AS OSTENDERS’ barmaid with a heart, Kara Tointon was nominated for sexiest woman at the 2007 British Soap Awards.
But the 38-year-old thinks her appeal was due more to her character, Dawn Swann, than to her.
She once said, “She’s all boobs and short skirts. If I played a nun, I don’t think I would win.”
The magazines of the guys who put her on their covers in the 1990s would certainly differ from that.
This week, The Sun celebrates the enduring appeal of the beautiful girls who graced magazine covers in the 2000s.
Fans of Kara may remember that she started out in the Sky One series Dream Team before playing an apprentice alongside a young James Corden in Channel 4 hit Teachers.
But it was EastEnders that made her a household name.
Kara made her Walford debut 11 years before being cast as Dawn in 2005.
But as feisty Dawn, she got to grips with meaty storylines, including being kidnapped, escaping a burning building, and posing as Ian Beale’s wife.
When her character enticed the locals to pay for a boob job, Kara also had to increase her net worth – with chicken breasts.
And she was quite a fan. She once confessed, “I come home to them sometimes, but it’s so unromantic when you take them out!
“I think men are always a little disappointed when they meet me and I don’t have breasts like Dawn. People were obsessed with her chest.”
Behind the scenes, she dated two of her co-stars.
She began a relationship with James Alexandrou, 37, who played Martin Fowler, in April 2006.
‘MY MIND DOES 101 THINGS’
When he left the soap in February, the couple drifted apart and broke up not long after.
She then dated Joe Swash, 40, who played her onscreen brother Mickey Miller and is now engaged to TV personality Stacey Solomon, 32.
They got together just before he flew to Australia for I’m A Celebrity, which he won in 2008.
The following Christmas, they appeared together in panto Snow White in Bristol, but there were rumors of epic quarrels, which Kara denied.
She insisted: “We are very happy together, everything is going very well, but you will have to ask him when we get married.”
In May 2010, they broke up and Kara fled to Spain with a group of friends to “get her head together,” a source said.
I think men are always a little disappointed when they meet me and I don’t have breasts like Dawn. People were obsessed with her chest.
A friend said at the time, “Both she and Joe are really upset about it, but their fights got too frequent and they knew they couldn’t make it work anymore.”
He later took full responsibility, saying: “It was all my fault and had nothing to do with Kara. She really does everything right. I didn’t know what I had until she was gone.”
However, there is no bad blood. Kara liked an Instagram photo Joe posted of herself and baby Rex, the first of his two children with Loose Women star Stacey.
Kara also dated James Bourne, of pop group Busted, and she was a bridesmaid for I’m A Celeb winner Giovanna Fletcher when she married McFly’s frontman Tom Fletcher in 2012.
After Joe, Kara imposed a “men’s ban” on herself and insisted that she not date anyone for two years. Then came Strictly’s Russian dancer Artem Chigvintsev.
Together they won the 2010 series and had a four-year romance. She later said she believed working with Artem was a conscious move by the BBC, explaining: “I was single and they brought me to the single. I was so mad.” But of course she came.
She said, “I was determined not to get together and then you spend so much time with this person and he was so amazing.”
In an amazingly open interview, Joe Swash said he couldn’t bear to see Kara dance with a guy with “muscles bulging all over” and instead went to bed early with a bottle of red wine to avoid the show.
He added: “She had done everything she could to support me, so I had to jump out. I am so proud of her.”
Now Kara is happily settled with her fiancé Marius Jensen, with whom she shares sons Frey, three, and Helly, one.
It was all my fault and had nothing to do with Kara. She really does everything right. I didn’t know what I had until she was gone.
As Kara explained, the Norwegian is not part of her showbiz world.
“He’s not an actor, he’s a chiropractor, that’s how we got to know each other.”
Their sons are being raised bilingually, although Kara said she has caught up with her own understanding of the language.
Watching the children’s movie Frozen in Norwegian helped.
The couple had hoped to marry in Marius’ home country in 2020, but Covid put a stop to that – and Kara thinks if it happens now, it will be “last minute”.
One thing she does know is that her sister, Hannah, 34, who starred in Channel 4’s comedy The Inbetweeners, will be her bridesmaid.
Sadly, the girls lost their mother Carol in March 2019 after a year-long illness, just a few months after Frey was born.
A year later, Kara revealed the toll her death had taken on her. She explained that she was taking some “time out” saying, “I don’t have it in me to perform that much.”
She turns to painting for relaxation and has come to rely on daily meditation.
She said, “I am one of those whose minds do 101 things. I’m never really just quiet, so this forces you to do that for 25 minutes twice a day. When you’re done, you feel energized.”
Kara, a self-proclaimed foodie, keeps in shape by dancing with her boys and loves to climb. She said: “I can get mentally agitated when I’m not exercising. I am a very active person by nature.”
I am one of those whose mind does 101 things. I’m never really just quiet, so this forces you to do that for 25 minutes twice a day. When you’re done, you’ll feel energized.
She swears by smoothies, packs her meals with veggies, and avoids processed foods — though she does believe in rewarding herself with the occasional treat.
Aside from EastEnders, Kara appeared in ITV drama Mr Selfridge alongside her sister, played Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion in the West End and was the face of Michelle for George lingerie at Asda.
She also made the BBC Three documentary Don’t Call Me Stupid in 2010 about her struggles with dyslexia, where she was diagnosed at school in Essex at the age of seven.
Kara said: “If I hadn’t been diagnosed at such a young age, I think I could have gone off track. I would have been a tear and down a bad road.
After the diagnosis, her parents enrolled her in drama classes to boost her confidence. Since the documentary aired, more people have approached Kara about dyslexia than about her other on-screen roles.
In lockdown, she and Marius launched a storytelling app, Tell, that allows people to record stories for younger friends and family members.
Most recently, Kara “Kung Fu Kate” Middleton starred on the spoof show The Windsors: Endgame, alongside her former EastEnders co-star Tracy-Ann Oberman as Camilla and comedian Harry Enfield as Prince Charles.
Last year, she also revealed that she would say “never never” to a return to Albert Square. Kara has been acting since 11 years and has learned a thing or two about life in the spotlight.
Returning to work after the pandemic and having her second child – while on her way to her 40th birthday – she said: “I’m one of those people who really enjoy getting older.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable in myself and realize how pointless worrying about the trivial, silly things is.”