The fallout from her weight-loss DVD scandal and those rumours about Ant McPartlin have taken their toll on the usually irrepressible Scarlett Moffatt. The TV presenter tells James Conrad Williams how she stays sane.
A fake, a liar, a cheat. Just some of the accusations that have been levelled at Gogglebox star Scarlett Moffatt since the scandal broke about her weight-loss DVD. But, as she says in her autobiography Me Life Story, ‘I have learnt that life is full of ups and downs. And even though I’ve had rough times, I can’t complain.’ Is this a sentiment she still stands by?
‘I do,’ she admits in her broad Geordie accent, with a nervous giggle. ‘Everybody has ups and downs. If you didn’t have bad times, then you wouldn’t appreciate the good moments. Don’t get me wrong, though, there have been times these past weeks when I’ve wanted to cry and pull a duvet over my head and I’ve had to push myself to get out of bed.’
For the uninitiated, last month 27-year-old Scarlett was splashed across the front page of a Sunday tabloid when her bestselling fitness DVD, Scarlett’s Superslim Me Plan, a diet and exercise regime credited with helping her shrink from size 18 to 8, was branded a sham. The report claimed that Scarlett lost the weight at a Swiss boot camp on a massively restricted diet of only 700 calories a day – not the 1,200 purported in the DVD. Furthermore, the piece alleged that she could be liable to pay back the £100,000 DVD fee for failing to maintain her weight loss for a year.
The resulting trial by media has clearly left her battered and bruised. For a young woman who has made a career out of speaking her mind – Scarlett is the biggest breakout star of Gogglebox, Channel 4’s real-people-watching-telly behemoth – her nerves about today’s chat are palpable. Given she’s been a top-trending topic for the past six weeks, that’s more than understandable.
‘On the day the story broke, I thought, “If this is front-page news, in a strange way it makes me happy because it means there’s nothing worse going on in the world,”’ she confesses, all big blue eyes, big lashes and even bigger raven hair. ‘At least I’m giving some other poor sod a break. If I can take the emphasis off them for a while, give them a day off, I’m happy to do them a favour. Although, at this point, I’d be happy to take a break from it myself.’
Having met Scarlett a handful of times, I can assure you she is everything you would wish her to be – sweet, funny, grounded and smart as hell. All the reasons why the nation fell in love with her when she appeared on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2016 and then voted for her to be crowned Queen of the Jungle. Yet this has all paled somewhat in light of her negative press portrayal in recent weeks. And for someone who prides herself on being a feminist and a girls’ girl, I sense the accusations have stung, although, for legal reasons, Scarlett can’t go into details about what happened regarding the DVD.
‘Oh my God, I’ve cried so much,’ she says. ‘I get why I was on the front of every newspaper. In a way, I’m almost relieved and hope we can turn it into a positive, start a conversation about the way we criticise and talk about women. All the news articles focus on how I look. They certainly don’t do that to men. It gets right on my t***. Why aren’t we celebrating women’s achievements more? Women aren’t just an aesthetic shell. You only have to look at men’s magazine coverlines, such as How To Get Rich Quick, or Top Tips to do This or That. Whereas for women, it’s often, Look Who’s Got Fat Again. It’s frustrating.’
On the subject of the weight she has put back on – she’s now a size 12 – Scarlett is characteristically candid. ‘When I read those articles [about the weight gain] I started to think, “Maybe I do need to lose weight again.” And then I thought, “No, you’re letting them win.” All I want to say in terms of exercise, is yes, I still exercise because I eat a lot. We’ve got to move more and eat less – it’s as simple as that. But I don’t want women to grasp any unrealistic ideals. Can you imagine if we all looked like Victoria’s Secret models? They’d be out of a job for a start. But seriously, just because you’re slimmer doesn’t mean your troubles go away. I know when I look at pictures of myself [when I was thinner], and the media was being nice to me and girls were saying they wanted to look like me, I wasn’t happy. I’m way happier now than I’ve ever been.’
Tabloid coverage may be one thing, but the social media fallout has been another baptism of fire for Scarlett – and one that has triggered memories of being bullied as a teenager in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. ‘I thought that when I left school that would be the end of name-calling. Social media can be great but, my God, I just want to hug some of the people on there; some of the things they say… The latest is people attacking my nose – the one I was born with – accusing me of having a nose job. These people need friends. I wish we could set up a Troll Club so they could all get together and chat. Because that’s what’s missing from their lives – someone to talk to. It makes me sad. Can you imagine how rubbish your life must be if what you look forward to is getting home from work to slag people off?’
She feels passionately that women need to stick together. ‘I want girls to be happy in themselves and be nicer to each other. I want everyone to act like they do on a night out, when you’re in the loos giving each other compliments on lipstick and outfits. We need to start bigging each other up rather than tearing each other down. We’re allowing men to think it’s OK to do it to us, too.’
Scarlett, who has been open about her mental-health struggles in the past – she’s suffered from panic attacks and anxiety – admits that recent events have challenged her. ‘Some days I struggle and, initially, I did feel rubbish. I felt nervous about walking to Asda to buy milk. My mam had to come with me. But everyone was as lovely as ever, asking me for selfies. I’ve had lots of nice messages from people. Caitlin Moran [the writer and journalist] messaged me to say, “Keep on being you”. I’ve got a screen shot of it on my phone to read whenever I doubt myself.
