STRICTLY CON­FI­DEN­TIAL WITH RUTH

TV pre­sen­ter RUTH LANGS­FORD on be­ing this year’s un­likely star of Strictly Come Danc­ing, why she’s proud to be 57 – and the se­cret of her happy mar­riage to Ea­monn Holmes

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor's Letter - IN­TER­VIEW LOUISE GAN­NON PHO­TO­GRAPHS DAN KENNEDY

FOR ME, STRICTLY IS ABOUT HOT MOVES, NOT HOT FLUSHES”

IT is a long-held view in the world of tele­vi­sion that the more a woman ages the less chance she has of be­ing on screen. Not so for Ruth Langs­ford. At 57, af­ter decades of be­ing ‘the eter­nal stand-in’, she is ev­ery­where, from This Morn­ing to Loose Women to Chan­nel 5’s How the Other Half Lives. And then there’s her per­sonal crown­ing glory: Strictly Come Danc­ing, with her pro­fes­sional part­ner An­ton Du Beke.

We meet an hour or so be­fore Ruth, who is mar­ried to award-win­ning pre­sen­ter Ea­monn Holmes, is due at a nearby dance stu­dio for an af­ter­noon of stretches, lunges and twists for an up­com­ing at­tempt at a ‘ter­ri­fy­ing tango’ (which sub­se­quently turns out to be her best dance on the show). She is not, she hap­pily ad­mits, the best dancer in Strictly 2017, which in­cludes the daz­zlingly ta­lented pop star As­ton Mer­ry­gold and equally fleet-footed singer Alexan­dra Burke, as well as the sur­pris­ingly lim­ber Deb­bie McGee, widow of ma­gi­cian Paul Daniels. In fact, so stunned was Ruth by her tri­umphant tango that she ended up in hot wa­ter af­ter she tweeted, ‘We’re through to next week’ be­fore the re­sults show was broad­cast, thereby spoil­ing the out­come for view­ers. ‘I work in live TV – I have ab­so­lutely no ex­cuse,’ she says. ‘I was just overex­cited. I did man­age to delete it from my Twit­ter ac­count but for­got it was also on Face­book.’ But the blun­der has done noth­ing to dent her pop­u­lar­ity.

Strictly view­ers love see­ing a celebrity who has gen­uinely never had a dance les­son in their life giv­ing it a go. ‘I’ve al­ways loved the show and al­ways wanted to be asked to do it,’ says Ruth. ‘I just wanted to learn to dance. And I wanted to do it for a whole gen­er­a­tion of menopausal women who haven’t given up on them­selves just be­cause they are in their 50s. For me, this was about hot moves, not hot flushes, and throw­ing my­self into the glam­our, se­quins and drama of this in­cred­i­ble show. I’m not a trained dancer but I still put my­self out there and try be­cause I want to have fun and see how far I can go.’

It can’t be much fun fac­ing the judges’ crit­i­cism though. Craig Revel Hor­wood de­scribed her de­but waltz as a ‘stum­ble and grab’ and head judge Shirley Bal­las pointed out is­sues with tim­ing, while Bruno To­nioli lam­basted her frozen hips in the rumba. Rather sur­pris­ingly to her fans, the Ruth who won’t take any non­sense on This Morn­ing has meekly ac­cepted their re­bukes. She shrugs. ‘I’m usu­ally such a mix of nerves and re­lief once the dance is over that I hear barely half of what they are say­ing; it goes in one big blur. And they are al­ways right – I can’t ar­gue. I was up­set about my hips, though, be­cause I re­ally do try to move them.’

How­ever, it hasn’t been Ruth’s foot­work that has made her a Strictly star; it’s her pop­u­lar­ity – as ev­i­denced by the al­most mil­lion fol­low­ers she has across In­sta­gram and Twit­ter. What women love about her – largely thanks to more than 20 years of sit­ting in for bet­ter-known TV pre­sen­ters – is that she has never crossed the bridge be­tween us and them. Days af­ter dress­ing up in a blonde wig to per­form the rumba on Strictly, she was in work­out gear along­side her sis­ter Ju­lia, 60, and 3,000 mem­bers of the public in a Mem­ory Walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s; her fa­ther Den­nis died of com­pli­ca­tions aris­ing from the dis­ease in 2012.

