Susanna Reid doesn’t look like a woman who’s been up since 3.45am. The Good Morning Britain presenter is in full-speed-ahead chat mode as she bounces into the Fabulous photoshoot five hours later.
“It was me and Ben Shephard today – therapeutic Thursdays. Monday to Wednesday is just: ‘Oh my god’ with Piers [Morgan], or The Morganator as I call him. He tries to dominate, but he doesn’t succeed.”
Her secret stay-awake weapon is black coffee alternating with tea during every ad break: “I’ll drink six or seven in total”. But her boundless energy has nothing to do with caffeine.
In December this year, Susanna will join The 50 Club, with latest recruits Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Tess Daly and Gwen Stefani, and feels more powerful now than in any other decade.
“Look at J.Lo, oh my days,” she says. “50 is energetic – it’s not the cut-off point any more. It’s absolutely powering through. I definitely feel more comfortable with myself.
“One of the things I really noticed about looking back at myself on TV 20 years ago, is that I wasn’t very comfortable with me. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking: ‘Why don’t I look like Patsy Kensit?’ She was my absolute idol. Finally, approaching 50, I’ve realised I’m never going to look like Patsy Kensit!
"Age is totally irrelevant. It is just another day and my motto has always been that ageing is a blessing. We are lucky to be working, thriving, enjoying life – I have a great career, I’m very happy.”
And she has every reason to be. In 2013, after presenting on BBC Breakfast for nine years, her profile was boosted tenfold overnight when she came runner-up on the 11th series of Strictly Come Dancing with dance partner Kevin Clifton.
A year later, she was poached by ITV and named Newsreader of the Year by Television and Radio Industries Club. With such an illustrious CV, is there much left on the bucket list?
“I feel like 50 is the year not to put pressure on myself,” she says. “It’s like relaxed, rolling into 50 rather than trying to be my best self. For years we had this idea of constant self-improvement, whereas now there’s much more of a self-acceptance. That idea of being your best self presumes that you’re a little bit less than that all the time. I’ve got to an age where this is who I am and I’m happy with that.”
This year marks 20 years since she delivered her first news bulletin for the BBC. Throwback footage that recently emerged online shows a serious-faced Susanna dressed in a lilac power suit with an ear-length haircut, looking arguably older at the start of the millennium than her current 49 years.
“Some brilliant person unearthed that TV bulletin,” she says. “I sound incredibly posh because I must have thought putting on a posh accent would make me sound more authoritative. And I have this, what I describe as Lego hair, my Playmobil hair, this kind of news wig where I thought if I had a crop and I didn’t look in the least bit glamorous, I’d look exceptionally serious. That’s kind of what you had to do.
“I wore these smart, long, masculine jackets from Marks & Spencer. There was nothing foxy about what I was wearing at all. I wanted to have a masculine air about me. What’s wonderful now is women feel like they don’t have to look like that.”
Two decades on and Susanna has earned a reputation as both a first-class journalist and a woman who enjoys dressing however the heck she wants. Her Instagram account is crammed with selfies showcasing the looks she wears on Good Morning Britain to her half a million followers. Such is her style power, in 2017 a £75 Jasper Conran dress sold out online just 89 minutes after she wore it on air.
But she’s still not keen on the power suits. “If it was down to me, I would not look glamorous. At home, I just wear a tinted moisturiser during the day, but I do get a spray tan every week – that’s a really important part of my routine. I prefer to have colour and a tan on me. It’s not a luxury, it’s my essential. I’m also trying hard to keep fit as part of my week. I walk for 20 minutes every morning, because I get up stupidly early.”
A former self-confessed white wine lover, she quit alcohol in 2018 and lost a stone and a half in the process. “Though I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple of times,” she laughs.
“It was driven by my skin doctor. One of the effects of ageing was my skin got worse, just red and blemished. They said: ‘You need to lose weight and one of the things you can do is stop drinking.’ I’ve lost a stone and a half, but I cut out snacking as well.”
Her healthy diet – for breakfast on the shoot today, she requests beetroot gravalax and a cup of coffee – is clearly making a difference. A quick search of her name on Twitter unearths countless compliments from adoring fans – some more eloquent than others in their appreciation.
So how does she feel about being called a quintessential MILF? Susanna smiles. “Well, it’s lovely isn’t it? Approaching 50, it’s always lovely to get a compliment.”
Her cool and casual response is Susanna all over. Aside from any inquisition into her love life, nothing fazes her. In April 2019, she split from her millionaire boyfriend, Steve Parish, 54, who was the chairman of her beloved Crystal Palace Football Club, after nine months together. Recent articles have suggested that the mother of three is currently single.
“That’s an area I’m not going to talk about,” she says. “There have to be boundaries, not with you, but you know. It’s not something I want to discuss.”
Single or not, Susanna’s happiness and validation has never been, and will never be, defined by her relationship status – but there is one man, for now, she can’t get away from.
Her daily tussles with co-presenter Piers Morgan, 54, have won ITV up to 3 million viewers daily, with the show being one of the most commentated-on TV power battles ever.
At the start of their tenure in 2015, the perception of the pairing was alpha-male Piers in the power seat on the left and on-screen “wife” Susanna on the right, traditionally the supporting presenter’s position. But what quickly emerged was a news anchor so competent at her job she could silence Piers with a single eye roll.
