and brilliantly took on the role of stepmother to Rio Ferdinand’s three grieving children.
This followed the tragic death in 2015, of his wife Rebecca, 34, to breast cancer.
Yet, in podcast White Wine Question Time, the former TV reality star Kate Ferdinand revealed to Kate Thornton that her new role has also helped her recover from her own childhood upheaval.
“My mum and dad broke up when I was three-ish,” she explained. “I really craved love, and wanted the people around me to feel loved, because maybe when I was a child, I didn't have my dad around.”
The situation, she revealed, led to a “rocky” relationship with her mum.
“I felt like when I was disagreeing with my mum, there was no one else in the room to… give their opinion… and we just clashed,” Ferdinand revealed. “So home was sometimes very volatile, and it didn't always, in my teenage years, feel like a safe place.”
In response, she said she rebelled, and sometimes ran away from home. “I felt quite misunderstood.”
The insecurity Ferdinand developed followed her into adulthood. While describing herself as a “resilient” and “very loving” person, she “never felt good enough – I was always fighting something internally.”
Listen to the full episode to hear Kate Ferdinand talk about how meeting Rio and becoming a stepmum changed her life
Even when Ferdinand’s career exploded with a role on TOWIE in 2015, her confidence remained low. “I feel like for a lot of my life… there was this kind of expectation for me to look a certain way, and be a certain way,” she said. “I kind of got caught up in what everyone thought I should be.”
Read more: Kelsey Parker shares Kate Ferdinand’s advice on life after Tom
When she met widowed footballer Rio Ferdinand in Dubai, in 2016, that scrutiny only grew.
“Everyone judged me based on me being ‘that TOWIE girl’, not based on who I was, and my heart,” she said. “I felt like I just had to stop… worrying about what everyone thinks.”
Her new role caring for Rio’s grieving children reminded her that she is “strong” and could “actually handle a lot.”
In turn, her new family embraced her, giving her the “love that I needed when I was young”.
Read more: Kate Ferdinand says she suffered from imposter syndrome when she became a step mum
“I've got this family that I always wanted, but just in a different kind of route to what I expected,” she said. “I've just received these bonus three kids that I love dearly. It's emotional to think of the journey we've been on, and where we are now.”
Ferdinand went on to fight off her self-doubt, to start a podcast Blended, which explores the experiences and challenges for families of second marriages, divorce, grief and life after loss, adoption and fostering.
“If you can just help one or two people, then that's amazing,” she said, “because in those moments, you feel very isolated and alone.”
The podcast, she told Thornton has “helped” her. “I felt like this was what I really needed… just to be able to speak openly, without feeling judged.”
And after refusing to see him for years, Ferdinand has now felt able finally to reunite with her father.
“I felt loved when I met Rio and I felt relaxed,” she explained. “Maybe I wasn't ready before that because I wasn't happy in my own life, whereas now I feel quite content.”
At their wedding in 2019, her father and two stepsons shared the duty of walking her to the altar.
In 2020, Ferdinand gave birth to her and Rio’s son Cree, an experience that she said gave her an “emotional” and “heightened” understanding of Rebecca’s experience of “when she had to say goodbye to her children”.
Read more: The five stages of grief: How to cope with loss
She continues to support them in their grieving process.
“When I was young… I didn't really have anyone to communicate with and I felt trapped within myself and unheard at certain times,” she said. “We talk all the time – we share all of our problems.”
Today, it’s clear that work has paid off. Her social media shows a close and happy blended family of six.
“What we've been through, some people don't go through in their whole lifetime, so I think it's made our bond, all of us, just so tight,” she said. “I feel so blessed.”