IN a world where it seems like everyone in the public eye is media-trained to within an inch of their life, Cat Deeley is still old school.

Deeley, 44, who found fame co-presenting Saturday morning children’s show SM:TV Live with Ant and Dec in the late 1990s and has spent the past 14 years hosting the popular US reality competition So You Think You Can Dance, isn’t one for trite soundbites.

There are no guarded pauses. Or checking with her publicist that she is saying the right thing. Deeley is funny and self-deprecating, peppering our conversation with amusing anecdotes and the impression she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

As the TV presenter’s voice drifts down the line on a weekday morning in May, she chats breezily about swapping Los Angeles for London, on-air disasters, romantic gestures, pandemic life and how she recently had a spring lamb named in her honour.

Deeley is in good form. “I love to feel comfortable in my own skin,” she says. “Some days I can rock a black leather mini dress and other days I want something floral, whimsical and vintage, then some days I want an androgynous trouser suit.”

The reason we are talking clothes is that Deeley has newly launched a collaboration with luxury knitwear brand, Winser London, to create a womenswear capsule collection.

There’s a Scottish link with the Geelong lambswool yarn produced at the Todd & Duncan mill on the banks of Loch Leven in Kinross and the garments then handcrafted at Teviot Knitwear Hawick, an artisan manufacturer in the Borders.

HeraldScotland: Presenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser LondonPresenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser London

Her debut range, Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London, comprises three pieces: a hooded cardigan, poncho and zip-neck jumper. She cites a 1962 photograph of Marilyn Monroe on Santa Monica Beach as one of her main inspirations.

“It is an iconic picture,” says Deeley. “She is on the beach, a bit windswept and full of life. She has got on this cardigan that you just know she has had for years – JFK may have even given it to her. It feels like an heirloom.

“She has thrown the cardigan on over the top of her swimsuit. She has obviously spent the day on the beach. Her bones feel warm, you can smell the sunshine on her skin.

“The other real person I drew from is Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski. I love his Dude cardigan. If you throw on a piece of knitwear that is that comfy and cool with great colourways, it is a real heirloom piece you are going to keep forever.”

Starting her own label has been a long-held dream. “I love clothes – I always have done, ever since I was a little girl,” says Deeley, adding that she doesn’t have a stylist for her day-to-day wardrobe or TV appearances.

Fancy frocks – as she swiftly clarifies – are a trickier beast. “If you are talking ballgowns that you would go to the Emmys in, then I need at least three stylists because you can’t get even those bad boys on and off by yourself,” she jokes.

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“There is no way of doing that on your own and God forbid you need to pee or anything like that – it is a disaster. So, for things like that, I do need a stylist, but for other things I don’t.”

While living and working in the US, Deeley hosted 15 seasons of Fox’s hit show So You Think You Can Dance, garnering five Emmy nominations and earning an estimated £15 million fortune.

She returned to the UK in early 2020 with her comedian husband Patrick Kielty and their sons Milo, five, and James, two. The decision to move home was largely prompted by a desire to spend more time with family and the fact that Milo was approaching school age.

Their plan was to get Milo settled into his new school and then spend their summer holidays back in LA where Deeley would film the next series of So You Think You Can Dance.

“We moved heaven and earth,” she recalls. “I flew here with the dog. I left her with my brother. I found a flat with a big garden because they needed to have space. I flew back [to LA] and we packed up the house.

"Then we brought the kids here. Milo started school and he loved it. We were high-fiving and saying, ‘We have got this, we have managed to do it’. Then the global pandemic hit. Just when you think you have everything completely sorted, the whole thing goes topsy turvy.”

HeraldScotland: Presenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser LondonPresenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser London

Deeley was filming when the first lockdown loomed last year. “In the March, I flew back to LA to do a show for Disney and then everything started shutting down. I flew back [to the UK] because I was frightened that they were going to shut all the borders.”

