THE past few years haven’t been easy for Dancing On Ice star Karen Barber. In fact, it has been a slippery slope away from the ice for the Blackburn-born celebrity judge and skating coach.

In 2010 her 21-year marriage to husband Stephen Pickavance came to an end and she had to juggle a break-up and her divorce around a newly-found celebrity status.

But after battling her way through, Karen said hasn’t been happier after she publicly announced her happiness with her new love, and friend of 30 years, Christopher Dean.

“My idea of a happy and successful relationship is finding a person with whom it's not a relationship as such — instead it's a long conversation. It's wanting to speak to that person in the years to come, and it's about contentment,” said Karen.

Karen is on the panel of Dancing On Ice with Jason Gardiner, with whom she has a famously spiky relationship with, as well as head judge Robin Cousins and former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts.

Her extensive knowledge of skating, dance and performance is an invaluable addition to the judging panel.

"The contestants have been so strong this year. It's wonderful to see them trying so hard and battling it out, but I love being a judge and I really enjoyed the role of a head coach. Until I came back to the judging panel this year, I hadn’t realised quite how much I had missed it,” said Karen who started figure skating at the age of 14.

Unlike the other judges, Karen works closely with the contestants during the week and has often struggled to be critical when she judges them at the weekend.

"We have an absolutely wonderful group of celebrity skaters this year who have been training so hard to ensure they deliver on the ice for the viewers, and of course us judges. I'm thrilled to be on the judging panel for 2013 and I look forward to seing them during their live performances," she said.

The mother-of-two returned to the judging panel of Dancing On Ice this year, after a break of two years while she acted as head coach on the series.

The 51-year-old coached at Blackburn Ice Arena for 15 years after it opened in 1990. She ran Blackburn Skating School and has worked with some of East Lancashire's up-and-coming skaters. She has received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her services to figure skating.

As well as in her career, says she's ‘happy and settled’ in her relationship with skating legend Dean, who also separated from his second wife, American skater Jill Trenary.

After a ‘tough’ two years Karen has been given a new lease of life after undergoing cosmetic surgery and losing weight.

She said: "After I had my second daughter, I slipped into thinking, ‘I'm happy with my weight, it doesn't matter if I'm a bit bigger than I want to be’. Secretly, I knew I was unhappy with my weight and my body, but it was all about facing up to it. Although I love fashion and dressing up, for many years I confined myself to black trousers and jackets and missed out on having fun with clothes. So after a lot of consideration following my weight loss, I had surgery on my breasts. They were affecting the shape of my body and it was something that was right for me.”

The former Olympic skater has lost two-and-a-half stone over the last two years and now weighs around eight stone.

She has taken on the dieting advice of Dancing On Ice mentor and friend Jayne Torvill, who follows the Hay Diet, where carbohydrates and protein are never eaten together at meals.

Karen said: “It's the best diet I've been on and it is so easy. I also eat less and avoid bread, as it doesn't agree with me. Incorporating more exercise into my life has helped as well. I never use the car for a journey of less than a mile; use the stairs, not the lifts; try to walk for at least an hour a day; and swim when I can. It's taken me a while, but it's been worth it, and now I can wear whatever clothes I like and enjoy looking good again.

Being in the public eye can be hard work at times and Karen’s personal stylist Luke Henderson makes sure she’s wearing the right outfits to make her look good.

She said: “I have come from behind the desk on the live shows, so the entire look is important my stylist gives me the confidence to wear things that I would normally shy away from. At the moment life is good and I am really happy with everything. All I can say is my girls Laura and Emma, Chris, my friends and enjoying my work make me happy.”