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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Jessica Sansome

Real life of Coronation Street's Gemma Winter actress Dolly-Rose Campbell - before fame, rival soap role, sexuality acceptance and incredible skill

All eyes are set to be on Gemma Winter as she finally walks down the aisle to tie the knot with Chesney Brown in one of the biggest and boldest dresses Weatherfield has ever seen. Coronation Street viewers will finally get to see the lovebirds wed with Gemma, played by Dolly-Rose Campbell, donning the dress of her dreams.

The couple's romance has been a series of ups and downs, from the high of giving birth to quads on a cable car to the lows of struggling to make ends meet, one thing that has stayed strong is their love for each other and their big blended family.

And everyone is determined to have the best day ever - in particular twin brother Paul who is keeping his devastating Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis a secret so his family can enjoy the big day. But, as his condition worsens, questions are hanging over whether he'll be able to walk her down the aisle as promised.

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There is, however, one thing that is for certain - and that is that all eyes will be on Gemma as she walks down the aisle in an impressive two-metre wide dress, with a stunning seven-metre long train, complete with fairy lights. On screen, mum-of-four Gemma has bought a charity shop dress which has been dyed and customised by her pal, seamstress Izzy Armstrong, played by Cherylee Houston.

However, in reality, the huge jaw-dropping orange wedding gown has been co-designed and made by drag queen and fashion designer Liquorice Black. Famous for their stunning unique creations for shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, Liquorice Black has teamed up with Coronation Street's head of costume Alex Hatzar to create the impressive gown, which was crafted at Liquorice Black's studio in Manchester.

And Dolly-Rose got a say on how it was done. "I based the idea off weddings I had seen as a child because these would have been the weddings Gemma would have seen as a child, growing up in the nineties," she told the Manchester Evening News and other press.

"But then, added extra touches such as the fairy lights which were a little bit extra and that's quite Gemma." And on the orange, she revealed: "The colour was the idea of our costume designer Alex. She really wanted it to be orange because it's the most Chesney colour which we all found so funny. We agreed!"

Gemma and Chesney are tying the knot in Coronation Street (ITV)

And the actress, who first appeared in the cobbles as Gemma in 2014, says that the extravagant gown was more comfortable than most of her character's wardrobe. "I was just blown away by the dress. It's an absolute work of art," she told us. "The detail that's gone into is just beyond anything I ever imagined and it was comfortable. Compared to a lot of Gemma's other costumes, because it was made to fit me from scratch, it was comfortable."

But, away from the cameras, Dolly-Rose couldn't look further away from her soap persona. While Gemma is often filmed wearing bright make-up with pink lipstick and blue eyeshadow, with her bleached blonde hair always in a playful updo, buns, bunches, or a high ponytail, the soap favourite sports a more pared-back and understated image, with her naturally curly hair and minimal make-up.

Dolly-Rose, from Salford, often keeps her personal matters fairly private - while character Gemma's love life has been at the centre of some of Corrie's explosive scenes - from her one-night stand with Tyrone to her fling with faux-millionaire Henry Newton, before finally finding her happy ever after with Chesney.

Dolly-Rose sports a very different look to Gemma (Getty Images)

And, while the soap star's real relationships have been kept under wraps, she did come out as bisexual in 2019. Dolly-Rose has that revealed that she credits Manchester Pride as the reason she has been able to accept her sexuality.

"I have been coming to Pride for over a decade now, the love and acceptance shown by the people of Manchester allowed me to accept my bisexuality and be proud of who I am," she said.

The actress added: "The work that Manchester Pride does throughout the year to engage with and create opportunities for people in Manchester’s LGBT+ community and beyond makes a huge difference to so many people’s lives.”

Dolly-Rose also said she wants to focus on helping others come to terms with their sexuality in her role as ambassador for the annual LGBTQ+ event. In her own life, she has been supported by her nearest and dearest with her sexuality, reports Daily Star.

"I have always been supported by my friends and family – for people who are struggling, I would always say people who mind don't matter, people who matter don't mind," she said.

Dolly-Rose at Manchester Pride (Andrew Stuart/MEN)

As for Dolly-Rose's career, she first hit the cobbles as Gemma nearly 10 years ago and she has gone on to star in action-packed storylines - from a criminal past to mothering quadruplets with Chesney. She has twice been crowned funniest female in the soap world for her portrayal of Gemma.

When she was 15, she used to meet her friend at a youth theatre in Bolton. Stepping onto the stage was instant love for the teenager and, after finishing school, Dolly-Rose studied her craft at Manchester’s Arden School of Theatre.

Her first TV gig, however, was in daytime soap Doctors, where she played Sasha Dyson in 2010 for a number of episodes. She didn't get her big break in Corrie for another four years, when she made it through the audition process to play ex-convict Gemma.

But, before her acting career took off, Dolly-Rose worked as a bartender - a skill which later came in handy when pulling pints as Gemma in the Rover's Return. "I’ve worked behind a bar in real life, it was before Coronation Street when I worked in radio. I did hospitality and bar work," she previously shared.

Dolly signing as Gemma in Corrie (ITV)

And, in more recent years on Corrie, viewers have seen Gemma put her son Aled's needs first. Back in 2021, viewers saw Gemma sign for the first time after one of her and partner Chesney's quads was diagnosed with profound deafness.

The couple were torn over whether their son should have an implant operation and in the meantime, Gemma started to learn British Sign Language (BSL) and sought the help of Freda Burgess and a BSL teacher called Charlie. But Gemma was later left horrified when Freda took Aled away after learning of the mum's decision over Aled's implant.

But after their worrying hostage situation, Aled later had the cochlear implant and, late last year, Gemma and her mum Bernie, played by Jane Hazlegrove, staged a sit-in at her stepson Joseph's school when the teacher told him off for using sign language at school.

And it's not just Gemma who has a passion for learning sign language, as Dolly-Rose has also put in the work behind the scenes and is currently working on her British Sign Language Level 2 Certificate. "It's getting quite difficult but I am enjoying it," the actress, who has appeared as Gemma in Corrie since 2014, told the Manchester Evening News and other press.

Asked why she decided to learn personally to sign, Dolly-Rose explained: "For me, we were going to have a deaf actor on set as part of our family and he can't learn not to be deaf so it made sense for me or Sam [Aston] or Jane [Hazlegrove] to learn to sign so that we can help him when he needs help.

"The actor that we've got, his parents are also deaf so it's nice to be able to sit and talk to them when they bring him in for filming and just make them feel included." She added: "It can be quite difficult sometimes for deaf people because the support they need is not always there and the more people that can sign, the easier it is for them."


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