WHEN we launched our annual competition to find the UK’s top mums earlier this year, our celebrity judges – TV presenter Rochelle Humes, bestselling author Giovanna Fletcher, Good Morning Britain’s Kate Garraway and The Sun columnist Deborah James – had no idea how tough it would be to choose their champions.
We had over 1,000 nominations vying for the crowns of best Stepmum, Survivor Mum, Single Mum, Foster Mum and Supermum Of The Year, which came with the top-notch prize of a Fabulous makeover and a two-night spa break worth £1,000.
These are the top five super-women who came out on top in this year’s Fabulous Mum Of The Year awards![/caption]
Whether it was overcoming adversity, campaigning for change or being a shoulder to cry on, every single entry was a worthy winner.
“Judging this competition was so difficult because every mum deserves some extra-special recognition today,” says mum-of-three Giovanna, 34. “But I’m in awe of the women we’ve chosen – they really are wonder-mums!”
Without further ado, let’s meet the five super-women who came out on top.
Supermum of the Year: Thuto Mali, 37
A FULL-time campaigner, Thuto lives in London with her son Kayan, two. She was nominated by her sister Manzi, 25, who says:
“My sister has saved my life in more ways than one. She guided me through life when our mother died in 2001 and became a second mum to me. Thuto’s been my rock over the past few months, as I suffered a stillbirth and then had a seizure and almost died.
This year’s Supermum Of The Year is the amazing Thuto Mali – a full-time campaigner who has saved her sister in more ways than one[/caption]
“She’s also raising the kindest little boy, Kayan, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, while campaigning to make childcare more affordable for parents. I feel so lucky to be able to call her my sister.”
Thuto says: “When Manzi called to tell me that I’d won Fabulous Supermum Of The Year, I couldn’t believe it. When our mum Nomathemba died aged just 39 from heart failure, I was there for Manzi because she’s my sister and I love her – I never expected any recognition.
“I started campaigning after becoming a mum to Kayan in 2016. I was on my own, which was tough, and then I was forced to turn down my dream job as a communications officer paying £32k last year, because I couldn’t afford to put Kayan in nursery full-time.
“It seemed so unfair, so in July I signed up to the Save the Children campaign to encourage the government to help parents with upfront childcare costs.
“Currently, parents who are claiming Universal Credit have to pay their monthly childcare bill upfront.
I then launched a Change.org petition, which gained nearly 80,000 signatures in just a few days. I was invited to give evidence on why the current system needed to change at the Work and Pensions Committee in Parliament in October.
“But days later, Manzi suffered a stillbirth at 28 weeks and I dropped everything. Just a few days after she was sent home from hospital, she had a seizure while calling me.
“I called an ambulance and she was rushed to hospital where they found she had sepsis. Manzi was put in an induced coma and I sat with her until she recovered.
“It was terrifying, but we’re now closer than ever. I’m taking Manzi to the spa with me – she deserves a break.”
Survivor Mum of the Year: Zoe Daniel, 36
STAY-at-home mum Zoe lives in Kent with her partner, Micah, 34, and their children Mia, nine, Levi, five, and Asher, two.
Her best friend Zoe Penney, 35, nominated her, saying: “Zoe has endured so much since her daughter suffered life-changing injuries in a car accident three years ago, but she never complains and is always so positive.
Our Survivor Mum Of The Year is Zoe Daniel, who has remained positive while enduring so much since her daughter Mia suffered life-changing injuries in a car accident[/caption]
“She barely has time to sit down, never mind get her hair done, so I’m excited for her to be fussed over for once.”
Zoe says: “I’m still completely blown away that I’ve won! Zoe nominated me in secret so it’s been a complete surprise, but I’m so grateful she did.
“My world changed in July 2016, when I was pregnant and my sister took my daughter Mia, then six, to Thorpe Park as a birthday treat, while the rest of us stayed at home. On the way there a tree fell on to their car, leaving Mia with a brain injury.
“She was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition and I was told we might lose her. As a mum, those are the last words you want to hear. Mia survived, but she suffered devastating injuries.
“Unable to walk or talk, she was in intensive care for two weeks. I gave birth to Asher three months later in October 2016 and it was tough juggling life with a newborn as well as looking after Mia, who was constantly in and out of hospital having physio and learning to speak again.
“Nearly three years on, although she’ll never be the same as before the accident and has to attend a special education school, I’m really proud of her.
“My life has changed so much since the accident and looking after my kids takes up a lot of time.
“While it’s been incredibly difficult, I feel lucky that everyone around me has been so supportive – and seeing my children playing happily together makes it all worthwhile. I also can’t remember the last time I was pampered, so thank you, Fabulous!”
Stepmum of the Year: Andrea James, 55
ANDREA works part-time at a charity and lives in Oxfordshire with her husband Dave, 62. Her niece Rebekah O’Malley, 28, nominated her and says:
“When I lost my mum Petra, 53, in April 2009, it was so hard. But Andrea was there for me night and day, even though she was also dealing with the loss of her sister.
Andrea James is our Stepmum Of The Year and was nominated by her niece Rebekah because she was there for her ‘day and night’ after the loss of her mum[/caption]
I feel closer to my mum when I’m with her and she makes me smile every day.”
Andrea says: “I might not officially be Rebekah’s stepmum, but I’m touched that she sees me that way.
“Not having children of my own, I always wanted to be the best auntie I could and made sure I was a big part of Rebekah and her five brothers’ lives.
“When Petra died from a kidney infection following a lung transplant, it was a huge blow. I was extremely upset, but seeing how hard Rebekah took the news broke my heart.
