Claudia Winkleman: “I have no time for perfect. It makes me feel nauseous”

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  • The Strictly Come Dancing host chats managing a busy schedule and her daily non-negotiables (including long showers, naps and a 9.30pm bedtime).

    You’ll all know TV personality and Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman, most famous for her shiny hair, bold fringe and laissez faire attitude to life.

    She’s been on your screens for the best part of three decades and has a pretty star-studded CV, hosting the likes of Comic Relief, Sport Relief and her regular show on BBC Radio 2, alongside penning her column for The Sunday Times. But what really makes the presenter tick? What are her daily non-negotiables, and what would she say to her younger self, given the chance?

    With the nineteenth series of the dancing show in full swing, we caught up with the presenter. Keep reading for her take on working out (she doesn’t), last supper meal (roast chicken and jacket potatoes), and the best life advice she’s ever been taught.

    Claudia Winkleman: “I like things sort of decaying, including myself. I find that much more charming.”

    A: Hey Claudia. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

    C: I’m sorry I look so repellant. I don’t have any mirrors. I’ve done the school run and I’ve come on here and I’m like, oh my god, I look like meatloaf.

    A: I feel like life would be better if you didn’t have to look at yourself all the time [referring to Zoom]. It’s not not natural.

    C: You’re talking to somebody who was brought up in a house without mirrors. My mum insisted because she was such a staunch feminist.

    She thought what you looked like wasn’t interesting. I was brought up without mirrors and we don’t have any mirrors in my house. So [seeing myself on Zoom] is a shock.

    A: Do you enjoy having no mirrors though? I think I’d quite like it.

    C: Yeah, I do. I’m 49 now and it’s all I’ve ever known. My friends go mad. If they’d come round, they’re like, Claude, how do you check everything? And I’m like, I don’t. I want to look a mess, as we know – I just put on eyeliner with my finger. And off we go.

    A: Tell me about your Cannaray collaboration – have you always used CBD?

    C: It’s magical. I think we might have – I don’t know if we went to them, I mean, that would be highly embarrassing. I’m a massive napper, that’s just my life, I’ve always napped. It means I can get up, be springy, look after three kids, make different breakfast, get on the tube and say, “No problem!”.

    Then I’d come back and I would have time to myself. But in lockdown, I didn’t. I felt slightly warp speed because I didn’t have just that quiet, under-a-heavy-duvet-no-offspring-moment. My cousin Sarah – super hot and funny – said, “What you want to do, love, is try this.”

    She went on their website and ordered me some products – the oil and the capsules. I know the oil is good, but I’m not patient enough to last 30 seconds. I drop some on my tongue and then [makes gobbling noise]. I love the capsules. I take two every night before I go to bed. It’s just like brushing my teeth or reading a book before I go to bed, now.

    I’m not a scientist – as you can tell – so I don’t understand the magic of what’s in there, but I do believe in it.

    A: It’s the difference to your day-to-day and how much it helps you get some deep sleep, isn’t it? I wake up feeling so well rested.

    C: There’s a delicious rub that I love. It’s a muscle balm and it smells so delicious – I keep it next to my bed if I ever want to just put a little bit on my hands or an elbow. But it’s the capsules that I love mainly – I’ve sent them to all of my friends.

    A: Quite a few people are sceptical about CBD. What would you say to someone who thinks it might get them high?

    C: I’d say it doesn’t do that but I would also say, don’t worry about it. Give it a go. It’s super safe and delicious. Why not try it and then call me? I did that with most of my friends and now they love it.

    A: How do you manage your busy lifestyle? You must be so busy all the time.

    C: I’m not! I mean, it’s a myth that I’m busy. It’s an absolute myth. I like it when people go, you must be manic. But I say no, [presenting Strictly Come Dancing] takes up twelve Saturdays days a year. Monday to Friday I do nothing. I take naps. Make sure the kids do their homework and roast some potatoes. I write a column for The Times and I do the radio.

    Most of my friends are much, much busier than me. They work in hospitals or they’re lawyers. When they’re on their phones, there is this sort of frenzy, whereas when I’m on mine I’m probably doing some colouring in or thinking “Oh, I’d quite like to make a lemon meringue pavlova!”

    A: Have you made a conscious choice to keep your life like that?

    C: I think it was madder in the past – when I think back to like, what, how was I going to five film screenings and doing, It Takes Two and doing the results [laughs].

    But my kids are bigger now and they need me at home even more than when they were little. You can sit opposite them and go, tell me about your day, and they will tell you about their day. Now they’re older, they might tell you something close to 10 o’clock at night. They might come up and go, I don’t really get Chemistry. And you’re like, okay, let’s talk about that, you’ve got a GCSE coming up.

    I’m incredibly lucky with my work. I’ve been unbelievably lucky. And I like the balance.

    A: CBD is clearly a non negotiable for you – do you have any other daily non-negotiables in your life? What keeps you sane?

    C: I’ll tell you what keeps me really sane – quite long showers. When I was a student, I showered for like literally 18 seconds. It was a dribble of water and it’d be lukewarm. But yesterday, in the middle of the day randomly, I had a shower.

    My other non negotiables are Head and Shoulders. Also lip salve – I love Blistex – and white lipstick – Mac’s Flesh Pop is my favourite. There’s always one near me – I like to look like I’m wearing Tippex.