In November, Susanna and Piers will celebrate their five-year GMB TV anniversary, but she admits their TV marriage almost hit the rocks in its first year because of genuine tension between them.
Despite their widely differing opinions, she found herself on the receiving end of abuse from viewers who accused her of not being a feminist simply because of her association with Piers. She understandably felt hostile towards him – until their escalating off-air feud was resolved during a wild night out at a gay club in Soho.
“When Piers first arrived in November 2015 there were obviously some teething troubles,” she tells us. “I said: ‘Shall we go out for a drink?’ So we went for dinner at The Groucho [an exclusive members’ club in London] and Piers said: ‘I’ll order a bottle of fabulous red wine.’
I told him I don’t drink fabulous red wine and he went: ‘Right I’ll order you your own bottle’. So he had a bottle of red and I had a bottle of white, and I was thinking: ‘My god, when is this going to end?’
Then we went out to gay club Freedom and we had shots. I don’t think the other people could believe Piers was there either, but he was more popular than the rest of us at that table!”
After her earlier jibe at The Morganator, Susanna frequently jumps to his defence throughout the interview. He’s actually: “Quite nice off air” and she credits him for helping to toughen her up in a hyper-critical industry.
“I have a tough exterior because I have to be fully battle-ready for every morning with Piers on air, because he can throw anything out,” she says. “Sometimes our battles are really vociferous on air, and sometimes we fight off air. We do have that kind of relationship, but as I often say, when I was at the BBC you can get very comfortable sitting on the fence.
"Since working with Piers, I’ve become much more opinionated and when you’re opinionated you have to be more resilient, because if you’re going to put an opinion out there, you’re going to get an opinion back, so I’ve toughened up.”
Despite her bulletproof-like exterior, Susanna, like many in the public eye, has been subjected to horrible abuse on social media.
“I have a setting that means I don’t see a whole load of stuff that’s said to me, but even yesterday I did read a comment to me, Piers and GMB saying: ‘You’re a terrible television presenter, you’re good for nothing, you can’t even make beans on toast and really you should go on Love Island.’
"I re-tweeted that saying: ‘Just opening my fan mail this morning.’ People can be exceptionally unpleasant and on the rare occasion, something will slip through and that can really sting.
“Sometimes I just think those people need to be called out on this stuff – it is so unnecessary. Just because I’m on TV doesn’t mean that’s not going to affect me in some way. We’re all human. But then I see some of the comments Piers gets and I think: ‘Goodness me, I don’t know the half of it.’”
She still has recurring nightmares about sleeping through her stupidly early 3.45am alarm.
“I set two alarms. I once asked Richard Madeley and he said he sets alarms everywhere, including one in the bath so he has to get up and go to the bath and turn it off. Of course, once he said that to me I couldn’t then sleep with one alarm any more, so now I have two.
'WE'RE ALL HUMAN'
“Last night I dreamt I overslept. For the best part of 20 years I’ve been getting up at this time of the morning and I still can’t get used to it. Even talking about it now, I’m scared of talking about it in case I jinx myself.”
Those early starts are also the reason her three sons Sam, 16, Finn, 14, and Jack, 13, live with her ex, journalist Dominic Cotton and his new partner Gayle Harrison, just 12 minutes away from Susanna’s home in south London, so she doesn’t risk waking them up in the mornings, though they have dinner with her most nights.
The pair have maintained an excellent co-parenting relationship since their split shortly after her stint on Strictly seven years ago, but Susanna admits she has been plagued by worry about the safety of her boys growing up in the capital.
Last month, that fear was heightened when terrorist Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead by police after stabbing two people on Streatham High Road – almost on Susanna’s doorstep.
“It was on the other side of Tooting Common from where I live,” she recalls. “It’s a huge event when terror comes just round the corner from your home. There’s a sense now that you could be going into Boots on Streatham High Road and become a victim of a terror attack, it’s everywhere. We live in London where stabbings are at a ridiculous level, so these things are on my mind a lot.
"I’ve got to let my kids get on with their lives and not be afraid for them, but of course I’m concerned. I’ve gone head to head with Sadiq Khan over this on a number of occasions, because he’s the Mayor of London. He lives very close to me as well.
"He knows the situation – not just as Mayor, but as a dad and local resident. You’ve got to teach your kids to be independent, strong, and keep them as safe as you can whilst still allowing them to live their own lives.
"We can’t let ourselves be cowards because of terrorists, and we can’t wrap our kids up in cotton wool. I just want to know that they’re as safe as can be and that they have the resources to look after themselves.”
Susanna has certainly given her boys a strong role model to look up to.
- Watch Good Morning Britain weekdays, 6am-9am, on ITV.
Book you read?
So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter It’s brilliant. She’s a very talented writer.
Album you listened to?
James Blunt’s new album. I love that song Monsters. Amazing. He’s very fun as well.
Series you binged?
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.They’re calling him the NFL Killer.
Movie you watched?
A Wonderful Day In The Neighborhood with Tom Hanks.
Time you cried?
This morning, when a bit of dust went in my eye during make-up.
Time you were drunk?
At last year’s Oscars. I said: “If there’s a time to have a margarita, it’s now.” Then I had another one and some red wine. The hangover lasted for three days.
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