It’s 4pm in a cafe, and Davina McCall flashes a mischievous smile.. followed by her bra.
Luckily we’re in a quiet corner, so nobody notices her whipping her top up or us nearly spitting our coffee out laughing.
We should probably explain. In her own inimitable style, Davina has just been musing on the role of bra as emotional barometer.
‘Throughout my life I've been able to tell lots about my mood from my underwear,’ she says. ‘If I was down, I would wear underwear that just wasn't worthy of me.’
Today’s number though? It’s black, lacy and sassy as hell, which tells you everything you need to know about where Davina’s at.
She looks sensational, with the sort of ageless glow that explains why she’s spent 16 years as Garnier’s longest-serving beauty ambassador.
‘Fifties are the new thirties!’ she says. ‘When I was a kid, women in their fifties looked like they were in their 70s. It was like, "I’ve shut up shop". It could not be further from the truth now. I'm really proud of being 52.
'I feel I'm quite good fun still, and I look good for a bird my age. So I owe it to anybody under 40 to live my best life and to show them it's all going to be OK.’
Rewind to 2017, and things perhaps weren’t so OK for Davina. Her life was in flux after splitting from Matthew Robertson, her husband of 17 years and father of their three children. ‘It was hard,’ she admits.
As the big-hearted presenter of tear-jerkers such as Long Lost Family, Davina deserves a happy ending of her own, and her sparkle today suggests she’s found it.
She’s keeping it low key, but she’s found love again with Michael Douglas, her hairdresser and best friend of 20 years. The pair have just started their own podcast, and are clearly cut out for big things….
You’ve been through a lot lately, how have you coped?
The divorce was hard. But in comparison to what I’ve been through in my life, like Caroline dying [her sister passed away from cancer in 2012], nothing can be as bad as that.
You always hear it takes two years from when you split up to when you start feeling better. Now Matthew and I go out for lunch with the kids. It’s miles better. We both want to be the couple who can be invited to the wedding of our kids, and sit down and watch them do something amazing.
Have you managed to salvage a friendship?
I think we’re both trying and I really appreciate that. We’ve always said the kids come first. I would hate for them to think, ‘We can’t ask Dad to come to something because we’ve asked Mum’. That would be my worst nightmare.
You’ve chosen to keep your new relationship private…
Neither of us want to shove it down anybody else’s throat. Firstly, it’s nauseating for our kids to listen to any of that stuff, and it’s a bit weird for our ex-partners, the parents of our children. It’s not right to wax lyrical about somebody else, and it’s all still relatively new. But we’re happy.
How does it work, doing your Making The Cut podcast with Michael?
It’s just two best friends reviewing stuff. We’re not flirting, it’s just us doing what we’ve done for 20 years. We have always shared information – products, shows, parenting tips, anything. It’s so funny how we have influenced each others’ lives for so long. At the end of each podcast, I think, ‘God, how lucky are we that we get to do this together.’
You and Garnier are now the UK’s longest ever celebrity beauty partnership…
I get really excited when I receive their new things to try. I think they’re doing all the right things – natural superfood ingredients, organic products, recyclable packaging. Plastic waste really grates on me these days.
Do you feel like you’re starting a new chapter in your life?
I feel like the start of it was when I went on a girls holiday and did a picture of myself topless, in a thong bikini, with my arms up in my air. I thought ‘This is going to be my “press the f*** it button” era.’ This is going to be my decade of not giving a damn, and just going for it.’ I think there is a weird freedom that comes with wrinkles and getting older. I’ve got nothing to lose.
Many women seem to struggle with this time of life though.
I started the perimenopause when I was 44 and I thought I’d lost the plot. My keys were in the fridge, my phone was in the bin. It was like somebody had laid a blanket over my brain. I was finding it really hard to read autocues and I thought, ‘I’m going to lose my job if I don’t get my sh*t together’.
In the end I saw a gynaecologist who talked me through the risks and benefits of HRT. I got tested for the BRCA (breast cancer) gene, and when it was negative I thought, ‘I’m going to go on it.’
Did HRT make a difference to you?
Literally the first time I put the little magic sticker on. I woke up the next day and thought, ‘Oh my god, I slept through the night.’ I hadn’t slept through the night for years, I’d been lying on a towel because the sheets were so wet. I just felt back to me again. It was the most miraculous turnaround.
I went from feeling absolutely desperate to really amazing overnight. But it has to be a personal choice. I thought I was going to be that person who does it all naturally. I only take headache pills if absolutely necessary. I don’t take any mood-altering substances. I had all my babies at home with no pain relief. But Jesus, give me the HRT! It was a game-changer and it really helped me.
Are you still on it now?
Yes. I asked my doctor the other day, ‘Can I stay on this until I’m 80?’ He just said, ‘Let’s take it year by year.’ But at the moment I still feel amazing. That’s not to say that sometimes I don’t look in the mirror and think, ‘Oh god, what’s happened to my face?’ But it’s so fleeting.
Would you ever consider plastic surgery?
Jesus, I will not think twice about plastic surgery! I’m not anti it at all. I don’t feel like I need to do it now. But I’m not saying I won’t do it in the future. And I don’t think anybody should give a hoot about me doing it either. People doing stuff to themselves is the new normal, and I don’t judge anybody for doing it, at any age.
What are your secrets to body confidence?
Body confidence isn’t about what you look like. When I was young my skin was taut and my boobs were pert. I looked amazing but I hated myself. That was part and parcel of why I took drugs. It was like I had a hole that I couldn’t fill with anything else.
When I was in recovery my sponsor wanted me to look in a mirror and say ‘I love you’. It took a long time to even say ‘I like you’. But I think you can do that in terms of your body. Look in a full-length mirror every morning and say ‘I love you’. I can do that now without a hint of embarrassment. It’s not arrogance, it’s about self-worth.
You do look smoking hot though… is it nice to have your figure admired?
It’s really nice to know I could inspire other people to get fit. I have the body of a 52 year old but I am fit. Not as in ‘phwoargh’ fit, as in physically fit. Someone my age might see that and think ‘I can get there too’.
What else are you doing to press the f*** it button?
I’m sampling different things in life. I’m going to start a YouTube channel, and I’m launching an underwear range. That was all born out of me being single and still wearing the sexiest underwear ever. Not because I was dating but because it was an act of self-love every morning.
Do you ever worry it’ll all end one day?
I have worried about that in the past, but I’m a grafter. I always think if it all goes away I’ll graft until I get some of it back.
Garnier Nutri Bomb Coconut Milky Tissue Mask, £2.99 – I’d thought tissue masks were a youngster’s thing because my daughters are obsessed with them. But then I did it and it's miles better for an old person. It was amazing on the wrinkles around my eyes.
Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Shampoo Aloe Vera & Coconut, £7 – The shampoo smells lovely and the bottle uses recycled plastic, I love that Garnier’s doing a lot of work with sustainability.
Garnier Summer Body Moisturising Lotion in Dark, £9.99 – I'm a huge fan of this gradual tan. I'm much more thoughtful about sun exposure now. I always wear SPF 30-50, and I either used to wear nothing or olive oil.
– Davina McCall is ambassador for Garnier. She used Nutrisse shade 4.3 on her hair for the shoot and prepped her skin with Nutri Bomb Milky Tissue Mask
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