Gary Barlow and Dawn’s love story – from Take That lust to devastating grief

Determined to be bigger, badder and bolder than ex-Take That bandmate Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow once bragged about bedding, "hundreds of girl fans all over the world."

As the lead singer of one of the biggest boy bands of the nineties – who were publicly banned from having girlfriends – Gary was like a kid in a sweet shop.

But his carousing came to an abrupt end one night in 1995 when he found himself crammed in the back of a van on the way home from a club with pretty backup dancer Dawn Andrews on his knee.

It was a moment that had been brewing for years. They'd first caught each others' eye when Dawn starred in a video for Gary in 1990, and she'd blushed and struggled to speak backstage at the 1992 Children’s Royal Variety Performance when he'd gone over to say hello.

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But it wasn't until Jason Orange handpicked Dawn for the band's Nobody Else tour that it became obvious something would finally happen.

Gary's bandmates noticed his suspiciously buff new body – said to have been for willowy dancer Dawn's benefit – and the two became inseparable on the European leg of the tour.

Dawn would later tell OK! "He grew on me. We ate our dinner together each night and became friends first."

But for Gary, when she turned and kissed him for the first time that night in the van, he fell instantly in love.

“I was completely besotted straight away,” he once said, admitting that in an era before texts and Facebook he would sit in his hotel room pouring out his intense feelings in endless love letters.

"I really missed her and I didn't want to lose her. It sent me a bit crazy," said Frodsham-born Gary, who penned his solo track Forever Love for her.

Once back in Britain they moved in, and despite the no girlfriends rule, Gary took Dawn as his date to the 1996 BRITs.

But as word of their romance got out, fans started hurling abuse. And a comment by one journalist who described Dawn as a 'raunchy dancer' is said to have left the fiercely private star mortified.

"Dawn hates attention so it was a big deal for her to date someone like me," Gary told the Daily Mail.

"Once news of our relationship got out the fans didn't respond nicely. They used to spit at her as she went in and out of concert venues."

Keen to stay in the background, Dawn quietly supported Gary through Take That's subsequent split and he popped the question at their home while waiting for a Chinese takeaway.

They flew to New York with his parents, Colin and Marjorie, to buy a £10,000 diamond ring at Tiffany’s and planned a grand wedding at his mansion in Cheshire.

But when Dawn fell pregnant with their first born Daniel, 19, they settled on an intimate affair on the Caribbean island of Nevis in January 2000.

However, while his personal life had never been better, Gary's career was in freefall. As Robbie's solo career soared, Gary's flopped and he was dropped by record label BMG.

Hurt and humiliated, he refused to leave the house for six months and ballooned to 17st 2lbs, prompting him to see a doctor for obesity and sparking a battle with bulimia.

Describing how he would binge at all you can eat Chinese buffets before making himself sick, he previously told The Sun: “I thought I know what I can do, I can eat with everybody, I can sling the food down, have a great time, drink as much as I want.

“As soon as I get home, I’ll find the furthest place away from my wife’s bedroom and I can go in there and I can get rid of everything.

“And I thought it’s really clever this is. And then of course, the one time becomes five times, and then you realise this has no future.”

It was only Gary's love for his wife and son that helped him see the light. Determined to get healthy, he devoted himself to clean living and began writing songs for other artists before Take That reunited to critical acclaim in 2006.

Meanwhile, three became four when daughter Emily arrived in 2002 followed by Daisy in 2009.

But the couple were dealt an earth-shattering blow when their fourth child, daughter Poppy, was delivered stillborn in 2009.

A broken Gary opened up about his devastation in his autobiography, A Better Me, describing the horror of watching his wife cradle their daughter, willing her back to life.

"Poppy looked perfect and for an hour she was alive to us. She’s in your arms, this beautiful little daughter of ours, a sister to our three other children," he wrote.

"Then the reality comes rushing into the room and all the air leaves your lungs. It felt like someone had a hand held tight at my throat.

"The nurses start hovering and they want to take her away. What we experienced and saw over those 24 hours no one should have to see or have to go through.

"There’s no sadder sight than seeing a mum with her dead baby in her arms, willing it back to life with all her being."

Eight days later, brave Gary was back on stage with Take That for the Olympic Games closing ceremony, reducing the audience to tears as he sang, "you light the skies up above me," from Rule the World.

The trauma of their loss triggered diabetes in Dawn, and unable to cope with the magnitude of his grief, Gary ploughed himself into work and suffered a nervous breakdown in Los Angeles.

“I got to LA and I just completely crashed. And the funny thing was, when the doctor came the day later, I basically fell asleep for about 22 hours – I had one of those death sleeps," he recalled to The Sun.

"The doctor said. ‘Is there anything significant that happened in the last five years?’ and I just thought ‘I don’t know where to start.’

“You can tuck away in your body and your mind all these things, but someday it’ll remind you. It’ll come and find you.”

Their bereavement only made Gary and Dawn stronger though, and earlier this year they marked their 20th anniversary with a trip to Petit St Vincent – the luxury private island resort in the Caribbean where they took their very first holiday.

"Same people, same place, 24 years apart," he captioned an Instagram snap of himself and Dawn then and now.

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