Her TV ratings are up, her kids are grown-up and her body confidence is off the scale. So why would Susanna Reid restrict herself to just one Mr Right?
It’s official: Susanna Reid, the co-host of Good Morning Britain, is looking for love. This will come as good news to the glamorous 47-year-old’s sizeable fanbase of male viewers, not to mention her fellow presenter and ‘TV husband’ Piers Morgan, who is fascinated by her romantic escapades.
Four years after the end of her long-term relationship, and leaving her BBC career to launch GMB, Susanna is focusing on her personal life. But don’t expect to hear any of the gory details. The single mother-of-three is determined to keep any goings-on in that department to herself. Her onscreen persona as the cool, collected yin to Piers’s belligerent yang on ITV’s hit breakfast show depends on it.
I’m definitely open to dating again,’ she says, carefully. ‘This is the right time of my life to explore that now. I’ve spent a significant amount of time since the split focused on the children [Sam, 16, Finn, 14, and Jack, 13] and on work. That’s been absolutely the right thing to do for the past couple of years. My children are all teenagers now – they’re much more independent. They do things after school, they’ve got loads of friends, so I think they encouraged me to think about developing that side of my life a little bit more. You want your children to be happy with what you’re doing.’
Which brings us back to the matter of a new relationship – and the distinctly contemporary approach Susanna is bringing to her love life. No, she’s not going on Tinder or the internet (‘Oh my God, I’m not online. It doesn’t feel like the right thing for me’). ‘The great thing about what’s happened in 2018, and everyone will have seen it on Love Island, is you don’t have to date exclusively any more,’ she says, referencing the popular reality show in which singles plough through multiple partners in search of The One. But she is back in the game? ‘I’m back in the game!’ she yells, shooting both arms into the air.
She’s been a single mother since splitting with her ex Dominic Cotton in 2014 after 16 years together. They never married, a legacy of what Susanna has previously described as a ‘choppy childhood’ following her parents’ divorce. Her relationship was rumoured to have been put under strain after the BBC moved its breakfast show to Media City in Salford in 2012. There were then cries of the ‘Strictly curse’ when they announced their split soon after Susanna’s gloriously frisky performance in a 2013 runner-up turn with pro dancer Kevin Clifton (she denied the dance show had anything to do with it).
Today, she and Dominic are good friends and ‘fairly relaxed parents’ to their sons, who she describes as ‘pretty chilled guys. They’re the centre of my world but I’m no tiger mum. I’m just encouraging them to develop their own confidence; that’s the best armour they’re going to have.’
Of course, any new beau will have to resign himself to Susanna’s alarm going off at 4am each morning, as she heads into work for two and a half hours of grilling politicians, debating hot-button issues and verbal jousting with Piers – who tweeted in March: ‘Bad news for Britain, even worse news for @susannareid100… I just signed a new deal to stay on @GMB for 2 more years. #TheFoghornStays.’ TV viewers can’t get enough of the pair’s combative odd-couple relationship, in which she meets his controversial pronouncements and constant ribbing with pithy rejoinders, withering comebacks and her signature response – the eye roll.
Susanna has to block and parry verbal blows for a living, either from Piers or from disgruntled viewers on Twitter, so it’s fitting that the YOU photo shoot takes place at Repton Boxing Club in London’s East End, where the Kray twins once sparred. The gym motto mounted on Victorian tiled walls is ‘No guts, no glory’. ‘Weird, because that was my motto at school, when I was 17,’ says Susanna. ‘Not the school motto, my motto.’
Susanna grew up in Croydon, the youngest of three children. After her management consultant father Barry and her mother Sue, a nurse and health visitor, split up when she was nine (they both remarried) she ploughed her emotional chaos into books, writing and music. She was a teenage 80s pop kid who was obsessed with Smash Hits magazine (‘I read it religiously’), and loved Duran Duran. She went to independent Croydon High School and then to high-achieving London girls’ school St Paul’s for sixth form.
