How would you describe the housemates of 2020?
“Compelling” is probably the word I’d use because they are such a diverse cross-section of society and not your usual stereotypical reality contestants. You know when you think of that person? They’re the opposite of that. So I just love the fact that they come from all walks of life and they’re so relatable – you know these people from your neighbourhood; you know them from your school or your work.
Was it a conscious decision by producers to get ‘real’ people in there?
One hundred per cent. It’s just a really good mix of people and great personality types, everything from your shy and retiring to your alpha personalities. I always love that aspect of Big Brother – what happens when you put 20 different personalities in one house, how they gel, who gravitates towards each other. And in this reimagined, contemporary Big Brother, it’s more important than ever because the housemates, for the first time, nominate each other for eviction and then vote.
So it’s a bit more Survivor style this year?
It is! And the really interesting thing is; say if I win the right to nominate, that’s great, I know I’m safe for the week, but two of the three people I’ve nominated for eviction don’t go home – and they now know that I’ve nominated them. It can make things a little hashtag-awkward in the house!
Was it necessary to freshen up the format, particularly with so many other reality series on TV?
You know, Big Brother [started] 20 years ago and this year it’s 2020 – there’s a great synergy in giving Big Brother a contemporary treatment. Twenty years ago we would watch a housemate make a sandwich in the kitchen and we all thought that was amazing! But times have changed and our viewing habits have become more sophisticated – we want an outcome every episode, we want a really strong hook for the next night and this new series has got all of that in spades.
A lot of these housemates were just kids when the first BB aired. Did they know what to expect?
Yes! One of the housemates, Chad, lost his father last year and part of the reason he applied is because his dad was a massive fan of Big Brother; it was his favourite show. And so I just find that extraordinary.
There’s certainly plenty of people at home watching more TV than ever right now …
You couldn’t have a better time, could you? Should we launch a show in the middle of a pandemic? Yes! I actually wish that it started at the beginning of lockdown.
Has your daughter Maggie been loving the play time with you during lockdown?
I’ve never had so much free time and it’s been fantastic because I’ve had lazy days with Maggie, we’ve been able to make cupcakes and cubbyhouses and just hang out together, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m not sure I’m ready to go back!
Is she at home 24/7 or at daycare?
She’s still been going to daycare but less than what she would normally go. But I probably send her more out of boredom – she just gets a bit tired of me after a while at home; she needs other kids to play with!
And you got another new baby recently – a fur baby!
We’ve all fallen in love with Teddy and whenever we take her anywhere, people can’t believe she’s real. She’s so cute! I had a staffy for 16 years and she was my dog, you know, and when she died I thought I’d never, ever recover, [I] thought I’d never get another dog. So it’s taken a while but Teddy has slotted right into our family.
With gyms closing, have you seen increased interest in your Strictly You fitness website?
Yes, and I think a lot of online websites have noticed there’s been pick-up. And I’m not sure if we’ll go back to our old way of exercising, you know? Because it’s forced us all to do more from home, and now winter is coming, who wants to go out in the cold in the morning to a gym when you can just do it in the warmth and comfort of your living room?!
You’re kind of like the Australian J.Lo – people can’t get over how fit and amazing you look at 54! Do you have health secrets you swear by?
That’s the nicest comparison anyone has ever said! You’ve made my day. Look, especially as you get older, you do become more aware of what you’re putting in your body, because you want the best skin, you want the best nails, you want the best health out of the food. Once you start eating more healthy food, too, it tends to be what you crave, rather than junk food. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally indulge because I do – I love to have a long lunch and a glass of wine!
What’s your motto when it comes to food?
I think the French have got it right in that it’s everything in moderation. I’m also big on the 80/20 theory – 80 per cent of the time if you look after yourself, 20 per cent of the time you can indulge. And the same goes for exercise; you’ve got to apply that rule.
Do you have any tips for anyone struggling with motivation during this time?
During lockdown, I’ve noticed that I’ve managed to stay very close to the refrigerator and that is disturbing! And I think a lot of us have done that because we’ve had time to cook and it’s easy to go and get a snack.
For most of us, we’ve had an early winter and probably put on a couple of extra kilos, but that’s not that hard to shift once you apply yourself. You just have to remember, it’s just a couple of kilos – you put it on, you can take it off. And all you have to do to get back on the wagon is be accountable – get on the scales, recognise when your pants are a little bit tight … “OK, the time has come now and I need to step away from the gelato”, or whatever your kryptonite is!