While perhaps not the homecoming she had envisaged, Deeley is sanguine. “We love being back here because of friends and family,” she says. “You have such a small window when the kids want to hang out with the grandparents and everybody wants to hang out together.

"I will never get those moments back if we don’t do something about it now. There are certain things I miss. I love being on the beach, the palm trees and sunshine – all of that kind of stuff.”

Their new base, so far, is shaping up nicely. “Britain takes some serious beating in the summertime when the sun is shining and the blossom is all out,” she enthuses. “Because you don’t really have seasons so much in LA.”

Deeley is philosophical about the pandemic upheaval and sees it as serendipity that a temporary freeing up of her schedule has allowed more time to focus and be hands-on with her knitwear collection than might have been the case otherwise.

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“It was right place, right time,” she says. “Because of everything that happened, it means that you can’t travel as much as I used to.

“Everything has changed in everybody’s world right now. I have actually had more time than I would normally doing my normal day job to get really involved with it. I find it exciting. It is lovely to try new things and have a go at creating something.

“I will ask: ‘What’s this ribbing called?’ or ‘Could we make that a bit bigger?’. I don’t know the right terms or phrases – the Winser team have had so much patience. I’m sure that the questions to them are absolutely inane, but my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of technical knowledge.”

Equally, Deeley has packed in some high-profile presenting gigs. She made her Radio 2 debut in January, temporarily filling the slot left by Graham Norton and later sitting in for Steve Wright. Last month, she filled in for Lorraine Kelly on ITV’s flagship daytime show during the Easter holidays.

Her stint hosting Lorraine coincided with a segment from Countryfile presenter Adam Henson’s farm in the Cotswolds. “There were two lambs born live on air and Adam said, ‘This one is Cat and this one is Lorraine …’” she recalls.

“My boys love animals. They adore nature documentaries, they love David Attenborough, they are so into their animals. I said to Adam, ‘Would it be OK to bring the boys?’ and I am sure he thought I was just making conversation on TV.

“I got home and as I walked through the door, Milo was like, ‘Mum! When are we going to the farm?’ I managed to stalk Adam – let’s call it what it is – on Instagram and asked if I could bring the boys and he said, ‘Yeah, great.’”

HeraldScotland: Presenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser LondonPresenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser London

When Deeley realised it might be a bit far for a day trip, she swiftly improvised a good-old fashioned family adventure. “We ended up staying in a safari tent,” she says. “I thought: ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’. So, I actually met Cat and Lorraine.”

Deeley has long been Britain’s favourite girl next door. Growing up in suburban Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, she had aspired to be a Blue Peter presenter. At 14, Deeley was scouted as a model at The Clothes Show.

She moved on to co-host the MTV chart show, Hitlist UK, with Edith Bowman, then joined SM:TV Live and its spin-off CD:UK in 1998.

The showbiz industry has changed markedly since Deeley started out, not least with the advent of social media. Is she glad to have begun her career in simpler times, pre-Twitter, Facebook and TikTok et al?

“Oh, my goodness, yeah,” she says. “Because I think it is so easy to be unkindly brave when you are nameless and faceless and hidden behind a keyboard.

“I think everybody’s opinion, of course, matters. Everybody should have an opinion. That is absolutely of the utmost importance.

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“However, how you choose to deal with those people’s opinions depends on you. I am close to my family. I have an amazing collection of friends that I could probably count on two hands. They are honest with me when I need them to be. I know that any opinion they have comes from a place of love for me.

“My mum and my dad, they never pussyfoot around me. If there is something that needs to be said or if I need a telling off, they absolutely do it. Those are the opinions I hold in highest regard.”

Deeley believes she is equipped to deal with the darker side of social media in a way that might not have been possible if she was only now starting out as a fledgling presenter.

“I feel like I am 44 years old, big and ugly enough, and have been in this business for a long time. It is easy for me to not put too much importance on it.

"Whereas I feel that if I’d had that around me when I was starting out and 21, that would be quite tough to deal with. It would have been difficult to compartmentalise and separate off ‘this is me doing a job on screen’ and ‘this is me as just a girl, personally’.

