Claudia Winkleman on balancing Strictly with motherhood— and why she's banned from knowing the line-up beforehand
The presenter reveals how the BBC1 dance show takes over her life and that the glamour has nothing to do with her...
As a BBC radio personality and the face of a film on BBC1 in addition to Strictly, Claudia's relationship with then BBC runs deep. But she also grew up in a media environment: her mother, successful author and tabloid newspaper editor Eve Pollard would surely have encouraged her to be strongly opinionated. Although I can’t imagine Eve sitting on the floor eating a burger.
“My mother is an extraordinary woman. Strong, clever, funny, but very cosy. She believed in good manners, sleeping and eating well. She was a huge influence on me, in work but also as a parent. It’s all, ‘Be polite, sleep and eat broccoli.’ I think my kids know there is a line and that’s down to how I was raised. I’m their parent, not their friend. Although in all honesty that’s bulls***, I’m desperate to be their friend.”
What about life away from the stage? While she fronts the the nation’s favourite dance competition, how is family life with her husband, Kris Thykier, and their three children, Jake (12), Matilda (nine) and Arthur (four), affected?
“I have the most amazing woman, Amy, an unbelievable creature, who looks after me and my kids when things get very busy. But I do have one rule. During the week I have to be able to pick up my kids from school and put them to bed. The rest of the time I can work. I’m very lucky that because Strictly happens at the weekends, I get to do that.”
Claudia isn’t one to expose her personal life in the tabloids. She says she’s never papped or recognised because she looks so different off screen. No fake tan, no glam. She gets the Tube with her kids every day, and no one ever approaches, although she was once thrilled when a fan ran over and asked for an autograph – only to be deflated when she was asked to sign it “to Annie, from Davina”.
Unfortunately, her personal life hit the headlines last year when Matilda suffered severe burns after her Halloween costume went up in flames. In previous interviews Claudia has said the experience was not life-defining for her daughter, but life-changing for her as a mother.
Since the accident she has campaigned to have the testing standards of children’s costumes amended. She feels uncomfortable talking about it, but asks to take the opportunity in this interview to express her satisfaction that many of the supermarkets have committed to testing costumes to the same level as they test nightwear, and to thank BBC’s Watchdog for having her on the show to raise awareness of her campaign.
As for being a working mum, she knows her situation may be as good as it gets. “Being a working mum is very difficult, and I’m lucky at the moment to be at home. When I get fired I’ll have to get a real job. But I’m lucky to get so much time with my kids.”
It sounds as if she has landed perfectly on both feet. The hours are family-friendly, the chemistry with her co-presenter is real, and she’s flying the flag for women while making them laugh, too. But surely she attracts some negative comment?
“I don’t see it, good or bad. If you believe the nice stuff, you have to enter into the bad stuff. So [I prefer to] live in a bubble of stupidity and know nothing. It would be ridiculous to put yourself in the position of knowing what people say, so I really don’t look. Saying that, though, Twitter is my friend. The people who chat to me are lovely.”
Claudia’s magnetism is her commitment to being herself. While Tess represents the more traditional, well-groomed, flawless BBC style, Claudia is the sexy sidekick who laughs at her own jokes and jumps at the chance to wear a silly hat. The two go together unexpectedly well.
Would she ever slip into a leotard and have Anton Du Beke throw her up in the air? “Never. I’m absolutely rubbish at sweating and I just don’t understand movement.”
Fair enough, stick to presenting. For someone who fell into it by accident, it’s perfectly on point.