One of my earliest memories was my mum taking me for my first night out to go and see ET at the cinema,” says TV presenter and journalist, Claudia Winkleman. “I remember it being a special treat because we never went out – my brother and I were always in bed with a book or a wooden giraffe! But there I was with ET and I thought, ‘This is the most extraordinary experience of my life.’ I said to my mum, ‘This film is making my eyes itch,’ and she held my hand and said, ‘No, sweetheart, it’s making you cry.’ I got the VHS when it came out and wore it through. Ask me to name any scene today and I still know it by heart.
“I had a glorious childhood that, when I look back, was just full of joy. My parents shaped everything; there is nothing original about me. I am the pure product of a lovely, lovely upbringing – of worship, if you like! They didn’t physically put me on a throne but if they could, I’m sure they would have done.
“Every two weeks my dad would take me to The National Gallery. He’s a fiercely intelligent man, an intellectual, and he had this rule that I could only ever look at one painting per visit, never two or three, never a room or a floor – just one. There were some that you just wanted to sit and gasp at, look at the detail, while others you could do in five minutes. It was an incredibly clever idea because I never felt satiated and always left wanting more.
“My love of art definitely began with that. I had the most brilliant teacher at school, too, so I went on to study it. I thought I’d work in a gallery and be surrounded by the most incredible paintings of our time, but I think I lasted four minutes on the job. I was there physically for four days but I knew I couldn’t stay – there’s just so much sitting!
“Television presenting happened completely by accident. My parents are still mortified because they sacrificed a lot to give me this extraordinary education where I could talk about Caravaggio until your ears bleed. But I love live TV. It doesn’t matter what the show is – it could be Strictly Come Dancing, [BBC One’s] Film show, or a show about the history of avocados; the thrill of live television is extraordinary and addictive.
“I get incredibly nervous before a big live show like Strictly, but then I remember the most brilliant piece of advice that someone gave me early on in my career. They just whispered in my ear, ‘It’s only telly’ – and I’ve carried it with me ever since. I’ve been working in the industry now for 20 years and a real highlight was working on [a show for the now defunct channel] Granada Breeze. I’m sure it didn’t even have a viewer – in fact, I’m convinced that somebody once left the television on and just couldn’t find the remote! I can remember doing an interview and getting the giggles so badly that I completely fell apart and ended up on the floor. That’s probably the best memory of my career.”
THE FRINGE “I like to think that I’m held aloft with fake tan and my fringe. People send me quite serious letters asking me to cut it, but without both of those things I crumple”
BAKING “I’m obsessed by baking. I make brownies that have little bits of shredded biscuit in them and sometimes a layer of cream cheese, which sounds awful but is actually delicious!”
STYLE ICON “I don’t dress like her but Kate Moss has never looked bad. She can wear anything and still look hot. She’s my favourite”
EARLY CAREER “I was a fashion assistant, but unbelievably bad. I used to iron tights and then burn them. Worse, somebody came in with two massive bags of Chanel and I sent them to the charity shop by mistake”
STRICTLY SPEAKING “I don’t really believe in dancing, exercise or any form of movement. I’m part human, part cat and probably sleep about 18 hours a day”
“I love a great blazer, skinny jeans, high heels and an oversized clutch. Done!”
Master Claudia’s signature look with smoky kohl eyes and a nude lip