There can be pitfalls as well as pleasures being part of a large famous family as singer and actress Maureen Nolan found out to her cost.
The petite brunette has always been known as ‘the pretty one’ of the famous seventies singing sisters – Anne, Denise, Linda, Bernadette, and the youngest, Coleen who joined the group in 1980.
But while they’ve all enjoyed showbusiness success, their relationships have not gone as harmoniously, and in recent years a family rift split the clan.
That stress, Maureen believes, was a factor in her hair loss, a problem commonly suffered by millions of women, but which she has been reluctant to reveal until now when she has spoken about it to mark Hair Loss Awareness month.
“Hair loss was not something I ever thought would happen to me,” admits Maureen, 56.
“After all, us Nolan girls have always been known for our hair, our crowning glory and mine was very thick.
“When it happened I realised how worrying and upsetting it can be.”
When Maureen first noticed a receding hairline and lack of hair volume, in 2005, she was juggling a family and home life in Blackpool with appearing in London’s West End, in Blood Brothers. She became the fourth Nolan sister to play the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone.
“It was challenging, but hugely enjoyable. But commuting and working hard meant I didn’t concentrate on my diet – fast food and snacks can make you low in vitamins essential for hair health,” says Maureen, currently touring in the comedy The Naked Truth.
The problem worsened in 2006, when disagreements erupted in the family, which left Coleen and Linda not speaking to Anne and Denise.
“When the rows first started it was a horrible time and I didn’t have anything to do with it, but got caught in the middle.
“I’m known as the ‘peacemaker’ in the family – partly I think because of my position in the family as a middle child, and also my laid-back personality and dislike of confrontation.”
Maureen believes a further factor contributed to her stress – the worry of Anne’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2000, and around the time of the family flare-up Linda had just been diagnosed too.
Both recovered and Bernie, diagnosed last year, is also in recovery.
Hair loss, or heavy shedding of hair, can be caused by intense stress on the body’s physical or hormonal systems.
“I was embarrassed talking about my hair issue, particularly as I felt, compared with everyone else’s problems, it seemed insignificant,” said Maureen.
“I feel so lucky it never got so bad that you could see my scalp. I know women can have it much more severely than me. But it’s impossible not to feel stressed, despite the fact you know that probably makes it worse.”
After trying thickening shampoos and re-styling, she resorted to hair extensions, which she wore at her wedding last year to her partner of 22 years, Ritchie Hoyle.
Relief came six months ago, when she started taking a supplement which claims to support hair growth, Viviscal Maximum Strength.
Maureen, who wrote with her sisters, Bernie, Coleen and Linda, their autobiography, The Nolans: Survivors, has vowed in future to be philosophical about her sisters’ fall-out.
“I’ve realised I can’t sort everything out, they’re adults after all, and trying takes a toll on me, so now I’ve resolved to just be there to support them at all times.
“As far as I’m concerned my family, and the people in my life, I love and will love til I die.
“I can’t be bothered with holding grudges or getting upset about little things, especially after the life-threatening illnesses in the family.
“It’s time to move on and say that’s all in the past, time to look forward.”