Emmerdale’s Leyla’s life off-screen – real name, whirlwind romance and famous husband

Roxy Shahidi has been playing Leyla Harding on Emmerdale since 2008, but away from the soap there's lots fans likely don't know about the actress - including her real name

Emmerdale fans will know Roxy Shahidi as ballsy Leyla Harding, as the actress has been playing the character on the soap since her first appearance in 2008. Before landing the role, she previously starred on the stage in theatre, so was very excited to make the jump to television acting, claiming it was a ‘dream’ job.

The 40-year-old, from Manchester, has since been involved in a number of dramatic storylines on the soap, with Leyla’s drug battle, near-death experience and her secret son. While loyal viewers will know the ins and outs of her character’s life, they might not know as much about Roxy’s personal life – including her real name, which is actually Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi.

Roxy as Leyla on Emmerdale

She’s had some dramatic storylines on the show over the years

Roxy may have had a turbulent time with love on Emmerdale, but her own relationship couldn’t be further from that as she is in a happy relationship with fellow actor and Line of Duty star Arsher Ali, who played PC Hari Bains in the third season of the hit BBC show. He’s also appeared in Four Lions, Beaver Falls and The Fear Index.

The pair first met when they were working together on a play in London in 2007 and it was love at first sight for Arsher. Roxy previously told how she was shocked when he spotted her at a cast party and boldly asked her to marry him. At the time she had only known him for two weeks and they’d barely spoken to one another.

She told The Mirror in 2014: “He just looked me in the eye at a cast party and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I didn’t answer and he said, ‘You will be my wife’ and that was it. I didn’t quite know what to make of it because I didn’t know him that well. I knew that he liked me but we hadn’t really said anything. We hadn’t even kissed!”

She said she was torn between thinking it was “ridiculous” and asking him to kiss her “passionately” but clearly it all worked out for the best as they embarked on a whirlwind romance. They had a blessing in 2010 surrounded by their friends and family at Eastwood Hall in Nottingham, but Roxy confirmed that it wasn’t a legal ceremony.

Arsher Ali

She’s in a happy relationship with Arsher Ali

She said in 2014 that they weren’t in a rush to sign a marriage register but they would make it legal at some stage, although it wasn’t a ‘priority’ for them as a couple. Despite this, they refer to each other as husband and wife and the pair also have a daughter together, who was born in 2018, and a German Shepherd dog.

The couple likes to keep their daughter out of the limelight, but Roxy has spoken about her pregnancy, as she previously admitted to OK! in 2017 that she was “absolutely terrified” when she first saw the positive pregnancy test result and soon burst into tears. She said: “We had only been trying for a few weeks and I was sure it was going to take us much longer. It took a few weeks before I got my head around it but, once I did, I was filled with joy.” Arsher added: “We were at home when we found out. I was over the moon but Roxy looked shocked.”

They went on to reveal that it was Roxy’s Emmerdale co-star Charley Webb (Debbie Dingle) who first noticed that she was exhibiting pregnancy symptoms. Before Roxy had even taken a test, Charley reportedly called her and said she thought her boobs looked bigger, which could mean she was pregnant. Meanwhile, Arsher recalled that Roxy had started having an intense craving for Hula Hoops – something she rarely ate before.

Outside of all this, Roxy is known to enjoy a tranquil life of yoga and she often makes her own juices. She regularly posts about the former on social media and even has her own YouTube channel, YogaRox, in which she helps viewers destress, wake up, and chill out with stretches. She also regularly shows off her vegan lifestyle, posting pictures of her homemade food, including Spelt and oat waffles.

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