My heart was broken when I went on X Factor & I drank away the pain… becoming a dad has changed me says Jake Quickenden | The Sun

WHEN Jake Quickenden shot to fame on The X Factor in 2012, he was going through unimaginable heartache.

Months before it aired he'd lost younger brother Oliver, aged 19, to bone cancer. Four years earlier, he'd lost dad Paul to a different form of the same cruel disease.

Jake, 34, has previously admitted he dealt with his pain "badly" by hitting the bottle.

"I was just going out and getting so drunk I couldn't remember anything. I'd lay in bed all day and be depressed," he confessed.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Jake reveals becoming a dad to Leo, now two, who he shares with therapist wife Sophie Church, has changed him for the better – and helped heal his broken heart.

“I just feel like a different person. It’s been the making of me," he tells us.


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“I was a bit immature before I was a dad – don't get me wrong, I still am immature – but he's just brought something out in me. 

“He's fixed a bit of my heart that maybe was broken when I lost my dad and my brother. He's just helped me be a better person. He's amazing.”

Jake and Sophie, 29 – who married in Ibiza last year – welcomed Leo in February 2021. Sophie was already mum to Fred, seven, from a previous relationship.

Jake tells us: “I love Fred, my step-son, and I'd already had that experience of being a dad with him, but I never got to experience the early ages with him because he was nearly four when I met Soph.

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Jake says Leo has brought out the best in himCredit: jakequickenden/ Instagram
Jake gets upset his son will never meet his grandpa or Uncle Oliver

“But I love Leo, and I get these wonderful moments every day where he just makes me laugh, gives me kisses and tells me he loves me.

"I just think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the most incredible thing ever'.”

Sad realisation

Jake admits he gets upset when he thinks about how Leo will never meet his grandpa or Uncle Oliver.

He says: “I wish he had Uncle Oliver around because he's got Uncle Adam, my older brother, but they're so different. 

“Oliver would be more like me. He'd be the one trying to make Leo swear and stuff, and I'd have to be like, 'Oliver. What are you doing?' 

“It upsets me, but it's life. People lose people. People go through this kind of stuff. And it's always hard, but we've got to get on with it. 

“We've got to be strong and find ways to deal.”

It upsets me, but it's life. People lose people. People go through this kind of stuff. And it's always hard, but we've got to get on with it

To keep Oliver and Paul’s memories alive, Jake has pictures of his family all around his house.

He admits he can feel himself turning into his dad now that he’s a father, adding: “I always tell him stories, and I say, 'Your uncle Oliver would do this,' or, 'Your granddad would do that,' and I show him pictures, so he'll always know. 

“But they live on in us. They live on in me. 

“He'll get bits of my brother that are similar to me, and I am my dad. Everything that I learned from him, I'm now doing myself, so he'll always be surrounded by them."

He adds: "Grief is the hardest thing you can go through. It's such a weird thing because it could just pop up at any moment.

"I am somebody that will continue to talk about my grief and continue to talk about my brother because I loved him so much. I adored everything about him.”

Doing them proud

As part of his efforts to keep their memories alive, Jake ran the London Marathon last weekend, dressed as a bone.

The star, who raised over £15,000 for Sarcoma UK, said the reason he kept "plodding along” was Oliver, who he felt was with him all the way around the course.

Jake will also take on comedian Paul Smith in his professional MMA debut at the AO Arena in Manchester later this year.

“I'm stupid and I like to challenge myself,” he chuckles. “I like to push my boundaries.

"I feel like when I've got something to train or reach for, I function better as a person for the people around me. 

"When I'm not doing anything and I'm sad, I get a little bit twitchy and be a bit of a nightmare. 

“My dad will be looking down. He was a boxer, and I never boxed when he was alive.

“I was always the footballer in the family, so let's prove to my dad that I can go and do this.”

I'm A Celeb

Jake's hunger for a challenge was evident during his I’m A Celebrity stint back in 2014 – and he admits he’d have jumped at the chance to be part of the all-star series in South Africa, currently airing on ITV.

"Course I'd do it again – I'd do anything for money!" he exclaims.

“It was one of the best experiences, I was so grateful to get that show anyway because I was fairly unknown.

“I would have loved to get the chance to go back, but there's been that many people, and they know what they're doing picking those people.”

Recalling his time in the jungle, Jake says he found it bizarre how all the cameramen ignored the campmates.

He says: “When you walk into the trials, you've got cameramen filming you but they literally ignore you. 

“So I used to be like, 'What's the score of the Man United game on the weekend?' And they'd look at you like you're not there.

“One of them was eating Tic Tacs and I was like, ‘I need one, please give me a Tic Tac!’ and he just shakes his head at you. They don't even speak!”

Jake has teamed up with sustainable online grocer Motatos and was at Anfield on Earth Day handing out 580 meals to football fans.

He says: “Around £720 worth of food goes straight into the bin every year in the average household. That equates to 580 meals, which could feed a lot of people.

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“Since becoming a dad I’ve realised how much food can be wasted. I'm trying to do something about it myself, like saving it, and not throwing something out because it says it's off on that day.

“Most food isn’t going to kill you if you eat it a few days after the sell-by date!”

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