‘ Women should do what makes them feel good’

And Kate Gar­raway cer­tainly does. About to turn 50, the TV pre­sen­ter is open-minded about facelifts, ca­reer changes… and 14-day sex marathons, as she tells In­dia Stur­gis

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - GUGU -

For some­one who is two months away from her 50th birth­day, Kate Gar­raway is do­ing a good im­pres­sion of some­one less than half that age. Heels kicked off, feet pulled up on a chair, she looks de­lighted when a huge mug of hot choco­late is brought into our Lon­don ho­tel room by a waiter. ‘That looks like one of those posh Span­ish ones made from melted choco­late, I love those,’ she says. Sec­onds later, the Good Morn­ing Britain pre­sen­ter has dipped a bis­cuit into a saucer of cream and is en­thu­si­as­ti­cally tuck­ing in.

It’s not hot choco­late, or her 25-year ca­reer in­ter­view­ing every­one from David Cameron and John Ma­jor to Ju­lia Roberts and Justin Timberlake, that we’re here to dis­cuss – but her first book, The Joy of Big Knick­ers (Or Learn­ing to Love the Rest of Your Life). In it, she tack­les the mother of all sub­jects: midlife.

‘Midlife is a time of ex­plo­sive change, par­tic­u­larly for women,’ Kate says. ‘It’s just like ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an­other pu­berty. The changes that take place in your body are enor­mous and, like pu­berty, you have to throw off the past.’

It would be pru­dent, at this junc­ture, to point out that Kate looks miles away from a midlife cri­sis. Dressed in a pow­der-blue minidress, she is preened and pol­ished, and sports a head of thick, glossy hair. She speaks quickly and elo­quently, and jokes fre­quently. To out­siders, her home life seems pic­ture-per­fect too, as she lives in Lon­don with her hus­band of 11 years, Derek Draper, the for­mer Labour spin doc­tor turned psy­chother­a­pist, and their two chil­dren, Darcey, 10, and Billy, seven. Yet a dra­matic episode at the end of last sum­mer sparked an in­tense pe­riod of self-re­flec­tion. Kate had been pack­ing boxes ahead of a house move when she felt crush­ing pains in her chest. They con­tin­ued for days, spread­ing to her neck and re­strict­ing her breath­ing. ‘I gen­uinely thought I was hav­ing a heart at­tack,’ she re­calls. The symp­toms wors­ened. Af­ter tak­ing ad­vice from a GP, she rushed to A&E. Scans showed she had torn car­ti­lage around her ribs, most likely through heavy lift­ing, but her con­sul­tant’s words in­flicted the worst dam­age: ‘ You have to re­alise you’re not 25, or even 35. You’re at that age where if you don’t look af­ter your body, it won’t look af­ter you.’ ‘That was a stab to the heart,’ she says. ‘It brought all sorts of things into fo­cus. It feels like there’s a big change com­ing. It’s a dif­fer­ent stage of life and I have to get my head around it. You start by think­ing, “Oh my God, no mat­ter how much make-up I put on, I don’t look the same any more.” Then you no­tice your skin.’ She pinches her up­per arm to demon­strate. ‘Then I started ob­sess­ing over hav­ing a facelift.’ So in an at­tempt to shore up the sands of time, Kate spent six months speak­ing to ex­perts in plas­tic surgery, make-up, hair, re­la­tion­ship coun­selling, women’s health and fi­nance to ‘over­throw

the doom and gloom of mid­dle age and trans­form my­self into a state of joy, vi­tal­ity and wis­dom’. The re­sult is her book – partly a way of im­part­ing that ad­vice to oth­ers and partly a mem­oir that doc­u­ments that per­sonal jour­ney.

One of the most il­lu­mi­nat­ing stages of it has been a self-im­posed 14-day sex marathon with Derek, where the cou­ple pledged to have sex ev­ery day for two weeks in a bid to re­con­nect ro­man­ti­cally. While she won’t di­vulge how fre­quently they made it to the bed­room be­fore the trial, she blames the ‘ busi­ness of run­ning a fam­ily’ and a dip in self-es­teem on it not be­ing enough.

