Who The Hell Is Tess Daly? The Big Star We Know Nothing About

The Strictly Come Dancing host has kept a low profile despite being on our screens for nearly two decades.

Let’s play a quick game of word association.

What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the name Tess Daly?

We bet you a tenner you said Strictly. Everyone does.

Because aside from her being married to fellow presenter Vernon Kay, that’s pretty much the sum total of what most people know about Tess.

Tess Daly
Tess Daly

Which is kind of odd, considering we know the inside leg measurements of many stars way less famous than her, yet she’s been on our screens for almost two decades.

A lot of that is down to Tess herself, who likes to keep her private life just that, and rarely gives interviews (a quick Google search of any she has given will give you a good idea why).

But behind the power hair and kilowatt smile is a woman who has been slogging away since her teens, initially as a highly successful model, before turning her attention to presenting.

But who the heck is Tess Daly? Let’s try and find out...

Tess isn’t actually her real name

She was born Helen Elizabeth Daly on 27 April 1969.

She started out as a model

An early photo of Tess at a fashion shoot.
An early photo of Tess at a fashion shoot.
Denis Jones/ANL/Shutterstock
Tess Daly modelling for Gap.
Tess Daly modelling for Gap.
Denis Jones/ANL/Shutterstock

Tess was spotted by a modelling scout outside a McDonalds in Manchester at the age of 18, while waiting to meet her sister Karen.

She has lived all over the globe

Her modelling career initially took her across Asia and Europe, and she ended up living in Paris for five years before moving to New York, where she was based for another five years.

Speaking about her early modelling days, she told The Guardian: “Initially I was terrified… I could barely speak to anyone from home without crying and having to keep the tears from my voice because you didn’t want them to worry about you. Yeah, it was tough. [I was] penniless as well and then I started to work a little bit and I really enjoyed it. Had to go through the pain barrier though.”

She has appeared in not one, but two Duran Duran videos

Tess appeared in the clips for Serious and Violence Of Summer at the start of the 90s. See if you can spot her in the clips below...

She was also in the video for Beloved’s Sweet Harmony

Tess stripped naked for the video that accompanied the 90s dance hit.

She got her TV break after buying herself a camcorder

While living in New York, one of Tess’s friends who arranged red carpet events, suggested she buy a video camera and film herself interviewing celebs at events. It paid off when she sent her showreel to Channel 4, who quickly signed her up to front the Find Me A Supermodel TV competition.

She’s fronted loads of TV shows

Apart from Strictly, Tess has hosted *deep breath* Get Your Kit Off, Singled Out, LA Pool Party, Smash Hits TV, SMTV Live (above), Back To Reality, Make Me a Supermodel, Home On Their Own, Just the Two Of Us, This Time Tomorrow, The National Lottery, Sport Relief, Children In Need, The One Show and the Royal Variety Performance.

She was really good mates with Quentin Crisp

British actor and author Quentin Crisp photographed in 1989.
British actor and author Quentin Crisp photographed in 1989.

The Naked Civil Servant author was Tess’s first ever celebrity interview, and the pair became unlikely friends until his death in 1999. “I loved him,” she says. “Amazing guy. So intelligent and had been through so much.”

She married fellow model-turned-presenter Vernon Kay in 2003

Tess Daly and Vernon Kay
Tess Daly and Vernon Kay
Mark Campbell/Shutterstock

“In our own minds and in our own lives we’re just two ordinary people getting on with raising a family and enjoying life. You don’t think of yourself as a celebrity, if you do it will be your downfall,” Tess said in 2018.

But things haven’t always been rosy for the couple

Rhian Sugden appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2012.
Rhian Sugden appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2012.
Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

Tess’ marriage to Vernon hit rocky times in 2010 when he confessed to sexting glamour model Rhian Sugden.

Tess later admitted her marriage was a “work in progress” after the scandal hit the headlines. She told The Times: “All marriages have their moments. Vernon and I are just people at the end of the day.”

Her father died whilst she was on her honeymoon

Vivian Daly died of emphysema in 2003, just 18 days after he had walked Tess down the aisle.

“Honestly it was so difficult,” she told The Guardian in 2010. “I miss him terribly because he was just such a strong role model in my life. I do really wish he could have met his grandchildren. That’s my greatest regret.”

Speaking of whom...

Tess with her daughters Phoebe and Amber.
Tess with her daughters Phoebe and Amber.
David M. Benett via Getty Images

But 14-year-old Phoebe and Amber, 10, haven’t always been the biggest Strictly fans. “They had a couple of years of like, ‘Mum, don’t make us watch again please. We’ve had it all our lives,’” she said.

She turned 50 in April 2019 (but please don’t mention her age)

“I refuse to define myself by my age,” she told You magazine in 2018. “First, growing older is a luxury. Who am I to complain about turning 50 when many are not as fortunate?

“And second, men are not called out about their age in the way women are. We women create limitations around age that are beneath us, yet perpetuated.”

She’s a big fan of her own hair

PA Archive/PA Images

“I bite off my split ends. There’s probably a fur ball in my stomach,” she once revealed. Well, it is fabulous hair.

She has extreme germ phobia

“Toilet door handles, the ice-cream seller holding your cone with his bare hands, touching raw meat or chicken,” she revealed to the Guardian waaaay before Covid.

She once lactated on live telly

It happened shortly after Tess gave birth to her daughter, Phoebe, in 2004. “Luckily I was wearing black, so only I knew,” she told the Daily Mail. “That first day back to work after having her, I was very wobbly. Any mention of my baby and I would start to lactate! I was shattered, but I knew I had to keep on top of things.”

She accidentally ran over her pet dog

In 2019 Tess was left devastated after she accidentally ran over Minnie, her Maltese Shih Tzu, which had escaped the family home after builders left a door open. The accident happened as Tess returned home in her Range Rover and the pet ran under her front wheels.

“I’m horrified and devastated by this terrible, tragic accident,” Tess said at the time. “It has had a huge effect on the whole family and we are heartbroken at losing Minnie. This has, and continues to be, a very emotional time for us all.”

She once posed with a postage stamp on her nose

Ray Tang/Shutterstock

And no, we have no idea why.

Consider yourself informed.


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