In the world of television presenting, you know you’ve made it when the phone rings and you’re offered your dream job. That’s happened to Caroline Flack twice in the past few months. And the petite blonde, wearing a fun 60s floral print dress, can barely contain her excitement.
“Can I keep this on for my lunch later?” the current Strictly champion asks charmingly as she dances around to the music of the Shangri-Las on the Radio Times photoshoot. The 35-year-old will be having lunch at a fancy London restaurant and the dress looks far more elegant than the baggy denim dungarees and T-shirt she arrived in.
Flack is definitely moving up in the showbiz world, and her cheeky tomboy style is being over- hauled to match. The first show to come calling was ITV2’s Love Island – a revamp of the celebrity version that last aired nine years ago, where single- tons travel to a secluded villa in the Majorcan sunshine to find love.
The show isn’t a huge departure for the presenter, who has made her name on spin-offs such as ITV2’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Now! and The Xtra Factor.
“Love Island was a guilty pleasure when it was first on,” she grins. “When I heard it was coming back, I thought, ‘Oh, imagine if I got to host that!’ and then they called up and said, ‘Do you want to host it?’ and I was like, ‘Yes!’”
But then a couple of months ago, after Dermot O’Leary stepped down from The X Factor, Flack got another call asking her to co-host the Saturday-night staple with Olly Murs. “I had already agreed to do Love Island when they approached me and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to clash – is there any way I could do both?’ But they wiggled around the schedules so I could.”
It’s the presenter’s first primetime ITV show and reflects the rise of fresh, self-confident female presenters in their 30s and 40s. Suddenly all those eye-candy sidekicks who played alongside older male hosts throughout television history seem very unfashionable.
“It feels like there’s been a shift. A lot of women are coming through into TV now. Could I have taken on X Factor in my 20s? Probably not. It’s like any job – you have to work at it, learn your trade, improve. My career didn’t start properly until I was 30. Now I know who I am and I’m having fun.”
And Flack has paid her dues. The youngest of four, she grew up in a Norfolk village dreaming of a career in showbusiness.
“When you’re the youngest you have to try and make a bit of noise to be seen and heard,” she says. “I was also a bit of a runt,so I was like,‘Look at me! Look at me!’ But the opportunities where I lived were limited. My first part was as the back end of a horse at the village pantomime, with Jo, my twin sister, at the front.”
Flack’s first big job was on BBC1’s Saturday-morning CBBC show TMi with Sam and Mark in 2006.
“You don’t have that presenting breeding ground any more. We had places to start off our careers, like CBBC and T4, which were on mainstream channels. I was lucky as I did three years’ worth of training, live, every Saturday. You learn very fast in that environment.”