Mollie King always seems to be smiling. When she’s papped outside the supermarket, she’s grinning. When she’s spotted leaving the BBC offices, she looks like she’s won the lottery. But behind closed doors she’s prone to stress, she says, and finds it hard to balance home life with her role in the limelight.
“I’m quite an anxious person and I always want to be doing my best and to make sure that all my loved ones around me are happy. I often worry about those things and I want to check in with my family a lot,” she tells HuffPost UK. “I get bogged down with work too, I find it hard to switch off.”
The Saturdays singer-turned-presenter says long London walks across Wimbledon Common or Richmond Park with her dog, Alfie, help to clear her head.
“The worst thing I can do if I’m feeling a bit stressed and a bit anxious is to just sit inside because then it all bottles up,” she says. “For me, it’s all about just getting out and finding a way to be active.”
A simple walk in the park helps her to break the cycle of overthinking and bring her mind back into the present moment. “It’s just about zoning out of everything, focusing on exactly what I’m doing and taking in everything that’s in the park and just watching how much fun Alfie is having,” she says.
When a walk with her beloved pooch doesn’t hit the spot, King heads for some one-on-one combat, sparring with her Muay Thai boxing instructor. “He works me so hard there’s no chance at all of thinking about work,” she laughs.
“I find that if I go to the gym on my own and I’m on the cross trainer or something, my mind switches back to work. But with the boxing I have to be really focused – or I’ll end up getting punched!”
She admits that she hasn’t always been so proactive when it comes to self-care. When The Saturdays finished their greatest hits tour in late 2014 and decided to take a break from the music scene, it hit King hard. She’d dreamed of being in a pop band since childhood, working at record labels during summer school holidays as a teen.
“When that dream became a reality with The Saturdays, I felt like the luckiest person in the world,” she recalls. “And when we said we were going to be taking a break, it was kind of that moment I had been dreading for years.
“Obviously no band can go on forever and I always knew that the day would be coming, but when we did finally say officially ‘that’s the last tour we’re going to be doing for now’, I really struggled.”
King embarked on a solo music career, but when her first two singles failed to get chart success she was left wondering what life without the band meant for her. “I felt a little bit lost,” she admits.
“It was a strange and sad thing to realise that I probably wouldn’t find a job that I loved as much as the one I’d had, and I’d done that by the age of 27. I went through a patch where I was struggling to deal with the fact that it was over.”
Salvation came in the form of sequins, when King was invited to take part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2017. “I had this whole new lease of life and energy: a) because it was performing again and b) because I was in a team with AJ [Prichard],” she says. “I think having those two things on Strictly just gave me the same buzz again. I got on so well with my partner and it put me back on my two feet. It made me feel like I can move forward and I can do other things.”
The pair, who were romantically linked but never confirmed a relationship, made it to the show’s semi-final. And though she didn’t get to lift the glitter ball trophy, King was offered a few guests slots presenting on BBC Radio 1. The offer of a permanent position soon followed, but a crisis of confidence threatened to quash her show before it had even begun.
“It was so exciting and was literally like a dream job because it was music. But of course when something means that much to you it comes with a lot of stress as well because you want to do a good job,” she says. “When it was coming up to that first show I was feeling really stressed out and nervous about it.”
The solution? Losing track of time on a long walk with Alfie. “I remember feeling like ‘I’m going to be a let down on this’ – but that walk helped me to focus on the things that were worth worrying about and separate them from the thoughts that just stemmed from me being really insecure and nervous,” she recalls.
A year later, she’s settled into her role presenting Radio 1’s Weekend Breakfast alongside Matt Edmondson and has recently bagged a new Friday morning show, Best New Pop, where she gets to return to her first love, playing pop to the masses.
“I feel so lucky to be in a position again where I wake up and I love my job. I’m so happy to say that I’ve come out of that period where I was finding things confusing and sad,” she says. “I think going through times like that does make you really appreciate when you are having a good time.”