‘I’ve been spending less time on social media – not flicking though endless feeds of perfect people and getting away from all the hate. Also, simple things like walking with my dogs, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with my little sister, just normal me time has helped. Don’t get me wrong, we all have days when we overthink things. Normally, on a Sunday night at around 8pm, when I’ve eaten a whole pizza, I’m asking myself, “What are you doing with your life?” But I’m proud of how I have coped these past few weeks.’
As if the DVD drama wasn’t enough, Scarlett has also had to contend with another professional hurdle when Ant McPartlin’s arrest for drink-driving and return to rehab threw a question mark over the run of Saturday Night Takeaway on which she is a regular co-presenter. Ultimately, the decision was reached for Declan Donnelly to host the two remaining episodes on his own without his on-screen partner (the first time in the show’s 16-year history) with Scarlett stepping up in an amplified supporting role.
‘Stephen Mulhern and I were there to lend a hand to Dec, he did most of the work,’ she says, ever modest. ‘We were excited we could fulfil the promise to all the people who won the chance to go to Florida for the final show. The Takeaway team is like a big family. Everyone who works on the show loves Ant and Dec – so we pulled together to make it the best we could.’
So well received were Scarlett’s appearances that she is rumoured to be the target of a bidding war involving Channel 4, Sky and ITV. ‘She is television gold – she appeals to everyone, young and old,’ says an ITV source.
And as for Ant, how is he doing? ‘Ant and Dec have been so good to me. They’re my mentors. I feel I owe it to them to try not to talk about them. Outof respect. They are such genuinely nice people. I wish I could tell everyone how amazing they are, though.’
So amazing, in fact, that some corners of the press continue to buzz that Scarlett and Ant are decidedly more than just good friends. A rumour Scarlett is happy to address head-on. ‘This came about from a few tweets from random people with, like, two followers,’ she says. ‘And then some journalists turned those tweets into a story. That’s not a story. Ant is like my big brother. It’s so ludicrous it didn’t even warrant a response. Everyone who knows us knows how silly it is. I can laugh about it.’
For the record Scarlett is happily loved-up with her boyfriend, personal trainer Lee Wilkinson. When I ask about him, her face lights up and she wastes no time in pulling up a photo of him on her phone. ‘Isn’t he cute? He’s from five minutes away from where I live and he makes me really happy. I’ve been friends with him for years. He never watched Gogglebox so he just knows me as Scarlett from Bishop. It’s good to have someone put everything into context and remind you what’s important in life. He’s a grounding influence.’
Home for Scarlett remains very much in the Northeast and she has no plans to settle in London. ‘Last year, I lived in London and, as a result, it felt like my whole life became about work. Now, I come down to London, have an amazing time working on Takeaway, doing photo shoots and interviews, then I go back up North, switch off and do normal stuff like make shepherd’s pie. Keeping the two worlds separate is good for me and my sanity.’
With all the drama of the past few weeks there has at least been some good news, namely the announcement that Dec is to become a dad for the first time. ‘Oh, it’s lovely. I’m so happy for him and [his wife] Ali. She’s an amazing woman and they treat their little dachshund Rocky like a prince so I know they’re going to make good parents.’ Has it made Scarlett broody? ‘I love children, and it might be quite scary to some men, but when I meet a new guy I ask him if he wants kids. It doesn’t mean I want them right there and then. I drop it into the conversation casually. I’d like to get married and have babies one day.’
Speaking of aspirations, Scarlett makes no secret of her desire to take to the West End stage. In fact, she’s openly canvassed for the job. ‘I would love to do a West End musical – and I could handle the pace of doing eight shows a week. When Andrew Lloyd Webber was on Takeaway I kept saying, “I’d be really good in a musical.” But I don’t think he was getting the hint because he kept laughing. So, for the record, I wasn’t joking, Andy.’
As for the immediate future, a holiday and some much-needed time out is definitely on the cards. But you can forget the Seychelles or the Maldives: for Scarlett the dream destination is a little closer to home. ‘I really fancy Butlin’s,’ she says, totally deadpan. ‘They have these music weekends and they’re good fun. Last time I went I got mobbed, so I might need to wear a disguise when I go back. But I really love Butlin’s.’
Sizzling for Scarlett
ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE A pair of false eyelashes; a photograph of me, my mam, dad and little sister Ava when I’d been crowned Queen of the Jungle; a green dinosaur that I keep my rings on, and a Diptyque candle.
BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman. It made me proud and want to make a difference.
WHO MAKES YOU LAUGH? My dad gets words muddled. He once said he enjoyed Minnie Minx’s new song – he meant Little Mix.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THEE WORDS Sarcastic, factual, cuddly.
PARTY TRICK I’m like David Brent from The Office – if you give me a subject I’ll tell you a random fact about it.
DREAM DINNER GUESTS Jesus Christ, Edward Scissorhands, Jennifer Saunders, Rik Mayall and Jacqueline Wilson.
LAST MEAL ON EARTH A Miller & Carter rare steak with peppercorn sauce; lobster mac and cheese and proper chips.
WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR YOU SEE… A woman who is learning every day and enjoying every moment.
Me Life Story by Scarlett Moffatt is published by Blink Publishing, price £8.99. To order a copy for £6.74 (a 25 per cent discount) until 13 May, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; free p&p on orders over £15.