She loved to perform as a child, starting with ballet, and then, according to her father, ‘reading poetry’. As a teen thespian, she took to the stage in nearby Bromley and landed a role in the 1985 Channel 4 drama The Price, starring actress Harriet Walter. Of her own dramatic leanings, Susanna has said, ‘I loved acting but few actors succeed.’ Success seems to have always been part of her master plan. Earlier this month, Piers observed on air about his TV partner that she’s ‘ruthlessly competitive’ but won’t admit it (Susanna laughed uproariously).
Her mother described Susanna as ‘lovely until she was 13’, when she ‘turned absolutely horrible for two years’. Today mother and daughter are ‘best friends’. Revealingly, in the past Susanna has cited a Goethe quote, told to her by her mother, that has inspired her: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’
She studied politics, philosophy and law at the University of Bristol, and became the first female editor of its student newspaper Epigram. A postgrad diploma in broadcast journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism followed, before she joined the BBC, first in radio. She stayed there for 20 years as a newsreader and then presenter, sharing the BBC Breakfast sofa with its long-running host Bill Turnbull, who has since retired from the programme. As rumours circulated that Susanna was being poached by ITV, she declared: ‘The BBC runs through me like a stick of rock.’ Nonetheless, a few months later in 2014, she seized a defection opportunity: to launch a new breakfast show on ITV.
It was a bold move, but it paid off. GMB now draws a daily average of 800,000 viewers, more than a 35 per cent increase on two years ago. ‘It’s got into a fantastic groove, the programme is firing on all cylinders, it’s really satisfying and it feels like it’s the show we want to make,’ she says. Susanna, meanwhile, is gaining recognition in her own right – not just as Piers’s foil – and picked up a trio of awards at the National Reality TV Awards last month: Best Talk Show for GMB, Celebrity Personality of the Year and Best TV Presenter, beating Piers who was also nominated. Naturally, she posted on Instagram in glee: ‘Mood #winning/Did the treble! Thank you!! Going to pay for this in the morning…’
Her daily musings and opinions have now become headline news. For instance, after comedian Seann Walsh and Strictly dancer Katya Jones – who were both in relationships – were snapped in a heated embrace, she defended them on air, saying: ‘It was just a kiss and they’d had a few drinks, we’ve all had a few drinks.’ Piers butted in asking, ‘Have you had a little kiss after a few drinks, Susanna?’ To which she replied, ‘I think we’ve all had a few drinks and a kiss.’
Susanna’s quote went viral, but she quickly backtracked after Seann’s now ex-girlfriend Rebecca Humphries publicly dumped him on Twitter, claiming his ‘inappropriate, hurtful’ behaviour had gone on for some time. ‘It was a throwaway comment,’ Susanna says. ‘I mean, we’ve all definitely got drunk and had a snog, but obviously the circumstances are that somebody’s married [Katya to fellow dancer Neil Jones] and someone’s going out with someone.’ She adds a note of caution. ‘When we’re on air it’s two and a half hours of live, nonstop banter and discussion, jokes, opinions. I think you’ve got to be careful not to take everything we say literally.’
But back to Seann and Katya, who managed to stay in the competition the following week after their energetic but sexless charleston. ‘The Strictly curse usually raises its head after the show, but this time it’s raised its head mid-show and that’s a bit of a shock. I can’t help but feel sorry for everybody. People’s partners are hurt. I feel enormously compassionate for anybody who’s been hurt in that situation. Piers has a go at me because I empathise with everybody.’
Susanna’s recent weight loss has also captivated fans, as well as her co-host, who praised her as looking ‘hot’. She shed a stone over the past month on her doctor’s instructions. Her BMI, she was told, was ‘on the top end’ so she gave up alcohol and cut out eating between meals. ‘Like many women of my age, carbs are the enemy,’ she notes at the photo shoot, forking into the crayfish salad lunch.
