Jacqueline Denise Healy (née Welch;) is an English actress and television presenter. She was born in Ebchester, County Durham and studied at Bygate School and Blackfyne Grammar School. She developed a penchant for acting at the age of 14, after she was cast in a school production of Finnegan’s Rainbow. At the age of 17, she contemplated going to a teacher training college in Crewe, when her father and drama teacher suggested she apply for the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London. She was successful in her application, and remained at the school from 1976 to 1979, gaining her Equity Card while teaching dance at Watford Theatre.
Denise started her career in 1983, performing in theatres. She went on stage at the Astoria Theatre and later joined the Live Theatre Company in Newcastle, playing various roles. She also appeared in the popular musical Grease in 1984. Denise’s television career began in 1981 with an appearance in Barriers. She has had many roles in television series over the years, including Byker Groove from 1990 to 1991, A Kind of Living in 1988 and The Glass Virgin in 1995.
She appeared in ITV’s series Soldier Soldier in 1995. With her role in this series she gained a lot of popularity and due to her success in the series, she released a single in 1995, a double-A side "You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me/Cry Me a River", which reached No. 23 and spent three weeks in the UK singles chart.
Welch gained even wider notoriety in 1997 when she was cast as Natalie Horrocks (later Barnes) in the long running ITV soap opera Coronation Street. The character of Natalie was introduced as the mistress of Kevin Webster, played by Michael Le Vell. A popular character, Natalie rose to landlady of the soap’s public house "The Rovers Return. In 2000 the producers in Coronation Street wanted her to perform a storyline involving Natalie having a miscarriage but she refused it saying the character had already lost her husband and son. She left the serial in 2000 due to her pregnancy and family life. She has guest starred in many series since then.
Since 2005 she has been a regular panellist on ITV1’s topical chat show Loose Women. From 2006 to 2010 she appeared as French teacher Steph Haydock in BBC’s successful drama series, Waterloo Road. More recently, she has starred as a contestant on Dancing on Ice 2011, competing with Matt Evers.
Denise has been married twice. Her first husband was David Easter in 1985, divorced in 1988. She then married Tim Healy in London in 1998. They have two children named Timothy and Louis Vincent.
Denise has suffered from severe clinical depression intermittently throughout her life, which was exacerbated following the birth of her first child. She has confessed that she found it difficult to cope with the pressure that came with being in Coronation Street, once commenting "I don’t know how I did that job. I was desperately ill for most of my time in the Street. It got so bad that I started drinking heavily. I thought it would be a quick-fix way of taking away the pain, but it exacerbated the depression. I could easily down a bottle of wine a day. Other days I would binge-drink until I blacked out. I was still taking anti-depressants and the alcohol would cancel these out - so when I did get an attack of depression it was much worse... There were mornings when I can’t tell you how hard it was to get up for work, and then, when I was on the set, I felt I couldn’t say a line properly. I would watch an episode I’d been in and would hardly remember doing it. But the public never realised."
Denise has confessed that her marriage was nearly ruined because of her mental illness, as well as an affair she had during the midst of her depression. With the help of her former Coronation Street co-star Kevin ’Curly Watts’ Kennedy (a recovering alcoholic), she attended Alcoholics Anonymous and successfully put a stop to her dependency on alcohol. She claims that it was the "hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, but it is also the thing that I’m proudest of. And my mental health is now so much better than it was when I was drinking... I will always have depression - but I’m in control of it now because I’ve given up drinking".
On 29 April 2010 her autobiography ’Pulling Myself Together’ was published in which she described how she got over her problems.