The radiant Vicar of Dibley star could easily pass for a woman half her age in this sultry portrait taken to celebrate her landmark birthday today.
She described a recent healthy eating regime as “joyless and grim” but the remarkable results are clear to see in celebrity photographer Trevor Leighton’s smouldering black and white picture.
Wearing an off the shoulder black woollen jumper Dawn glows in heavy mascara, silver eyeliner and her voluminous hair deliberately frazzled.
After a very public battle with the bulge she was ordered to lose weight before surgery but has been left feeling happier and fitter than ever.
“The doc told me that if I could lose some weight before the op they would be able to do it via keyhole, and I would recover in three weeks or so,” Dawn said.
“Otherwise it would be big open surgery, and three months to recover. So, I set about dropping a few stone. No magic wand, just tiny, joyless low-cal eating and lots more walking for weeks and weeks.
“It was grim.I lost seven-and-a-half stone. I could have the keyhole surgery. Great. That’s all it was, practical.”
Dawn has spoken candidly about her previous attempts to shed the pounds. In 2012, after losing eight stone, she joked that without her “lovely blubber” it was harder to swim, adding: “I had great fondness for that other body. I knew it very well.”
This Christmas Dawn and long-standing comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, 59, will reunite to mark the 30th anniversary of The French & Saunders Sketch Show.
The comedy programme became an instant hit when it first aired in 1987 but by 1996 the duo were pursuing their own projects.
Dawn found fame as fictional female vicar Geraldine Granger while Jennifer became a star as fast-living Edina in Absolutely Fabulous.
Dawn married Lenny Henry in 1984 but the couple divorced in 2010. She has been married to Mark Bignell since 2013.
Trevor first photographed Dawn in a grotty house she shared with Jennifer in London’s Shepherds Bush in 1981 and the pair have remained friends ever since.
She said: “Trevor was sent along to our student house to take a snap of me looking female and alternative, but mainly female.
“He was quite nervous. This could of been because of his fear of my rapier wit, but was more likely because of his fear of my industrial and rather threateningly huge bosoms.”
Trevor said: “I think it was her best photograph yet. Not because of my talent, but because Dawn radiates beauty: it’s simple, the camera loves her.”