LITTLE may be known on this side of the Atlantic about Debbie Travis but this East Lancashire-raised lass is one of most famous women in Canada and America.

Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks was once told to cut short his slot on a talk show to make way for Debbie, Oprah Winfrey has interviewed her, her books have sold tens of millions, and her design and decoration TV programmes paved the way for a revolution in makeover shows.

And yet when 52-year-old Debbie Travis returns to Burnley, few people know how big a star she is.

Debbie is a self-made interior design guru who, after moving to Canada with her husband, studied painting, decorating and design.

The former Westholme School student, who grew up in Simonstone, saw the success of DIY shows in the UK and took the concept into an untapped US and Canadian market.

Drawing on her experience in British TV, she created hit series Debbie Travis The Painted House, which now has viewers in more than 80 countries. From there the former model’s empire teaching people basic DIY, from stencilling to marble effects, was born.

The mum-of-two’s success spiralled with guest slots on The Oprah Show, The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight Canada, and best selling books by leading publisher Random House.

Debbie, whose father John Travis was mayor of Ribble Valley twice, admits she was no goody-goody at school.

“On a careers day at Westholme I was told I would be a secretary or get married.

“But I came from a big family and we didn’t have any money and I was the only one to go to Westhome. We couldn’t afford it. I felt privileged to go and I had to make something of myself.

“I was the kind of person who blew my own trumpet, that I was going to be this and that. But you have to have that attitude in the States.”

Debbie married in Whalley Abbey in 1985, three weeks after meeting her husband Hans Rosenstein at the Cannes film festival, and tries to return to the UK at least once a year.

She has her own media company, Whalley Abbey Media, and uses a picture of the abbey for its logo.

Debbie said: “When I come back nobody knows me. But it’s great nostalgia when I come back.”