In­ter­view: Carol Smil­lie

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TV pre­sen­ter, Carol Smil­lie, talks to No.1 about slowly clos­ing the door on

Af­ter pre­sent­ing some of TV’S most well-known shows, 53-year-old Carol Smil­lie has es­tab­lished her­self as one of tele­vi­sion’s favourite faces. Now, Carol has moved on from Chang­ing Rooms and de­cided to change the busi­ness world with her new ven­ture, Di­ary Doll. No.1 chat­ted to Carol to find out ex­actly why she launched her new prod­uct, what it’s like to be a busi­ness woman and how she feels tele­vi­sion has changed over the years.

What is Di­ary Doll and why did you de­cide to launch it?

Di­ary Doll are pro­tec­tive pants for pe­ri­ods, pelvic floor and post ma­ter­nity. I knew my TV ca­reer was def­i­nitely qui­eter than it had been and it wasn’t go­ing to be get­ting busier any time soon. I didn’t want to wait around for telly to throw me a few scraps, so this be­came my back up plan and it’s worked out very well!

What’s the story be­hind bring­ing out this prod­uct?

It started with my­self and Annabel Croft. We were on hol­i­day to­gether and dis­cussing the fact that our teenage daugh­ters weren’t man­ag­ing their monthly cy­cle very well. Annabel con­fessed that she had al­ways suf­fered with this as a young girl and at 15, had left home to do the in­ter­na­tional ten­nis cir­cuit. She said it was wor­ry­ing play­ing ten­nis in a short white skirt and she also re­vealed you only get two toi­let breaks in a three-hour match. She told me it’s a huge prob­lem and we came to the con­clu­sion that we didn’t know why there was noth­ing out there for peo­ple who needed it. There are knick­ers out there that can make you thin­ner, gel for your bras, but there was noth­ing out there for the most reg­u­lar prob­lem that fe­males have.

What does your hus­band think of your new ven­ture?

My hus­band ac­tu­ally works with me. Hav­ing been in the restau­rant busi­ness for 20 years, he’s been by my side help­ing me with the com­mer­cial and busi­ness side of things. Annabel and I focus on mar­ket­ing and sales.

How are you finding the busi­ness world so far?

It’s a bit of a roller-coaster. I find it ex­cit­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing in equal mea­sure – I’ve had a lot of sleep­less nights! It’s been a quick process, but there have been a lot of highs and lows in the lead up to this point. Our prod­uct has been in John Lewis for a year now and they’ve sold out four times. Now it’s go­ing into 45 Deben­hams stores, 475 phar­ma­cies and all five of JD Wil­liams’ cat­a­logues. It’s all mov­ing very quickly, but I’m hang­ing on!

What’s been the big­gest hur­dle in launch­ing your prod­uct?

Peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes to the whole sub­ject mat­ter – es­pe­cially the me­dia. Had I been sell­ing knick­ers that were sexy, it would have been easy. Once John Lewis came on board, that opened a lot of doors and re­spect for us.

Do you think women are treated dif­fer­ently to men in busi­ness?

Not par­tic­u­larly be­cause this is a women’s busi­ness world that I’m work­ing in. I’m mak­ing a prod­uct for women and sell­ing it to women, very rarely do you get a man buy­ing our prod­uct for a store – the buy­ers are gen­er­ally fe­male.

her days in tele­vi­sion and fo­cus­ing on her new busi­ness ven­ture with ten­nis ace, Annabel Croft.

Are you still work­ing in TV at the mo­ment?

I’ve got an­other se­ries of He­roes com­ing up for STV, but that’s the only thing just now. I’m not ac­tu­ally look­ing for TV work – if my agent turns up with voice-overs and things like that, that’s fine be­cause it’s easy to do. But, as they say in Dragon’s Den, ‘I’m out!’

Do you think it’s dif­fi­cult for women to have a long ca­reer in tele­vi­sion?

The world won’t change overnight and in tele­vi­sion terms, there will al­ways be younger women and older men pre­sent­ing. Take Bruce Forsyth for ex­am­ple, he pre­sented Strictly un­til he was over 80. Would you ever see an 80-year-old woman pre­sent­ing a Satur­day night TV show? It would never ever hap­pen! Hav­ing said that, I’m very care­ful about this be­cause I didn’t give any con­sid­er­a­tion to older women when I was mak­ing money in TV. I’m in no po­si­tion to com­plain about it now.