‘Sex is often very bound up in con­fi­dence and how you feel about your­self and your body. You find your­self only hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions like, “Are you pick­ing up the chil­dren to­day?” and “Have you done this?” and “Darcey needs egg boxes to make a dragon in school to­mor­row.” You are kind of con­tent with each other. In the evenings you think, “Lovely, clean sheets! Shall we watch

Home­land?” It’s easy to go down schisms of self-doubt on both sides.’

They drew up a timetable and slot­ted in time alone to­gether. Some days they had an hour, other days less be­cause of a meet­ing or Billy hav­ing a night­mare. ‘I worked out that I like to be tick­led on day five, and on day six that he re­ally doesn’t,’ she laughs. But dis­as­ter struck on day eight when Derek fell over dur­ing a trip to the park with the chil­dren and broke four bones in his foot. He emerged from A&E in a wheel­chair.

‘A friend said, “How’s the two-week sex ex­per­i­ment go­ing?” I said, “He’s in plas­ter.” I had to tell her it wasn’t my do­ing.’ At this, Kate folds into hys­ter­ics. Did they con­tinue? ‘I felt like it was a lit­tle bit of an im­po­si­tion to in­sist on con­tin­u­ing when the guy couldn’t ac­tu­ally stand up!’

For the fi­nal six days they lay in bed chat­ting ‘with [Derek’s] foot up like in Carry

On Doc­tor’, but Kate is adamant that the ex­per­i­ment – break or no break – re­in­forced how im­por­tant ‘ro­man­tic time’ is. ‘ We know we need to book it in now.’

Kate’s ap­peal has long been that she is as smart, forth­right and bubbly on screen as she is in real life. Born in Abing­don, Ox­ford­shire, to Gor­don, a civil ser­vant, and Mar­i­lyn, a teacher, hers was an un­trou­bled

child­hood. From a young age, she en­joyed ex­tract­ing peo­ple’s sto­ries, and her par­ents have tapes of her, aged six, in­ter­view­ing her grand­mother and giv­ing an imag­i­nary grilling to Mar­garet Thatcher, then ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, over her de­ci­sion to re­move free school milk.

She stud­ied English and his­tory at Bath Univer­sity be­fore start­ing at BBC Ra­dio Ox­ford, then switched to tele­vi­sion, work­ing for Cen­tral News, Merid­ian Tonight, BBC

News 24 and Sky News. In 2000 she joined GMTV and worked through its var­i­ous in­car­na­tions as Day­break and, now, Good

Morn­ing Britain, via ap­pear­ances on the sofa for Lor­raine, where, as well as authen­tic­ity with guests, her ten­dency for mishaps gained her no­to­ri­ety.

Most re­cently, this in­cluded flash­ing her flesh-coloured un­der­wear to the na­tion as co-host Ben Shep­hard spun her around on cam­era. It’s a Brid­get Jones move that Renée Zell­weger her­self would have been proud of. In fact, in the book, Kate di­vulges that the ac­tress used her as a muse for the first Brid­get Jones’s Diary film, study­ing tapes of her on GMTV. On meet­ing Zell­weger be­fore the third film, the ac­tress wel­comed Kate as ‘ the real Brid­get Jones’. Now Kate’s day starts at 2.15am for Good

Morn­ing Britain and ends af­ter pre­sent­ing a mid-morn­ing week­day slot for Smooth Ra­dio at 1pm. If it’s a schlep, she won’t ad­mit it. ‘There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about break­fast TV. I can’t think of any­thing else I’d rather do.’ And de­spite the slew of head­lines about ageism in her in­dus­try, it’s not some­thing she’s wit­nessed. ‘In ev­ery

‘Sex is bound up in how you feel about your­self, your body. It’s easy to go down schisms of self-doubt’

con­ver­sa­tion I’ve had in de­ci­sions over jobs, I’ve never had the im­pres­sion that age has been a fac­tor.’

Yet as she ap­proaches 50, de­spite never even hav­ing Botox, she has found her­self con­fronting her per­sonal de­sire for a facelift. ‘I’ve got a neck like a di­nosaur’s tes­ti­cle,’ she dead­pans. ‘Even when I was 16, in school pho­tos, I have lines across my neck. Now my face has caught up.’