In per­son, Ruth is as au­then­tic and warm as she is on screen. She is close to the Strictly cast, es­pe­cially Sun­day Brunch chef Si­mon Rim­mer (with whom she has worked of­ten over the years) and Brian Con­ley (who was voted off the show two weeks ago), but she has a spe­cial bond with Deb­bie. ‘That woman is in­cred­i­ble. She’s giv­ing all the young ones a run for their money. I just watch her with my mouth open, think­ing: “How can her body do that?”’ Mean­while, This Morn­ing view­ers can’t get enough of Ruth’s bick­er­ing with co-host Ea­monn over the sort of is­sues that all cou­ples ar­gue about: ‘The other day he kept say­ing, “So you haven’t ever seen Blade Run­ner? I can’t be­lieve it.” Af­ter he said it for the third time I snapped be­cause he was driv­ing me up the wall.’

She’s sim­i­larly down-to - earth about her lat­est project, Ruth Langs­ford Fash­ion, a cloth­ing line for QVC. ‘My big­gest mis­sion was to cre­ate a pair of jeans for a woman who doesn’t have a per­fectly flat stom­ach and who doesn’t want a waist­band that digs in. I also wanted four-way stretch denim be­cause it is more flat­ter­ing. I didn’t do the de­signs be­cause I’m not a de­signer but I spent hours in chang­ing rooms and weeks say­ing, “women my age want a dress with sleeves” or, “we need lace that stretches and longer hem­lines”. If some­one is buy­ing into some­thing that I am say­ing will make them look good, they have to be able to trust that I’ve put the work in to make sure it does.’

There is some­thing re­as­sur­ingly head girl-like about Ruth, who grew up with Ju­lia in an army fam­ily. Born in Sin­ga­pore, she lived in five dif­fer­ent coun­tries be­fore the age of ten and was sent to board­ing school in Lon­don aged eight. Ruth has no com­plaints about mov­ing around or be­ing packed off for school at such a young age. Af­ter leav­ing at 16, fol­low­ing O-lev­els, she be­gan work­ing as a TV jour­nal­ist in the South­west. She re­mains in­cred­i­bly close to Ju­lia, a land­scape gar­dener, and her 87-year-old mum Joan, who lives in Corn­wall.

‘I loved school,’ she says. ‘My back­ground set me up for life be­cause it forced me to be­come in­de­pen­dent and or­gan­ised. I’ve never played the help­less fe­male. Ea­monn says, “Ruth, you don’t need me for any­thing.” And I’ll say, “But that’s the point, I want you around.” The big­gest at­trac­tion for me with Ea­monn is that he makes me laugh so much. And he is in­cred­i­bly emo­tion­ally sen­si­tive.’

Ruth moved to Lon­don in the mid-90s, win­ning a va­ri­ety of pre­sent­ing roles on the bur­geon­ing satel­lite TV net­works and try­ing to break into

main­stream TV. In 1997 she met Ea­monn. He had split from his first wife Gabrielle so their re­la­tion­ship was slow to start and very low pro­file. They never held hands in public and rarely went to events to­gether be­cause Ea­monn, who had three chil­dren – De­clan, Re­becca and Niall, now grown up – felt it would be in­sen­si­tive. Rather than take it as a slight, Ruth says, ‘I thought it spoke vol­umes about the sort of man he was, the sort of fa­ther he was and the in­tegrity he had. It made me love him more, not less.’ At the Chel­tenham races in 2010 he asked her to marry him and she later dis­cov­ered he had al­ready asked her mother for her hand in mar­riage, as her fa­ther, by then, had ad­vanced Alzheimer’s.

Their bond is still rock solid. ‘Ea­monn will be the first to take the mick out of me but he will also be the first to floor me with his thought­ful­ness. When I get home af­ter re­hears­ing he’ll have a bowl of ice out for my feet and a gin and tonic on the side. He will pause one of his Sec­ond World War doc­u­men­taries and lis­ten to me ram­bling on about my toes, my back, what An­ton said and how I can’t re­mem­ber a step. I’m giv­ing him zero at­ten­tion but I know he won’t be think­ing that. He just gets it. He gets me. That’s why we work.’

Mar­riage – like suc­cess in her ca­reer and moth­er­hood – came late to Ruth. She was 41 when they had their son, Jack, now 15, and 50 when she and Ea­monn fi­nally tied the knot at The El­vetham ho­tel in Hampshire. ‘Things have hap­pened for me late,’ she says. ‘In my early 30s I heard some­one de­scrib­ing me as “a ca­reer girl”, which was their ex­pla­na­tion for why I was sin­gle. That wasn’t the case. I wanted to be a mother but I didn’t want to set­tle for some­one I al­most loved. I didn’t meet Ea­monn un­til I was 37. I would have liked to have had more chil­dren but ev­ery­thing in life is about tim­ing and my tim­ing has al­ways been later rather than sooner.’

