Comedian Katherine Ryan was once investigated by child protection officers who had received a 'malicious and vindictive' false allegation about her.
In an interview with today's You magazine, the 8 Out Of 10 Cats star speaks of the chilling moment she feared her daughter Violet, then four, might be taken away from her.
Recalling how she was contacted by the authorities after stepping off stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, she said: 'I'd made some bad choices for myself, there had been a few volatile men in my life.
'But I was confident of one truth: Violet was impeccably looked after, protected and loved. We were closer than close.
'But now I genuinely did not know if my daughter could be taken away from me. I spent the whole night before their visit crying.'
Child protection officers quickly realised that Violet was in no danger and told her mother the call was probably made by someone 'who wanted vindictively to hurt me'.
The 38-year-old Canadian said: 'They told me this happens a lot. People who want revenge threaten the thing you cherish most.
'I've always known who it was. It was definitely done maliciously because it was the thing that would hurt me most. I felt so vulnerable. It was really scary.'
Violet is now 12 and has a little brother, Fred, born in the summer to Ryan and her husband Bobby, a former high school sweetheart.
They married just months after meeting up again two years ago. Ryan said: 'I wasn't looking for anyone any more, which is how I found him. I was so secure.'
Comedian KATHERINE RYAN escaped an abusive relationship and found her voice as a stand-up. But accusations about her daughter were an even tougher challenge
Katherine wears blazer, top and trousers, Lanvin. Sandals, Sophia Webster. Jewellery, De Beers
If ever someone was top of their game it’s Katherine Ryan. Happily married to her high-school boyfriend Bobby Koostra, three months ago they had a baby boy Fred, a much longed-for brother for Katherine’s 12-year-old daughter Violet. The family live in a mansion in the North London suburbs complete with swimming pool and fields nearby for Violet’s pony. Meanwhile, apparently undaunted by her newborn’s demands, Katherine, 38, seems to be everywhere – appearing on endless panel shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and QI, filming a stand-up show for Amazon Prime, Backstage with Katherine Ryan, and about to embark on a nationwide tour.
It’s quite a trajectory for someone who, just a few years ago, found themselves at rock bottom. Then Katherine was a struggling single mother, with a track record in ‘diabolical’ boyfriends, so poor that she survived on a diet of Rice Krispies with milk snaffled from the offices where she temped and very far from friends and family in her native Canada. The lowest point came one night when, having just come off stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the child protection services called to announce they were investigating allegations made about her and Violet, then four.
Dress, Zimmermann. Shoes, Giuseppe Zanotti. Jewellery, Sarah Ho
‘I’d made bad choices for myself, there had been a few volatile men in my life,’ Katherine says. ‘But I was confident of one truth: Violet was impeccably looked after, protected and loved. We were closer than close. But now I genuinely did not know if my daughter could be taken away from me. I spent the whole night before their visit crying.’ Fortunately, the child protection officers who visited the pair at home concurred that Violet was not in danger but then shocked Katherine by saying she was the person they were really concerned about, as they strongly suspected she’d been reported to them by someone ‘who wanted vindictively to hurt me. They told me this happens a lot; people who want revenge threaten the thing you cherish most,’ she says softly, but radiating a cold fury. For legal reasons, much as she would like to, she can’t name the person she’s sure was responsible. ‘But I’ve always known who it was. It was definitely done maliciously because it was the thing that would hurt me most. I felt so vulnerable. It was really scary.’
Even though the authorities made it clear they were certain Violet was adored and cared for, a petrified Katherine still had to undergo two more official interviews. ‘As intrusive as it was, they were very good at doing their job and I was happy to see that,’ she says.
I felt vulnerable. the more he hurt me the more I wanted to make it work
The incident wasn’t just terrifying, it was also life-changing in helping Katherine make the first steps to this new, happier phase of her life. ‘When the [investigation] was over, I realised that the worst that could happen had happened, but I’d got through it and actually I was really tough. Nothing else could rile me that much again. I became an absolute dragon after that. No men. No thanks. I’d had a few dodgy years and when they were over I was just so grateful I hadn’t had children with any of those horrible men. It sounds really cheesy but I feel like I made a conscious choice to be grateful. And if you have gratitude then more comes into your life to be grateful for.’
Make-up-free and in sweats, in person Katherine is very different to her ultra-glam public persona (she makes no secret of her boob job and admits to having had Botox and fillers). She’s also far milder and less abrasive than her no-holds-barred stage presence might make you suspect.
‘I’m really quiet,’ she says. ‘People think that I stomp around eviscerating anyone who gets in my way, but it takes all my energy to do that on stage. The rest of the time I’m pretty subdued.’
Katherine performing at 2019's Latitude Festival
Now Katherine has written a book outlining how it’s possible to be both a loud-mouthed, sassy comedian in public and a reasonable, pleasant person in private. It’s called The Audacity because, she says, ‘Too often the word “audacity” is used in a negative way to imply that any self-confidence or self-assurance is rude. But I won’t accept that: I’ve just been an audacious little person my whole life.’
Hailing from the industrial city of Sarnia in southwest Ontario, Katherine’s mother acrimoniously divorced her Irish father when Katherine was 15. Katherine recalls watching both her mother and grandmother being limited and constrained by their situations.
‘I was acutely aware they were not personalities who should have remained in that small town, to have traditional families where they stayed home. It made them resentful. I thought, “If this makes them unhappy, why do they wake up and choose this every day?” But they were really encouraging of me so I never felt like things would be tougher or I was any less because I was a woman. I just wasn’t afraid to go for anything, be it entering dancing competitions or speaking up when I had an opinion. I always just got stuck in.’
Eager to broaden her horizons, in 2008 she moved to the UK with Violet’s father, a Canadian (whom she won’t name), who was an aspiring comedian. The idea was