“Ant and Dec and I talk about it all the time. The fact that we didn’t have social media probably meant that we stayed on and people saw the SM:TV that we finally got to when we were having fun, comfortable with ourselves and had found that chemistry.

HeraldScotland: Cat Deeley with Ant & Dec who she co-presented Saturday morning children’s show SM:TV Live with in the 1990s. Picture: GettyCat Deeley with Ant & Dec who she co-presented Saturday morning children’s show SM:TV Live with in the 1990s. Picture: Getty

“That would never have happened today because it would have affected us too much. I also think it would have affected the broadcasters. The other luxury we had was that they didn’t give up on us.”

She chuckles reminiscing about those early days. “Nigel [Pickard, who commissioned SM:TV] has said that was because they didn’t have anything else to put in the slot. And no one was watching anyway. But it meant we got time to practise and to find that chemistry.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is on screen or a TV show or presenters or friends – you can’t hothouse that chemistry. You can’t hothouse friendship. The best friendships come about purely from time passing and things happening to you.

“The best moments. The worst moments. Moments of heartbreak. Moments of celebration. That is what makes friendships, the chemistry on a TV show or the relationship between you and an audience, work. You feel you have grown up together and become friends slowly over a period of time.”

Speaking of chemistry, Deeley first met and became good friends with her husband Patrick Kielty, 50, while they were co-presenting the BBC talent show Fame Academy in 2002.

That friendship blossomed into something deeper a few years later when Kielty decided to surprise Deeley by hopping on a last-minute flight from Belfast to Los Angeles for her birthday brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The couple married in 2012.

HeraldScotland: Cat Deeley and her husband Patrick Kielty co-hosted BBC talent show Fame Academy. Picture: BBCCat Deeley and her husband Patrick Kielty co-hosted BBC talent show Fame Academy. Picture: BBC

Is he still a big romantic? She laughs heartily. “Err, I think that was definitely the pinnacle. But in all honesty, you would have to be in a Richard Curtis film to beat that, wouldn’t you?

“Now it is normally quite difficult to get somebody to text you back or to swipe right. It was definitely the romance of it, but it was also how noble and brave the gesture was too. It took some serious chutzpah.”

Deeley says she feels she has earned her stripes. At what point did that become the case? “When disasters happen,” she says. “I have said the wrong thing. I have forgotten my lines. I haven’t got a show off on time. I have fallen over. I have tripped up.

“I had one dancer jump over my head in a split kick, I then fell over but managed to hold on to the mic on a live TV show in four-inch heels.

"I got my first migraine on TV. I have done live TV and had food poisoning at the same time. I have been doing it for a long time so everything that could possibly happen has, at some stage, happened to me, probably live on air – not even pre-recorded.”

Deeley giggles at the memories of her mishaps. “When I got the dancer to jump over me on So You Think You Can Dance, I came home and Paddy said to me: ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ I was like: ‘Oh my God, wasn’t it brilliant?’ He said: ‘You could have actually broken your neck on live TV, you absolute buffoon.’

“That is what I mean by earning my stripes. When things go wrong or mistakes happen, if you can laugh about it, and if you can make it comfortable for the audience, then normally it makes them like you more.”

HeraldScotland: Presenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser LondonPresenter Cat Deeley models her Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London collection. Picture: Joseph Sinclair/Winser London

Deeley enjoys a good blooper reel. “You know when Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders messed up on Absolutely Fabulous and you watch the outtakes? I love that,” she says.

“Mistakes happen to everybody in life. Because unless you are brave enough to have a go at something … Of course, there are going to be mistakes, there are going to be trips and falls, but you learn from them.

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"If you can pick yourself up, get on with it, make a bit of a joke and laugh at yourself, I think that is when entertainment is at its very best.”

Knit by Cat Deeley for Winser London, is available exclusively on winserlondon.com