Tv host Davina McCall - revealed...
PUBLISHED: 13:20 05 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:53 20 February 2013
As the host of the reality TV show Big Brother, Davina McCall has become one of the nation's best-loved presenters. But although she loves her high-profile career, her main ambition in life was to get married and have children - and family will al...
IT'S A TYPICAL afternoon in the McCall household and Davina, Big Brother host and mother of three, is manfully conducting a telephone interview while trying to keep her children in check. "Can you put those back on the shelf for Mummy?" she says, coaxingly, seemingly in answer to a soul-searching question I've just asked about her future career path. It isn't quite the reply I was anticipating, but when she proceeds to tell me that I can't eat the paper, just the chocolate, I quickly begin to grasp the situation.
"My husband, who runs his own adventure travel company, is working in another building on site today - and I don't have a nanny," she says breathlessly, explaining that the closure of schools in the wake of the recent snow flurry has led to an unexpectedly full house.
It's good to know that Davina's life isn't quite as glossy as those Garnier Nutrisse hair adverts would have us believe. In fact, despite her rosy family life and red carpet lifestyle, she's just like the rest of us.
Well, perhaps not quite. The only scrutiny most of us endure when we move house is the odd twitch of the net curtains from our new neighbours at No 33. When Davina bought a 3.2 million mansion in Sussex recently, the news was splashed across virtually every national newspaper.
Needless to say, Davina, who jealously guards her privacy, firmly brushes aside questions on the subject and says the inaccuracies in the press have infuriated her. "None of it's true!" she exclaims. "Everybody now thinks I've got two homes [she has, in fact, sold her previous house in Surrey] and I fly everywhere by private helicopter. I don't have
She drops her voice, fearful of sounding precious. "It's not that I mind doing press. The bits that I have to do, I do willingly. But the national coverage has meant that I've already got 20 people a day coming round to my house and ringing the doorbell. And if I talk about the house move myself, it will be the same thing all over again. I'm actually quite a private person. Wherever I lay my hat, wherever I'm living ... my wish is just to blend in. I don't want to be difficult. I don't want to stand out. And I don't want my kids to be treated any differently. Sometimes my work life is really mad and it's just nice to feel really mega-normal at home."
Did you know that ...
Davina's showbiz mates include National Lottery presenter Dale Winton and fashion gurus Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine.
Her all-time favourite Big Brother contestants are Brian Dowling, winner in 2001, and Nadia Almada, the Madeiran transsexual who claimed the title in 2004. Her favourite Celebrity Big Brother housemates are Take That singer Mark Owen and Ulrika Jonsson.
Her third baby, Chester, weighed in at a whopping 10lb 2oz.
Later this year, Davina and her family are planning a holiday to Canada, driving around in
a vintage motorhome.
Price of fame
You can't help but sympathise with Davina. The only reason she accepted this interview was because she wanted to promote a charity event close to her heart. But, of course, she knows that public interest in her private life is the price she pays for her high-profile TV career. And it's mainly why women across Surrey and Sussex will be paying 55 a head to join her at an exclusive ladies luncheon in Painshill Park in Surrey in May to support the Touching Tiny Lives appeal run by the charity, Action Medical Research.
More than 25 premature babies die in the UK each week and some 70,000 newborn babies need special care each year. The appeal helps raise funds for vital medical research into reducing pregnancy complications and premature birth - and gives babies a better start in life.
Davina has hosted two such previous events and throws herself into the day, cheerfully posing for pictures with guests and signing autographs. She even went on a sponsored walk for the charity in Portsmouth when she was seven months' pregnant, although she had to be spurred on to the finish by sailors lining the route.
"Any girl girls will appreciate that a room full of women, all having a laugh with their best mates, is always going to be a great place to be," she says. "It's just the magic that happens when women get together. There are no social barriers. There's never that issue of girls not getting on with other tables. But the major thing to expect is that we'll all have a laugh. Mind you, we'll probably cry a bit, too, because the charity usually shows a film about its inspiring work. But we'll probably laugh more than cry and it promises to be a great day." Davina has been supporting the charity since the age of nine because her grandmother, affectionately known as Pippy, was a leading fundraiser at its Bramley branch near Guildford in Surrey. "I did the sponsored walk every year. I lived with my granny until the age of 13, so whatever she did, I did. I think it's nice when you've got roots and some kind of connection. And any charity that helps fund research into children and maternal health is of interest to me because I'm a woman and I have daughters."
"I'm actually quite a private person. My wish is just to blend in. I don't want to stand out. I don't want my kids to be treated differently. But sometimes my work is really mad and it is just nice to feel really mega-normal at home"
She's currently taking some quiet me-time after the frenzy surrounding the latest airing of Celebrity Big Brother. She's delighted that Ulrika Jonsson emerged triumphantly from the house and says it's always a pleasure when somebody wins who wasn't expecting it. "It meant more to her because she's had such a tough time in the press."
