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Davina McCall: ‘Failing Is Good – That’s How We Learn’

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Enviably fit, glamorous and successful, Davina McCall doesn’t look like a woman who needs anything to boost her confidence – but the 52-year-old has a secret weapon.

“Smoking hot underwear,” which, she says with a laugh, helps her feel like a “foxy minx.

“I’ve always worn smoking hot underwear, even when I was single. It’s nothing to do with anyone else, it’s just for me. It’s like a little shield, only you know you’re wearing it and it’s the best thing ever,” declares the presenter and fitness guru, who was due to host the first WellFest UK in June before it got postponed due to the pandemic (she’s previously taken part in WellFest Ireland).

Davina McCall on stage at the WellFest event in Ireland (WellFest Ireland 2019/PA)

She’s appalled that from 50 onwards, many women can “feel invisible when it comes to underwear and are often only offered something really boring, plain – big pants, ugh!

“We’re perfectly able to feel sexy and vixen-like, with or without a man. You can be in your 50s, 60s and 70s and need a bit of va-va-voom. I regard it as an act of self-love to treat my body to lovely lingerie every morning.”

Launching her own lingerie range is just one of her current projects – she’s still presenting ITV’s Long Lost Family and recently appeared as a judge on The Masked Singer.

Away from the screen, life seems settled. McCall – who has three children with ex-husband, Pet Rescue presenter Matthew Robertson (they announced their divorce in 2017 after 17 years of marriage) – is dating hairdresser Michael Douglas, her best friend of 20 years, and says she’s in her “best place ever”.

Here, she tells us more…

How do you feel about being in your 50s?

“I’d like to be a spokesperson for women in their 50s or approaching that milestone and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK – I’m having a blast and you can too!’ I’m proud of being 52. This is going to be my decade where I grab life by the horns and ride with it.

“When I was a kid, women in their 50s looked like they were in their 70s and like it was all over. It’s so different now. Getting older has made me looser, calmer and happier in my own skin.

“Embracing fitness has boosted my body confidence way higher than it was when I was 18, when my body was at its peak – because it has nothing to do with what your body actually looks like, and everything to do with how you feel.”

Do you think you’ve changed over the years?

Davina McCall a judge on ITV’s The Masked Singer (Scott Garfitt/PA)

“Definitely. I’m truly in a time in my life where my kids are good, my life is good, I’m proud of my work. I feel sort of happy where I am and with what I’ve got. In my 30s and 40s, I was always trying to get somewhere, trying to achieve something.

“I’ve looked at clips of myself on YouTube in the late-Nineties in those early days on television, and it’s like looking at somebody else. I was so frantic and over-enthusiastic, but that was just who I was. I think at that point, I was so excited because I felt like I’d been given a second life after giving up drugs.

“I notice now when I get together with my mates, we’re all more outrageous, funnier and more carefree than we were in our 40s.”

You’ve experienced a lot of trauma over the years – how have you coped?

“Going through a divorce is an emotional turmoil and very hard, but after two years we’ve come through it and are co-parenting happily.

“Nothing can ever be as bad as losing Caroline [McCall’s sister passed away from cancer in 2012]. Remarkably, she supported me throughout, even though she was the one dying, just like she supported me through life really. She also taught me to not fear death. I admired her bravery so much.

“It’s very hard to see my dad, Andrew, suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s heartbreaking watching someone who was so active and intelligent and argumentative having to be helped with the most basic tasks. We are losing him but he’s amazing, he still recognises my face and can smile and laugh when I’m there, even though he can’t really speak.

“All these experiences have made me try harder to just live in the day, so each day brings its own set of joy, or trials or tribulations, but the next day is like a clean slate and you start again.”

How have you coped with menopause?

“It’s a huge turning point for women. I started the perimenopause at 44 and had a couple of tough years.

“I chose to go down the HRT route. It’s been a game-changer and helped me feel back to my old self again. I realise it’s not for everyone – everyone has to do their due diligence and research – but I felt it was the best option for me.”

How do you look after your health?

“I do find, at 52, I’m exercising and eating the right food for a slightly different reason. I think about my health and longevity – my sister died at 50 from cancer, my mum had cancer, my granny got vascular dementia following a stroke.

“I don’t want to start obsessing about it or driving myself nuts, but I try to do everything I can to be the healthiest I can be so I can take care of my kids for as long as possible, and also I want to feel good in myself.

“I think being fit should be fun and enjoyable, and not punishing and driven by unrealistic targets. I only train three times a week, as I have to fit in work and family.  Before going to bed, I may do some toning and stretching really because it’s relaxing and helps me sleep. I watch  my cholesterol, eat lots of fibre and try to avoid refined sugar.”

How do you look after your wellbeing?

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“The mental health benefits of working out are amazing and that’s huge for me. It relieves stress, clears my head and sorts my mind out. I can’t ever imagine a time when I won’t do it.

“I’d recommend any exercise – even a long walk – for anyone who’s feeling a bit down. It’s one of the reasons I got involved with WellFest UK – an event where people can learn about healing through exercise and all the benefits you can gain from it.

“What I find so heartening nowadays is that people can talk openly about mental health. When I got clean (from addiction) 27 years ago, talking about your mental health,  admitting you used therapy, or you’d had a drug problem,  was just unheard of.

“Even though I feared it could be career-ending, I did reveal it all because hearing about other people’s experiences helped me, and I hoped maybe mine could help others. Also, part of me was frightened I was going to get outed by the media. I thought it was better to tell my own story and the response was amazing and so positive.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I don’t think so. I hate the idea that I’ve hurt people in life, I would regret that, but everything else – the mistakes – I’ve only learnt from those. We’re all imperfect but that’s how we learn.

“I tell my kids all the time: ‘Failing’s good, make mistakes because you’ll gain and learn from them’. They’re amazing and I want them to be independent and live their own lives; hopefully I’ve given them the tools to cope with whatever happens to them.”

The first WellFest UK event brought to you by Davina McCall was due to take place on June 6-7 in Old Deer Park, London, but has now been rescheduled to June 2021  in light of COVID-19. Visit​