To say Davina McCall has lived an eventful life would be quite the understatement, as we discovered when we sat down with her for our WISE WORDS interview series, where we ask a host of stars from all walks of life about the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way.
During our chat, the ‘This Time Next Year’ presenter opened up about the recent death of her beloved sister, revealed how her children manage to keep her grounded with their honesty and even revealed her intentions to start her own girl band with a twist...
What do you to switch off from the world?
The thing that keeps me most cluttered is technology. I am literally glued to my phone, and it’s a terrible, terrible affliction. So if I’m in a car, I try and look at my phone for a bit, and then put it down and look at the view. Or if I take the dog for a walk, I don’t take the phone at all. Having a bath? Don’t take the phone. In bed? Don’t use iPads, kiss of death for a relationship. So I try and chill out on the tech.
How do you deal with negativity?
Negativity is a really tough one, and I have to say that when I was younger I found it really, really hard. I’ve only got better at it in the last maybe six or seven years - in my forties is when I learned to handle negativity.
Firstly, if anyone is mean to you online, block them. It’s that simple. And often, if you look at someone who’s really nasty, they’re really nasty to everyone.
I don’t read any press, good or bad, I can’t do anything about it once it’s out there, and the chances are if anyone has read anything bad, they’re going to have forgotten about it by the next day anyway. I am who I am, like it or lump it.
But if you’re young and you’re suffering the pain of feeling negativity, I promise you, it gets easier. Stick with it, it will get easier.
When and where are you happiest?
Florida. Universal. Disney. It’s probably where I am at my most exuberant and joyful, because I’m with my family, I’m being a big kid, I’ve got no responsibilities and I am bouncing around like a small child. It really is magic.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I read something somewhere and it has become our family motto, and I think it is the best thing that I try and encompass in every area of my life, and I encourage my kids to too. And that is: give more than is expected. It’s so simple, but if I apply that in every area of my life, I’m happy, and it makes other people happy too.
What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Oh my goodness, I’ve had to learn some really hard lessons. I think one really valuable lesson, because it works in so many different ways, is that I can’t change other people. And me trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is really painful for me and the other person.
When I was in relationships before I met Matthew, it was like, “I fancy you, like, loads, but you’re not quite right… so I’m going to try and make you into this person, the person that I think you could become.” Terrible idea. Fall in love with somebody and love them for who they are.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
My 13-year-old self was a real mixture of thinking that I was really cool and really grown-up - so I was smoking, I was drinking a bit, I was taking a few drugs here and there - but actually, underneath it all was somebody really vulnerable, and a bit embarrassed and a bit shy who didn’t know how to handle herself at all. And I would tell my 13-year-old self: “You’re going to be OK.”
What three things are left on your to-do list?
I want to form a band called Mutton, made up entirely of women over the age of 45 wearing wholly inappropriate clothing for women of our age, singing songs about mid-life issues, like “I’ve got a hot gardener”, that kind of stuff.
I want to learn to knit, I think knitting is a great skill and I want to knit for my grandkids. And I would like to make healthy food for people.
What do you think happens when we die?
You know, when my sister died I was blessed because I was at my sister’s death, and I felt I was so privileged to be there. I’d have been so upset if I hadn’t been there, talking to her when she went.
But when she went it was really interesting, when somebody takes their last breath, you realise your body is just a vessel. And when they die they leave, and they go somewhere else. But it was like something left.
Now, I don’t really believe in ghosts, but things have happened since my sister has died which are so weird, that just make me think that she’s around somewhere. And I don’t care if it’s true or not, it gives me great comfort. And I think at my time of passing, it will bring me great comfort to think that I will be around, annoying my kids and my grandkids for a very long time.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
The thing that really humbles me, probably more than anything else, is nature. So I feel like that whenever I am somewhere extremely quiet, or extremely beautiful, or really isolated.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
I think in all of my relationships, all of my friendships, everything, I like to bring as much as I take. I can’t say I only give, sometimes I lean on my friends a lot, sometimes I lean on my husband a lot, but I like to believe that they know they can do the same to me whenever they need to. So, I think what’s really important in a really great relationship is this kind of reciprocal deal of being there for each other.
What keeps you grounded?
Has anybody got my cappuccino?! No, that’s a joke. I’m very grounded.
You know, my kids are amazing, and kids are very funny at keeping you grounded. In particular, when my daughter looked at me once, I was lying down next to her, staring into her eyes at night time, and she looked at me, and she went, “mummy, what are those holes in your face?” And they’re basically pores. And as you get older, you get pores and I was like, “yeah it’s my skin.”
Or if I wear something, she’ll go, “you can’t wear this, it’s mutton”, and I’m like, “what? What? This? This isn’t mutton. This isn’t… oh, it’s mutton.” And so my kids definitely keep me grounded.
What was the last act of kindness or good deed that you received?
This morning, I was bought a poppy, because I forgot my purse. That’s how grounded I am, I don’t carry a purse *laughs*. But I forgot my poppy, and I really wanted to wear one on TV, so someone bought one for me, and I’m very grateful for that.
Davina McCall hosts ‘This Time Next Year’, airing on Wednesday nights at 8pm on ITV.