Charlene White admits she had to learn to be at ‘peace’ with her mum’s death from cancer

Charlene White has told how she’s had to learn to be ‘at peace’ with her mother’s death as she revealed that being ‘angry’ about her mum’s passing ‘doesn’t achieve anything.’

The 43-year-old Loose Women host’s mother Dorrett sadly died from bowel cancer aged just 47 in 2002 when Charlene was just 21 and at the start of her journalism career.

And in an exclusive interview with MailOnline as part of her involvement in the Stand Up To Cancer campaign, Charlene spoke about how Dorrett’s death had an impact on her life, adding that she felt ‘blessed’ that her mum was able to see and be ‘proud’ of the start of her career. 

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Candid: Charlene White has told how she’s had to learn to be ‘at peace’ with her mother’s death as she revealed that being ‘angry’ about her mum’s passing ‘doesn’t achieve anything’

The newsreader was in her teens when her mother first became ill, with the star previously detailing spending much time in the hospital with her two younger siblings while their mother strived to keep things as normal as possible for them. 

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When asked if her mother’s passing spurned her on to really push forward and carve out a successful career in her honour, Charlene noted that it was her parents’ strength and determination as Caribbean immigrants that gave her the drive.

While she added that while some people she knew held onto the feeling of anger after a loved one’s death, she felt that it was important to let go of those feelings and simply make both her her mother and father proud. 

So sad: The 43-year-old Loose Women host’s mother Dorrett sadly died from bowl cancer aged just 47 in 2002 when Charlene was just 21 and at the start of her journalism career

She explained: ‘I think my mum and dad, by nature being Caribbean immigrants made them fighters anyway. That sense of wanting more, wanting to achieve more, and wanting to achieve more than perhaps people think you’re capable of is something that all three of us were brought up with growing up. 

‘Because it’s all my parents knew, and it was that sort of drive they passed onto us.

‘I’ve got friends whose parents have passed and they retain that anger and it’s the anger that drove them to achieve more. Whereas with me, at some point in time I had to become at peace with the fact that she was no longer here. Being angry about it, from my personnel, it didn’t achieve anything?’

She went on: ‘All I’ve ever wanted to do really is to make both of them proud and I am very lucky that my mum was still alive when I got my first ever job in TV as a trainee producer. So before she went, she knew that I was on the path that I had wanted or so long and I feel very blessed that I was able to give that to her before she left.’

Doing her proud: As part of her involvement in the Stand Up To Cancer campaign, Charlene spoke about how Dorrett’s death had an impact on her life, adding that she felt ‘blessed’ that her mum was able to see and be ‘proud’ of the start of her career

Charlene’s impressive career has seen her begin with work experience at The Guardian before going on to land a placement at The New York Post. She’s had stints BBC Radio 1xtra and ITV News Meridian while she was first black woman to present ITV News at Ten.

‘Anger isn’t something that has driven my career thus far’, she noted. ‘I think it’s the drive and determination that both of them gave me and that has what has got me to where I am.’ 

Discussing the tragic time in her life and how important it is to get diagnosed early and know one’s body, Charlene went on to say: ‘My mum died when she was only 47, leaving behind three children. I was in my 20s, my sister in her teens and my brother was only eight. I think she was at the time, the only person I’ve ever known who had died from cancer. 

‘But now, I know a ton of people who have died from cancer, I know best friends of mine now who are currently battling their own cancer diagnosis and trying to survive and trying to get treatment so that they can have a future with their own children. 

Honest: Charlene noted that while some people she knew held onto the feeling of anger after a loved one’s death, she felt that it was important to let go of those feelings and simply make both her her mother and father proud

‘I think that it is down to yes, early diagnosis, but it also comes down to research, to treatment and it comes down to regular testing. All those sorts of things are issues that SUTC really needs to fight for and that’s why I love this campaign.’ 

On why the SU2C campaign is so important, Charlene said: ‘Obviously with my experience with my mum, having passed from bowel cancer, it’s been something that I feel is something to stand up and talk about because essentially if you get yourself diagnosed early, whichever cancer you have, it does increase your chances of surviving. 

‘I think it’s important that people are educated about that and can understand that you can be in charge of your own life expectancy by really understanding your body and really not ignoring the signs that your body may be giving you that your body may not necessarily be OK.’

Meanwhile, as Charlene speaks of her pride at her parents’ immigrant background, the presenter will look back further into her family’s past with her new documentary Empire’s Child, which explores how the legacy of the British Empire has shaped her family history.

Her truth: ‘With me, at some point in time I had to become at peace with the fact that she was no longer here. Being angry about it, from my personnel, it didn’t achieve anything?’

Important: ‘I think that it is down to yes, early diagnosis, but it also comes down to research, to treatment and it comes down to regular testing. All those sorts of things are issues that SUTC really needs to fight for and that’s why I love this campaign’

Discussing the filming of the show, commissioned as part of ITV’s celebration of Black History Month, Charlene told how she initially planned to keep her cool journalist’s head, but soon discovered that the deeper she delved into the past, the more emotional she became.

She said of the show: ‘Empire’s Child is about where I sit in the British Empire as a child of immigrants here. It’s basically looking at the roots of my mum’s maiden name and looking to see how far back in history we’d be able to go in history to figure out where the surname came from. 

‘To figure about more about my history, by nature, of essentially descending from slaves can be very difficult to work out where you come from because a lot of those documents were destroyed after independence or are under lock and key with the national archive. So these things, it can be quite difficult. 

‘But the genealogist that worked on this went further than they ever thought possible, which was quite a shock. Because it turned out that the record for my family were actually well kept and were traceable, so it just was an incredible journey.’

History: The presenter will look back further into her family’s past with her new documentary Empire’s Child, which explores how the legacy of the British Empire has shaped her family history

She continued: ‘I started it with very much a journalist’s mind and heart, like I was thinking “do not get connected to the story”. But by the end of the programme, I became a lot more emotional than I ever expected her to be and the story hit me in the heart in a way that I was not expecting. 

‘The detachment that I wanted to have with this programme just didn’t happen. And it was an overwhelming sense of finally understanding the roots of me, it’s just hit me like a ten ton truck in the heart!

‘There’s a moment in the film where essentially, you just slowly see me crumble because I was in a really fortunate position where I was able to figure out where I come from and to find out those stories of my family and to figure out where I sit within the British Empire as a black British woman who is born of immigrants, not everybody gets to do that.’

Reflecting on the experience, Charlene revealed that she hoped that it would encourage people to reach out to their grandparents and learn more about their family past before the opportunity goes. 

Unexpected: ‘I started it with very much a journalist’s mind and heart, like I was thinking “do not get connected to the story”. But by the end of the programme, I became a lot more emotional than I ever expected’

‘I think that what I hope by the end of programme that people understand that how important it is to have that understanding of who you are and who your family are’ she explained.

‘By asking the questions of the older generation before they’re no longer here. There are a lot of questions that we could’ve gotten answered if granddad had been here. My grandad died the year that I was pregnant with my eldest, and he just couldn’t. I really really wished that he was still here because there are stories that we found that I wish I could have sat own and spoken to him about.

‘So I really want people to watch this and to pick up the phones to their grandparents, their great-grandparents and say look we need to chat. Just to hear those stories, write down those stories and remember, because I can guarantee that all of us will reach some point in our lifetime where we wish we did.

To find out more about Stand Up To Cancer and how you can support, visit su2c.org.uk or channel4.com/SU2C. 

Charlene White: Empire’s Child airs Thursday 21st October at 9pm on ITV.  

Identity: ‘I think that what I hope by the end of programme that people understand that how important it is to have that understanding of who you are and who your family are’