In the world of vlogging, Louise Pentland, a self-proclaimed ‘mother and badass, empire-building businesswoman’, is at the head of her pack. Her intimate, and often emotionally raw, videos have clocked up more than 237.4 million views, and this year she was hailed the UK’s most influential mother – or ‘mum-fluencer’. Everything she touches glitters – quite literally.
Louise’s charisma and infectious energy are undeniable when we meet – and it’s clear why she’s so celebrated online. Despite her 2.4 million followers, Louise is one of the most down-to-earth people you could imagine.
Her warmth and welcoming nature will come as no surprise to those who’ve followed her journey, but what may prompt you to pause is learning just how treacherous that path has been. In this searingly honest interview, Louise opens up about the years of abuse she suffered as a child, the healing she’s found in therapy, and spreading the poignant message of never giving up
Social media phenomenon Louise Pentland is clutching two armfuls of sartorial cotton candy from her wardrobe – an array of pink, peaches, and cream. “When I saw the mood board for today’s shoot, I was like: ‘Yay, this is so me!’” she says cheerily, when we meet at the photographer’s studio, boasting panoramic views of the River Thames on a gorgeous day.
Louise is pleased. Straight out of the taxi, sunglasses on, she’s at the water’s edge hoovering up content for her eponymously titled YouTube channel.
One of the vlogging ‘originals’, Louise started out a decade ago, launching an arts, crafts and pregnancy-focused blog called Sprinkle Of Glitter. A YouTube channel followed, which was devoured by a teen market that warmed to her big-sisterly charisma, and often silly content. For the former admin assistant, vlogging became an escape from the seriousness of everyday life.
“It was nice to feel really young, because my life became adult very quickly. I got engaged at 21, bought my first house at 23, was married by 24, and then had a baby at 25. It was a nice release,” explains Louise.
With an ever-expanding following, she began earning enough to quit admin and vlog full-time. Soon she signed to a management agency, and her profile began scaling new heights.
In recent years, Louise has written four books, secured interviews with everyone from Kim Kardashian to Ed Miliband, and, such is her power of influence, was appointed a Change Ambassador for the United Nations in 2016 – the same year she met Pope Francis at a three-day summit at the Vatican about the power of social media to inspire peace and empathy.
Since rebranding her channel in 2016, the year of her divorce from Darcy’s dad after separating in 2014, Louise has favoured content on topics like relationships and careers. Every post is filter-free and searingly honest, frequently reinforcing girl power mantras like ‘good enough is good enough’.
“I think we’d all be happier if we said: ‘We’re just doing our best.’ I don’t know a single person who’s like: ‘I’ve got my life fully together, thank you very much,’” says Louise. “I feel like my audience is inspiring me to be more open. I feel nice because I’m constantly mentally offloading on everyone else. You’re all my therapists!”
When asked whether she gets comfort from the feeling of never being alone, Louise takes a sip of Diet Coke and looks pensive.
“Yeah, I like it,” she says, flashing a cautionary look. “This is going to get deep, quickly,” she warns. “Lonely is my default, so it means I like working alone; I like spending a day on my own, but I also really like that it’s not forced loneliness.”
I feel like my audience is inspiring me to be more open
The forced solitude Louise refers to began when she was five, and her mum, Diana Jane, was diagnosed with cancer. It started in her breast and spread to her brain, and she passed away two years later at the age of 37. What followed for only-child Louise, was the stuff of nightmares.
Soon after her mother’s death, someone in Louise’s family began systematically physically and emotionally abusing her; an ordeal that lasted almost a decade.
“It was super, super physical, emotional and mental abuse – never sexual abuse, which I’m really thankful for – but you know those awful books you read where people say all the horrible things that have happened to them? That was my life for eight years, until I was 15,” explains Louise, who was so frightened of her perpetrator, she kept her ordeal a secret.
Her expression now reveals no apparent pain, only fight, and as a supporter of children’s advice charity ChildLine, she is committed to teaching youngsters that if they are being abused or mistreated, they are never alone.
“Abusers are very clever people. They’re really good at manipulating things. Add in a fear of violence, and it’s easy to make a child not say something. It’s why, in our household, we don’t have secrets, not even ‘here’s a sweetie, don’t tell mummy’, because as soon as you start promoting that in kids, it’s easy for them to keep a secret when something shouldn’t be hidden.”
During this traumatic time, Louise sustained a catalogue of injuries, including broken ribs and bruises left where clothes would hide them. She lost all her friends, such was the emotional impact of the abuse. Then at breaking point, on the eve of the Millennium, at the age of 15, Louise found the courage to tell her dad.
“I told dad I was going to kill myself if he didn’t do something,” says Louise. “I spoke up and on 1 January, 2000, he said that it was going to end. Then that was that, it was done. We call those ‘the dark years’. There’s no pictures from the 90s, there’s no video of it. We just think about it as a sad time. I try not to dwell too much on things, because I would spiral down, pretty quickly.”
Louise, who has a post-graduate diploma in counselling, and once dreamed of being a psychotherapist, is an advocate of therapy and has had “loads” over the years. Louise now turns to counselling during “big life” moments, such as her divorce.
“That was really healing, because I found it hard to know that Darcy was going to have a step-mum. That was really challenging,” she explains. “Recently, I started going to counselling again because, for the first time in my life, everything is really stable and happy. Suddenly I’ve started thinking a lot about what happened and how I feel about my dad, so we’ve started going to counselling together. I love my dad very much because he’s my dad. I don’t love all the choices that he’s made.”
One of Louise’s fondest memories is a holiday to Disneyland Paris when she was seven, which her parents arranged knowing it would be their last “special time” together as a trio. Soon after, Diana’s health deteriorated and in Louise’s heart-wrenching vlog post, My Pink Hair Story, recorded in aid of Cancer Research UK in 2015, she weeps remembering the pain of seeing her mum in hospital: “She belonged at home, with us, in our house, making dinners and watching The Generation Game on a Saturday night with a Domino’s pizza, which is what we did every single Saturday.”
Louise has now been without her mum for 27 years, and although she can’t accurately remember the sound of her voice or her mannerisms any more, Diana remains her hero.
To read more of Louise's exclusive chat with us, pick up the June issue of Happiful in supermarkets from Thursday 16 May.
Louise’s book, ‘Wilde About the Girl’, is available in paperback now (Zaffre, £7.99). Follow Louise on social media @louisepentland