It has been just over a year since the death of her beloved husband, showbiz legend Sir Bruce Forsyth. And now, Lady Winelia Forsyth - a former Miss World - is relishing her return to her modelling roots at the age of 61, having stepped away from her career during her 34-year marriage. "I started modelling when I was 13; it was my world, so this has really brought back so many wonderful memories," she told HELLO! in November 2018, after becoming the face of JD Williams's Christmas collection. "It’s also been amazing because it has helped to take my mind off my grief. Keeping busy is good for me."
And Wilnelia is especially thrilled to be fronting a campaign aimed at her fellow "midsters" - the over-45s. "Embracing women in this age group is liberating," she explained. "The clothes are so elegant, fit beautifully and cater for so many sizes. We can dress well, look fabulous and feel good. Age is just a number. I think Bruce would be so proud." But although she is stepping back into work, the Puerto Rican-born beauty – described by her husband as "my darling Wilnelia" – confessed she is not ready to start dating again. "That is the last thing I’m thinking about," she revealed. "Bruce wanted me to be happy – and right now, I am happy."
"Bruce wanted me to be happy – and right now, I am happy," said Wilnelia
Winnie, as she is affectionately known, met Bruce in 1980 when they were judging the Miss World show in London; she was 21, and he was 53. Five years earlier, she had become the first Puerto Rican Miss World and had been snapped up by top modelling agency Ford in New York. Cynics said their relationship would never last, but they remained devoted to each other until Sir Bruce’s death in August 2017 from bronchial pneumonia, at the age of 89. "We had a huge age difference, but it just seemed to work," she said. "I could talk to Bruce about anything; he made me laugh about silly things and we enjoyed each other’s company and never took each other for granted. He was such an inspiration for me in many ways and my mentor. I had a feeling when I married Bruce that I had married him forever."
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The couple’s son Jonathan Joseph, who arrived four years after their 1983 nuptials, has been a "rock", said Wilnelia. "He’s been incredible. JJ comes over almost every day and we are spending more time together because he’s my escort to events for my charity work. He’s an amazing boy and has a lovely girlfriend. I hope one day to be a grandmother. I love children so much." Family has always been a priority to Wilnelia and Sir Bruce’s five daughters – Debbie, Julie and Laura from his first marriage to Penny Calvert and Charlotte and Louisa from his second marriage to his The Generation Game co-star Anthea Redfern – have also been a great support. "We talk anytime I need to and share stories," she shared. "I’m so lucky to have them in my life."
The former Miss World spoke to HELLO!
Wilnelia revealed that she still talks every day to Sir Bruce, whose ashes were laid to rest under the London Palladium stage in a private family ceremony a year to the day after his death. And as she reminisces about him at the stunning home they shared in Surrey, it is obvious how much she misses him. "He really was my soulmate and will always be in my heart," she confessed. "It’s not easy, but Bruce wanted me to stay strong. I think grieving is a journey and I will get there. I’m getting stronger every day, thanks to friends and family. I’m a positive person and am trying to enjoy life now. I don’t want to worry about the future or the past."
With a smile, she recalled how she thought Sir Bruce – whose final star turn in his 75-year career was as the twinkle-toed host of Strictly Come Dancing – was a Latin man when she first met him due to his dancing skills. "He asked me to dance and that was that," she said. "I still dance as much as I can, especially with my mother Delia. She’s staying with me at the moment and although she doesn’t like exercising, she does like dancing. With Latin dance, you have to move every muscle."
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"I still watch Strictly, but not as much as I used to," she added. "It’s not easy, sometimes. But Claudia [Winkleman] and Tess [Daly] are doing a fantastic show, and I’m in touch a lot with Tess." After back surgery a few years ago, Wilnelia keeps her enviable figure in shape through gentle exercise. "I’m not passionate about the gym so I exercise at home," she said. "Pilates is one of the best exercises and I love walking. I’ve also started playing golf again. For me, everything is in moderation. Life is wonderful and you can’t be on a diet all the time; the key is to have willpower. I sometimes have a one-day fast, usually after a Sunday roast. Then I won’t eat until the following lunchtime. It works for me."
She added: "I can’t believe I’m 61. My mother would always lie about her age; it’s common in the Latin world. Now I understand why. But it’s about how you feel and how you look. Sometimes I’m so sad about Bruce, I feel like I’m 100; and then on other days I feel great. I go out and it’s very flattering when people tell me: ‘You don’t look your age.’" Wilnelia also takes comfort that Sir Bruce, who hosted countless classic shows, including The Generation Game and Play Your Cards Right, is so fondly remembered by the public. "I was shopping for Christmas this week and a lady told me how much she missed my husband," she revealed. "We finished up embracing each other; somebody I had never met in my life. Moments like that can be very emotional, but it’s wonderful to know they still have this admiration and affection for Bruce."
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