From showing off spring’s hot new trends for the Shopping issue to hitting back at the women haters, Alex Jones is our kind of girl
Photography by Euan Danks
Alex Jones is so relentlessly cheerful, it’s hard to imagine her getting infuriated about anything at all.
It’s one reason she’s been able to establish herself as such a firm favourite with BBC viewers and bosses alike: Alex is a safe, engaging and, yes, uncontroversial pair of hands.
So, it’s a bit of a surprise (although a welcome one) to see an uncharacteristic flash of anger as she stands up for the sisterhood and wades into the recent row that saw veteran BBC reporter Michael Buerk single out Strictly Come Dancing presenter Tess Daly for a public mauling.
When the subject crops up, Alex’s sunny expression changes instantly. She purses her lips, narrows her eyes and shakes her head in frustration.
“I’ll probably get into trouble for saying this,” she says, “But I don’t think that was acceptable. To pick on Tess, a woman who does her job really well and is trying to do her best – that was not on. I read it and was absolutely beside myself.”
MONOCHROME: Alex wears: Dress, £34.99, H&M; shoes, £65, Schuh. Left mannequin wears: Blazer, £60, A Wear; shirt, £39.99, Zara; trousers, £38, Red Herring at Debenhams; boots, £45, Stylist Pick. Right mannequin wears: Dress, £38, ASOS; necklace, £28, Lianna Sheppard; boots, £45, Stylist Pick.
The unsavoury episode kicked off last month when 66-year-old Michael wrote an article criticising the Beeb’s “cringingly inept” coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant. In his rant was a line dismissing Tess, 43, as “a pneumatic bird-brain.”
Alex believes Michael’s comments were rooted in the sexism still entrenched in certain sections of the media.
“To be honest, sometimes it still feels like we’re in the 1950s. The majority of people in our office at The One Show are men. The men are in charge. Luckily, I love those men dearly and we get on brilliantly, but men still rule the roost.
“If Michael had said: ‘The casting was wrong. I don’t think that [light entertainment] presenters were right for the occasion,’ then that would have been all right. But there were loads of men on that broadcast who were of the same ilk, yet weren’t mentioned. Tess had been asked to do a job and she did it. She’s never claimed to be a news anchor. I just put myself in her shoes and I really felt for her, as a colleague and as a woman.”
She makes you want to punch the air a little bit. It’s been two and a half years since Alex, 35, took over from Christine Bleakley to anchor Auntie’s weekday evening staple The One Show, alongside Matt Baker and Chris Evans. In that time, ratings have steadied at an impressive 4.5 million. Alex has also branched out into Saturday night prime-time, and starts her third run of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief next month.
CANDY Alex wears: Top, £18, F+F; skirt, £18, Vero Moda. Left mannequin wears: Blazer, £44.99, Own The Runway; shirt, £49, Virgos Lounge; trousers, £39.50, Marks & Spencer. Centre mannequin wears: Dress, £65, Vero Moda; necklace, £15, Accessorize. Right mannequin wears: Dress, £50, Lashes of London.
“I reckon I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” she says, her Carmarthenshire accent still broad. “I can’t believe that I’m still here. I thought they would have packed me off back to Cardiff by now.”
Dreams of marriage
She’s too modest, of course. Alex’s natural warmth and approachability make her ideal for the informal cosiness of The One Show. She tells an anecdote about being at the theatre recently, which illustrates this perfectly. A woman sat next to her and started chatting as if they’d known each other for years.
“Hi Alex,” said the lady. “How are you? How’s everything? Are you ready for Christmas?”
Alex replied that she hadn’t started her shopping yet, before the penny dropped and the woman suddenly gasped: “Oh my God, I don’t know you at all, do I? I’m really sorry!”
That, says Alex, happens quite a lot.
STRIPES Alex wears: Dress, £49.99, Zara; shoes, £75, Schuh.
“It was fine and we ended up having a really long chat,” she says.
This morning, sitting in a brasserie a few streets from her west London flat, she orders a fruit salad, washing it down with sugar-less tea. At our shoot for the cover of our Shopping issue, she proves a natural in front of the camera, posing confidently and failing to take a single bad shot. Her lightly freckled skin is dewy and her tiny figure, which has always been slim, is positively model-like.
She doesn’t seem entirely comfortable discussing weight loss, but does acknowledge there has been some.
“I think I noticed it when I did the Children In Need Rickshaw Challenge last autumn. That sort of kick-started it. I walk a lot and go on Boris bikes at the weekend, so I suppose I’m active.
“But I can’t stand the gym, it makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel.
“Some days I catch myself and think: ‘I’m sure that wrinkle wasn’t there yesterday…’ Or: ‘Are my boobs as pert?’ But you’ve got to be grateful for what you’ve got and make the most of it.”
