'That Idiot On X Factor, He's Doing Alright': Rylan Clark On His New Era

Rylan opens up about Big Brother, This Morning and saying goodbye to "Mr Presenter" to embrace new challenges.
Rylan Clark during a TV interview in January 2019
Rylan Clark during a TV interview in January 2019
Steve Meddle/Shutterstock

Ask anyone where they best know TV presenter, former reality star and, at this point, borderline national treasure Rylan Clark from, and the chances are they’ll mention one of a few things. His breakthrough moment on The X Factor over a decade ago. His game-changing win on Celebrity Big Brother, and subsequent presenting gig on spin-off series Big Brother’s Bit On The Side.

His scene-stealing appearances on Celebrity Gogglebox alongside his mum Linda. Or, of course, his regular hosting gigs on entertainment shows like This Morning, The One Show or the Strictly Come Dancing companion show It Takes Two.

These days, though, Rylan has been taking on some very different new ventures.

Alongside his regular weekend Radio 2 show, last year he fronted the Channel 4 series Sex Rated, featured heavily in the BBC’s coverage of Eurovision when the competition returned to UK shores for the first time in a quarter-century and filmed his first ever travel show with fellow TV staple Robert Rinder.

All of this forms part of a new era for Rylan, after coming out of a well-documented period of change in both his personal and professional life, which saw him divorcing his husband of six years and taking time out of the spotlight following a turbulent period, all of which was documented in his 2022 memoir, Ten.

"A new me," Rylan Clark says of the latest era of his professional and personal life
"A new me," Rylan Clark says of the latest era of his professional and personal life
BBC/Ray Burmiston

“Last year was sort of the first year I’ve felt normal in a long while,” he tells HuffPost UK. “I was very proud of the book – and it was quite hard, to be honest – but I think I left all of that at the end of 2022.

“Obviously, by that point I was divorced, so I started 2023 with a new outlook and did a lot of things I would never normally do, which was lovely. A new me.”

“That was what last year was all about for me,” he adds. “Restarting, starting again and deciding to do what really makes me happy.”

Around this time, Rylan announced he was stepping down from It Takes Two after four years at the helm, a job he says he loved, but felt he needed to say goodbye to, in order to “push myself” and “see what else is out there”.

“Where I’d had such an up-and-down previous couple of years, it sort of just opened my mind to go, ’look, you need to do something different, you need to try new things, you need to stop being frightened of saying yes, and no, to certain things,” he recalls.

Including his time working at Big Brother (more on that later) and The Xtra Factor, Rylan points out he’d hosting shows like It Takes Two for over a decade, so he felt more than ready for a new challenge.

“Sometimes you need to walk away from something you love,” Rylan explains. “And it was a massive decision – obviously it’s the biggest show on telly, so you can imagine my management were all having a breakdown. But it was fine – and I’ve still got a great relationship with Strictly. It’s really nice to be able to walk away from a job with respect and love.”

Rylan Clark stepped down from It Takes Two in 2023
Rylan Clark stepped down from It Takes Two in 2023

Rylan’s longest-held job to date was at the helm of Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, first taking over as host after his Celebrity Big Brother win in January 2013, and remaining with the franchise until Channel 5 chose not to renew it in 2018.

In the years that followed, the life-long Big Brother fan (he first auditioned for the regular show in 2008, and even made it onto the line-up of housemates, only to have his hopes dashed after his name was leaked to the press) led a vocal social media campaign for another broadcaster to pick up the format.

Eventually, this became a reality in 2022, when ITV confirmed it was reviving the format. However, despite making no secret of his hopes to be part of the show’s comeback (during lockdown in 2020, he and Davina McCall hosted a series of specials celebrating Big Brother’s most iconic moments), ITV ultimately opted to go in a different direction, with his one-time Bit On The Side co-host AJ Odudu fronting the reboot alongside presenter Will Best.

Asked whether he watched any of the new series, Rylan says simply: “I didn’t.”

“ITV wanted to go in a different direction and they’re well within their rights, they’re the ones paying the money, so like I’ve said before, I wish them all the best of luck,” he continues, adding: “That’s the diplomatic answer.”

Rylan outside the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2018
Rylan outside the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2018
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Rylan reiterates this “best of luck” comment when it comes to new presenters AJ and Will, before admitting: “To me, Big Brother will always be the greatest reality show, and I can’t hide my love for that show. I’ve got a fucking Diary Room in my house, I married a housemate, and divorced a housemate. Let’s be honest, it was a very big part of my life.

“It’s obviously difficult for me to watch it, because for seven years, I spent probably six, seven, eight months out of the year in the Big Brother house every day, at work, going in the house, walking around the camera runs.”

Given his long history with Big Brother, would he ever consider going back in some capacity, if the opportunity were to arise?

