EastEnders’ Whitney star Shona McGarty’s life off screen from hidden talent to secret split

She’s been on our screens for 15 years as Whitney Dean in EastEnders, but actress Shona McGarty broke the hearts of fans across the country when she announced her decision to leave the soap in the coming weeks.

Since 2008, Shona has been in Walford as Bianca Jackson’s adoptive daughter Whitney, a much loved staple of the BBC soap who has been integral to a number of high profile storylines including being groomed by Bianca’s partner Tony King, marrying Lee Carter, getting engaged to Kish Kazemi before he died, and of course the tragic loss of baby Peach earlier this year.

Yet despite her popularity, Shona revealed she is keen to spread her wings and pursue other projects, with the star candidly admitting to Inside Soap: "It wasn’t an easy decision because I've made so many friends. I’ve seen people come and go, and meanwhile, Whitney has been one of the longest-standing characters.

"I've had so much fun and done so many storylines, some of which have been sensitive, and I've been honoured to be trusted with such heavy stuff year after year.

“So I'm going to be sad to say goodbye to my friends and family, but it was the right decision for me as I want to do other things. After 15 years, I’ve had a pretty good run!”

Away from the show, Shona's private life has been a subject of great interest from fans, with her love life in particular often in the spotlight.

Back in the early 2010s, Shona dated her co-star Matt Lapinskas who played the role of Anthony Moon in EastEnders until 2012.

The pair met in August 2011 and spent all their time together while Matt said at the time it was like ‘love at first sight’.

However, they were only an item for 18 months and while Matt said he thought about marrying her, things turned sour when he left the soap.

Matt joined the lineup of Dancing on Ice and was struck by the DOI curse, growing close with his professional partner Brianne, then 33.

However, things soon began to look up for Shona when she met electrician Ryan Harris.

The couple got engaged in 2018, with him popping the question in a romantic proposal on her birthday.

But after 18 months, they called time on their relationship and parted ways in 2020.

She revealed to the Daily Star at the time: “We just grew apart. Nothing bad happened, it was all very amicable. We were together for a long time, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Shona's next relationship came in the form of her EastEnders co-star Max Bowden, who plays Phil Mitchell’s son Ben in the show.

He’s the sixth actor to play Ben Mitchell and joined the soap in 2019.

Their relationship hit the headlines after Max and Shona were spotted getting cosy together weeks after Max’s ex-girlfriend Roisin Buckle gave birth to their first child together named Reginald.

However they officially parted ways on good terms in October 2022, after realising their relationship wasn't working.

Although very little is known about Shona's current partner, she did tease the prospect of a new romance at this year’s British Soap Awards.

Speaking on the red carpet at this year’s awards, Shona told The Mirror that she is currently “talking” to a potential new flame, but admitted that it was still “early days.”

While at the ceremony, Shona also admitted how nice it had been to catch up with her former flame Max and his mum after so much time apart.

She told the publication: “It’s lovely to be here tonight because Max’s mum’s here and I haven’t seen her for ages, I adore her.

"So it’s lovely to catch up with her. We’re actually better than ever. It’s a friendship, we’re such in a good place.

"You take a risk, and you do something and it doesn’t work out, but that’s life, you’ve got to take that risk.”

Away from relationships, Shona is actually an incredible singer and most recently wowed fans when she performed at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance singing Hallelujah in November last year.

Sharing her performance to her 173,000 followers on Instagram, she wrote: “Such an honour. A truly humbling experience. We will remember them.”

Her co-stars raced to the comments to say how amazing her voice is, with Lacey Turner, who plays Stacey Slater on the BBC1 show, writing: “Your talent is endless. I love you.”

James Farrar, known for playing Zack Hudson in EastEnders, also gushed: “Watched 100 times. So proud G. You look like you felt every second of it. We did.”

While Jacqueline Jossa wrote: “This is so so so special and beautiful.”

In fact, Jaqueline loves her voice so much she asked Shona to sing at her glamorous 30th birthday celebrations days before.

As the night came to an end Shona joined in with the live band to sing her friend a rendition of Amy Winehouse’s song Valerie.

A clip of her performance was shared on Instagram by Jacqueline's mum, who posted it along with a number of photos and videos of the night, including one of former TOWIE starJames Argentshowing off his singing voice too.

Captioning the compilation, Jaqueline's mum Selina wrote: "Great night Celebrating our Beautiful daughters 30th Birthday love you @jacjossa xx Jac Gala fun."


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