Lorraine Kelly: “I keep expecting to be found out”
Lorraine Kelly is a complete icon of the cheeky interview - a style of which I am very fond! I was really excited to speak to my almost-namesake for The Big Issue back in January 2010.
Lorraine Kelly first sat on the ITV couch 25 years ago, yet the nation’s morning belle is typically down to earth about her future on the show. She tells Laura Kelly why she shops in her ‘jim-jams’ and says that she’s enjoying being a busty breakfast babe at 50
At university, my friend’s favourite story concerned the one wonderful evening when he’d gone to the supermarket in Dundee and caught Lorraine Kelly picking up frozen peas in her pyjamas. So enamoured was he with the belle of GMTV that he went back for weeks at the same time hoping to be rewarded with the vision once more.
“They probably wouldn’t have been jammies, necessarily, but they would be clothes one could sleep in, if one wished,” laughs Lorraine, when I put the tall tale to her. “I don’t really mind if people think they are jim-jams. I am a girl who likes to be comfortable.”
Daft though the story is, it says a lot about the special place this sunny Scot has in our hearts. Glamorous and very beautiful, yet accessible and down-to-earth, Lorraine will celebrate 25 years of coaxing the British public awake on weekday mornings this year. She’s friendly enough that no star would deny her a chat — on the day we catch up, she’s spoken to Shakira, Alison Moyet and Patrick Swayze’s widow, all before lunch — and yet she’s got a cheeky glint in her eye and a mouth on her like a sailor when she gets going.
She’s real, too, but there’s nothing tragic or scandalous in that reality. We don’t love her for her messy private life — she’s happily married to cameraman Steve Smith and a 15-year-old daughter called Rosie completes the cosy family — or for her personal struggle, although she pulled herself up by her bootstraps out of a poverty-stricken childhood in the Gorbals.
No, it’s because we all trust that she’s the same off-screen as she is on, and because we know you’d get a right laugh out of her down the pub.
“The great thing about what I do is you are yourself. There’s not many jobs in TV where you are,” she confirms. “People do feel that they get to know you a bit. When I had my little girl people were knitting me things, saying that it’s like someone in the family has had a baby. That was absolutely amazing.”
The ever-youthful Kelly hit 50 a couple of months ago on St Andrew’s Day but will still happily rock a low-cut slinky dress, even if she’s consigned the super-mini kilts to the back of the wardrobe.
She happily admits she has “committed dreadful crimes against fashion” – she has to, given that we all remember the big hair, bad make-up and shoulder pads from the ‘80s – but Kelly’s sassy style is working well for her now. So much so, that actress and model Sienna Miller recently chose London Fashion Week to reveal that Kelly is her style icon.
“I think Sienna had her tongue so firmly in her cheek that it’s still stuck there now,” says Kelly, with a hearty chuckle.
“It was very funny, though; it was very sweet.” The same cheerfully sceptical outlook is employed when I raise the topic of her legendary curves.
Approved by no less a connoisseur than Robert Downey Jr, who said that she had “fantastic tits”, while Harrison Ford confirmed she had a “magnificent cleavage”. Kelly’s assets even have their own online fan club — the Lorraine Kelly Appreciation Society. “They’re completely bonkers,” Kelly says of the group of students who set up the vaguely stalkerish site and once sent her a French maid’s outfit as a ‘present’.
“But I have to take it with a huge kilo of salt, never mind a pinch, and think to myself, if they think a 50-year-old mother of a teenager is still hot, then that’ll do me. I’m not going to argue with them.”
Like most women, Kelly has seen her weight go up and down over the years, and she’s tried her fair share of diets to try and keep herself trim. Now. however. she is older and wiser. “If you’re on a diet, you’ve got to come of fa diet and as soon as you come off the bleeding thing the weight piles on again,” she exclaims. “It is a total waste of time. They just make you fat.”
Not for her the faddy eating plans that tend to come out at this time of the year, then. Most of the time she keeps herself in shape with the oldest trick in the book: “All things in moderation.”
“What I tend to do is be reasonably sensible during the week and then at the weekend — have a curry! Or have a fish supper. I always have a pie at the match [she’s a big Dundee United fan], it’s great. It’s got to be done.”