This is Davina's tenth year as presenter, but she rarely manages to predict the winner. "I thought Verne Troyer was going to win because the public loved him so much, but his antics later in the series probably cost him some votes. As for Terry Christian, who came second, well, I just fell in love with him. He threw himself into the whole ethos of the programme, when he could have been quite snooty about it, and he was just heaven to watch. I don't think there was anyone I disliked, although sometimes the most annoying people are the ones who entertain me the most."
Davina is noticeably proprietorial about Big Brother and still gets frissons of excitement during the build-up. "I love seeing the housemates' characters emerge. I get to know them as the public do and when they come out I feel like I'm meeting a celebrity."
Some say the show has run its course, but she vehemently disagrees. "I think it will run and run. It has a timeless quality and as long as it's still attracting viewers and making money for Channel 4, I don't see why it should stop. It might not be everybody's cup of tea and nothing gets the flak Big Brother does, which seems ridiculous when you think it's just a live entertainment show. But people totally miss the point - it's just a really funny and entertaining television programme."
It would have been hard to predict Davina's success when she was a rebellious and attention-seeking teenager. Her parents split up when she was three years old. Her mother, who she describes as "a wild Sixties person who didn't have it in her to look after me," went back to live in her native France and her father, who worked for Jaeger, decided it would be best if she was brought up by her grandparents in Surrey.
Her loving grandmother, who she describes as the glue that binds the family together, welcomed her with open arms, and she had a solid upbringing, laced with "good morals and manners". But she was teased mercilessly at school for living with her grandparents and not having as much money as her well-heeled classmates.
When she was 13, Davina went to live with her father and his second wife, Gaby, in London. After leaving school, she tried her hand at singing in cabaret in Paris, but when that foundered, she returned to London where she became a booker for a modelling agency. Stardom only beckoned when she began bombarding MTV with audition tapes. Her single-mindedness paid off and she was given a slot, swiftly followed by her own show.
But despite the success that followed, she still craved happiness and security until a fortuitous meeting with her future husband, Matthew Robertson, in a park near her West London home. They were both out walking their dogs and when Davina spotted this handsome man in the distance, she knew she couldn't let the moment pass and struck up a conversation. Several weeks later, after countless more 'accidental' meetings, she had him in her sights and he had no chance of escape!
"I never wore skirts when walking the dog, and then, suddenly, there I was in flowery dresses and wellies trying to look like Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice," she laughs. "A fortnight later we had our first kiss. Immediately, I thought: 'Oh my God, it's all going to change. Everything will go wrong like it always has in the past.' But then I thought: 'Just go for it.'"
She describes Matthew, the former presenter of the Channel 4 TV series Pet Rescue, as her perfect partner. "The things I love about him most are his optimism and positivity. I've always been a very emotional person and when I met Matthew I felt grounded for the first time. I just can't imagine being with anybody else and I'd be lost without him."
He is totally unfazed by her fame and that's precisely why she married him, she says. "He's the only man I could imagine not having a problem with what I do. He was only in the business for a short time, but it did give him an insight into how weird it is. He could easily dismiss my job as silly showbusiness, but he doesn't. He's very supportive."Now they're the proud parents of three children, Holly, seven, Tilly, five, and Chester, two. "Motherhood has made me feel like a whole person and I do think I've become less driven," she says.
"When I first started in TV, I worked six days a week and I just don't want to do that any more." Davina gave birth to all three children at home. "The first time, I gave birth squatting in the dog room of our house because it was the cosiest place. The second and third times were in my living room in this huge pool. Matthew finds it a bit disturbing when I'm in pain, so he brought me vegetable soup and just came in for a bit when the baby popped out. After I'd given birth, I wanted to stand naked on the highest mountain and roar with pride."
Davina may be wedded to family life, but she still has a busy year ahead, career-wise. It's been rumoured that she's a hot favourite to present a new series of Blind Date, but she says ITV hasn't talked to her about it and, besides, she's not sure she'd want to take it on. "Cilla Black made that programme her own and it would be a very difficult job. You'd have to rethink it radically."
What she can confirm, however, is that she'll be appearing in a new BBC series of Who Do You Think You Are?, the documentary programme in which celebrities trace their family history. Davina, who owes her enviable dusky colouring to French and Spanish blood on her mother's side, may well find herself crossing the Channel in search of clues to her ancestry, but the programme-makers are keeping her firmly in the dark. As soon as that ends, she'll go straight into a new series of Big Brother.
She'll continue hosting the show for as long as she's wanted, but she's well aware that TV is a notoriously fickle business. "I do know that it gets much more difficult for women in this industry as they get older, but I'm good at my job and I'm sure that even when I'm an old biddy there'll still be something for me to do," she laughs.
"If it did all end tomorrow, I'd be a housewife. It's a great job. For me, fulfilment is about achieving your dreams. And my dream was to get married and have kids. I love my job, don't get me wrong, but my goal in life wasn't to be at the top of my game. All I've ever really wanted is to put a roof over my head, pay the mortgage and do all the things that other people want to do. Everything else has just been an amazing bonus."