She started lift­ing her face up to try to look younger, and search­ing other peo­ple’s faces for ev­i­dence of surgery. ‘I was be­com­ing ob­sessed,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to be one of those peo­ple who say, “No, no, no, I never would, it’s be­tray­ing women.” I don’t feel that. Women should do what makes them feel good. But th­ese are mas­sive op­er­a­tions. I don’t know, talk to me in 10 years’ time… maybe four years’ time. I would never say never.’

For now, the cost and the re­cov­ery time puts her off – and the fact she has im­proved her diet and ex­er­cise regime enough to no­tice her skin is ‘loads bet­ter’. Plus, she has other anti-age­ing tac­tics up her sleeve, in­clud­ing a course of Com­puter Aided Cos­me­tol­ogy In­stru­ment (CACI) treat­ments, where an elec­tri­cal cur­rent is passed through the fa­cial mus­cles to lift and tighten them. She de­cided against Botox af­ter a sur­geon ad­vised that it would make her low-set fore­head ‘even worse’.

Years of hav­ing her make-up done pro­fes­sion­ally have armed her with a few less-in­va­sive tricks of the trade, too. She has a few rules: spend money on foun­da­tion and let a tinted mois­turiser dry slightly on the hand for a few min­utes be­fore ap­ply­ing to give bet­ter cov­er­age. An­other tip was passed on by the ac­tress Salma Hayek, who told her that if you’ve cleansed, toned and mois­turised cor­rectly the night be­fore, you should only splash your face with cold wa­ter in the morn­ing. ‘I whack on night creams and don’t mind go­ing to bed slimy.’

To­day, she says, she feels ‘more em­pow­ered’. She adds, ‘Sure my breasts will never be as perky as they were when I was 18, but there are other things that can be stronger. It’s a new era. We al­ways think women are in­vis­i­ble in midlife even though we are ev­ery­where, [but] that’s be­cause we don’t cel­e­brate our­selves.’

Given Kate’s philo­soph­i­cally adept grip on life, it’s a sur­prise when she ad­mits she isn’t as self-as­sured as her on-screen self sug­gests: ‘I’m not sure I’m very con­fi­dent at all. There was a lot of my life when I thought I was fun­da­men­tally unlov­able. A lot of peo­ple re­lent­lessly have fin­ished with me. I’d go out on dates and they’d not go any­where. That can gnaw away at you and make you a lit­tle bit of a des­per­ate peo­ple-pleaser, but hope­fully I’ve changed that.’

It’s tes­ta­ment to her strength of char­ac­ter that she did it so ef­fec­tively fol­low­ing a divorce from her first hus­band, Ian Rum­sey, a for­mer TV col­league and Day­break ed­i­tor. Derek, who she met a cou­ple of years later through a mu­tual friend, has never let her get away with peo­ple-pleas­ing be­hav­iour.

So, af­ter her six-month jour­ney, how does she feel about turn­ing 50? ‘Now I feel the thing we re­ally loved about our youth was the ex­cite­ment about the fu­ture. You had a sense that good, new things were go­ing to hap­pen. It was the en­ergy you had then, the sense of dis­cov­ery and ex­cite­ment. It is about bring­ing that back into your life, even though you’re fraz­zled. It’s that feel­ing you want to hang on to, rather than nec­es­sar­ily a face that doesn’t have crow’s feet.’

With that in mind, Kate and Derek have booked a ro­man­tic hol­i­day to Rome in May – when his foot has re­cov­ered – to cel­e­brate her 50th birth­day, and fin­ish what they started.

‘The Joy of Big Knick­ers’ by Kate Gar­raway is pub­lished by Blink Pub­lish­ing (£14.99). To or­der your copy for £12.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.tele­graph.co.uk

‘I used to think I was unlov­able, which made me a peo­ple-pleaser. Hope­fully, I’ve changed that’

Clock­wise from top left Be­ing lifted by Ben Shep­hard, which re­sulted in that knick­er­flash­ing mo­ment; with Renée Zell­weger, who has chris­tened her ‘the real Brid­get Jones’; with Ju­lia Roberts in 2009. Be­low With fel­low GMB pre­sen­ter Su­sanna Reid

Far left As a fledg­ling pre­sen­ter on ITV’s Cen­tral News South, 1994. Left Kate in a school photo.

Be­low With hus­band Derek Draper and their chil­dren

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