KATE Garraway has her immaculately blow-dried hair in her hands and her forehead face-down on the table. It’s not the best start to an interview.
“I’ve had a weird 36 hours,” she explains. “I’m so tired. I’m worried I’m going to say something that sounds lunatic.”
The queen of breakfast TV is used to the eye-wateringly early morning starts for Good Morning Britain. She’s even au fait with going from several hours of live TV straight into her radio show on Smooth FM.
However, she’s also just flown back from a family holiday to Florida with her husband Derek Draper and two children Darcey, 13, and Billy, nine, and adding jet lag to the mix has almost tipped her over the edge.
But if anyone can thrive on fewer than 40 winks, it’s Kate. This summer she’ll celebrate 21 years of presenting breakfast TV, or as she puts it: “An awful lot of alarm clocks.”
From her beginnings as a reporter on Sky News’ Sunrise to her decade on the GMTV sofa via Daybreak and now GMB, Kate has become as much a staple of our morning routine as pressing snooze and making a cuppa.
“There is something special about breakfast TV in that people feel like they really know you,” she says.
“We’re quite vulnerable in the morning – standing in our pants, brushing our teeth – so it’s intimate.”
Whether she’s teaching her co-presenters how to do the Floss or flashing her Spanx, Kate has become known for her endearing eccentricity. And her fans love her for it.
In person, she’s just as funny and candid as she appears on screen.
The “mini crisis” she previously said her 50th birthday had triggered is nowhere in sight, and she seems very chilled about the prospect of turning 52 next month.
“Of course, no one wants to get older,” she smiles.
“But on the other hand, there’s a wonderful thing about reassessing your priorities and what doesn’t scare you any more. At some point, bits of you are going to go wrong, but I’ve had friends who’ve had breast cancer and a friend who didn’t make it to 50, so we need to celebrate getting older. Ultimately we have to embrace it, because what’s the alternative?”
Although she hasn’t felt any of the symptoms associated with the menopause yet (“I’m sure it’s just around the corner,” she says) she’s glad that celebrities such as Meg Mathews and Dawn French have opened up the conversation.
“The menopause used to signify the end, but that’s because in the past women didn’t live much longer afterwards,” she says. “Now we’re in a whole new era and it’s an exciting time. There are actually lots of studies that show the menopause is a great thing and it rewires the brain in a positive way – although I do remember my mum going through it around the age I am now, and forgetting words and finding it hard. But there are all sorts of things to support women now, from supplements to HRT, so it’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Over the course of her tenure at the top of TV news presenting, Kate has interviewed every prime minister since Margaret Thatcher and visited Syrian refugee camps (she tells a sweet story about getting the kids there dancing to Gangnam Style on her phone). Plus she’s seen politicians rise and fall – and flail about a bit.
“I remember having lunch with Theresa May years ago when [the Conservatives] were in opposition,” she says. “She was relatively guarded, but I remember she did comment on my shoes and how much she liked them. She wasn’t a rising star back then, but now she has one of the most extraordinary jobs in British history.”
She’s also watched celebrities blossom. “I did Robert Pattinson’s first live interview for Twilight and he was so nervous,” she recalls.
“I saw him again for the second film and he said: ‘I remember you – you were so nice to me when I was scared.’ And then all the Harry Potter guys who I did for every film. On the last one, I said: ‘I feel like I’ve mothered you, you’ve all grown up into such lovely young people!’”
Interestingly, Kate says that she hasn’t experienced any sexism during her career, and feels that TV is more of a level playing field than other industries.
“I’ve been very lucky to work in a newsroom where there are lots of strong, funny, clever women in senior positions,” she says.
“The things you hear in the acting world about opportunities decreasing as you get older aren’t the same in breakfast TV. Look at Kay Burley at Sky, who is a real force to be reckoned with, and Lorraine Kelly doing better than ever.”
She won’t, however, be drawn on the rumoured pay gap between Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. “I have no idea how much my co-stars get paid and I would never talk about my salary so I don’t know,” she says firmly. “I can see why [female] BBC stars are cross about being paid less. But I think I’m really well paid for doing a job I love.”
Yet she does mention one area of her job where there remains a huge double standard. “They did this experiment on Australian TV news where the male anchor wore the same suit for a year and no one noticed, but when the female anchor wore the same dress two days’ running, everyone was up in arms.”
As you’d expect from a Loose Women presenter, Kate’s known for being very open about her sex life with her husband of 14 years, former Labour spin doctor Derek.
In her 2017 book The Joy Of Big Knickers, she revealed that they’d tried a 14-day sex challenge to spice things up. “When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time the physical side of things can feel very unspontaneous,” she explains.
“So the idea is to schedule sex and force yourself to do it once a day and make it the focus of your diary. So we got very organised with a spreadsheet and we created this space for intimacy.”
Did they manage to keep it up? “Poor guy, he broke his ankle – not from a sexual escapade – so he was in a cast and in terrible pain. But we kept that time in the diary just to talk and be together.
Everyone likes the idea of booking a romantic weekend away, but actually it might be better to bring it into your day-to-day life.”
