ON THE COVER: LORRAINE KELLY
The ever-youthful queen of daytime TV on the perks of getting older
Whenever I think of Lorraine Kelly in all her smiley, likable normality I am reminded of Dolly Parton’s quip: ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.’ Because, make no mistake, it takes an extraordinary woman to stay at the top of her game by appearing so…ordinary. That’s not meant to be an insult; it’s more that Lorraine’s authenticity and approachability qualify as superpowers in an industry populated by overinflated egos.
She’s a first-name-only star who has been on our screens for more than 30 years, yet is as unstarry as they come. No airs, a multitude of graces and an unflinching instinct for a topical story have seen her crowned queen of daytime television. At 58, the Glasgow-born presenter is more popular than ever. How does it feel to be a one-woman rebuke to ageism? I ask, and she bursts into a fit of giggles. ‘Ooh, I love it!’ she twinkles. ‘I’ll take that, thank you. There’s a title to reckon with. All I can say is that I consider myself hugely fortunate to have my daytime slot
because my viewers know what they want and they are fiercely loyal.
‘They think of us as pals and don’t take kindly to producers tinkering about with formats or presenters. Generally in television there’s a constant impetus to freshen things up and search for novelty, but daytime is driven by viewers who want familiarity. I’ve been on so long that people have grown up with me. When the rapper Naughty Boy came on the show he stayed up the night before baking a pie for me.’ How sweet, how random. But that variety is very much the joy of daytime TV. I doubt, however, that Lorraine’s familiarity is the only reason her career shows no sign of flagging.
But before I drill down a little deeper, let me state how flippin’ fabulous Lorraine looks. Glowing and petite, she has successfully kept off the two stone she shed eight years ago (and showed off, baring her bikini body live on air age 55). When I say that she seemed more mumsy and middle-aged in her 30s than she does now, she shrieks in agreement.
‘Yes! You are right. I was a very late bloomer. I have my mother to thank for my skin and cheekbones, but the rest of it is down to the fact that in my 50s I have confidence, plus I’m more styled so I appear put-together. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen old photos and had to apologise for my hideous hairdo and the fact I look like I dressed from the washing basket.’
It seems ironic that a woman who looks ageless should be running Youthful You, a month-long segment on Lorraine in which she and some famous faces will explore the latest anti-ageing techniques and products, putting gadgets and non-invasive procedures to the test live on air. ‘I respond to what viewers want and there’s huge demand for information,’ she says. ‘We’re living longer and we want to look good as well as live more healthily. I’m fitter than I was 20 years ago and loving it.
‘One of the few consolations of growing older is that you have far more self-confidence than when you were young. There’s something liberating about not caring what the world thinks of you; these days there are so many people waiting to take offence that it could drive you crazy. I would hate to be a young woman these days with the pressures of social media and the distortions of filters and airbrushing. It’s so superficial.’
It is this honesty that strikes a chord with viewers. But can she possibly be as nicey-nice as she seems when welcoming Dame Helen Mirren or Ricky Gervais into the studio? Yes and no. Lorraine is open, upfront and, having grown up in the Gorbals, is very much in touch with reality. When she looks shocked during a fashion slot that a high-street frock costs north of £150, she means it. Her tears, when she wells up while talking about the Manchester bombing or the Dunblane massacre, are real.
But she also has grit, intelligence and is a grafter who doesn’t suffer fools gladly; Piers Morgan has described her as an iron fist in a fluffy glove. ‘I don’t take myself seriously but I take what I do very seriously,’ she says. ‘When guests come into the studio it’s my job to make them feel welcome and relaxed. But if they are a politician or business figure who has committed some kind of misdemeanour then they need to be called to account, and that’s what I do, too.’ Lorraine was born to unmarried teenage parents who, despite family pressure to have the baby put up for adoption, got married. Money was short but love and care were plentiful; six years later Lorraine’s brother Graham was born. She was an academic child and considered studying Russian at university until a job came up at her local newspaper and her fate was sealed. She progressed to television where she became Scotland correspondent for TV-am, haring across the country with cameraman Steve Smith, whom she subsequently married. It was her exhaustive yet sensitive coverage of the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988 that brought her to the attention of TV-am bosses in London, who summoned her to do holiday cover in the studio the following year.
‘After that, another temporary position cropped up and somehow I never went home again. It wasn’t at all planned; I never had any ambition to be the woman on the sofa with the big hair and the pink jacket,’ she says. ‘But I really enjoyed the pace and diversity of a morning show.’ Then came GMTV, followed by fronting various programmes, including her own show, originally called LK Today, now Lorraine.
She has never experienced a MeToo moment of harassment or discrimination, even when covering football in the 80s, but says, ‘My heart goes out to women – and men – who have been exposed to unacceptable behaviour. It’s good that that sort of thing is being called out and I hope we can move forward to a better place.’
Steve initially moved to London to be with Lorraine, but when their daughter Rosie, now
From top: tucking into rapper Naughty Boy’s homemade pie, and with daughter Rosie and husband Steve
Right: Lorraine with her mother in 1963. Below: presenting on GMTV in 1993 with Michael Wilson (left) and Eamonn Holmes
Above: baring all on Lorraine aged 55