Just a few weeks from her 48th birthday, she admits to being the most confident she has ever been. ‘Personally, as well as at work. You get to an age where you think, “This is who I am now.” I’m doing all right. I’m not pretending in any area of my life, in a way that perhaps we all do in our 20s. I don’t think you have to have ticked every box. You don’t have to be right all the time, you don’t have to be strong all the time, you can just be you. It’s liberating.’
Susanna’s summer holiday proved this in spades. She went ‘raving’ with her great friend Robert ‘Judge’ Rinder, the barrister turned TV star. The pair instantly bonded on the GMB sofa in 2014 and are now annual Ibiza party-goers. ‘Oh, we let our hair down,’ she laughs. ‘That’s my four days in the year when I have no responsibilities.’ During her annual six-week break (when a rotating cast of hosts including Kate Garraway and Eamonn Holmes sat in for her and Piers), Susanna ‘let loose’, and confesses to having gone ‘bonkers’ to rapper Flo Rida’s hit ‘Club Can’t Handle Me’ at a friend’s 50th birthday party on a sea-facing terrace in Scarborough.
She’s also closer to Piers than we might think: they go on what he calls ‘benders’ twice a year in London, culminating at gay Soho cocktail bar Freedom at 4am. ‘Because that’s the one that’s open,’ smiles Susanna. ‘We just have drinks. I’ve never raved with Piers. His favourite song? “In Da Club” by 50 Cent.’
It’s hard to imagine, watching them each morning during their robust exchanges – particularly over feminist issues, from female boxing (Piers can’t bear it) to his comments on the Women’s March in January 2017. He tweeted about the ‘creeping global emasculation of my gender by rabid feminists’, leading to Ewan McGregor pulling out of the show at the last minute. ‘A lot of people took issue with your comments about the Women’s March – including the woman who sits next to you every morning,’ Susanna coolly told him on air.
‘Whatever happens, he’s my friend. There has to be mutual respect otherwise you couldn’t work together. But he’s the only one of my friends who I also hate.’ She bursts out laughing. ‘He winds me up, but he’s a wind-up merchant, isn’t he?’ And hosting a flagship show live is a dream come true. She thrives on ‘constant deadlines, everything sparking, the urgency to “Do it now!” It makes me feel alive’, she says.
Unshackled from the BBC’s rules on impartiality, she is also enjoying a new freedom to share her views, even if Piers doesn’t like it: ‘I come out fighting every morning. I relish that.’
It must be exhausting, though, all the argy-bargy, whether it’s today’s toxic global debates, personal attacks from trolls on social media (where she’s branded both a liberal snowflake and a right-winger, told to ‘just drink coffee and let Piers manage you’) or relentless teasing from the man beside her.
‘I have developed epic levels of zen,’ she exclaims. ‘I come off a programme sometimes and feel like I’ve been through a spin dryer; I course with adrenaline. But my job is getting better, the ratings are getting better. It just gets noisier.’
She wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘I’m very happy right now,’ she says. ‘As you can tell, I think.’
My Good Morning routine
4.00am Two alarms go off, eyes open. I jump out of bed, clean my teeth, stay in pyjamas. Driver arrives.
4.10am Go to the Good Morning Britain studios, read the day’s interview briefs, read all newspapers and headlines on my phone and Twitter – and, of course, you can’t account for breaking news.
4.35am Shower in en-suite dressing room, dressing gown on, into hair and make-up, sip a glass of hot water.
5.00am Breakfast of sliced apple and peanut butter, black coffee.
5.15am Piers arrives in my dressing room and sits on the sofa. The day editor arrives, we go through the schedule while hair and make-up continue. Two black coffees.
5.45am In-house stylist Debbie Harper (@debbiedresses) arrives with today’s outfit.
5.55am Into the studio.
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays from 6am to 8.30am on ITV
Interview by Luisa Metcalfe