“As she was the only girl in a house full of boys, I told her that my home was always open if she ever wanted to stay. Just a few months after we lost Petra, Rebekah’s dad Peter, 62, went blind due to medication he was taking for an infection.
“She became depressed and overdosed in spring 2013 when she was 22. Afterwards, I promised her I would do whatever it took to help her get better.
“I became the first person Rebekah called whenever she needed advice, like when she moved to London in September 2017. In return, she always surprises me with meals and flowers on Mother’s Day.
“While we miss Petra every day, my sister would be happy knowing that I was looking out for her little girl.”
Foster Mum of the Year: Agnes Rainbow, 71
FOSTER mum Agnes lives in Bedford with her husband Rob, 73. She was nominated by granddaughter Kirsty Selfridge, 28, who says:
“My nan is truly the most amazing woman you could wish for. She’s always rushing around after everyone and has spent the last 35 years fostering more than 100 children, as well as raising three children and four stepchildren, and now she’s focusing on fostering new mums and babies.
Our Foster Mum Of The Year is the inspiring Agnes Rainbow – her granddaughter describes her as ‘the most amazing woman you could wish for’[/caption]
“On top of that, she climbed Mount Snowdon last year, so I think it’s about time she put her feet up and enjoyed a well-earned treat.”
Agnes says: “Winning this amazing title has definitely put a smile on my face – I had no idea Kirsty had nominated me and I couldn’t be prouder! I guess I’ve had lots of practice as a foster mum with the hundreds of children that have passed through my doors.
“Rob and I started doing it back in 1984, because even though we had seven children between us, we still wanted more in our lives, so decided to foster as well.
“Fostering quickly became my passion and over the years we’ve taken in children of many different ages and backgrounds, who always became a part of our family.
“It’s a real joy to help a child who hasn’t had the best start in life stand on their own two feet, although it can be tough, too.
“In around 2009, I took in one troubled youngster who stole my car and crashed it into my neighbour’s house!
For the past decade, we’ve chosen to foster mums and babies, which is so rewarding as a lot of these women are very young or need extra support for whatever reason, and without our help their babies may have ended up in care.
“I love helping to keep their little families together and wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Single Mum of the Year: Joanne Bee, 42
MUM-of-five Joanne is an accountant and lives in south London with her children Luke, 21, Sophie, 15, Katie, 12, Maisie, nine, and Hollie, five.
She was nominated by eldest daughter Sophie, who says: “My mum has brought me up to be the well-disciplined, happy and productive young woman that I am today.
Joanne Bee, our Single Mum Of The Year, is a mum-of-five who has managed to support her family after the death of her partner, while keeping his memory alive[/caption]
“Since my dad died in 2014, she’s done everything she can to keep his memory alive for us and has managed to support our family all by herself. I can only hope to be just as strong and beautiful as her when I’m a mum.”
Joanne says: “This is such a huge honour. When I heard that Sophie had nominated me, I burst into tears. Five years ago my life was in bits after my partner Phil, 51, died suddenly of a heart attack – I was eight months pregnant at the time.
“I kissed him goodbye that morning as he went off to work as a labourer, then got a call two hours later saying he’d been rushed to hospital.
“When doctors made the decision to turn his life support off the next day, I was beside myself with grief – it had all happened so fast.
“The hardest part was telling the children that their daddy wouldn’t be coming home. The next few days were a blur of tears and shock, but then on January 19, 2014, I went into early labour, three weeks before my due date.
“Without Phil by my side I was terrified, and when I gave birth to our daughter Hollie, it was so bitter-sweet. She was beautiful, but it was heartbreaking knowing she’d never meet her dad.
“Then, just six days after Hollie was born, my dad Len, 82, lost his battle with dementia. It all seemed so unfair and looking back, I don’t know how I made it through.
“It was a huge struggle looking after my children – who missed their dad and wouldn’t let me out of their sight because they were terrified I’d die, too – as well as dealing with my own grief and caring for a newborn.
MOST READ IN FABULOUS
“I’d put on a brave face in front of the children, but inside I felt like my life was falling apart, especially as trying to make ends meet without Phil’s salary was so hard.
“In 2015, I signed us all up to grief counselling to help us with our loss and then enrolled myself on an accounts course, which not only gave my life hope, but also helped me get the job I have today.
“It’s so thoughtful of Sophie to put me forward for this award. If there were a daughter of the year competition, she’d win it!”
- Thanks to Balloonista. Visit Champneys.com.
Meet the runners-up
Precious Mshengu, 33, from Gosport
Lynn Dauson, 62, from Wigan
Evelyn Burgess, 56, from Ashington, Northumberland
Linda Kidney, 57, from Northampton
Laura Rolph-Wills, 36, from Harwich, Essex
- Hair and make-up: Mira Parmar using Bobbi Brown and Kevin Murphy
- Hair and make-up assistant: Victoria Sahara
- Stylist: Cigdem Tanrioglu
- Andrea wears: dress, Boohoo; shoes, New Look
- Agnes wears: jumpsuit, Closet London; jewellery, her own; shoes, Next. Look 2: jacket, trousers, both Marks & Spencer; shirt, Asos.com; ring, River Island; shoes, Next
- Thuto wears: jumpsuit, Boohoo; jacket, Nastygal.com; earrings, River Island; shoes, Head Over Heels at Dune London
- Zoe wears: shirt, Oasis; jacket, In The Style; jeans, JD Williams; earrings, Claire’s; shoes, Faith at Debenhams. Look 2: dress, Evans; shoes, Primark; earrings, River Islan
- Joanne wears: dress, belt and shoes, all Mint Velvet