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Lorraine Kelly: Queen of the sofa

LK1Still a stalwart of breakfast television, Lorraine Kelly is busier than ever, both on and off screen. Deputy editor, Jo Willacy, caught up with her and discovered exactly why life is so good right now…

Lorraine Kelly certainly gets about. These days it’s hard to know exactly where you’ll find her. On the small screen, she’s causing confusion throughout the country, particularly among her newest set of fans, otherwise known as pre-schoolers. Having fallen in love with Lorraine’s narration of the CBBC children’s programme Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, which hit our screens last May, these youngsters are distraught when they hear her voice, in her usual slot on her breakfast show Lorraine, but there’s no sign of the friendly animated lion and his army of friends.

‘I come on and the kids are saying: “Where’s Raa Raa?” She laughs.

You’d think the mums of said distraught kids might have a bone to pick with Lorraine, having to deal with tears before breakfast, but no. Lorraine’s show, which she fronts from Monday to Thursday, continues to go from strength to strength. What’s the secret of her success?

‘I think it’s because I work for breakfast television. It’s a very different animal, a different thing, because viewers like familiarity. They like the fact that they’re seeing the same people all the time. Hence, every single time there’s a relaunch – it started with TV-am, then when GMTV started and then with Daybreak – it’s always going to be difficult.

‘I’m delighted, obviously, that people still watch me, I think it’s wonderful – but I think it’s because they feel they know me, they’ve grown up with me. They’ve seen me pregnant, they’ve seen me in tough times, after a miscarriage and they’ve seen me reporting on distressing events such as Dunblane and 9/11.

‘When I’m out and about, people often say they feel they know me and that’s really good. I think it’s important because I’m on in people’s houses, you know? When viewers are watching in the morning they’re in their bedroom pulling their pants on or in their kitchen having toast – there’s a trust there and that’s something you have to earn; and you have to earn that over the years.’

A time for reflection
Lorraine has been on the breakfast sofa for close to 18 years and in that time she has reported on her fair share of tragedies. When we meet, she has returned from New York two days ago where she’d been visiting for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

‘It was strange because I went to New York with GMTV in 2001, at the beginning of July. We filmed a celebration of NYC – fashion week was going on, we interviewed lots of stars, it was the whole Sex and the City-type experience and we did the last show from the top of the Windows on the World. We were so high up you could see the clouds coming in. You could actually feel the tower moving when it was really windy. I remember saying to one of the security guys who worked there, “This feels really weird, being above the weather. Do you never get a bit worried up here?” He simply said: “Safest place in Manhattan.” I’ll never forget that. It was one of the last things that was said on our trip.

‘Thankfully he was fine – we found out that all the people we’d talked to were fine. But it was really bizarre to see it happening when we’d just been there so shortly before.

‘I hadn’t gone back to Ground Zero because I just felt that I didn’t really want to, but our hotel was right there – the balcony was looking right over it, which was quite gruesome in a way, because it’s a grave. It really is.

‘It certainly made me think back to how we all felt at the time – I remember I was filming something totally innocuous, like a fashion shoot, and someone came running in and said: “Put the TV on.” It’s weird, it’s one of those things, the first thing you do is phone your family – even though you know they’re fine but you just say: “Are you watching this? Are you all right?”’

But for Lorraine, 9/11 was by no means her toughest assignment.

‘I thought the worst event I’d ever have to cover was Lockerbie. I had really good contacts with the police and emergency services and they called me and said something had happened, so my husband Steve, who is a cameraman, and I just headed for Lockerbie. We could see the fire in the sky and the road was absolutely covered in bits of metal – we got a puncture on the way; I remember that, it was really surreal, we had to stop and change a tyre and when we arrived there were bodies everywhere. It was horrific. The only way to get through that was to think that it was a movie set.

‘I remember thinking, I’ll never have to do anything as bad as that again, but, in fact, Dunblane, for me, was the most evil because it was in my back yard – it was incomprehensible, unthinkable. When I went to do the show from there, I met one of the women, Pam, whose daughter was murdered, and we just hit it off, you know the way you do even in the most horrendous circumstances. She had a little baby girl, Alison, who’s now a teenager of course, but Alison had to get fed and changed and that was what kept everybody going. I’ll never forget it – we talked about her other daughter, Joanne – she was upstairs in her room, in a white open coffin, in her Pocahontas nightie, and she just looked like she was asleep, apart from her mouth was a wee bit twisted because she’d been shot in the back of the head. It was awful.

‘To be fair to the all of the press at the time, they were all very respectful, everybody stayed back. I don’t know if they’d be like that now – I think the world’s a different place with 24-hour news and everything. But I certainly would have been very uncomfortable about doing anything – I didn’t even talk about it on the sofa; it was too tragic.’

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Moments to remember
Thankfully, Lorraine’s career has had many high points, too.

‘My very first day on TV-am was one of those: the guest was Bette Davis. I mean, wow! The time I was taken up in a jet, a Tornado, was amazing – extraordinary – and it’s something that most people just don’t get a chance to do; and doing the Comic Relief trek – that was kind of life changing.’

And this is where Lorraine getting about a bit becomes a case in point, as she’s off to Peru with Comic Relief later this year.

‘I’m going to be visiting some of the orphanages and young kids who have been helped out of poverty by Comic Relief and the generosity of the Brits. I’m looking forward to that.’

Since she embarked on that epic desert trek, Lorraine has now become an ambassador for Sight Savers.

‘I saw for myself that a £5 note can stop a kid being blind. It had a huge, huge effect on me – and right now, that particular area of Africa that we were walking in, is going through a terrible drought which, again, brings it home to you.’

