SUSANNA REID on giving up booze, swearing off marriage and turning 50 as a single mother
Susanna Reid stopped drinking almost exactly a year ago — and immediately discovered that her new sober stance didn’t appeal to everyone.
‘Someone — he’ll be anonymous — and I were setting up arrangements for a date. I thought it might be good manners to mention the fact I don’t drink, because most people do like to drink on a date. And, just like that, he stopped making arrangements,’ she says, matter-of-factly. ‘It just ceased to be. A lot of people just think you’ll be no fun on a night out.’
‘I don’t care,’ she adds. ‘I’m just grateful I don’t have to worry about waking up with a sore head.’
Why did Susanna give up the booze? Well, one reason is that she’d had enough of what she calls the ‘hangxiety’ that invariably followed a boozing session (pictured)
But why did Susanna, 48, the polished presenter who lights up our television screens on Good Morning Britain (GMB) alongside Piers Morgan, give up booze in the first place?
Well, one reason is that she’d had enough of what she calls the ‘hangxiety’ that invariably followed a boozing session. ‘It was a sort of fizzing feeling, when you can’t find peace, your body is just so agitated,’ she says.
‘I never drank when I was working, but, on nights off, I’d have a couple of glasses of wine. And Piers and I would have these big nights out at the Groucho Club in Soho, which were wonderful. But I haven’t done one of those since I stopped drinking. Basically, I’m a lot less fun now — as Piers tells me all the time.’
There’s no doubt Susanna loves having a dig at her co-host, who never misses a chance to voice his belligerent opinions on everything from people with mental health issues (‘man-up’), to the Women’s March protests against Donald Trump (‘vacuous’).
‘Piers is very hard — whether it’s about [actor] Daniel Craig [wearing a baby-carrier], or Greggs selling vegan sausage rolls. I find it very hard to be negative about people, because I think to myself, in a lot of cases, there but for the grace of God go I,’ says Susanna.
‘I’m very flawed. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve had a lot of failures and done things that I look back on all the time and cringe about. So I find it quite hard to say to others: “You shouldn’t have done that.” ’
Her love life is also a prime target for her co-star. Late last year, much to Piers’s excitement, she had a much-publicised relationship with multi-millionaire Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, triggering months of ribbing.
Live in the GMB studios, she sometimes responds to Piers’s rants with a withering eye roll (of which, it must be said, she’s the queen) or a brilliantly sassy put-down. Either way, she can expect grief from viewers, who berate her daily on social media.
‘It’s so bizarre,’ says Susanna, ruefully. ‘I have half the people saying: “You don’t say enough,” and half saying: “How on earth does Susanna get away with interrupting Piers so much? She should just pipe down.” ’
From this Thursday, however, she’ll be free to express herself uninterrupted in her new weekly column for Femail magazine.
‘I hope in my role as a working mum who’s juggling a lot of things, I’ll be able to inspire and challenge readers. Though I have to give credit where credit’s due — it’s working with Piers that’s taught me to be a lot more outspoken.
‘I came to GMB straight from the BBC, where it was very much bred into me that you’re neutral all the time and audiences don’t know what you think. Now, on ITV, I’m encouraged to be far more opinionated. I hope the column will reflect that side of me.’
There’s no doubt Susanna loves having a dig at her co-host (pictured together), who never misses a chance to voice his belligerent opinions on everything from people with mental health issues (‘man-up’), to the Women’s March protests against Donald Trump (‘vacuous’)
On TV, she certainly appears the picture of manicured self-control. But, Susanna admits today, the squeaky-clean, sober persona isn’t the full story.
Over the past year, she’s fallen off the wagon a few times: once after presenting from the Oscars in LA (‘Well, you couldn’t be at the Oscars and not have a cocktail’); once when a girlfriend came round with a bottle of wine and said: ‘I know you’re not drinking but . . .’; and, most recently, on her annual singleton Ibiza getaway with friends. (Her three sons, Sam, 17, Finn, 15, and Jack, 14, were with their father, her former partner Dominic Cotton, from whom she separated shortly after she tangoed into the Strictly Come Dancing final in 2013.)
What annoyed Susanna — and makes her determined to stay sober now — was a recent photograph of her, eyes closed, leaving the GQ Men of the Year Awards, leading some to conclude that she was off the wagon for good.
