By Beth Neil, photography by Derrick Santini
Catch a load of Holly Willoughby. The normally butter-wouldn’t-melt queen of
daytime telly is seriously working the sexy black lace and rock chick red
lip on the Fabulous shoot, and therefore looking rather more rebellious than
usual. But she scoffs at any suggestion there’s a secret wild side she’s so
far been keeping under wraps.
“I love having a glass of wine and a laugh with my friends. But I don’t think
I’m particularly wild. I like going to festivals but that doesn’t mean I’m
peeing up against a fence. You won’t see me falling out of Chinawhite.”
She catches herself.
“Chinawhite?! Look at me showing my age there! No one goes to Chinawhite any
more do they? These days it’s all about Sugar Hut isn’t it?”
OK, so she doesn’t partake in public displays of partying. But wasn’t Liam
Gallagher a guest at her wedding? Surely that’s evidence of a rock ’n’ roll
life away from TV?
“He’s a mate. It doesn’t mean I’m rock ’n’ roll.”
All right then, what about Celebrity Juice? The downright naughtiness of Keith
Lemon’s near-the-knuckle panel show has given Holly Willobooby, as she’s
affectionately known, the opportunity to be seen in a more risqué light.
Well, apparently not.
“I know there’s this sweetness and light thing with me, but I think I’m
exactly the same as usual on that show! It’s not like I transform into a
beer-swilling, knicker-flashing old tart.”
Phillip Schofield was the first person I called when I got The
These are exciting times for 31-year-old Holly. Exciting and nerve-wracking in
equal measure. Because she’s given up a secure, cushy job on Dancing On Ice,
one of ITV’s highest-rating, most proven shows, to step into the unknown
over on the other channel. Accepting the gig as host of the BBC’s new
prime-time Saturday-night talent search The Voice, which kicked off last
night, was a risk, especially with the Beeb’s previous dodgy forays into
this genre (Fame Academy, anyone?).
Holly fully admits that quitting Dancing On Ice – a move which paved the way
for Christine Bleakley to take over – is something of a gamble. She says:
“You can hope and you can believe in something, but you can never be sure
it’s going to work. So yes there’s pressure, but I think the format is
“I worked on Fame Academy and it was different. It was a music talent show
mixed with a bit of Big Brother and it had never been tried before. The
Voice is brilliant. The American version is so amazing – it’s tried and
tested all over the world. But… you can never tell.”
Onward and upward
For what it’s worth, Holly, who presents alongside Reggie Yates, really
doesn’t need to worry. Early signs point towards the BBC having a bona fide
mahoosive hit on their hands. Comparisons to the louder, brasher The X
Factor are inevitable, but ultimately pointless says Holly, who fronted ITV2
spin-off show The Xtra Factor for two series. For a start, there are no
tone-deaf, mentally questionable wannabes wheeled out for viewer’s
“You can’t compare the standard of talent to The X Factor, you really can’t.
We don’t have any restrictions on who can enter, so people who have had
professional recording contracts in the past can audition, and that changes
“The Voice is such a great twist on the traditional talent show because it’s
literally just about the voice. Which is really exactly what it should be.”
Since Holly will continue to host This Morning during the week, the personal
significance of the move to the Beeb shouldn’t be underestimated either.
It’s virtually unheard of for a TV presenter to be the face of two flagship
shows simultaneously on rival channels, showing just how highly regarded
Holly has become in a relatively short space of time. Plus, she’s also just
confirmed, she’ll be hosting a special edition of Surprise Surprise! on ITV1
later this year. Well done that woman. Nevertheless, she admits that leaving
Dancing On Ice and TV husband Phillip Schofield wasn’t easy.
“When I heard the BBC was doing The Voice, I remember thinking that whoever
got that job would be really lucky. So obviously I was thrilled when I got
the call. But it was such a difficult decision to leave a show I absolutely
love. And especially leaving someone like Phillip Schofield.
“He was actually the first person I spoke to after I got the call. He was sad
but so cool about it. He told me he was going to miss me lots but this was
such a huge opportunity that I’d be a fool not to grab it. I’d been there
for a good few years, and I feel you’ve got to keep moving and try new
things. It was always going to take something really special to take me away
from Dancing On Ice.”
And of course, she still gets to spend four days a week with Phil on the This
“Exactly!” she smiles. “I’ve just got a new TV bit on the side in Reggie.”
Managing this successful career alongside being a mum to two young children is
something Holly reckons she’s pretty much nailed, with the help of her
husband Dan Baldwin, 34. Her way-too-cute kiddies (Harry, who turns three in
May, and Belle, 11 months) pop in to the studio during the shoot and it’s
rather lovely watching her instantly switch from business-like model
professional to devoted, besotted Mummy.
“It’s about finding a balance and I think we’ve got it most of the time,” she
says. “We have a nanny, and also get a lot of support from both our mums.
