LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A year after hitting rock bottom in a royal favors scandal, the disgraced former daughter-in-law of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth says she is now debt-free and positive about the future.
But it was a grueling struggle back to emotional and financial health for Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, judging by a candid six-part documentary making its debut on television on Sunday.
“Finding Sarah”, on Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel OWN, follows the ex-wife of Prince Andrew in a search for her own self-esteem as she seeks to rebuild her life following repeated acts of what she calls “self-sabotage.”
“Dear diary,” Ferguson begins. “What have I done with my life? How did I get it so wrong?...After 25 years in public life, I have lost who I am and it torments me.”
Ferguson, 51, embarked on the documentary after being caught in a British tabloid newspaper sting in May 2010 in which she offered to sell access to Prince Andrew for $40,000.
It was the ultimate fall from grace for the exuberant, flame-haired duchess. Hailed as a breath of fresh air when she married the Queen’s second son in 1986, she was later dubbed the “Duchess of Pork” by British tabloids.
The answers to her latest quest come just as harshly in “Finding Sarah.” TV advice guru Dr. Phil McGraw tells a tearful Ferguson that she is “emotionally bankrupt,” and diagnoses her as being addicted to the approval of others.
Financial self-help expert Suze Orman tells her she is “broken inside,” and urges her to become financially independent from Prince Andrew. The couple divorced in 1996 but Andrew later provided Ferguson with a free home in England.
Ferguson also visits a horse whisperer, a shaman in the Arizona desert, U.S. life coach Martha Beck, and embarks on a
26-mile trek through Canada’s Arctic region in a test of her physical and mental stamina.
“To have the ability to go and see Dr. Phil or Suze Orman or Martha Beck...was an extraordinary honor for me,” Ferguson told Reuters in an interview this week.
“By filming it, I hope that people watching will maybe relate to the feelings that I have felt, and see how Dr. Phil and Suze Orman and others give you the tools to be able to change your life,” she added.
Daughters Princess Beatrice, 22, and Eugenie, 21, also appear briefly in the series, saying they hope viewers will see Ferguson’s qualities as a loving mother.
“They are old enough to make their own decisions,” Ferguson said of the decision to include them.
But the person who helped her the most in the past year was talk show host Winfrey herself.
“She is definitely the most incredible, iconic, fabulous lady...She has really opened my eyes and embraced me, and it has been extraordinary the way she and the OWN network have supported me,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson says in the documentary that she was in desperate financial straits even before the May 2010 newspaper sting. Afterward, she lost most of her celebrity endorsements and business deals.
But she told Reuters she has eight new children’s books coming out in the next year and continues to work on her charities. She has also written a memoir, “Finding Sarah,” to be published at the end of June.
“My financial situation is under control now, and is being handled well, and we are looking forward to a very good future. And I’m debt free,” she said.
Ferguson seems to have accepted that she will likely remain outside the bosom of the royal family — she was not invited to the April wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
And she is resigned to the possibility of more barbs from the British media, saying “They have written lots of things in 22 years, and they will continue to write whatever they wish.”
But she does appear to have found some inner peace.
“I think I am a work in progress. I think I have learned some very good tools, and I am very excited and positive and I look forward to practicing what they have taught me.
“I will continue to write my childrens books and do my charity work and be a first rate mother to my beautiful children, and a great best friend to my ex-husband,” she said.
(Editing by Dean Goodman)
This story was corrected in the eighth paragraph to show Orman urged Ferguson to become financially independent from Prince Andrew, not dependent