2019 has been the year of Rylan Clark-Neal.
The presenter is a new constant in our lives having landed his most high-profile gigs yet: job-sharing with Zoe Ball on Strictly’s sister show, It Takes Two and invading our airwaves after inheriting Ball’s three hour Saturday afternoon slot on BBC Radio 2.
Turn on ITV2 and he’s going wild in the aisles at the helm of a 21st century revamp of Supermarket Sweep, which has consistently been the most watched show on the channel since its launch in September.
And that’s not including the upcoming make-over show You Are What You Wear, the revamp of Ready Steady Cook, the as-yet-untitled Channel 4 Christmas show, and his part in the West End production Nativity! The Musical – plus appearances on Celebrity Gogglebox and The Apprentice.
It’s not bad for a man whose first taste of fame was finishing runner-up on the tacky Signed by Katie Price – a budget version of the Top Model franchise which saw one hopeful become Price’s short-lived assistant.
If you ask Rylan about whether he reflects on his success, he’s remarkably candid and four-lettered about it.
“I just can’t do it because I think it would literally f*** me up,” he told RadioTimes.com earlier this year. “That’s why I don’t like looking back at it and because I genuinely can’t explain how it happened and how quick it happened. And it just happened and that was that.”
With so many jobs on the go at once, it’s little wonder that Rylan has become a multi-millionaire in just seven years, with a staggering £5.4 million fortune according to The Sun’s reality TV rich list.
He is a hugely popular TV staple, but he wasn’t immediately offered up as a “presenter,” rather a joke figure, intended to make us laugh – a part only reinforced by his tearful meltdown in front of Nicole Scherzinger on The X Factor in 2012.
He faced the brunt of criticism from then-head judge Gary Barlow, who branded him “absolute s***e”, but if Rylan was particularly scarred by the experience, he doesn’t show it – or voice it.
“No, no, listen, I had a role to play on that show and I think I played it well,” he said. “It wasn’t the role I wanted to play, but now I wouldn’t change a thing about it. But rather than sit there and say, ‘Okay, Gary Barlow’s taking the p**s out of me, the audience are taking the p**s out of me, I’m going to prove them wrong, be the next Diana Ross,’ I was like ‘No, fine, f**k it, you want to take the p**s out of me well I’ll wear the crazy outfits, I’ll wear the full face make up, I’ll sing the stupid songs and I’ll run with this. Fine, I’ll answer Gary Barlow back.’ Let’s give them a show.”
Even if it didn’t entirely work out as planned, The X Factor was the pathway to landing a spot on Celebrity Big Brother in 2013 – a stint which later propelled him to the host of Big Brother’s Bit on The Side.
It was in the famous house that viewers truly fell for Rylan, as we quickly came to realise he wasn’t the hysterical, flamboyant attention-seeker The X Factor had led us to believe, but relatable, and, heaven forbid, actually likeable.
“I didn’t have to play a role on Celebrity Big Brother,” he said. “I could just be myself and I think people just went ‘Oh, he’s quite normal.’”
He’s sharp, sarcastic and funny, never quite tipping the balance into being outright mean when presenting, and speaks to civilians and celebrities in the same manner, never fawning or sucking up. His outrageous sense of humour, be it falling about laughing after Lateysha Grace accidentally flashed her entire backside on BBBOTS, or donning a pair of gold hotpants and miming to Kylie Minogue on It Takes Two, is endearing.
There’s also no airs and graces with him (which quickly became apparent during our chat), and unlike on The X Factor, he’s not over-the-top and outlandish. His sailor-esque swearing and horrified facial expressions are all part of the genuine, real Rylan.
“I hardly ever read my brief,” he said. “Because I just like asking questions like I would sitting at home watching the telly and wanting the presenter to ask. You need a genuine reaction, otherwise, what’s the point?”
Rylan credits his positive attitude and success to the lower-paid members of staff who he “looks after” in an often difficult and fickle industry. His runner of four years on Big Brother is now his manager.
“I’m lucky to do my job and I genuinely do not care if you’re a runner, a researcher, an exec, the Head of the company or the Head of the channel, I couldn’t give a f**k who you are, I respect everyone. And I will treat everyone the same,” he said.
And despite his ever-growing portfolio of work and millions in the bank, Rylan doesn’t see himself as the national treasure he’s become.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I just see myself as somebody who got really f*****g lucky and had a big set of teeth put in.”