Flirting in the camera staring into a black bra and vampish red lipstick, in her latest Instagram post Caroline Flack was the image of joyful self-confidence.
At the age of 40 she had never looked so beautiful. But two days after posting these photos to its 2.6 million followers, in what friends believe was a last Valentine’s message to friend Lewis Burton, the presenter took her own life.
They say that the prospect of a trial for an alleged attack on the 27-year-old – whom she considered her soulmate – after a jealous fight drove her to this desperate act.
“I think the fact that she did this so soon after she was told that the persecution would continue is significant,” a friend said.
“I believe it was Valentine’s Day and she was divorced from her boyfriend.”
Because behind the deceptive brilliance of social media there was a different story than the happy story that Caroline had struggled to maintain. Her was a story of paralyzing low self-esteem, depression and anxiety that went back years.
Caroline Flack posted this shot on Instagram, among her latest photos on Saturday
Raised in the Norfolk village of Great Hockham, by her father Ian, a pastry chef, and mother Christine, who worked for a local newspaper, it appears that Caroline felt somewhat insecure from her earliest days.
She constantly compared herself to her non-identical sister, Jody, who self-consciously thought Caroline was the prettier, smarter, and wiser of the two.
Her worries were exacerbated by her eczema, which made her “paranoid” over her skin, and she hated her “skinny” legs and went to school in up to five pairs of leggings to try to make them look more real.
Despite her uncertainties, Caroline had set her sights on a more dazzling environment than she felt Norfolk could offer.
Her big heroine was pop star Kylie Minogue – a bag of Venus like Caroline, who was 5ft 3in long – and she wanted to be famous on the largest possible scale.
But when she first started to pursue her passion for showbiz, Jody seemed to be running for her there too. “When it came to dancing and acting at school, my sister was the talented person,” she said. “To get her close, I had to work incredibly hard.”
Beauty Spot: Presenting on Love Island from ITV, she saw herself mix with young and glamorous
She went on: ‘I’ve always felt the need to compensate, but I know my limits. My first ambition was music theater, but I realized early on that I wouldn’t make it. “
It was a crushing realization. At the age of 16, Caroline left home to go to the Bodyworks theater school in Cambridge.
Slightly precocious, she never really went home again. However, she has always remained close to her family, including older brothers and sisters Paul and Elizabeth, and was astonished when her parents announced that they were getting a divorce recently.
She and Jody – now a mother of three – were particularly close. Caroline remarked: ‘We have a very different life, but we all enjoy each other’s lives.
I am very lucky to have twins. We are very close – we shared a bed until we were four and we were in the same class at school – but we are very different ‘.
After graduating from theater school, there were a number of small baking assignments – working in a pork processing factory, waitress, and a magician’s assistant.
Rivalry between brothers and sisters: Caroline (thought on the left) always said that her twin sister Jody was the most beautiful and talented
She got her first break in 2002 as an actress on comedy sketch show Bo ‘Selecta! She then presented CBBC’s Saturday morning show TMi and acquired fans who would later grow up to watch her on Love Island.
A stint on Gladiators followed before she was chosen to lead the ITV2 spin-off show I’m A Celebrity … Get me out of here now! in 2009.
“Television is where I am most at home,” she said. “I’m not a TV presenter who secretly wants to become a Hollywood actress. Live television is what I thrive on. “
By that time she began to be noticed in the busy scene of celebrities in London, hanging around with stars such as the late Amy Winehouse and comedian Noel Fielding.
A friend said: “We would make long, long film days from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and then she would receive a text message and say,” Okay, let’s have a drink. She had so much energy. She was a great drinker but it wasn’t a problem. “
Career break: Caroline Flack with Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes for CBBC show TMI
As her star rose, she became increasingly famous for reported romances with other celebrities, including Prince Harry, James Corden and music manager Jack Streets. In 2011 she started dating Harry Styles from One Direction, then 17 to 32. Of course the fans of the band were shocked.
Caroline, then hosting the X-Factor spin-off show The Xtra Factor, said: ‘I already knew he was in love with me. It was flattering and I thought it was funny.
“After Harry was pictured when I got out of my house, people started yelling” pedophile. ”
There was a moment when we thought, ‘s ***, this really got dark’. “The backlash – particularly on Twitter – was cruel enough for her to seek therapy after the three-month course had taken its course.