When asked how easy it is to keep the spark alive, she giggles. “You’ve probably not met Derek,” she smirks. “He keeps me on my toes, put it that way.” When asked about a comment she made recently saying that sex is better in her 50s than it was in her 20s, she rolls her eyes and says: “Derek is going to kill me!”
But she goes on to open up with trademark Garraway candour. “When you’re younger you want to be impressive, but when you get older I think there’s a different kind of intimacy. You can start to think about what’s important to you and what makes you happy. For women sex only gets better as you get older I think.”
It was Kate’s friend and colleague Gloria de Piero – GMTV’s Westminster correspondent, now a Labour MP – who introduced the pair over drinks in 2004.
“Gloria said: ‘Oh, he’s so glamorous and goes to the Groucho Club all the time,’ but by this point Derek had had a breakdown and gone to LA to train to be a psychotherapist, so he had this beard and was really academic,” she laughs. “And he’d misunderstood what Gloria told him about me and he thought I was the GMTV weather girl Andrea McClean!”
Garraway’s first marriage to Ian Rumsey – her former boss at ITV – had broken down a few years earlier in 2002. “I’ve had a very long and colourful history,” she says. “I was definitely an expert in the Bridget-Jones-style white wine nights of needing my girlfriends. It’s all a question of timing, I guess.”
Now, she and Derek don’t talk politics at home – “people in government have worked out their feelings on the big issues so they just want to talk about who said what and to whom” – but she says they both do a lot of ranting at the TV when the news is on.
If they argue, it’s normally about her messiness. “He’s always saying: ‘Can you at least keep the passages clear?’ as if we’re on an airplane. So now we have a deal that I’ll keep landings and hallways tidy and everything else can be carnage.”
Kate wasn’t a young mum – she had Darcey at 39 and Billy at 42. “I always pictured having a family, so I was lucky,” she says. “I had lots of friends who had trouble [conceiving]. It’s such a huge decision to have kids so in hindsight I’m glad that Darcey was a surprise.”
She says that if she’d started having children any earlier she would have ended up having a whole brood. “I would have had, like, 20. I would’ve been one of those people you see in the newspaper!” she laughs. “I really wanted a third baby, but I was too old by then. There’s something so snuggly and lovely about babies. Especially now I’ve got a 13 year old giving me gip.
“I’m constantly trying to educate myself as well as guide them,” she says. “Darcey has phrases that I have to try and work out what they mean. She says things are ‘peng 123’ and that’s good. And so is ‘lit’. ‘Peak’ is bad, though. I need a dictionary.”
Although Kate says she wasn’t treated differently coming back to work after both maternity leaves, she admits that she sometimes didn’t feel like herself. “I remember my first day back after having Darcey, doing an interview with Johnny Depp,” she says.
“And I kept calling the film Pirates Of Penzance not Pirates Of The Caribbean, and every time he would flinch. Eventually, he interrupted me and I had to say: ‘I’ve just had a baby.’ I ended up showing him lots of pictures of her and he was lovely about it.”
She’s been friends with Piers Morgan for over 20 years, but admits that she, too, finds him infuriating.
“Piers loves winding people up, but he’s also a very loyal friend and he’d never sit down to dinner and behave like he does on GMB,” she says.
When Kate announced her engagement to Derek, Piers said: “If I’d known the bar was set so low, I’d have had a go myself” – and she laughs when reminded.
“Not only did he say that, but he said it to Derek and me,” she says. “We thought it was so funny we printed it on our wedding invitations.”
Does Piers still fancy her? “Oh, no. It was a long time ago and he’s got his gorgeous wife now,” she protests.
As for doing more reality TV, there were rumours she’d be going into the I’m A Celebrity! jungle this year.
“They haven’t asked me,” she says.
“I hate spiders and heights and I’m not good when I’m hangry, so that means they’ll probably ask me. Dancing On Ice would be amazing, but I was so hopeless on Strictly I wouldn’t want to risk it with the blades and the ice.”
She may not have been a natural on the dance floor, but that didn’t stop Strictly viewers from voting her through to week seven, despite getting the lowest judges’ score every week bar one.
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With all those die-hard fans, GMB recording its highest ratings ever this month and a family life that’s “lots and lots of fun”, it’s no wonder Kate feels like she’s in her prime.
“There’s never been a better time to be a woman in your 50s,” she smiles.
- Watch Good Morning Britain weekdays, 6am, ITV.
- Box set you watched? I loved Fleabag. I came to it late, but I thought it was incredible.
- Time you cried? Tiger Woods winning the Masters. I always get emosh about human endeavour, particularly when I’ve not had lots of sleep.
- Time you laughed out loud? This morning, having ludicrous conversations in my underwear in my dressing room at 4am.
- Time you got drunk? I don’t drink much these days as it goes straight to my head. I had a piña colada on holiday and felt absolutely slaughtered.
- DM you got? Richard Arnold sent me a message this morning saying: “I love you, it’s so good to have you back,” with lots of hearts.
- Passionate kiss you had? Date night with Derek. The kids were at a sleepover and we went to watch the musical Six.
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