Away from the cameras, Alex has been seeing insurance broker Charlie Thomson, 34, for 18 months. They’ve moved in together and marriage seems like the next logical step.
“I hope so,” she says. “I don’t say this to him because I don’t want him to think: ‘Oh, she’s mid-30s and she’s panicking!’ Because I’m genuinely not. Whatever your age, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right person. You can’t speed things up just because you hit a certain birthday.
“I’d love to be married before I have children, but it’s up to him. He’s going to have to make this happen. Charlie is the most laid-back person you’ll ever meet, so we could be waiting for some time!”
New Zealander Charlie’s family are all on the other side of the world, which is an added complication to making a long-term commitment over here.
“You’re not asking somebody just to be with you, you’re asking somebody to live their life a 28-hour flight away from their parents,” says Alex. “So it’s not something I can put pressure on him to do. I certainly couldn’t move that far away from my parents and sister. We’re just having a really lovely time and if it happens that’d be great. I’m sure it will at some point.”
Alex and TV presenter ex-boyfriend Steve Jones, 35, will soon be rekindling their professional partnership for Let’s Dance, but Charlie doesn’t have anything to worry about there. That ship sailed a long time ago.
“Me and Steve have gone through all stages of a relationship and now we’re pretty much at brother and sister,” Alex says.
“We’ve had all the chemistry and all the romance…well not much romance. This is Steve Jones we’re talking about. But, you know, we’ve done all that and then there was a sort-of friendship when we first did Let’s Dance, and it was all a bit weird. But we’re OK now. We don’t see each other very often but, when we do, it’s like there’s no time passed at all.”
Alex admits she was worried for Steve when he was dropped as host of the US X Factor after just one season. But he’s bounced back and has since made LA his permanent home.
“I’ve spoken to him about The X Factor at length and he’ll never say it, because he’s a bloke and he’s quite tough, but he had a rough time, really, and I think he’s glad he’s out of it.
“He said it was hard because you’re brand new in a massive country and synonymous with something you only did for one season. But a year on, things are moving on for him and he said he’s actually relieved about what happened.”
The two of them saw each other briefly earlier this month during a Comic Relief trip to Malawi, and Alex says the change in the former ladies’ man is quite astonishing.
“He seems to be really happy and settled. LA really suits him. He’s met a girl called Felicia, who he obviously adores. I mean, they’ve got a dog, which is a big deal! He was showing me pictures of the dog and I was like: ‘You’re definitely going soft.’
“He was telling me about how he lives next to a canyon and goes hiking and horse riding, which made me do a double take! He’s grown up, and it’s just good to see him happy. And even though he had a tough time, that’s all led him to where he is now.”
As for Alex herself, there’s no five-year career plan other than to stay put. You’d be hard pushed to find someone as happy in their job.
EMBELLISHED Jacket, £43.99, Missguided; top, £34.99, Quiz; trousers, £19.99, New Look; necklace, £15, ASOS; boots, £45, Stylist Pick.
“I’d stay at The One Show for 20 years if possible! Touch wood, because why would you change? It’s a lovely show, the hours are brilliant, it’s live, every day. There aren’t any negatives.”
She takes her position as a BBC presenter extremely seriously, particularly considering the kicking the corporation has been given in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
“There has been a lot of turmoil,” she says. “And it’s hard, especially when you’re on one of the flagship shows and feel protective towards the company you work for.
“What we have to do now is try to regain the trust of the audience, and I hope The One Show has helped provide some sort of normality, something familiar, during a time of such upheaval.
“For me, the best plan is to just get on with it without making a fuss.
“I’ve been given a massive opportunity, a job I adore and a complete life change. So I really can’t complain.”
Alex works four spring/summer 2013 looks and gives us her fashion verdict…
“I think this is my favourite look. Very simple, very ’60s. I always felt that monochrome could be quite harsh, but this look is smart and easy.”
“This look is fun, but I’m not sure I could carry it off around Chiswick! I’m quite surprised that metallic is such a big trend for spring.”
Shop till she drops
What’s your favourite high-street store?
At the minute, it’s Zara.
I just bought the new Chanel bag. I feel sick at how much it cost, but I’m so excited. I phoned my mum before I dared buy it… How old am I?!
My black biker jacket from Warehouse. I’ve had it for nine years and it’s still going strong.
Best city for shopping?
London. I love Westfield and Spitalfields market on a Sunday. And there are some really nice shops in Westbourne Grove.
Best place for shoes?
Worst ever purchase?
A pair of gold PVC trousers from New Look. I’ve kept them for the hilarity!
- Tell us what you think on Twitter #FabMagAlex