Yet her ca­reer sucess is not be­cause of her re­la­tion­ship with Ea­monn. Her fol­low­ing has sprung from so­cial me­dia, Loose Women and an all-round feel­ing that this is a woman who rep­re­sents a gen­er­a­tion of 50-some­things who still feel vi­tal and rel­e­vant in an in­creas­ingly youth-ob­sessed world. ‘There’s never been a more in­ter­est­ing time for women be­cause our voices are be­ing heard.’ Ruth pauses and smiles. ‘And now we are al­lowed to talk about things openly, such as the menopause. I’m not go­ing to pre­tend I’m not 57 and not in menopause – that’s a big part of me do­ing Strictly. It’s for all those women who are go­ing through it and who don’t want to go and hide in a cor­ner and never be no­ticed again.

‘I’m get­ting older and I want to em­brace that and feel proud. There are times I look in the mir­ror and think, “I won­der if I’d look bet­ter with a bit of Botox?” Or I’ll say to Ea­monn, “Oh my God, I have no waist. I’ve thick­ened up,” like my mum used to say. He tells me not to be ridicu­lous and that I look great. I’m also lucky to work with ta­lented make-up artists who can still make me look glam­orous. And then I think. “Well, this is who I am.” I’m still go­ing to re­sist that urge to have a big old squirt of Botox in my face.’

Ruth ad­mits that she would never have had the en­ergy to even con­tem­plate do­ing Strictly when her menopause kicked in two years ago. ‘Some women talk about it hap­pen­ing overnight but it crept up on me. I no­ticed my body chang­ing, my waist go­ing, my hair thin­ning and my skin on my face and neck get­ting less firm. A few years ago I stopped be­ing able to sleep. I would wake up in the night boil­ing hot, I’d throw off the cov­ers and then wake up freez­ing. It would hap­pen so of­ten that af­ter a few months I was com­pletely ex­hausted. I felt I was los­ing my en­ergy, los­ing a bit of who I was. But I am al­ways prag­matic, so I made an ap­point­ment to see my GP.’

On his ad­vice, Ruth de­cided to avoid con­ven­tional HRT med­i­ca­tion and opt for bioiden­ti­cal hor­mone ther­apy, which in­volves hav­ing your hor­mone lev­els tested and tak­ing oe­stro­gen, pro­ges­terone and testos­terone, de­rived from plants, ac­cord­ingly. ‘They have worked re­ally well for me,’ she says. ‘My hot flushes dis­ap­peared prac­ti­cally overnight. Once that hap­pened I could sleep, and then my en­ergy lev­els came back. Dif­fer­ent things work for dif­fer­ent peo­ple, but it’s some­thing we should be talk­ing about. I’m very happy to stand up and break the si­lence.’

The time is tick­ing for her ses­sion with An­ton. I ask if she is wor­ried about the so- called curse of Strictly. She hoots with laugh­ter. ‘Ev­ery­one is ask­ing me if Ea­monn is OK and of­fer­ing to drop off lasagnes and shep­herd’s pies for him as if he can’t pos­si­bly man­age be­cause his wife is away re­hears­ing for hours. We both laugh our heads off about it. I’m not wor­ried about a curse. If any­thing, it’s been the op­po­site – Ea­monn loves me look­ing so glam­orous. On a Satur­day night, be­fore I go into make-up, he’ll ask who he’s go­ing home with that night. The blonde hair was a very big hit. And with all the danc­ing I’ve fi­nally got my waist back. So if any woman my age is feel­ing they are los­ing their body to the menopause, my ad­vice would be to get danc­ing.’

Strictly Come Danc­ing is on BBC One this evening at 7.15pm. Ruth and Ea­monn present This Morn­ing on ITV on Fri­days at 10.30am. Loose Women is on ITV on week­days at 12.30pm. For more in­for­ma­tion on Ruth Langs­ford Fash­ion, visit qvcuk.com

RUTH WEARS SUIT, Hobbs. JUMPER, Marks & Spencer. SHOES, Manolo Blah­nik. EAR­RINGS, Su­san Ca­plan

From far left: Ruth and hus­band Ea­monn host­ing This Morn­ing; danc­ing with An­ton Du Beke; Ea­monn and their son Jack in the Strictly au­di­ence

Ruth, left, on Loose Women along­side Coleen Nolan and Janet Street-Porter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.