WHAT is it about Lorraine Kelly that makes her cool as well as cosy? In a week where she's appeared in Heat and on the front row at Giles Deacon's catwalk show, Alice Wyllie asks how she's kept her head – and her seat on the GMTV sofa
IT'S a bright, shiny, irreverent publication best known for its high-res images of young celebrities falling out of taxis with no knickers on, or candid beach shots of bikini-clad stars with their cellulite cruelly highlighted in red pen. So why, exactly, does this week's Heat magazine (target readership: celebrity-obsessed women under 25) boast an interview spread with the cuddly queen of morning television, Lorraine Kelly, who turns 50 this year? Where, pray, is the crossover between her fanbase and the teenage girls looking to lap up gossip about Lady Gaga and the cast of Skins?
There is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek tone to the Heat feature, in which Kelly appears dressed up as Disney's Snow White and surrounded by cute woodland animals: it's no doubt a reference to her status as the nation's sweetheart, a woman so beloved by all that she can do no wrong.
Endearing she may be, but this still seems like a huge departure from the standard Heat fodder.
"The great thing about Lorraine is that, on paper, she shouldn't appeal to our readers," admits Julian Linley, the editor of Heat.
"She's older, she's a mother and she presents morning television. However, she's able to subvert that nice, sweet persona and have a bit of a laugh at herself. She can be cheeky and naughty; she speaks her mind and she's sometimes got a mouth like a navvy. People love her because she doesn't take herself seriously." This is evidenced by a picture of the demure-looking Kelly next to the headline: "The first thing I saw was a giant pair of bollocks and a winkie," a reference to a naughty snow sculpture she spotted recently in London.
Fearlessly ploughing into the territory that is Heat's raison d'tre, Kelly addresses in her interview the precarious nature of fame: "I do worry about all the young kids who just want to be famous overnight. You have to graft and serve your apprenticeship to get somewhere. You get fame so easily these days, but it goes easily as well."
She herself works in an industry where women are often considered over the hill when they hit their forties and are sometimes forced to resort to battle (like Selina Scott) to hang on to their job or avoid being replaced by a younger model. "I do think this job is like being a footballer: you have a shelf life, and I'm amazed I'm still doing it," Kelly tells Heat, typically disarming in her frankness. "I'd love to come in on my Zimmer frame, but that's not realistic."
However, the longest-serving member of the GMTV team shows no sign of slowing down, and remains popular with everyone from students to OAPs. Why is it that she hasn't she fallen victim to the same fate as many other middle-aged female television presenters? What's the secret to her longevity? According to those who know her, it's simply the fact that she's as much at home sitting in the front row of top fashion designer Giles Deacon's edgy London catwalk show (as she was earlier this week) as she is discussing control-top tights in front of the camera on LK Today.
Raised in Glasgow and East Kilbride, after starting her journalistic career as a reporter on her local paper, the East Kilbride News, Kelly got her television break in 1984, as a reporter on TV:AM, covering Scottish news. She went on to co-launch GMTV as a presenter in 1993. Today she may focus mainly on fashion tips and women's lifestyle topics, but she cut her teeth on hard news, covering both the Lockerbie and Dunblane disasters.
She's been married to her cameraman husband Steven since 1985 and the couple have a 14-year-old daughter, Rosie. She lives with her family in Blairgowrie and commutes to London for work.
Against the odds, Kelly has arrived at a sort of kitsch-cool status, while also managing to project an open and trustworthy persona (in a survey she was once voted the celebrity most people would like to buy a car from) into millions of sitting rooms at 8:40am, four mornings a week. What's the key to her appeal? For Heat's young readers, perhaps it's that she emits a non-threatening, maternal quality that's missing in the perma-tanned celebs who routinely get torn apart in the gossip mags.
Regardless of what endears her to the students who tune in before lectures, or the women who devour her high-street fashion advice, she is not without sex appeal for a swathe of male viewers. Memorably, the Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr once told her on air that she had "fantastic tits" – at breakfast time, too! Kelly's bosom is as celebrated as she is, having grabbed the limelight at more than a few black-tie events. Fans have even posted slow-motion videos on YouTube that are devoted to her ample cleavage.
One fan told her at a signing of her autobiography, Between You and Me, in Glasgow that his dream was to feed her strawberries. She cheerily obliged him. However, despite her sex-symbol status, Kelly's general appeal seems to be linked to her wholesome, down-to-earth, girl-next-door persona.
"She really is exactly the same in person as she is on television," says Nina Barough, the founder of breast cancer charity Walk the Walk, which Kelly has supported by taking part in their charity walks in Edinburgh and London, gamely wearing a customised bra on top of her clothes. (She will do another walk for Strathcarron Hospice on 2 May.)
"Women can relate to her – she's very beautiful, but when she crosses the finish line, she's just like everyone else – a bit dishevelled, but always smiling. She just doesn't care and she's not at all precious. That comes across very well."
"Lorraine Kelly has a sort of universal likeability factor," says Ruth Hartman, a commissioning editor at the Radio Times. "She's very normal and seems able to relate to anyone. In an age when talk show hosts are all about overblown egos, she manages to focus on the person she's interviewing, not on herself. She's comfortable in her own skin, and the audience believes that this is exactly what she's like in real life. Women love her because she's so clearly one of us, and I think that for young people she has a kind of kitsch, retro cool."
Essentially, Kelly is one of those famous women who is celebrated for being 'nice'. In an era when we relish tearing down celebrities the moment they become too full of themselves, a woman who does her own hair and make-up before going on camera and blushes when she receives compliments from guests on her show is easily embraced.
Even to Heat magazine – renowned for its merciless parodying of celebrities – Lorraine appears to be untouchable. Her weight may fluctuate, her fashion sense can be questionable and her hair is often out of place, but she's just too nice to find fault with.
The woman herself credits her father for her easy manner. "The thing I've got from my dad is that I can talk to absolutely anybody," she has said. "And I don't take any nonsense, either. I can't be bothered with the silliness you get from some stars. Don't ask me to go and find you a scented candle – get over yourself!" In turn, her 67-year-old father has said of his daughter: "What you see is what you get. She's very straightforward, very down-to-earth. She can't be doing with fuss."
On her sofa Kelly gets guests to talk as if they're having a quiet cup of tea together, forgetting that millions of viewers are watching. And if Lorraine, doesn't like them, they'll never know about it: "I've always tried to behave as if I'm inviting people into my home. That's why I always treat guests with great courtesy, even when they are being tw*ts."
Born in East Kilbride. Kelly went on to attend Claremont High School, and later turned down a university place to study English and Russian in favour of a job at the East Kilbride News.
Leaves the East Kilbride News to join BBC Scotland as a researcher, against her father's advice.
Moves to TV:AM to work as an on-screen reporter covering Scottish news.
Meets her future husband, cameraman Steve Smith.
Co-presents TV:AM's Summer Sunday programme.
Becomes a co-presenter on Good Morning Britain.
Helps to launch GMTV and goes on to present a number of programmes, including the main breakfast show with Eamonn Holmes.
Presents her own show on GMTV, which still airs today, now called LK Today. That same year she gives birth to her daughter, Rosie.
Is appointed Rector of the University of Dundee, a position she held until 2007.
Is awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Dundee.