    Speaking to my girlfriends and I speak to my Mum about three times a day. Trying to lick the children – even though some of them are not interested in that anymore.

    Going to bed early is also a non-negotiable. I’ve just read the most brilliant book by Katie Wicks called Delicacy. I get into bed at around 9pm with a book and then I’ll read for an hour and then my husband and I will go to sleep. It’s lovely.

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    Claudia Winkleman: “I have no time for perfect. It makes me feel nauseous”

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    A: Does anything stop you from your 9pm bedtime?

    C: Bridge. I played bridge last night. Yes, bridge. I will play that until 4am.. or, realistically, 11pm. But that’s quite late for me.

    A: One of the most searched things about you is your hair. People are absolutely obsessed with your hair? People want to know why it’s so shiny – do you take any kind of vitamins or supplements or use any other products?

    C: Firstly, I love you. Head and Shoulders helps – I swear to God, it’s not more complicated than that.

    I also don’t dry it – I never use a hairdryer – and I use my shower as a precursor to a nap. I normally get into the shower, shampoo, then the key is to use the conditioner and then comb it through in the shower – vital.

    Then, wrap yourself in a towel and just let it dry like that. No heat!

    A: What is your workout routine like?

    C: Oh, absolutely zero. I’m sedentary. My only movement is to go on the central line. I get the tube at 7.45am and 3.30pm. I like a march to the entrance and then when I get on, it’s like an amazing Harry Potter magic pill as you come out in a totally different part of London. I pick up the offspring and then come back. So I don’t move at all other than that.

    I used to like spinning but then I sort of got out of the habit. I liked being shouted at – it was thrilling, in a dark room!

    I also like feeding the ducks and squirrels in my local park at the weekends, for the kids, but that’s only the weekends. It’s always a slow meander. I don’t actually own trainers.

    A: Did you do a lot of walking in lockdown?

    C: We were so grateful because we had the hour of exercise, and we were really obedient. So we would set an alarm and we would go – it was the five of us [referring to her family] and we just felt so incredibly lucky.

    We discovered our local park, but we also did lots of urban walking. I live in a very urban area and we don’t have a garden where we are. We were literally just pounding the streets of London. When I say pounding – we wandered around. We would be looking at the blue plaques and we were so grateful for that one hour and that air.

    A: What do you think is the worst bit of health, fitness or life advice that you’ve been given over the years?

    C: I’m not really interested in liquid – I can’t juice. I don’t want spirulina and fennel that’s been in a processor, ever.

    I also don’t – maybe this is bad, maybe I’m lazy and too much of an 80’s kid – but I don’t sweat it. I’m not really interested. I love delicious food. I love potatoes. I’m getting meeting a girlfriend later on and we’re just having a pasta-off. I love that.

    I went to yoga once and I lasted four minutes. I’m just not that person. I like lying on my bed, under quite a heavy duvet, talking to my girlfriends on the phone.

    A: How do you zone out of the pressure to be doing more? What would your advice be to people

    C: In my world, I’m not aware of that mentality, and I would treat it with a certain amount of disdain. Any pressure to do anything, whether it’s pressure to lie down, or pressure to read more, or pressure to exercise more, I’m not interested in. I’m totally disinterested, in complete honesty.

    I have no time for perfect. The perfect dinner party, the perfect bedspread, the perfect conversation starter.

    That all makes me feel nauseous. I like ramshackle, and funny, and smart, which is why I like shepherds pie and bridge with my best and oldest friend. And I like things sort of decaying, including myself, I find that much more charming.

    I’m happy to fall apart. It’s happening, it’s too late, that train has left the station. I don’t feel, in my world, that there is any of that coming.

    My mum once sat next to a brain surgeon – don’t laugh – at a lunch when I was about twelve. She was a journalist so she often sat with different people. Anyway, he said to her, just as a parting shot, “Oh, by the way, if you’ve got kids, always let them sleep, never ever tell them to wake up.”

    So she came home and held a family meeting with me and my brother. And she said, “I won’t ever, ever tell you that you’re wasting the day ever again.”

    My house became like a haven. As we grew up and as a teenager, all my friends would stay with me. I had a tiny single bed and a tiny room and there was often four of us going head-to-toe. If I was a bit overwhelmed when I was doing my A levels, or when I was in my finals at university, or I didn’t know what to do because two friends were arguing, her answer having had this lunch with this man once when I was twelve was, “Why don’t you just close your eyes? Why don’t you just take the weight off? Have a tiny nap – ten or fifteen minutes, no telly, no phone, no nothing.”

    I do it with my kids now and they’re like, “Oh Mum, I’m too stressed, I can’t sleep!” And I’m like, “I’ll be the judge of that.” And I take their phone and they just lie there and close their eyes. I’m a big believer in that.

    A: I’ve never heard that before. It’s really interesting.

    C: It’s like when you put your computer to sleep. It’s just shutting down a bit.

    A: Quick fire. If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

    C: Roast chicken and jacket potato with cheese.

    A: Your favourite current podcast?

    C: Off Menu – I think it’s the funniest podcast ever. I love being on it.

    A: Coffee or tea, your coffee or tea person?

    C: Decaf coffee, two sweeteners. I don’t like caffeine – decaf is delicious.

    A: And one bit of advice you would give your younger self?

    C: Don’t worry about it. Get back into bed. Heavier fringe?