What Not To Wear’s Susannah: ‘I don’t care what I look like any more’
Susannah Constantine talks about her new novel, parenthood and future plans
Fashion journalist and television host Susannah Constantine – one half of Trinny and Susannah, whose show What Not
To Wear was a primetime hit in the early 2000s – has finally given in to a burning desire and written her very first novel. Titled
After The Snow, the book is set amongst the scandalous British elite during the Swinging Sixties. Straight-talking mother-of-three Susannah, 55, talks to
best about her new career path, ageing, and what it is that she really worries about these days… Hi, Susannah! What inspired you to write your debut novel? Writing was my first love – TV was a happy diversion! And I realised my childhood was a good basis for a novel. My mother was a manic depressive, and I started building a story around my upbringing which, despite that, was idyllic. It’s seen through the eyes of Esme, an 11-year-old girl, so I used my own children for research!
Does it lift the lid on Downton Abbey- style glamour?
Absolutely. That was very much part of my life growing up. But what I have tried to get across is that it doesn’t matter what privileges you grow up with, people’s problems are universal.
What’s your writing routine?
I write late at night when everyone’s fed and watered. I drink lots of coffee to stay awake, then have a slug of Night Nurse to knock me out when I’ve finished. Healthy, right?
Earlier this year, you said you’d become a ‘frump’. Do you still feel that way?
I wasn’t even in a style rut. I was just… stuck. My confidence had gone. But I’ve come out the other side. I’m 55, and what I look like isn’t that important.
You haven’t given yourself a Trinny & Susannah-style makeover, then?
I’ve always dressed to make the most of my shape. I’ll grab anything that will hide what I hate [ her stomach]. Though my boobs have got so enormous they’re difficult to hide… I have thought about having a breast reduction, but my husband loves my boobs so I’m not going to go there. I’m not getting Botox or any of that rubbish, but I’ve started wearing a bit of primer, and tinted moisturiser and blush so my face looks brighter.
Do you think women neglect themselves?
Every woman does, unless she’s a profound narcissist. Every woman puts their job, their husband, their kids, first. It’s part of a woman’s journey. But I do like to be the one who makes sure my family is warm, happy and provided for.
How would you describe your parenting style? Pretty relaxed. I encourage my kids to push the boundaries. If they break a leg, we’ll just go to hospital and get it fixed.
Does anything keep you awake at night?
Worrying about drugs. And my daughters [Esme, 16, and CeCe, 13] getting wrapped up in social media and worrying about how they look. As far as drugs go, I had an amazing conversation with my son [Joe, 18] last night. He told me he wouldn’t touch them, but talked about what other kids his age are doing. He’s so knowledgeable, he knows all the chemical compounds. I’m in awe of the younger generation. They get such a hard rap, but I love being around young people.
Was your relationship as open with your parents?
Oh, no! My father, God bless him, was an emotional desert, but I hero-worshipped him. Despite her illness, my mother was very loving and kind.
What’s been your most memorable encounter with a fan?
With an actor called Eric Bana [ he played the Hulk]. I was at the first night of a play he’d written. He spotted me said, ‘Oh, I cannot believe it’s you. I love your show so much!’ That was nice. He’s very handsome.
Can we expect you back on our TV screens soon?
There’s something in the pipeline, but I’m not sure I want it! I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me to make more telly – I don’t know if I could get my head around fashion any more. I would rather do a documentary about walking to the South Pole!
After The Snow (HQ, £12.99) is out now.
With husband Sten Bertelsen
Co-host Trinny Woodall is a close friend