‘When you come out of these things, you have 20 photographers flashing cameras and, at some point, you have to close your eyes because you don’t want the flash in your face.
‘The impression they gave was that I’d had a drink, when I hadn’t had a drop. I don’t want people thinking I’m unprofessional.
‘So perhaps it’s best to stop altogether. That way, when a picture such as that comes out, I can say: “I don’t drink at all, ever.” ’
Another reason why she stopped drinking was to lose weight, after a doctor she consulted about her skin breakouts told her they were mainly down to her having a body mass index (BMI) ‘at the high end of acceptable’. Spurred on by this, she’s lost 1½ st in the past year.
At the same time, she decided to put an end to the ‘grazing’ that saw her turn into a ‘carb monster’ in the afternoon — employing the novel strategy of only eating foods that require cutlery. ‘Can you eat biscuits with a knife or fork, or almonds with a spoon? No, you cannot!’ she announces, proudly.
But, after such dedication, she was infuriated to discover adverts on social media using her photograph to promote ‘keto’ diet pills.
There’s no doubt Susanna (pictured) loves having a dig at her co-host, who never misses a chance to voice his belligerent opinions on everything from people with mental health issues (‘man-up’), to the Women’s March protests against Donald Trump (‘vacuous’)
‘Those scammers had latched on to the fact I’d lost a significant amount of weight. People kept asking me where they could buy these pills, but my weight loss wasn’t through them or a crazy diet. It was all very sensible.’ She certainly isn’t short of self-control: her schedule is Herculean.
Susanna’s day starts at 3.50am, after which she returns home, has lunch at 9.30am, then naps between 10am and noon, before picking up the boys from school and cooking them a hearty dinner of lasagne or roast chicken, with her eating something like salmon (she eats fish, but not meat). At around 8.30pm, it’s lights out for her (the boys sleep at Dominic’s house round the corner so she doesn’t wake them when leaving for work in the morning) to ensure she’s fresh for the upcoming verbal jousting with notoriously mouthy Piers.
But that’s nothing compared with her routine when she was combining gruelling Strictly rehearsals with dawn starts presenting BBC Breakfast as well as a ‘bonkers’ commute between the BBC Manchester studios and her South London home. (After the programme, she’d make the two-hour train journey south to be able to cook her boys’ tea, before returning north again each evening).
Even then, she refused to admit to being shattered, proclaiming that ‘tiredness is a state of mind’.
‘I remember saying that,’ she grins now. ‘But, as I get older, tiredness is definitely less a state of mind and more a physical state. But I do also think you can choose to give in to things. So if I’m tired, but have things to do, rather than thinking: “I can’t carry on,” I think: “I’m exhausted, I’ll go to bed later, but now I’ve got work to do. I’ll just catch up a bit at the weekend.” ’
You’d never guess it from her perky demeanour, but the past few years must have been extremely challenging for Susanna.
It was just after she left the BBC for GMB, lured by the chance to be based in London again, not to mention a reported salary of £1million, that she split with Dominic, now the boss of a company that makes bike helmets out of recycled plastic.
The pair had got together 16 years earlier when both worked at the BBC — he as a sports producer.
Four years later, Sam was born, followed in quick succession by his brothers. ‘I’m not sure we realised how much of a challenge it would be to have three children under four,’ admits Susanna. ‘But now the boys are great friends, so it’s all worked out.’
Their split happened shortly after the whirlwind of Strictly. Despite all the sexy wiggling, she adamantly denies that anything happened between her and her thrice-married professional dance partner, Kevin Clifton, who’s now in a relationship with the partner who took him to victory on last year’s show, Stacey Dooley. During Strictly, Dominic took on most of the domestic burden and reportedly told friends that he felt undervalued — though this gossip was never substantiated.
Five years on, Susanna says the pair ‘have made the relationship work. It may not be the relationship you imagined it would be, but you can make a friendship work, and that’s what we’ve done.’
Perhaps surprisingly, she often turns for support to Piers (pictured together), even though she admits the early days of his GMB tenure (he arrived in 2015 when she’d just completed her first year) were ‘really difficult’
Poignantly, it’s a lesson she learned from her parents, management consultant Barry and nurse Sue. They split when Susanna (who has two older brothers and grew up in Croydon, Surrey) was nine.
