Claudia Winkleman says she is ‘evil’ to Strictly co-star Tess Daly in nicest way

A football pitch isn't the likeliest place to find a woman who claims to be 'allergic to exercise' but that's exactly where we've caught up with Claudia Winkleman today.

The Strictly Come Dancing presenter, 47, is kicking about with the England Lionesses , who are among the favourites at the upcoming Women's World Cup .

Claudia is on hand as ambassador for Head & Shoulders who are sponsoring the England team and have created some 'Three Lines For Three Lions' hair styles for them (not a dandruff-speckled scalp in sight, of course).

Claudia is a fitting centre forward for this new era in women’s football, having broken down a few barriers herself.

Not only are she and Tess Daly the first ever female duo to front a weekend prime-time show, they’ve upturned the cliché of women in showbiz being bitchy, back-stabbing rivals.

The pair regularly hang out when Strictly isn’t on, and are so close they’ve even made a pact to step off the dance floor together when the time eventually comes.

‘I love Tess, she’s adorable,’ says Claudia.

Although there’s no word on when they might waltz off, Claudia seems untroubled by the prospect of life beyond Strictly.

‘I don’t have any ambitions left, I’ve far exceeded what I was supposed to do,' she laughs

'I think we can all agree it’s ridiculous I’m still working.'

I feel very lucky and I assume it’ll end at any minute.’

Go beyond Claudia’s trademark quips about fringes, being ‘a dinosaur’, and sleeping in her trademark wonky eyeliner (‘you have better dreams when you go to bed with a full face of make-up’) and you’ll find someone who views presenting as almost a sideline to her true calling: being a mum.

She and film producer hubby Kris Thykier are parents to Jake, 16, Matilda, 12, and Arthur, 7, and she’s a very hands-on mum – whether her kids like it or not.

‘I want to cuddle them all the time,’ she says.

‘They find everything I do embarrassing, but that’s my job, and I take it very seriously.’

Game on…

You're supporting the England women, are you bringing your daughter up to believe in girl power?

I believe girls – and boys – can do anything, and that’s how my mum (journalist Eve Pollard) brought us up as well.

She sent my brother to ballet and I went to a DIY class from quite an early age.

So I didn’t have a tutu, but I can change any plug you like.

Times are changing and I think my daughter feels empowered by that.

Is your daughter like you at this age?

She’s better – she’s funnier and I think more confident.

She’s a magnificent creature.

I can’t actually remember what I was like at 12, though – it was when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Do your kids want to follow you into showbiz?

I hope not and I would not accept it [laughs]!

No, I don’t think they do; they don’t really know what I do for a living.

Your eldest is 16, how do you feel about your babies growing up?

I used to think it was terrible, I used to follow him around and still try to chop up his sausages.

I would be, ‘Can I hold your hand and say “I love you so much” in front of all your friends?’

But as they grow up, they become really funny and great company, so you go, ‘OK’.

It’s just a different relationship.

So I’m no longer just feeding you and licking your neck, you are the best person I know to go out for dinner with.

What’s the trickiest thing about being a mum of teens and tweens?

It’s a minefield, because I want them to be supported, but I’m also quite strict.

So there is bedtime, there are no phones at the dinner table, and there is, ‘no, you can’t take that massive bag of Haribo to your room.’

I don’t mind being a baddie.

What’s your idea of the perfect family day?

It would start with everyone piling into our bed in the morning, that’s my favourite thing in the world.

Then there would be roast chicken, a gentle stroll and a family movie.

Me and my husband are obsessed with bridge, so we’ve taught the kids baby bridge and we have game nights all the time.

But really, I don’t mind what we do as long as we’re together.

Do you have date nights with your husband, or do you just staying in playing cards?

I mean, I would choose bridge over everything [laughs].

But no, we do.

Where would we go?

Er, downstairs probably, or to bed.

Is it hard to go out on the town when you’re so famous?

I’ve never been recognised in my entire life.