She said later: “It’s part of the job. I can’t complain about it, because I have a really great life and I’m very lucky. “But the threats and the abuse troubled her.
One employee described her as “a woman of extremes who laughed one moment and cried the next.” After the affair ended, she took a neurolinguistic programming course in 2013 to rebuild her self-esteem.
The following year she won Strictly Come Dancing. But at the moment of ultimate professional triumph, she fell into depression. “It all started the day after I won Strictly. I woke up and felt that someone had covered my body with cling film, “she said.
Caroline Flack shown during a promotional shoot for Love Island that she presented earlier
“I couldn’t get up and couldn’t pick myself up next year. I felt ridiculous, so sad when I just won the biggest show on television and had such a great job.
“However, I felt that I was being held together by a string that could break at any time. Anti-depressants helped me get up in the morning and stopped me from being sad, but whatever they do is prevent you from being happy. “
Shortly thereafter she was promoted to co-host of The X Factor with singer Olly Murs. Yet the critics were unkind and after panic attacks in her dressing room, she was again given medication against depression. She said, “I was kind of joking.”
She was destroyed by Graham Norton’s joke in Baftas 2016 when she said her future return as host of The X Factor was less likely than the executed Anne Boleyn who returned to BBC2 historical drama Wolf Hall.
“I remember the person next to me touching my arm and just trying not to cry. It was really terrible and my lowest point, “she said.
Winner: Caroline Flack was worshiped by Strictly Come Dancing fans, but her depression started soon after
But in 2015 her biggest breakthrough came – she became the presenter of Love Island, with a salary of £ 600,000 a year and lucrative spin-off deals.
But for a woman struggling with self-respect issues, it cannot be easy to be surrounded by an endless rotation of bikini-clad women.
When Love Island bosses reportedly asked to wear a bikini during the show, she refused.
After the tragic suicides of former participants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, she praised the show because she took care of the mental health of the participants and said she had discussed her own concerns with them.
Although her professional life flourished when she helped the Love Island participants look for love, Caroline’s own romantic life was fraught.
In recent years she had a rocky on-off relationship with the former student star, Andrew Brady, 28, with whom she became engaged after a few weeks of dating.
He called the police in November 2018 after believing that she was about to take her own life.
After a brief affair with rugby hunk Danny Cipriani, she met tennis pro and model Lewis Burton, 27, in July last year. And so began the romance that would lead to the devastating series of events.
Soulmate: Caroline Flack with her friend Lewis Burton. Friends believed they would marry
On the night of December 12, she and Burton had been out to dinner at the Soho Bob Bob Ricard nightclub.
What happened next included jealousy and a loss of control, although a friend of hers told me through tears yesterday: “She didn’t do anything wrong, so I can’t understand what happened now.”
Friends of Flack have always maintained that it was a ‘small argument’. But during the drama, blood was shed and her career was damaged.
After being charged with evidence from the police, she was forced to resign from Love Island.
She reportedly learned on Friday that she should be on trial next month, on Saturday, after a friend who “stayed” with her in the shops took her own life.
Although friends confirm that Caroline had used medication to treat depression at the time of her death, they stunnedly claim that she could reach such a low ebb.
Smile mask: Caroline Flack had psychological problems
Because the signs were that she recovered. She had given up drinking and said she felt positive after a break in Los Angeles.
Indeed, she had promised friends that she was looking forward to giving her side of that night’s events and clearing her name next month.
And at least she was glad that Lewis – whom she worshiped – stayed with her. Friends insist that they believe they were on their way to get married this year as soon as the trial was over. She had moved to a new house in East London and started to write a self-help book, partly memoirs, partly advice on solving problems.
But behind the happy facade the fears about appearing in court continued to fade away.
A friend told me: “She couldn’t get her head around the lawsuit.” With tears, he added, “We always said,” it can be repaired. ” Whatever went wrong, we would say, “Oh, never mind, it can be repaired.”
Tragically, it seems that, no matter how brave a face showed, after years of mental torment, this lively young woman no longer believed she could be repaired.
Red nose: Caroline Flack poses during Comic Relief in 2007