Five weeks after I had Harry I was back at work on The Xtra Factor. But my
mum came on the road with me and it was a flexible set-up, meaning I could
record some links and then go off to breastfeed.
“I consider my work to be part-time. Most weeks I do four mornings, and
whenever things start heading into the territory of being full-time I start
reining it in. I also get a massive chunk of time off in the summer and I
ring fence that and protect it with my life. Any job offers during that time
are a complete no.”
Holly didn’t feel she was able to take extended maternity leave due to the
fast-paced and fickle television industry.
“The thing about TV is that you can’t just take three years off, because
people move on quickly and you’re forgotten about. I’m freelance, so I’ve
got to keep my finger in the pie. But I only do what feels right.”
Holly and TV producer Dan will have been married five years this August.
Having children has cemented what was already a rock-solid relationship.
“Being parents has brought us closer together and the dynamics between us are
constantly developing. When we were boyfriend and girlfriend, getting
engaged made things more intense. Then marriage did the same, and now having
children together it’s more intense than ever.
“We make time for each other, and that doesn’t necessarily mean going out on a
date. Some nights it can mean opening a bottle of wine and having a debrief
about the day. Once we’ve put the kids to bed we’re often exhausted, but we
try not to have too many evenings where one of us is downstairs watching the
football and the other is upstairs watching Midsomer Murders. Not that I’m
saying that never happens… There are some days when that’s exactly what
Holly and Dan are fiercely protective of the children’s privacy – they sold
their wedding snaps to a glossy mag, but have turned down every offer to
pose with Harry and Belle.
“The wedding was in OK! and I’m fair game for that. But I’ve never put the
children out there because they’re not in a position to decide that for
themselves. When they get older then they can make up their own minds.”
Holly started out as a teenage model which included a stint advertising
sanitary towels (“Oh yes, all the best jobs”) before moving into TV
She says: “My friend was auditioning for kids’ show S Club TV, so I went along
and ended up auditioning too. I got the job, but it was a dreadful show.
There were seven of us and none of us had any TV experience whatsoever.
“I’ve never really planned anything. I’ve always thought that as an ultimate
goal one day it would be amazing to be a presenter, but there’s never been a
strategy. It’s all been based on a lot of luck and people taking a punt on
Breaking the ice
After six years as a children’s presenter, in 2006 Holly got her break with
Dancing On Ice. Co-hosting that with Phillip made her the natural successor
to Fern Britton on This Morning in September 2009, although some initially
questioned whether she was able to make the transition to daytime.
“Dancing On Ice was definitely the turning point in my career. And then This
Morning would never have happened without Phil’s backing and belief in me.
It’s taken a long time. I’m 31 now and I’ve been doing this since I was 17.”
I’ve never had a plan. It’s all been down to a lot of luck
Holly thrives on live television – she can’t wait for the live Voice shows to
start in a few weeks – but it does mean not everything always goes to
“The Anil Kapoor incident,” she says in a flash when asked for her most
embarrassing on-air mishap. It seems Holly came a cropper when introducing
the Bollywood actor on This Morning.
“I just read the link really quickly and it came out as ‘anal’. Anal Kapoor,
that’s what I actually said. There was nothing that I could do about it.”
On another occasion, transsexual media personality Lauren Harries was booked
to talk about transgender issues on This Morning.
“For whatever reason,” says Holly, “she’d got it in her head that she was
going to do a David Walliams impression. So after a very serious discussion,
she said she had one more thing to say, and got up and did this bizarre
impression.” Seriously, look it up on YouTube.
“It’s certainly never dull! The beauty of This Morning is it covers
everything, and we never shy away from any subject. So people can have a
chuckle about our live testicle examination, but it gets them talking, and
hopefully goes some way to getting rid of any embarrassment.”
The dream guest however, has so far eluded Holly.
“If Kate Middleton decided to do her first solo TV interview, I’d love to do
it. I’ve got so much I want to talk to her about. Every little girl has
dreams of being a princess, but hers came true.”
Photo shoot over, Holly heads off to a meeting in town. And does so on the
back of a motorbike, having shunned the offer of a car. See? Not quite the
prim, proper girl next door after all.
- The Voice, Saturday, 7pm, BBC1.
When were you happiest?
My wedding. It was the best day of my life.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, William and Kate, Fearne Cotton, Phillip Schofield and
What trait do you most deplore in yourself?
I’m better now, but I used not to leave the house unless it was all perfect.
Since I became a mum I’m messier.
What would your super power be?
Invisibility. I’d have a nosy in Buckingham Palace, pop to MI5 for a snoop
then finish up in Harvey Nicks, where I’d walk out with entire clothes rails
under my invisibility cloak.
What’s your fave smell?
Basil. I find it really uplifting.
Your greatest achievement?
Giving birth. Twice.
What do you owe to your parents?