Sarah Ferguson: From royalty to reality TV

Spoke to Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, about her book and her show on OWN. Here’s our interview in today’s Post, July 11 2011:

Sarah Ferguson’s new book and six-part docu-series on Oprah’s OWN both begin with the Duchess recounting a fairy tale. “Once upon a time I was a princess, married to a handsome prince, and living in a palace,” she says in her memoir, Finding Sarah: A Duchess’s Journey to Find Herself.

Twenty-five years ago, Ferguson married Prince Andrew at Westminster Abbey. Their romance captivated millions, not unlike the union of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who are now on a Royal tour of Canada that wraps up Friday.

But the former couple’s fairy tale unravelled: “I got divorced, started my life over with two daughters, went broke twice. … I never imagined I could live so unhappily ever after,” Ferguson writes.

This is where viewers meet the Duchess in her reality TV show. Trudging through greenery in an oversize jean shirt and purple rain boots, her face clean of makeup. Later, she is seated opposite celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, daubing her eyes with a handkerchief. These scenes, the 51-year-old admits, are hard for her to watch.

“The first couple of episodes, I think: ‘Oh no, how did you get to the point where you were so lost?’ ” Ferguson says in a telephone interview from New York. “In other words, I’ve come so far that looking back at that broken woman makes me feel sad for her.”

Over the years, Ferguson has been assailed by the press. Last year, she accepted cash from a journalist posing as an investor, leading to a scandal with hidden camera footage.

“I was coming to a point where I was working so hard in order to meet the bills,” she says. “I was working myself into the ground. Even if I had found the money to sort it out, I had not woken up so it would have happened again.”

To wake herself up, she sought the help of Oprah Winfrey’s experts, including Dr. Phil and financial advisor Suze Orman, who told her to find her own self-worth. Ferguson also went on a 41-kilometre trek across Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories to Yellowknife. “When I got that feeling of hypothermia and a frozen nose, I did think, ‘What was I doing?’ ” Ferguson says. “It certainly knocks any form of sissiness out of you.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton also stopped in Yellowknife this week. Ferguson did not accompany her daughters and ex-husband to their April wedding, which filled her with melancholy. But she says she is determined to endure.

“A year ago, I would never have even picked up the telephone,” Ferguson says. “Now the book is out and the docuseries will come to an end … and then I think I would’ve started a fresh new page. … Now it is time to move on.”

Finding Sarah airs at 8 p.m. Fridays on OWN.

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