Do you ever miss work­ing solely in tele­vi­sion?

Fun­nily enough, no! Isn’t that weird? I thor­oughly en­joyed work­ing in TV at the time – I had a re­ally great run at it, but I’ve never made tele­vi­sion my whole life. I didn’t put preg­nan­cies to one side be­cause I know what TV can be like; it’s re­ally shal­low. You can be in work one week and not the next. I didn’t want to be in that po­si­tion, I’ve al­ways wanted to be the one call­ing the shots in my own ca­reer, not some­body else.

Is there any­thing you were par­tic­u­larly happy to leave be­hind?

I don’t miss the un­cer­tainty of it and the un­cer­tainty of where your next job is com­ing from. While you’re sail­ing high and the work is flow­ing in TV, that’s not an is­sue. When it’s qui­eter your sort of sit back and think, ‘Oh so I’ve got all these bills to pay. What if I don’t get a phone call?’you al­ways need to have a back up plan.

Has tele­vi­sion changed over the past few years?

The role of a TV pre­sen­ter has changed ma­te­ri­ally. There used to be a lot of TV pre­sen­ters around, but now it’s peo­ple that are con­sid­ered as ex­perts – they’re pre­sent­ing a par­tic­u­lar show be­cause they have an in­ter­est in that sub­ject. They now pre­fer you to have a vested in­ter­est in the sub­ject mat­ter.

Do you think re­al­ity shows such as Made in Chelsea and TOWIE have en­cour­aged this change?

These shows are very pop­u­lar, but un­for­tu­nately they cel­e­brate the ba­nal, which I find quite sad. Don’t get me wrong I’ve watched them as well and thought, ‘Oh my God, stu­pid­ity is king some­times.’ It’s kind of cel­e­brat­ing that some peo­ple can’t tell the time and I think that’s quite sad. It’s a slight freak show and that’s the part I find a lit­tle bit sad.

What has been the high­light of your tele­vi­sion ca­reer so far?

I would maybe say Chang­ing Rooms be­cause it was so ground-break­ing at the time, it was kind of the birth of that sort of car crash TV where you’re watch­ing from be­hind a cush­ion be­cause peo­ple’s houses weren’t ex­actly what they wanted them to be. In the early days, we all thought it was just a bit of fun and it ended up with a BAFTA nom­i­na­tion and an in­vi­ta­tion to Down­ing Street.

Has your style changed since your early days on tele­vi­sion?

I hope so, I wouldn’t like to think I’m stuck in a rut! I hope I don’t look too frumpy or too mid­dle- aged and that I dress to flat­ter my good bits and hide my bad bits. My daugh­ters still want to bor­row my clothes, which is a good sign – they would be the first to tell me if some­thing looked bad!

You al­ways look fan­tas­tic! What is your beauty regime?

It’s ridicu­lously min­i­mal to be hon­est! I don’t ex­er­cise, I don’t re­ally eat a lot of fruit and veg­eta­bles, but I don’t drink a lot of al­co­hol and I’ve never smoked. My ad­vice is to al­ways take your makeup off be­fore bed and don’t wear it if you don’t need to!

Do you think that the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of celebri­ties feel as though they have to sex­u­alise their im­age?

It wor­ries me when it’s younger girls. They’re very keen to have all the nails, hair, lashes and they’re still on chil­dren, they seem in such a rush. It sends out quite a scary mes­sage when they’re all dressed up.

Do you think things are dif­fer­ent to when you were first in the public eye?

We live in a world of so­cial me­dia and ev­ery wak­ing hour is doc­u­mented and put out there. If you’re go­ing to en­ter into that then you have to be very care­ful be­cause it’ll be out there for­ever and it’ll bite you. I think in some ways so­cial me­dia is a bril­liant tool, but in other ways it’s too much – I don’t al­low phones at the din­ner ta­ble! If you want to have din­ner with me, then do that – don’t sit on your phone.

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