Lorraine Kelly – interview: She’s here to stay
After a shaky start, ITV’s Daybreak show is back to its best and that’s all down to our favourite scot, Lorraine Kelly. We reveal what makes the TV presenter such a long-term success…
This isn’t the first time that ITV breakfast television has turned to Lorraine Kelly to get it out of a hole (she did the same in 1993, replacing then TV-am presenter, Fiona Armstrong) and, this time around, she is proving she’s worth her weight in gold. Since taking the helm at Daybreak in September 2012 alongside former Songs of Praise presenter Aled Jones, 42, viewing figures have been steadily rising. But, let’s be honest, they really needed a push in the right direction after a couple of disastrous and expensive errors – namely the Adrian Chiles, 45, and Christine Bleakley, 34, combination. ‘I’m happy to do be doing the main show because it means addressing more current affairs and news – but that doesn’t mean I won’t still enjoy talking about my love for outrageous shoes,’ says Lorraine.
One of Lorraine’s stipulations of taking on this role was that she could still continue to do her own weekday programme Lorraine, which follows the main show at 8.30am. Lorraine has hosted her own show since 1992 when she fronted the Top of the Morning 8.50am slot as part of GMTV, but it was during this time that ITV breakfast television went through one of many big crises.
In, out and in again
‘Breakfast shows have a unique relationship with viewers,’ says Lorraine. ‘People watch while they’re in bed, getting dressed or brushing their teeth. They want stability and, like it or not, in the early 1990s, GMTV had “robbed” viewers of their “pals” (friendly presenters). The public just weren’t happy and were switching off in droves. Things had to change.’ ITV bosses knew that Lorraine had what they called ‘the likeability factor’ and told her they wanted her to go back to presenting ‘on the sofa’ to make it work. ‘I was reluctant to make the move,’ she said. ‘I was really enjoying working on my own show with my own team.’
In 1993, teamed with Eamonn Holmes, 53, Lorraine gritted her teeth and got on with the job in hand but admits: ‘I was going to work with ice in my stomach. Ratings were terrible, the atmosphere was horrendous, and it looked as though the station would collapse.’ But against the odds, ratings slowly started to rise, in no small part due to Lorraine’s consummate skill and professionalism. But then she fell pregnant and, while she was on maternity leave in 1994, she was told that her contract would not be renewed. Her replacement was Anthea Turner, 52.
‘I was so shocked,’ says Lorraine. ‘I really had no idea it was coming.’ But out of what seemed like a disaster, it was viewers who saw her return to where she belonged – fronting her own show again. A company who was sponsoring a mother and baby slot, twice a week, would only run if Lorraine, herself, would be the presenter. Reaction was so good from viewers that she was offered her own show at 8.45am every morning. The Quarter to Nine Show was born and proved a huge success with its mix of real life, fashion, cooking and celebrity. It was renamed Nine O’Clock Live in September 1994 and was then retitled Lorraine Live. There was yet another name change in 2000 to LK Today and, in 2009, it was changed to GMTV with Lorraine, when at last she was given her own studio instead of being tagged on to the side of the GMTV studio. In July 2010, GMTV was axed and replaced with Daybreak and Lorraine’s programme survived yet another revamp but was renamed again and called Lorraine. Despite so many management changes, Lorraine has quietly and steadily held on to her fanbase, consistently producing a magazine programme that hits the spot with a wide range of viewers from students and mums, to pensioners, and a huge and loyal gay following.
Breaking the day
So, last autumn, when Lorraine once again sat down on the Daybreak sofa to present for two and a half hours every morning, there was a touch of déjà vu. The revamped show was greeted initially with a mixed reaction from viewers on social media, with some newspapers reporting that viewers reacted negatively to the garish set. However, some viewers liked the change and praised the step back to the original GMTV format.
Lorraine is proving that being a woman in your 50s is a distinct advantage when it comes to breakfast television – she has been a constant for over 25 years and her audience love her honesty, down-to-earth attitude, and her ability to be the same with everyone whether they are the prime minister or a struggling single mum.
As well as 2012 being a momentous year for the nation – the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics – it was a big one for Lorraine, too. She famously ended up in hospital having fallen off a horse raising money for charity, losing three pints of blood. Thankfully, she recovered well and was back at work two months later. She also received an OBE from the Queen and landed the job on Daybreak.
Last year also saw Lorraine’s daughter, Rosie, 18, leave home for university. ‘It’s obviously brilliant that she now has her own independence, but the empty nest is tough to cope with,’ Lorraine says. ‘We all want our kids to grow up, stand on their own two feet and make a life of their own, but that doesn’t mean we won’t miss them.’
Despite her serious dicing with danger falling off a large horse, Lorraine has not been put off – she decided to zipwire 80ft off Wellington Arch in central London to launch the annual Christmas Box Appeal for the armed forces last December and also appeared in a Christmas version of her beloved ITV1 soap, Coronation Street. With the continuation of her charity work, presenting shows and her columns for The Sun, The Sunday Post and Woman’s Own, Lorraine is one star who is here to stay.
Hold the front page
Lorraine has covered her fair share of breaking news and in-depth, high profile interviews over the years, and it’s clearly paying dividends as she remains at the very top of her career. Here are some of her stand-out stories:
Lorraine reported every day during the aftermath of the Lockerbie air disaster, when Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed down in an evil act of terrorism over Lockerbie, south-west Scotland, in December 1988.
She covered the horrific Dunblane school massacre in March 1996, where 16 children and their teacher were shot dead. She did the whole show from the Scottish town that day, stating: ‘It was tough, impossible to comprehend in fact.’
In November 2012, she was the first person that comedian, Brian Conley, 51, chose to speak to live on air after he suddenly stopped his antidepressants following his ‘breakdown’ on ITV1 reality show, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.
Our favourite Scot’s sympathetic manner prompted singer Michelle Heaton, 33, to open up about her decision to undergo a life-saving double mastectomy in December 2012.
John Leslie, 47, gave Lorraine his first interview for 10 years in January 2013. The ex-television presenter told her how rape allegations against him had destroyed his life.
Photograph: Brian Aris