‘I clearly remember the moment my mum told me they were divorcing, and I dissolved into tears as any nine-year-old would. But they managed to build a very strong friendship — they’re still friends — and that has had such a massive impact on me. My parents were at the forefront of my mind during my own split because I can’t bear bitterness or not talking to someone — and if you can be good friends and parent together, it really helps the children.’
Still, however amicable, there’s no doubt the break-up left Susanna with the steely core that holds her in such good stead today.
‘Definitely!’ she cries. ‘Anything that destabilises your world when you’re young is the beginning of understanding: “Oh, right, not everything is going to happen the way I thought it would.” ’
She became even tougher after both parents remarried and divorced again, making her resolve to never marry. ‘I have a very pragmatic, realistic approach to relationships and I just ruled marriage out,’ she explains.
Will that ever change? ‘Never say never. And if I do decide to marry a Hollywood movie star, Mail readers will be the first to know.’
So is she looking for love? Maybe on dating site Tinder? ‘No! I’m happy right now,’ she grins. ‘I focus on work, family and friendships.’
Perhaps surprisingly, she often turns for support to Piers, even though she admits the early days of his GMB tenure (he arrived in 2015 when she’d just completed her first year) were ‘really difficult’.
‘He’s bloody-minded, stubborn, controversial and bullish,’ she says. ‘But, eventually, we found a way to work together, and now he’s a really good friend. I turn to him for advice because he’s always got an interesting perspective.’
But Susanna’s real rocks are her female GMB colleagues, Kate Garraway and Charlotte Hawkins. ‘There’s such solidarity there: we often talk about how female colleagues are the closest you come to having a sister.
‘I have a half-sister, but she’s 20 years younger than me, so I always missed that relationship when I was growing up. I’d have loved someone to get ready to go out with and borrow clothes from.
‘But now Kate, Charlotte and I do all that. Well, we don’t do wardrobe raids, but we have the same stylist, and Kate uses my dressing room. Though she puts pictures of it online and it’s so embarrassing — like a wardrobe explosion!’
Susanna Reid joined Piers at the TV Choice Awards this year, waiting to see whether their show won its gong
It’s quite comforting to know that ultra-organised Susanna is a bit untidy. ‘In the same way tiredness is a state of mind, mess is a state of mind,’ she grins. ‘I can put on my “tidy glasses” and think: “Oh my God, there’s piles of stuff everywhere!” But then I take the glasses off and think: “It’s fine. I’m surviving.” Anyway, people don’t come round to see it.’
Petite in a leopard-print shirt-dress from Oasis, Susanna cuts a far more glamorous figure today than she did when she started out on BBC Breakfast in 2003.
Does she have regular Botox or fillers to keep her skin so taut?
‘It’s a very personal decision,’ she fudges. ‘I wouldn’t rule anything out, apart from surgery. I wouldn’t have that.
‘But I’m coming up to 50 [in December 2020], and there seems to be a trend for “tweakments”, so I would never judge anyone else for doing something and I would never rule anything out.’
(By ‘tweakments’, she means non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox, lasers and peels.)
The two things she will confess to are spray tans and dying her hair. ‘I don’t know how grey I am because, as soon as it appears, I get rid of it. I remember early in my career, I had what I thought was quite a nice grey streak, but an editor said: “Don’t let that show.” From that moment, I haven’t.
‘Jennifer Aniston has talked about how she doesn’t want to go grey and I’m with her. I salute women who do it — they look gorgeous — but I choose not to let it show.’
Susanna doesn’t get too worked up about the double standards applied to men and women in TV, which demand that the latter always look immaculate. ‘For me to look my best requires hair and make-up and stylists; for Piers it requires seven minutes in the make-up room,’ she says. ‘But I like looking polished on TV.’
It’s a very Susanna conclusion: upbeat and pragmatic. She has the same attitude towards turning 50.
‘I find the idea very reassuring,’ she says. ‘Piers [who’s 54] scoffs when I say this, but I genuinely think ageing is a blessing.
‘Of course, there are challenges that come with getting older, but consider the alternative! Maybe the night before my 50th I’ll freak out and have an existential crisis.’
Somehow, I very much doubt it.