“I think that they’ve got their hosts, and I wish them all the best,” he insists, before joking: “I think the biggest sadness of not working on Big Brother now is that I furnished my house robbing from there, and now I’ve got to buy my own furniture.”

Rylan celebrating his Celebrity Big Brother win in 2013
Rylan celebrating his Celebrity Big Brother win in 2013
Stuart C. Wilson via Getty Images

“That passion that I had for Big Brother is exactly what I’ve got for Eurovision,” Rylan claims, having been part of the BBC’s coverage of the event since 2018, when he began commentating on the semi-finals with fellow Radio 2 presenter Scott Mills.

“I think over the past few years, the BBC and the Eurovision team have really, really seen it for what it can be and what it is,” he enthuses. “And I’m just so proud to be part of it.”

“I’m not saying since I’ve joined it’s all changed… but y’know… do the maths,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s really exciting to be part of Eurovision for that period, definitely. When I got Eurovision, it was a dream come true, because, basically, I’d been doing that job for years, just not getting paid for it, sitting on Twitter.”

Our interview with Rylan comes amid the announcement he’s teaming up with Deliveroo to help judge the brand’s Restaurant Awards in 2024.

Rylan has teamed up with Deliveroo for a new campaign
Rylan has teamed up with Deliveroo for a new campaign

“I’ve actually bullied Deliveroo for years,” he claims. “Whenever I’ve been at an event and I’ve seen that Deliveroo’s there as a sponsor, I’m always like, ‘oi, come here – why the fuck am I not working with you, because I think I keep your company in business?’. Genuinely.

“Especially since I’ve been single. I mean, I’m a MasterChef finalist, but since I’ve been single, I’m literally Carrie Bradshaw, jumpers in the oven.”

To mark the collaboration, Rylan took part in a photo-shoot that recreates iconic awards show moments using Deliveroo products (or, as he puts it himself, “taking the piss out of red carpet looks people have had with a Deliveroo twist”).

Rylan recalls that the “funniest part” about the whole photo-shoot was the fact it fell on the same day he appeared on stage to perform a special duet with Rick Astley as part of his New Year’s Eve special.

“I’m wearing an outfit made of doner meat, and later on that night, I’m on stage at the Roundhouse to 3000 people performing with Rick Astley,” he remarks. “It was very much a night-and-day type of day.”

"The next thing I know, I’m wearing an outfit made of doner meat..."
"The next thing I know, I’m wearing an outfit made of doner meat..."

Yes, rounding off a year of new experiences for Rylan was a return to live performing, over a decade after he first shot to fame as a contestant on The X Factor. And it sounds like the one-off with Rick Astley might have given Rylan the bug for singing again.

“The amount of messages I got from people, and seeing ‘fans call for Rylan to return to music’, I was like, ‘is everyone deaf all of a sudden?’,” he admits. “But yeah, it’s been quite a nice reaction.

“It’s never left me – and between us, I’ve never stopped doing music. For all you know, I might have had a number one single somewhere, just under a different name.”

In fact, Rylan reveals that he recorded a lot of music after his time on The X Factor, but when his presenting career began to pick up steam, the project was shelved.

“Without sounding like a prick, there’s a lot of good stuff there, just ready, I’m just sat on it,” he shares. “But I went left, rather than right. And I didn’t want to be that person that just did every single thing, I wanted to focus on one thing and try and be the best at it.

“It’s all about timing. If I had released an album after X Factor, it wouldn’t have done well, because people saw me as that character, that was the joke. And if I’d waited until a couple of years after, by that point, I was still in my early years of people seeing me as a presenter.

“Now, it’s been over a decade, maybe now I can have a little bit of fun. And last year, I did decide to have a little bit of fun, and it went well. And now maybe I should have a bit more fun, that’s a bit more honest…”

Rick Astley and Rylan performing together at London's Roundhouse
Rick Astley and Rylan performing together at London's Roundhouse
BBC Studios/Michael Leckie

X Factor feels like so long ago, it’s easy to forget that one of the country’s most popular presenters was first introduced to most of us as the novelty act on a Saturday night singing competition.

Of course, Rylan never set out to be any sort of “joke” act, as he puts it. He came to X Factor after years spent performing abroad in a Take That tribute band, only to find the real Gary Barlow, who was a judge on that year’s series, decidedly unimpressed with his musical prowesses.

While Gary may not have been a fan, it seemed X Factor viewers were, with Rylan eventually making it all the way to the quarter-finals, the same series as future chart-toppers James Arthur and Ella Henderson.

In recent history, X Factor has been put under the microscope once again, as people re-evaluate the treatment of reality TV contestants.

Of his own time on the show, Rylan insists he looks back with memories both good and bad.

“Doing X Factor has definitely affected me, going forward, because there is no bigger crash-course than becoming famous overnight and having to deal with everything,” he says.

