‘I’ve learnt not to worry what people t hink’
She overcame a difficult start to become one of our busiest TV presenters, with fantastic abs to boot. Davina Mccall explains why she doesn’t waste time on regrets and has so much to celebrate this year
The minute she strides into the GH shoot, Davina Mccall fills the studio with positivity. She radiates a golden glow of health and happiness, and is exactly the warm, friendly person she appears to be on TV. With big hugs for everyone, the presenter is vivacious, with a contagious enthusiasm for life.
With a milestone birthday later this year, Davina is in reflective mood. Growing up was challenging – her parents broke up when she was four and she lived with her grandmother as her own mother struggled with alcoholism. In her early 20s, Davina battled drug addiction before going into recovery. Remarkably she turned it all round and life now revolves around her husband, Matthew Robertson, and their children, Holly, Tilly and Chester.
She’s also become well known for her physical fitness, and won widespread respect when she completed a gruelling 500-mile triathlon for Sport Relief in 2014.
As well as turning 50 later this year, Davina is also celebrating 25 years of being on our TV screens. She shares her keys to confidence, a positive approach to getting older and dealing with a new health crisis in her family.
You will be 50 this year. How are you feeling about that?
There are lots of things that I am beginning to enjoy and realise are okay. I genuinely care a lot less about what people think of me. As you grow older, I think you’ve earned the right to wear something that might divide people. I want to take risks! When I was younger I would be upset about it [being criticised in the media]. Now I couldn’t give two hoots. I’m wearing what I’m wearing. Get over it!
How will you celebrate?
For my actual birthday, I’m having a club night with 500 people in London. I’m inviting everyone from my life who has made my life brilliant and who I’ve loved. There are lots of things that make me feel really young – and one of them is music. It’s emotional and physical and euphoric.
Who inspires you?
Dame Judi Dench – she’s having fun, living life and enjoying herself. It’s so important for women to be out there showing other women that it doesn’t all end at a certain age. It keeps going on as long as we keep going on.
You seem very confident… Where does that self-belief come from?
Firstly, you have got to love yourself. If you don’t, nobody else is going to love you. The way to do that is with acts of self-love. Look after your body, drink water, take care of yourself. All this helped me when I was in recovery because I hated myself. My first [addiction] sponsor told me to get a mirror, keep it by the bed, look in it every day and say, ‘I love you’. The first time I picked it up I started crying. But over time you get used to saying it. When you love yourself you believe you are worth being looked after. It’s taken me a long time to learn that.
What other confidence tips have you learnt?
When you’re not feeling very sure of yourself, the temptation is to shy away and not be seen or heard. But you shouldn’t be embarrassed to put yourself forward for things. I am annoyingly enthusiastic and a bit like Marmite – you either love me or hate me. So it’s about putting yourself out there. That’s frightening, as you may think you’ll get rejected or laughed at. But if you are, you’ve got to brush it off.
Do you have any regrets about your life?
Regret is toxic. You can’t do anything about the past. You atone for it and forgive yourself, let it go, move on and look forward. Living in the past is dangerous and will pull you down in the end. You are just stuck in the problem – and I want to live in the solution.
You grew up the daughter of an addict and had a chaotic childhood. How did that affect you?
I was lucky because I lived with my granny and she was so grounding. She taught me what it was to mother someone. She was the person whose bed I’d sneak off to in the middle of the night if I had a nightmare. She was the person who taught me to be practical and brave. It’s important to say there was love there [with my mother]. She was a crazy, mad, amazing woman – she just didn’t know how to parent.
What sort of mother are you?
My children know I love them whatever they do. I was always trying to adapt to my mum and keep her on the level and calm. Should I be funny, quiet or really loving? My daughters borrow my clothes and look miles better than me, which is exactly as it should be. My mum used to borrow my clothes and look better than me. I remember thinking to myself, ‘When I have children, I am not going to do this. I am going to let my children shine.’ I feel no hint of jealousy towards my children. I have lived a very colourful life and I don’t need to do that any more. I will bask in their glow.
Are you romantic?
Matthew and I have a song called In the Arms Of The Angel by Sarah Mclachlan. It’s sexy time music. It’s a song about death, but for me it’s about having a second chance – and I just felt that, with Matthew, it was like a new opportunity.
Your father, Andrew, has Alzheimer’s and your grandmother has dementia. How do you cope?
My dad’s positive attitude is quite extraordinary. In certain aspects he is getting worse – his short-term memory is really a struggle. But he is living a great life and has the amazing love of my stepmum, who I call Mum. When you see the way he is dealing with it, you realise you can’t mope around. My lovely granny is very confused now, but she is happy. They are both pretty inspirational.
Has it made you think more about your own health?
I have called my doctor twice, in floods of tears saying: ‘I’ve definitely got Alzheimer’s disease.’ She is so nice to me and says: ‘If you had Alzheimer’s, you wouldn’t be calling me about it.’ She has told me I’m only forgetful because my inbox is full and I have cognitive overload. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I am in good health. If I get ill, I get ill – it’s a lottery. None of us knows what’s going to happen around the corner. You just have to enjoy life.
You’ve taken on some huge physical challenges, such as your Sport Relief challenge. Do you feel you need to prove yourself?
It is quite possible. I am not an athlete or someone who trains 12 hours a day. I have a job and three kids. What I think is quite amazing about the human body is that, whatever we’re going through and even when we think we have nothing left, there is more in the tank.