When I go on the tube, I’m not this orange and I’m not in my Strictly outfits.

Do you put a lot of effort into looking good on TV?

I don’t even know what I look like, so it’s best not to think about it.

I love the girls who do my hair and make-up and grab me clothes to wear.

I’ll do whatever they want, I’m obedient.

I’m not interested in my physical self.

My approach to clothes is, ‘Just stick something on me and let’s go read out loud’.

How does life change during the months when you’re doing Strictly?

Strictly is like a brilliant term at school, something I really look forward to, when all the gang get back together.

We have a total laugh, hope it does well and never take it for granted, then we all break up.

But I’m always interested in who’s going to do it.

I can’t say anything more… I’m going to get killed!

But I can say I love Darcey (Bussell) and I’m going to really miss her.

Do you stay in touch with anyone during the break?

I see Tess all the time.

We laugh, we eat – there’s a lot of eating – we’re just hanging out together, and our little kids get on.

I make her come round to me, because she lives outside London and I’m evil like that.

How do you manage to juggle your life when you’re busy
with Strictly?

Please don’t tell anyone, but I’m not busy at all.

I only work on Saturdays. the rest of the week I’m at home.

The other day somebody said to me, ‘You’re so busy!’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’

I’m working today, and the next job in my diary is in August.

That must be a deliberate career choice, though…

I don’t want to be doing anything else, I just want to be with my family.

My eldest is doing GCSEs, so I’m slightly on homework duty.

I bought a laminating machine, I’m very interested in preparing a timetable.

What’s summer like in your house?

I don’t believe in summer, I’m quite angry about it, because I like to dress like a goth.

I like a knee-high boot, a heavy coat.

I like November, I like drizzle and I like it dark at 4pm.

I find summer deeply confusing, I’m grateful when a heatwave comes to an end.

For our family holiday last summer I made us go to the Arctic.

They were OK about it.

They’re good humans, they’re up for a challenge.

It was cold, but so beautiful.

Is your famous fringe a tricky creature in summer?

I am enjoying this question!

It can be tricky – humidity is not good.

But what I like is it can go really long when I’m not on TV.

I’ve been known to have it to my lips.

I just part it like a curtain if somebody asks me a question.

Pull a tassel and out I pop: ‘Yes? Hello? You called?’

Tell us a surprising secret about you…

I’ve started puzzling, my husband and I just did a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle of three orangutans.

We are such a nerdy couple.

Please don’t tell anyone, I want people to think we are very rock and roll.

What’s your favourite luxury in life?

I like spending my money on really good, really expensive eggs.

They are very organic, I have literally met the chicken that laid them, and the chicken’s parents and we’ve done a crossword puzzle together.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

I don’t want one, is that bad?

Saying ‘to heal’ makes me sound like a loser, and I think being able to fly could get boring.

I quite like going on an aeroplane.

What keeps you awake at night?

I go through lists in my head, but if I can tick everything off I go straight to sleep.

Then I’m gone until the little one comes in.

Sometimes I try to show him quite scary things so he’ll come into the bed in the middle of the night, which is my absolute favourite thing.

So you deliberately try to give your son nightmares?

Yes! Aren’t I adorable?

Claudia on the Beautiful Game

Claudia declares herself ‘delighted’ to be flying the flag for the Lionesses this summer.

‘My daughter is nearly 13 and it feels like a different time for women’s football,’ she says.

‘People are talking about it, and the players are becoming superstars.’

She tells us her family are big fans of Arsenal Ladies.

‘My 16-year-old thinks what I do for a living is moronic and today, for the first time ever, he said “Go on, Mum, get me
an autograph.”’

Don’t expect her to join a team, though.

‘I’m absolutely terrible at football,’ she laughs.

‘I’m bad at any physical exertion, I don’t believe in sweating. I like my kids to play football while I stand there and clap.’

– Claudia is ambassador to Head & Shoulders and is supporting the England Women's team at the World Cup: see her in action here

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