Telly host Fiona Phillips has had a glittering career – meeting some of the biggest names in showbiz, from Angelina Jolie to Victoria Beckham and Clint Eastwood.
But she says coming face-to-face with the landmark age of 60 has been one of the biggest eye-openers in her life.
And she reckons her birthday last week has made her feel like a grown-up for the very first time.
“It suddenly feels like I’m a serious adult – although it’s taken me a long time to realise it,” she said.
“I’m not accepting 60. My birthday is rubbish anyway because everyone is always hungover at New Year, including me. Nobody wants to go out and party.”
Looking back on the highs and lows of her career, Fiona celebrates her 60th by lifting the lid on the rudest celebrity she ever interviewed.
She also reveals her friendship with former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and her flirtation with Mel Gibson.
Fiona recalls how she saw impatient Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger storm off set when he got frustrated with the camera crew before an interview.
“He was so bloody rude,” she said.
“He arrived early when the camera and sound men were still setting up and kept looking at his watch and sighing and asking how long they were going to take.
“Then he suddenly just got up and said, ‘Well, that’s it’ and disappeared – and he didn’t even say ‘I’ll be back’.
“It was in total contrast to some of the nicer people I’ve met. Victoria Beckham is just lovely and very funny.
“She puts herself across as some sort of cold fashionista but she’s very sharp and thoughtful.
“Days after our interview, she went to the effort of finding out my clothes size and sending me a pair of her VB jeans.
“There was no reason for her to do it and nothing in it for her. It was just a nice touch.”
She recalls another interview with the former Spice Girl at Tiffany jewellers for OK! TV.
“I’d just had my eldest, Matt, and she had Brooklyn, and the babies were lying on the floor next to each other, being looked after by Victoria’s mum as we chatted,” she said.
“Mel Gibson was another of my favourites too, although he later went through a publicised meltdown.
“I have always loved him and if he knows you are game for it, his eyes are very twinkly and sparkly.”
She revealed a hilarious misunderstanding with the Lethal Weapon star.
“When he won two Oscars for Braveheart he wore a kilt. I asked him, ‘What do men wear under their kilt?’ He replied, ‘Under where?’ I said, ‘Under your kilt?’ This went on for a while before I realised he was saying underwear and not under where! He was really laughing. He loved that I was squirming.
“The most amazing lady was Bette Midler. She was the loveliest person and I was blown away by her.”
Fiona says one of her favourite moments was with Richard Gere on the Oscars red carpet.
“He was with Cindy Crawford and I was going down the line trying to talk to people and he turned to me and said, ‘You’re gorgeous’.
He was with a supermodel! I’ve dined out on that story a few times.” Fiona spent almost two decades with GMTV covering some of the biggest celebrity stories of the 90s, including court cases against Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson.
By 1997 she was co-presenting with Eamonn Holmes and her relaxed yet no-nonsense style of interviewing was a hit with viewers.
She left in 2008 due to family commitments but reckons GMTV was her crowning glory.
“It was definitely a highlight of my career,” she said. “Sometimes I think maybe I should have stayed there but both my parents had Alzheimer’s at the time and I had two really young children to look after. I had to make the decision.”
Fiona is not so proud of her Strictly Come Dancing stint in 2005 – and this year described the axing of dance partner New Zealander Brendan Cole as “karma”.
Fiona said: “I should never have done it. Even as a teenager I hated getting on the dance floor.
“It’s funny but for someone who has spent a lot of time
in broadcasting, I’ve always been quite shy and have low self-esteem.
“I felt so self-conscious, but I thought, ‘I will have a professional dancer and it’s a nice programme’. But Brendan is a rough old taskmaster and really wanted to be number one or nothing. I just wasn’t very good.
“I became a comedy type figure. I’m not glad I did it, but it was an experience.”
Despite her huge success, Fiona has a self-deprecating nature which she believes comes from her parents, Amy and Phil.
She said: “With my mum, showing off was a cardinal sin – only something that cocky children did – and I think that kept me grounded.
“My parents worked hard but didn’t have airs or graces.”
And while most people would be delighted to meet the Queen, Fiona was left slightly embarrassed when she came face-to-face with Her Majesty at the Royal Variety Show in 2003.
She said: “I’m not a royalist and thought, ‘I’m not going to bow to her’, but there’s this funny picture of us where I’m bent over like a question mark, all snivelling.”
While Fiona is naturally pretty, she has always resisted holding back the years with botox – but now says “never say never”.
“I’ve always said I’ll never have it, but now I’m getting older I think, er, maybe. Sometimes I look at someone and think they look good, then later find out they’ve had a little bit of help.”
Despite hitting her 60s, there’s no chance of Fiona disappearing from our screens
any time soon. “I guess I should really be thinking about retiring but it’s not part of my lexicon,” she said.
“I like that whole thing of having a reason to get up in the morning.”
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