‘I finally have balance in my life’
Breakfast TV presenter Susanna Reid talks with Prima about romance, glitterballs and the world’s most annoying man
Susanna Reid talks about family, friends and working with the world’s most annoying man
Journalist, TV presenter and former Strictly Come Dancing finalist, Susanna, 46, is single and lives in south London with her three sons, Sam, 15, Finn, 13, and Jack, 12. She currently co-hosts ITV’S flagship breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, with Piers Morgan. This month, she also presents a documentary on the treatment of children who commit murder in America as well as reuniting with chef Matt Tebbutt to present another series of Save Money: Good Food, the cookery show that shows how to feed a family on a budget.
A kind of magic
The chemistry between Piers and me was instant. He totally wound me up from the moment he joined Good Morning Britain, nearly two years ago. He’s the most annoying man I’ve ever met, but I find working with him exhilarating. Yes, he drives me nuts, but he also makes me laugh – and when the chips are down, and there’s a big news story breaking or we’re doing a controversial interview with a politician, I trust him.
I think of Piers as a mini tornado. He loves nothing more than to stir up feelings and niggle away at issues. When he’s on to something, he’s like a dog with a bone. Others might think they’ve pushed you enough, but Piers just keeps on going. It’s one of the reasons, I’m sure, that our viewing figures just keep on going up.
Before working with Piers, I was used to everything being controlled and filtered. But ‘filter’ and ‘Piers’ are two words that don’t go together! At first, I tried to filter him myself – until I realised that there’s just no need. The audience loves or hates him (and Piers doesn’t care which) just the way he is! And you don’t want to get in the way of that.
Some breakfast shows are like a nice cup of tea in the morning. Ours is like a double espresso! There’s a tension and adrenaline there, partly because of our relationship. People joke they watch to see if I’ll finally snap, which I promise you I won’t because, after two years, I’ve learned to handle Piers just as he’s learned to handle me. The combative element of our relationship is definitely not staged.
It doesn’t start when the show does at 6am. It’s how we are with each other, on and off air. Even in editorial meetings, he’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re looking down your glasses at me like the headmistress again.’ We don’t sit there wondering how to wind each other up on screen, it happens naturally.
Moving to ITV has worked brilliantly for my career and my life. I loved presenting BBC Breakfast and I’m still good friends with everyone on the programme, but being asked to launch a brand-new breakfast show for ITV was a once-in-alifetime opportunity. On the personal front, too, I’d spent two years with
BBC Breakfast in Salford, while my kids stayed in London. I missed them and the commute was exhausting, especially when I was combining it all with Strictly Come Dancing. So to be offered the chance to work 20 minutes from home felt like the luckiest thing in the world.
Love & relationships
My then partner (Dominic Cotton) and I split during all the upheavals. But we were determined to put our children first. We’ve all seen break-ups where kids are collateral damage and we desperately wanted to avoid that. In the end, if you want your children to
be okay, you have to be emotionally generous to one another. So we steered clear of bitterness, resentment and jealously. Dominic’s a good man and together we’ve managed to co-parent and remain good friends. We worked it out and family life now feels sorted and happy.
I’m a child of divorce myself. Not only did my mum and dad go through it when I was nine years old, but they also went on to divorce their subsequent partners. Perhaps experiencing break-ups so many times in my family was a lesson in what you should and shouldn’t do.
I’m happily single at the moment. And though I wouldn’t be averse to meeting someone new, I’m also aware that you can’t play fast and loose with your children. Mine still need me a lot and so I’m not sure I’d want all the distractions that come with a new relationship.
I don’t have a romantic ‘type’. But yes, there are certain requirements, aren’t there? Love, care, respect and trust… and, oh yes, attraction, obviously. I love being the mother of sons. And never think, ‘What if I’d had a daughter?’ The way I see it, I’m just so lucky to have been able to bring three healthy, fantastic, intelligent, endlessly insightful people into the world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve interviewed mothers who’ve had a very different experience.
I filmed a new documentary recently about children and teenagers who’ve committed murder in the US, where a life sentence, even for a child, always means life. Of course you feel so much for the victims’ families but, at the same time, seeing the anguish of those poor women, who, like all mothers, never imagined their children could be capable of murder, was harrowing. It was one of the most sensitive, difficult and troubling pieces of work I’ve ever done.
Absolutely fab friends
My female friendships are vital. Maybe growing up with two older brothers and no sisters explains why I’ve always searched for that tight bond you get from other women. I especially love one-on-one friendships rather than a big crowd of girls, and I have several key women in my life: one from school, one from university and one who became a mum at the same time as me. It’s about the emotional support that women give each other at different important moments.
Being on Strictly is like living on a different planet where the air is dense with glitter. It’s wonderful, intense and totally absorbing, but it’s also a bit unreal and it takes some time to come back down to earth when it’s over.
I feel so lucky that friends made on that show are still friends, including my dance partner, Kevin, and his wife, Karen. I was also recently at the wedding of two of the show’s wonderful professional dancers, Janette and Aljaž. How lovely, too, that Natalie Gumede, who was in the final with me, is now one of my closest friends.
I was incredibly lucky to get to the
final. Abbey Clancy (who won) and Natalie were far better dancers.
I had a ball, though, and my advice to anyone taking part is to enjoy the moment but keep your feet on the ground. Planet Strictly is a temporary trip – you couldn’t live there!
I still love Strictly and usually there’s
someone I know taking part. In the past, that’s included Judge Rinder, Ed Balls, Ore Oduba, Jeremy Vine and Carol Kirkwood (from my BBC
Breakfast days). So I watch their dances and cheer them on from the sofa. I’m just as addicted to the show as the rest of the nation.
Health & fitness
I like to keep my fitness level high.
But I’m not committed to one form of exercise. Sometimes I’m a Zumba fiend, other times I’ve been passionate about running. I’ve done two marathons, two Great North Runs and countless 10k runs and, when I’m in that zone, I’m a zealot. At the moment, though, I can’t even imagine putting on a pair of
running shoes. Just doing a bit of weights, bike and rowing machine at the gym works fine for me right now.
I try to eat well, although it would
be easy not to. The tiredness you experience from the early starts on
Good Morning Britain makes you crave sugary carbs, and you could make the mistake of constantly snacking. When I go home, I could say, ‘I’m starving!’ and eat half a packet of Rich Teas. Instead, I toast a bit of rye bread and have it with poached egg and avocado. Then I’ll stop; the danger is that, once I start, I could just keep going. I haven’t eaten meat since the age of 13. And I only started eating fish when I was pregnant for the first time and thought my body might need more protein. What began as a rebellious teenager thing is now just a way of life. I can’t say I miss meat at all.
I’ve learned a lot from the show Save
Money: Good Food. Presenting it with chef Matt Tebbutt has shown me so many delicious, healthy ways to cook. It’s great for families on a budget, too, as all the meals cost under a fiver!
I look quite different when I’m not
on screen. Away from work, I love to dress in baggy jumpers and jeans. In fact, I think people are disappointed that I don’t go shopping in a tight dress with a full blow-dry! There’s my work side that’s dynamic and professional, and there’s the personal side, where all I want to do is relax, hang out with the kids and with my friends. But the beauty of my life now is that the two sides feel perfectly balanced.