SHE is the radiant mum of three who appears to take showbusiness in her stride as she is beamed into our living rooms on This Morning.
And in just a few days Holly Willoughby will celebrate a milestone birthday — knowing that she has achieved more in her 40 years than she could have ever imagined.
Holly admitted: “I never really had the confidence to speak up for myself when I was younger, I felt so uncomfortable. But I didn’t give up, I pushed myself to keep going, to find that confidence.”
And that self-belief has helped her land one of the top presenting gigs on TV, an army of followers and a group of tight-knit showbiz pals. Holly will celebrate her 40th with them on February 10.
The Sun on Sunday can reveal that her This Morning colleagues and co-host Phillip Schofield will present a cake at the studio before she heads to her £3million home in South West London for a Zoom party with singers Emma Bunton, 45, and Nicole Appleton, 46, actress Tamzin Outhwaite, 50, and her big sister Kelly, 42.
Holly — mum to Harry, 11, Belle, nine, and six-year-old Chester — said: “I’m really looking forward to it.
“My thirties have been all about the kids, bringing them up, keeping all these balls in the air, but now they’re getting older I can start focusing on things happening for me.”
She has been building up to this moment for the past decade.
Holly joined Phillip, 58, on the This Morning couch in 2009, and admits she was so unsure of herself that it took eight months for her nerves to subside.
‘I was pretty clueless’
Today, her net worth has rocketed to around £10million, she has seven million Instagram followers and rakes in £600,000 a year from This Morning and another £200,000 from her Dancing On Ice gig.
Holly also has lucrative advertising deals with big-name firms including Marks & Spencer and Coca-Cola.
The value of “Brand Holly” has soared so high that in 2018 she was asked to stand in for Ant McPartlin, 45, when he was forced to take a break from I’m A Celeb.
By August last year she took another big step forward by creating Roxy Management, an all-female team to handle her affairs.
This followed her successful bid to renegotiate her ITV contract to get pay parity with Phillip.
While her bank balance has expanded in the past decade, Holly’s waistline has significantly slimmed, transforming her figure.
However, she refuses to talk about her weight loss because she has interviewed too many parents of children with eating disorders.
She has also revamped her wardrobe and developed a more mature style.
Holly said: “For a long time I was pretty clueless.
“There’s a picture of me on a red carpet when I first started in TV and I’m wearing a brown belted cord skirt, a brown cord jacket, fishnet tights and a weird, round-toe shoe. What was I thinking?
“But I’ve grown to like clothes more the older I’ve got and I now recognise the importance of having key staples.”
Holly was raised in an ordinary, middle-class family in West Sussex.
Her father, Terry, was the sales manager at a double-glazing company and her mother, Lynne, worked in airline cabin crew.
Aged 14, Holly was spotted by a model scout while visiting the Clothes Show Live exhibition.
She said: “I started modelling in my teens just so I could earn some money to go on a gap year.
“I’d go to castings for things like toothpaste commercials and sit in the waiting room, barely able to look anyone in the eye, and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what to do’, while all these other girls walked in looking super-confident.”
'It wasn’t love at first sight'
But the experience ended up being good for her as she “suddenly had to talk and there was no one to do it for me”.
Holly also had to battle with dyslexia, not diagnosed until the year before her GCSEs.
She said: “I have struggled with dyslexia since I was young and it used to hold me back.
“At school, reading out loud terrified me as I’d get all the words wrong and I was convinced everybody thought I was stupid.”
A teacher helped her develop tactics to cope, including printing text on coloured paper.
She said: “That is brilliant in telly because scripts are always printed on coloured paper.
“I was quite concerned when I first started using an autocue. But as long as I’ve read it all once, and I know what’s coming, it’s fine.”
After landing her first job on CITV show S Club TV at 19, work started to dry up.
She became a receptionist and TV backroom girl to pay the bills and considered quitting showbusiness after studying psychology at the Open University.
But her big break came in 2004, when she became co-presenter on ITV’s Saturday morning kids’ show, Ministry Of Mayhem.
It was here that she met her future husband, TV producer Dan Baldwin, 46, as well as fellow children’s TV presenter Fearne Cotton, 39, who is still a close friend.
Holly has told how she did not fancy her hubby at first.
She said: “It wasn’t love at first sight. Then I remember looking at him one night in a bar for a second too long and thinking, ‘Oh what’s this feeling? I fancy Dan!’ And it happened after that.”
After finding love she went on to host Holly & Stephen’s Saturday Showdown with Stephen Mulhern, CD:UK, Celebrity Wrestling: Bring It On, Greased Lightnin’, The Xtra Factor, Streetmate, Holly & Fearne Go Dating with Fearne Cotton and was a team captain on comic Leigh Francis’s Celebrity Juice until last year.
Holly’s star status was obvious at her wedding to Dan in 2007.
TV hosts Sarah Cawood and Fearne were bridesmaids, Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was a guest and TV host Dermot O’Leary an usher.
Three children followed but she admits that her working life often clashed with her role as mum and this is one reason she formed her new management company, to find more balance.
She said: “I didn’t do the drop-off on Harry’s or Belle’s first day of school because I was working.
“I hate that I wasn’t there because those are memories you can’t get back.
“But I’ve realised the only way that I can combat those feelings is to accept that sometimes I don’t get it right, and that’s fine.”
Holly has been hailed for her empathetic and down-to-earth presenting style, but she also has a genuine interest in the guests she interviews.
She said: “I Iike listening to people.
“I’m really interested in people’s lives and what makes us work, what makes us weak, and things that can make us stronger.”
Looking forward to the next decade, Holly says her marriage to Dan will remain her top priority.
She said: “We’re very honest with each other, we listen to each other. I love him and he loves me. We respect each other and we probably drive each other round the twist. But we give each other space for that too.
“If my career ended tomorrow, I would be absolutely OK. But if things went wrong between me and Dan it would be the end of my world.”
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