Brian Beacom

MANY would struggle to see the positive side of having your faced smashed in by steel fencing.

Few could deal with depression so serious it demanded withdrawal from the world, and a desperate quest to discover a healing therapy.

But there aren’t many Danni Menzies around.

Danni has proved there can be life after disaster and is the new, now-healed face of Channel 4’s lifestyle/property show A Place In The Sun.

The lady from Kenmore in Perthshire is also the co-founder of a dating app, and in recent times has been a successful model.

Watch her on screen and the 29-year-old exudes the energy of sunshine and a bright and balanced approach, which suggests her career will have a long burn.

However, the journey of the past 10 years to this point of success wouldn’t have come about, she explains, had it not been for the arrival of major disaster.

Danni was a textile design student at Loughborough University and one night, the thrill-seeking teenager couldn’t resist the challenge of a local nightclub’s buckin’ bronco machine.

But the mechanism was broken, the horse speeded up and Menzies was thrown into surrounding steel fencing.

“I smashed my face in,” she recalls, her voice dark enough to reflect the awful memory.

“You could see the bone on my nose in two different places. My eyes were so swollen I couldn’t see properly for a month. But I was lucky it wasn’t worse.”

That wasn’t the only trauma Menzies had to endure at the time. A very close friend whom she had grown up with passed away.

The double whammy saw the once-vibrant student reduced to a hollow wreck.

“I didn’t realise what was happening to me. I was so traumatised by the accident and by losing my friend I didn’t want to leave the house. But I didn’t know why.

“ I thought I had a virus or something. It wasn’t until later when I began to get help I realised.”

The physical and emotional trauma saw Danni return to Perthshire, where her parents had built up a small caravan park business to become the successful Mains of Taymouth Country Estate.

She felt secure, but serious depression meant Danni was trapped in the world of deluxe holiday homes and golf greens.

“I wasn’t a worrier. I had been bold and brave. I’d gone to Thailand on my own when I was 17. I was socially outgoing, I was a member of lots of clubs.

“To go from that to being worried about leaving the house was awful.”

Her parents came up with a part solution.

“Since a young age, I’d worked at the local riding stables, and eventually I owned a horse. But after the accident, my mum and dad and granny and grandpa helped me to buy a wild pony from a dealer.

“And because my parents weren’t horsey, it meant I had to look after it every day.”

Danni worked hard. “I not only shovelled s**t, I sometimes lifted it with my bare hands,” she says of building stables and developing the holiday park.

“At the same time I tried lots of different therapies to help my confidence.”

She struck gold when she embarked upon Timeline Therapy, a treatment which involves neuro-linguistic programming.

“It’s about looking back into the problem areas in your life and it teaches you to take away the emotion. It means you can talk about the trauma and not feel anything.

“After I did the first two-hour session I slept for a few days. It was at this moment things really began to change for me. I think everyone should go through it.”

Danni gradually became something of her old self. But she needed another catalyst to get her off the estate.

And it arrived in the form of a holidaying photographer.

At university, she had been a “big girl”, a confident, outgoing size 14. However, during recovery she lost half her body weight.

“I literally worked my a*** off,” she says, grinning. “I hadn’t even realised it was happening.”

I just knew my trousers were a bit baggier.”

The new slimline Menzies (who had cut her blonde hair and now looked like a Scottish Agyness Deyn) was snapped by the photographer who sent the images to an agency in Edinburgh.

“This gave me the confidence to move to Edinburgh, but even then it took me a few weeks before I found the confidence to leave the flat. I had to keep pushing myself to get out there.”

Slowly, however, the confidence began to build its way back to the height of her five feet 10-inch frame. Danni’s photographs revealed a stunning, sexy young woman. But she didn’t see it, nor recognise she had become catnip to men.

“When I was at university and a big girl I was confident and used to go out with lots of boys. I didn’t realise I was a bit flabby around the edges. Now, having lost it, I didn’t think I was attractive.”

Laughing, she says: “When I cut my hair off I didn’t go out for a few months. I thought I looked like my brother. And when I lost weight I lost my boobs. Maybe that’s part of not feeling gorgeous.”

Soon London was calling. Danni moved down, but into a world of serious competition. “I was spending days with girls who were slimmer and taller than me. It wasn’t the healthiest, in a mind sense, environment to be part of.

“I wasn’t happy. I was now getting out and about but I was being picked apart at auditions. ‘I really don’t like her chin,’ that sort of thing, and it was stressful.

“And there was the pressure to keep the weight off. When I was really skinny I was being told ‘you’re perfect’, but I was starving.”

Thankfully, modelling work in commercials appeared and not only did she make more money, Menzies was allowed to eat healthily. “Yes, and I do love a Domino’s,” she says, grinning.

Gradually, the pizza fan decided she wanted to work in television presentation. She worked for free. She did online broadcasting for Fashion TV, and worked for an online mag.

It took her four years to land an agent. But it all paid off. The effort paid off.

“I was crap at it when I started,” she admits, “but I’d never had any training. You have to learn to be yourself.”

Even after Channel 4 offered her the chance to front the property show the Scot still didn’t believe she had made it.

“I was so worried they would think I was awful and sack me straight away.

“After my third show I had to go to hospital with tummy pains so severe I thought I would keel over. But it was the stress of it all.”

Danni doesn’t get stressed by work these days, which is essentially that of dream-maker, finding people the right home abroad.

The presenter has also recovered her love for travel and the need to challenge herself.

Meantime, she has set up the dating app, Pitchit. Despite the model looks, Menzies is no stranger to the problems of meeting the right person.

“My friend Chrissy and I had been using the dating apps where you swipe someone on the basis of their photograph.

“But they didn’t often result in dates, just nothing, or sometimes inappropriate comments. And if we did go out with someone we found we had nothing in common.”

Grinning, she adds: “We’re a little too young for the likes of, which we felt was a bit ‘let’s get married now’.

“Our idea is that rather than swipe someone, you pitch a date suggestion to the app, whether it’s dog walking or skydiving, and you pick a date based on that.”

Danni has lots of ideas in the pipeline. “I wanted to be a presenter because it doesn’t represent a single world,” she maintains.

“I’ve got other interests besides property, from animal welfare to dating. Presenting offers the chance at some point for a wider involvement.”

One of her ideas involves a show which helps younger people to get on the property ladder.

But perhaps cynics will observe this is a bit rich coming from someone whose background is far from poor?

“Well, you are right. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without help from my mum and dad.

“But I don’t do that (take help) now. And here’s the thing. I’m nearly 30 and I don’t have a property in London.

“I’ve also had eight years of struggle to get to where I am, and I couldn’t do this without a lot of debt. To save up for a mortgage, and especially at London prices, is next to impossible.”

It’s a good thing, you suggest. In terms of empathy. “That’s one way of looking at it,” she says, smiling.

Danni laughs a lot during conversation. Not having a deposit for a home or indeed a boyfriend stops her being positive.

“You know, I wouldn’t change anything,” she says, smiling.

“It’s all about the journey. And here’s the irony. When I moved back home I had really bad anxiety and I couldn’t go outside of the house. Now I spend my life travelling. It’s amazing how it has turned out. I’m confident again.”

Confident enough to get back on a mechanical horse? “Not since,” she says. “Although maybe I should just to get over the fear.”

* Danni Menzies presents A Place In The Sun from Monday, July 17 on weekday afternoons on Channel 4 at 4pm.