However, Christmas sees that go out the window as the treat levels rise. “I love a Chocolate Orange,” she says, voice dripping with mischief, “and obviously I eat the whole thing, in the one go, by myself. I’m sorry, but who can have one little bit of Chocolate Orange? You must have something wrong with you. It’s like, how can you have just one biscuit?”
This year the January attempt to cut down will be backed up by training for the London Marathon, which Lorraine is running again with her husband on behalf of cancer charity Clic.
“You’ll do yourself a serious mischief if you don’t train properly,” she says, insisting that if it wasn’t for that, the only exercise shed get would be walking her border terrier, Rocky.
This pragmatic approach to weight loss recently landed Kelly with a major new challenge. The Bio channel has enlisted her to present Lorraine Kelly’s Big Slim: The Chawner Challenge, featuring the slimming attempts of “Britain’s fattest family”.
The programme will screen in the coming weeks and sees Kelly try and persuade X-Factor reject Emma Chawner, mocked by Simon Cowell for arriving in a wedding dress and “singing like a baby”, and her family to drop some of the weight that left them “too fat to work”.
“I do genuinely worry about the obesity epidemic in this country,” says Kelly. “The Chawners were labelled the fattest, laziest family in Britain and I just thought if we could get them up off their bottoms, get them eating in a healthy way, it would show that if they can do it, anyone can do it.”
Although the process has been a “rollercoaster”, the Chawners have made some improvement. According to Kelly, they just needed a bit of a hand, rather than the “ghastly” abuse they had faced before.
"If somebody’s mind’s broken, you can’t see it and we’re not very good at dealing with it."
This ability to be sympathetic yet practical also saw Kelly take on mental health issues in Make Me Happier on STV late last year.
A self-confessed worrier, she was glad to help people for whom stress had become an issue that threatened to derail their lives. During the series Kelly helped individuals with anxiety, low self-esteem, anger issues and depression. Calling the show’s subjects “inspirational”, she insists it is vital we get these problems out in the open. “We’ve got this thing— and we’re particularly guilty of it in Scotland — where if you’ve broken your leg and you’ve got a stookie, you go, ‘Oh that’s a shame’. But if somebody’s mind’s broken, you can’t see it and we’re not very good at dealing with it,” she says.
“Either we don’t talk about it at all, or say ‘pull yourself together’, which of course is the worst thing to say to anyone with depression or mental illness.”
“What I think is good is that more and more people are talking about all forms of mental illness. I think people are more likely now to ask for help rather than suffer in silence.”
TV has the potential be a force for good too, in making it acceptable for people to admit that they’re having difficulties.
“I remember years ago the very first person who talked about it to me was Rod Steiger, the actor [who suffered greatly from depression after he had heart bypass surgery],” she recalls. “He came on and he was talking about it and I thought it was amazing because nobody talked about it at that time. Gradually, as people talk about it, it becomes more acceptable and that’s when people can deal with it.”
For her part, Kelly says she has got better at dealing with her tendency to worry, but she still sometimes expects to be “found out”.
“If you’re from a working class background and you’ve had to work very, very hard for everything you’ve got — I’ve been a grafter all my life — there is that horrible sense somewhere within you that says somebody’s going to come and take it away from you,” she admits. “You always worry that some day you’ll feel the hand on your shoulder and they’ll say, ‘We have found you out’.”
According to media reports, Kelly’s job at GMTV may indeed be under threat — not because of any doubt over her abilities but rather because of money-saving attempts on the part of ITV, which has taken full control of the programme (they recently bought out Disney’s 25% share).
As the highest-paid star, with a price tag placed at £350,000, the Daily Mirror has claimed Kelly is concerned that she faces the chop. Pooh-poohing the suggestion, the woman herself says they have been told to “carry on as normal”. If the axe does fall, however, she’ll take it with her customary good cheer and bouncy determination. After all, as she points out, GMTV has granted her a longevity that’s virtually unknown “unless you’re Bruce Forsyth”.
“I have had a great time and if it did all end tomorrow — and it will at some point — it’s been amazing. I’ll go and do something else,” she says. “I’m incredibly lucky it has lasted this long. I never lose sight of how blinking lucky I am.”
A hard-working, talented woman such as Lorraine Kelly will surely never want for work but if it all goes terribly wrong, there’s a supermarket up in Dundee that I’m sure could use her pulling power. Maybe they’d even keep her in free jim-jams.