If anyone can bring glitz and glamour into our homes, it is Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly – and she did just that on the latest series, which was filmed under tight COVID restrictions. However, away from our television screens, the 51-year-old is a doting wife and mother to two daughters: Phoebe, 16, and 11-year-old Amber.
During an exclusive chat with HELLO!, Tess – who is married to Vernon Kay – explores life in lockdown, how she is among thousands of parents who have taken on the role of teacher, and reminisces for the first time about her tenth wedding anniversary celebrations.
Exclusive: Tess Daly makes heartbreaking confession about filming Strictly in lockdown
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WATCH: Tess Daly’s emotional reaction to Vernon Kay reaching the I’m A Celebrity final
How has homeschooling been this time around?
We’re just getting through it by taking each day as it comes, staying positive, keeping the home happy for the girls. I’m so appreciative of their wonderful teachers for pulling off this feat.
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Would you say it’s brought you all closer together?
It’s a levelling experience. We are in it together. I mean, as a family, we’ve always been a tight-knit unit. I’m very much about focusing on the positive, which at this time is, of course, extremely challenging.
Tess shares two daughters with husband Vernon Kay
Who’s the stricter teacher at home?
It’s both of us, really. We juggle it between us but they’re really good, they’re diligent, they get on with their lessons. They’re accountable for themselves. My eldest is in her GCSE year, which obviously is up in the air at the moment.
How was it watching Vernon take part in I’m A Celebrity?
I was so invested, I felt like I was going through it with him. I laughed with them, cried with them. I wept when he talked about me and the girls. It was so emotional, it felt like a rollercoaster. I’m A Celebrity and Strictly were my life through December.
The couple are hugely popular amongst their fans
Strictly was amazing last year. Did you ever think it would be impossible to film?
It did genuinely feel like a privilege to actually get the show up on air last year. We were determined to. Ever since March when the first lockdown happened, I was in talks with the producers – ‘Can we make it happen?’ They were saying, ‘We are going to try our hardest. We are going to make this happen and do what we can.’ [Just] to make it happen with the odds stacked against us was a feat in itself. It felt so wonderful and extra celebratory.
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What was one of the biggest challenges of filming Strictly?
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When someone was crying next to me – human instinct is to reach out and comfort them. You really want to hold their hand. That’s my job on the show. Not being physically next to them was tough but we had to do what we had to do to make the show happen. Standing away from Claudia [Winkleman] was challenging too, I love that girl.
The presenter has been the face of Strictly for the past 17 years
Vernon also opened up about your wedding renewal on I’m A Celeb – something we didn’t even know about. Was it emotional to watch?
It was unbelievable because we had kept it quiet, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It was brilliant actually because it all came flooding back to me. It was one of the most amazing times of my life.
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How did the surprise unravel?
The first night [in the south of France] we had a gorgeous dinner and drank champagne, we toasted the sunset and ten years of marriage. The next day we woke up, Vernon surprised me. I opened my anniversary card and it said, ‘Today we are going to renew our vows.’ He said, ‘We’re just going to renew our vows, I’ve arranged it. I’ve found a catholic priest.’ I thought the kids were at home and the grandparents were looking after them for the weekend. [But] Vernon had arranged for all of them to fly over.
Tess recently shared this snap from her wedding vow renewal
What was your initial reaction?
I couldn’t believe it. Of course, my first question was, ‘What am I going to wear?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve arranged it.’ I opened the wardrobe, there was this secondary wardrobe which I hadn’t seen. Anyway, I opened the wardrobe and he hung up three white dresses. These white glamourous gowns that he arranged with my stylist. He said, ‘I hope you’ll like one of those.’ So I choose a long white dress, it was gorgeous like an evening dress – not a wedding gown, more for the red carpet.
READ: Tess Daly makes rare comment about daughter Phoebe’s future
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He then said, ‘I’ll wait for you downstairs in the bar, you’ve got 30 minutes to get ready and then we’ll drive to where we are going to renew our vows in a chapel, near the hotel.’ So I got dressed, did my hair and makeup, shaking like a leaf in surprise, delight and in shock. I went downstairs – he also got a handbag and shoes ready to match the dress, which is quite something. I went down feeling like a million dollars in my gorgeous white Gucci gown.
You had no idea your family were there?
When I went downstairs, Vernon was waiting for me in the bar – and there waiting were our little girls, dressed in identical white sparkly, bridesmaid type dresses. My mum and his parents, and his brother who had flown over from Dubai where he’s a teacher.
Vernon had arranged for all of them to fly over, and I had no idea. I thought they [the kids] were at home and the grandparents were looking after them for the weekend. I left them all these instructions – what their activities and what they were going to eat, what they were going to wear, that sort of thing.
What happened next?
They were all [at the bar] and they all shouted, ‘Surprise!’ The girls ran towards me and they were so tiny back then. They hugged me in their little matching dresses – they looked so sweet and there were sparkly shoes. We all drove off and renewed our vows. The girls walked down the aisle, it was a tiny church, and it was wonderful. It was all a surprise and I just kept pinching myself throughout the day thinking, ‘Is this all really happening?’ He arranged all that without my knowledge.
The celebrity couple tied the knot back in 2003
Where does it go from here? He has set the bar high.
It was overwhelmingly special and memorable. He did very well there. I couldn’t believe they were all there and this was really happening. It was very special and a wonderful way to mark ten years. What’s he going to do when it’s 20 years? I think that’s two years away.
Meanwhile, Tess has also partnered up with Activia to support its 14-day #ActiviaChallenge, where alongside focusing on their gut health, participants are being encouraged to do other small things that help make them feel good.
How important is gut health?
It’s never been more important to look after our immune system. For me, wellbeing is everything and it begins in your gut. I’ve been a gut health enthusiast for as long as I can remember.
Tess has teamed up with Activia for their new campaign
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I definitely like to eat chocolate. I’m not a saint. I look after my gut health in that I eat gut-boosting foods, lots of and lots of green vegetables. I have mostly a vegetarian-based diet, plenty of proteins and vegetables, but I will eat chocolate, I need chocolate. I’ve got a sweet tooth and I don’t want to pretend to be some sort of dietary saint.
How do you unwind?
After the kids have had their breakfast and they’re doing their first online lesson of the day, I will take myself off for a 20-minute online yoga class because it’s brilliant. Not just for the physical side, the flexibility side. It’s great for putting you in a really good headspace so you feel like you’re in control of your day rather than being bombarded by outside elements such as the news you can’t control.
To take part in the 14-day #ActiviaChallenge, which goes live on Monday, visit danoneactivia.co.uk
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