Keep on moving
Back home, when she’s off duty, Lorraine’s pace of life doesn’t slow down. She’s as likely to be seen racing around a tennis court, astride a bicycle or tackling what she refers to as a ‘tough’ Pilates class where ‘there’s no hiding place.’

‘I feel better than I have done for a long, long time – doing the marathon when I turned 50, and then doing the trek, made me a lot fitter and I’ve managed to hold onto that because I’ve found exercises I enjoy doing.

‘In my Pilates class, you’ve really got to go for it. I think it’s important to find exercise you enjoy otherwise you’ll fall at the first hurdle. You never see a happy runner – it’s true. I hate running – I think it’s dull and horrible and soul destroying.’

Lorraine’s antics on a tennis court and on her bike are courtesy of two events she’s thrown herself into with a passion: Sky Ride, which aims to get one million more people on their bikes by 2013 and the All Play Tennis Challenge, which hopes to inspire people of all ages to take up tennis. 

Lorraine’s contribution to the tennis challenge will see her don her tennis whites in December at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the AEGON Masters. She won’t be facing the tennis heroes who are also playing, such as John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl and Tim Henman. Instead, she’ll battle against three other celebs – athlete Denise Lewis, TV and radio presenters Tim Lovejoy and Jamie Theakston – to see whose six months of training has produced the best back-hand.

‘I’m quite worried about it but then I think to myself, nobody’s going to expect me to be any good. Denise Lewis is doing it, she’s an Olympic champion for goodness sake. Forget it, she’s going to hammer me into the ground like a tent peg! Everybody’s going to expect her to be good so the pressure’s not really on me so much, but obviously I’ll give it my best shot.

‘I’m having a couple of lessons a week, in London and Dundee, and it’s great, I’m really enjoying it. I’m never going to be any good but it doesn’t matter! Obviously I’m getting better than being absolutely rubbish, but it’s all by degrees, isn’t it?

‘I’ve got a cunning plan, though – my strategy is that I talk to Martina Navratilova and get her to wear a black wig and speak with a Scottish accent, and then she can go on for me. I love her – she’s one of my all-time heroes. Can you imagine how funny that would be?

‘But seriously, the whole point is to get people up off their bottoms and getting fit. I want to encourage a lot more women – mothers, of all ages – it doesn’t matter what age you are. It’s hugely important to me.’

On yer bike
‘The whole point of me doing Sky Ride is also about encouraging mums to do it – because, oftentimes, you cycle when you’re a kid but then when you get a bit older and have a family, you get out of the habit. But it’s such a green thing to do as well – you can take the kids out, throw a couple of bananas and some sandwiches in a bag and off you go. It’s not a race and it doesn’t matter how far you get, but on a really nice day it’s just lovely.

‘Where we live, we have a brilliant cycle track round Fife. It’s one of the best, and it’s pretty flat. I don’t cycle in traffic, I just don’t, but the great thing about Sky Ride is that they shut all the traffic down. It’s just all about trying to get people moving – we’ve got this massive, massive problem with obesity in this country and it’s going to cost us a fortune. Apart from making people die sooner, and having all kinds of terrible illnesses, it’s going to cost the NHS a bomb. Already it is – they have to have reinforced theatre tables and massive beds – it’s terrible, it really is.

‘We’ve got to try and get the younger generation, particularly, off their bums and out playing – the way we used to do when we were young.’

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The other face of Lorraine
It’s clear Lorraine has strong opinions on certain issues and it’s these she’s sometimes to be found discussing on post-watershed comedy shows.

‘I like doing those shows because you know you’re going to have a hoot! You know they’re going to take the mickey out of you and that there’s going to be swearing. There’s no point in going in there if you take yourself seriously or if you’re pompous or po-faced.

‘I used to feel intimidated by the comedians. When I first did Have I Got News For You I was terrified, I was literally shaking with nerves, but the more you do it, the more you realise that we’re all there to make a really fun, entertaining show – of course there’s a little bit of rivalry between all the comedians – but I’m there just to be me, they’re not expecting me to tell jokes. It’s nice to show that you’ve got a sense of humour and you can be a bit cheeky!’

Indeed, one appearance on the Jimmy Carr hosted show, 8 out of 10 Cats, led to a Youtube video entitled, ‘Nice cleavage’ – viewed by around 35,000 people!

‘That’s hilarious,’ shrieks Lorraine. ‘For goodness sake, I’m coming up to 52 years of age, if somebody thinks I’ve got a good cleavage I’m happy to accept that. Thank you.’

Being herself
Does Lorraine feel any pressure to look a certain way on her show?

‘It’s never been like that on breakfast television and, again, that’s very unusual, I think. Of course, I can’t be sitting there in my curlers and slippers – I have to look reasonably well groomed, but there’s no pressure on me to look a certain way. I’ve actually found this year, since I lost a bit of weight, that it’s really nice to buy a size 12 and it fits. I’m wearing certain clothes because I like them, rather than covering up, which is lovely, but there’s never been pressure about that. I’ve been on telly a size 16, 14, hugely pregnant, hugely post-pregnant – nobody has ever said to me: “You have to look a certain way.” That’s the joy of doing what I do, I’m allowed to be myself.’

And it’s being herself that Lorraine does best. ‘I think that everybody’s got a time and everybody’s got a shelf life. I’d just like to toddle along until people get fed up with me. Or I might want to do something else, and that’s absolutely fine.’

But for now, there’s no sign of anyone getting fed up with anything Lorraine Kelly does. She’s the friend we all love to see each morning.  She’s here, there and everywhere and that’s just the way that she likes it.

‘I think sometimes my regular morning viewers don’t expect me to pop up on certain shows and they don’t expect me to have a naughty and sassy side or have fun. I think they quite like it, though.’

And we’ve a hunch that Lorraine quite likes it, too.


This article was first published in at home with Lorraine Kelly in November 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

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