Rylan Clark on The X Factor in 2012
Rylan Clark on The X Factor in 2012
Ken McKay/Thames/Shutterstock

He recalls an incident while filming his upcoming travel show with Rob Rinder, which saw them arriving in Italy to meet a group of castrato singers.

“All they wanted me to do was a warm-up and sing a bit of this song, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he says.

“They were like, ‘just do it, it’s only a bit of fun’. But when you’ve been through an experience like X Factor, where you’re thrown in front millions of people every night, and you’re not really ready, you’re not really as prepared as you should be, you’ve not got in-ears in, you’ve not good a bit of effect on your voice like everyone else has because you’re ‘that one’, it sticks with you. It makes you feel a bit shit.

“However, would I have changed how it happened, what I did? No. I wouldn’t have.”

In fact, Rylan insists no one “pushed” him into becoming the show’s resident novelty act, claiming he instead saw a “window” of opportunity and decided to pursue it.

“I just had to find my box,” he recalls. “And I thought, ‘I’m not as good a singer as this other guy’, and ‘he’s a lot better-looking than me’. And so, I was the joke act, but I was the one in the joke.

“Even on the show, [contestants] like Ella and James knew I could sing, and they were like, ‘why are you not fucking singing?’. And I was like, ‘because this is the lane for me, this is what I need to do’. And I don’t regret anything on the show.”

Rylan has gone on to become one of X Factor's biggest success stories
Rylan has gone on to become one of X Factor's biggest success stories
Ken McKay/Thames/Shutterstock

He continues: “I know there’s been a lot of talk about safe-guarding and looking at people in reality TV. And actually, a couple of years ago, I was asked by the government to go on the panel to sort of give my advice as to how that should change.

“I refused to do it – not because I didn’t think there should be changes, but because it never stopped for me. I didn’t have go back to work, and then process how that felt from going from one thing back to my old life. I just didn’t think it would be fair if I was sitting there saying, ‘this needs to change, that needs to change’.

“Do I think people need to be better looked after? Yeah. Do I think that’s happening now? Yeah, I do, actually, which is a good thing. But do I regret anything that went on? No.”

Within a year of X Factor, Rylan had landed his first presenting jobs at Big Brother, as well as ITV’s This Morning, where he was a regular fixture for a number of years, before stepping back.

In 2022, he “dropped in” to host a week’s worth of shows with his “telly mum” Ruth Langsford, and has been a more regular fixture in recent weeks.

Rylan co-hosting This Morning with Ruth Langsford in August 2022
Rylan co-hosting This Morning with Ruth Langsford in August 2022
Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

“Since October, I’ve not fucking been off there, I feel like I live there,” he jokes, having recently co-hosted alongside Josie Gibson, Cat Deeley and former Big Brother colleague Emma Willis. “But it’s been lovely.”

Rylan acknowledges, tactfully, that This Morning has had a “bit of a change-up with hosts and stuff” in the past year, but it seems he’s not got his eye on a permanent role at the daytime show.

In fact, part of its appeal at the moment is the fact he can “drop in for a week, see everyone, and go again, in and out”.

“Anyone I’m hosting with, it feels nice, because we all know each other,” he says, before admitting: “That’s a bit of a worry, because we don’t actually remember we’re on the telly – especially me and Josie.

“Yesterday, for instance, I went for a wee, and I came back, and they were already back on air and I didn’t fucking realise. I must have just timed it wrong in my head! But I just don’t care!!

“I know that sounds rude – I care enough that I do the job well, but I don’t care enough that I’m going to cry over it… so I just strolled back in a minute after the break like, ‘sorry, I was having a wee!’. No one died!

“And that’s what I love, because I’m like, ‘fuck it, it ain’t our show!’. And I think that works, and I think the public love it, as well because it’s real.”

Rylan and Josie Gibson presenting This Morning together
Rylan and Josie Gibson presenting This Morning together
Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

Besides, Rylan has got plenty to keep him occupied in the year ahead.

As well as another series of Sex Rated (“I’m about to fly away to do another show with a load of willies and boobs, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that one turns out”), his big project for 2024 is Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour, which was filmed last year.

“I genuinely will sit here and say you will all be obsessed with it, and I never say that about anything I do,” he says. “It was a complete eye-opener. How I didn’t kill him I don’t know, but I still love him.”

“I just wouldn’t have done those things before, because I’m ‘Mr Presenter’,” he adds. “So it was nice just to be Rylan.

“It’s nice that all this time on from that idiot on X Factor, people can go ‘oh he’s doing alright’.”

Rylan is joining the judging panel for the Deliveroo Restaurant Awards 2024. The awards celebrate the best and most-loved restaurants across the country. Cast your vote at deliveroorestaurantawards.com


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