Television presenter

Born: November 9, 1979;

Died: February 15, 2020.

CAROLINE Flack, who has taken her own life at the age of 40, was an ebullient figure on some of the highest-profile shows on television in recent years, the winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, a joint presenter of the X Factor, and, latterly, the presenter of Love Island, a runaway ratings success for ITV2.

A measure of her popularity is that her contract for presenting the latter show in 2019 was worth £1.2 million, to say nothing of the hugely rewarding endorsement deals that came her way.

“Television is where I’m most at home”, she once said. “I’m not one of those TV presenters who secretly yearns to be a Hollywood actress. Live telly is what I thrive on”.

Like many female celebrities, however, her private life proved to be irresistible for tabloid newspapers, who picked over her relationships with men who were in the public eye, and made much of her arrest, late last year, for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton.

Flack was set to face trial next month in relation to the alleged assault; she had denied the allegation, but had stepped down from her role as Love Island presenter, to be replaced by Laura Whitmore for the winter series.

Caroline Louise Flack was born on November 9, 1979, in Enfield, north London, to Ian Flack, a soft-drinks company sales rep, and his wife Christine. Caroline had a twin sister, Jody, and an older brother, Paul, and sister, Elizabeth. Of her non-identical twin she wrote, in her autobiography, Storm in a C Cup (2015): “In photos you can tell us apart because I have the square head, Jody the pointy one”.

The family relocated to rural Norfolk when Flack was just five; a place she would much later refer to as “nowhere land”.

After completing her GSCEs she moved, aged 16, to Cambridge, where for the next three years she studied dance and musical theatre at Bodywork Company International. The college founder, Theresa Kerr, told ITV Anglia: “She was very very hard working, even then we knew that she would go somewhere. She was ambitious but not in a way that took anything away from her - she just worked hard.”

She worked for a time in various jobs, waitressing, and working in a pork processing factory. Her earliest TV roles included Bo’Selecta (2002-2004), the International Pepsi Chart Show, and a Saturday morning children’s show.

In 2009 she became the co-host, with Ian Wright, of the action game show, Gladiators, on Sky One. That same year she began presenting I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! NOW!, the companion show to I’m a Celebrity, alongside Joe Swash and Russell Kane. She left the show in 2011 to host another spin-off programme, The Xtra Factor for The X Factor, along with former contestant, Olly Murs.

A newspaper profile in 2013 said of Flack that she was “perky and sensible, rather sweet, quick to self-denigrate, excitable and enthusiastic, low on cynicism, yet not entirely without edge, which keeps her the right side of anodyne”.

In 2015 Flack and Murs took over hosting duties on the main show, but this lasted for only one year, amidst adverse reactions from fans and critics. Flack was realistic about the hurtful remarks, subsequently saying in an interview: “Not everyone is going to like you so you have to filter it.”

By that time, however, she was already a household name, having won, with her dance partner Pasha Kovalev, Strictly Come Dancing in December 2014. In the final they achieved three perfect scores of 40, a first for a Strictly final. It was, she declared soon afterwards, “the best experience of my whole life ... I still can’t believe it’s happening. It doesn’t feel real in any way.”

Her success on Strictly led to her appearing as Irene in a touring production, in 2017, of the musical, Crazy for You. In December 2018 she played Roxie Hart in a London West End run of Chicago. She had been announced as the lead only the previous month, which meant much less rehearsal time than would otherwise have been the case.

In a revealing interview that same year Flack spoke of her personal troubles, saying that she had began suffering from depression in the aftermath of her Strictly Come Dancing triumph.

“It all started the day after I won Strictly”, she said. “I woke up and felt like somebody had covered my body in clingfilm. I couldn’t get up and just couldn’t pick myself up at all that next year. I felt ridiculous, being so sad when I’d just won the biggest show on telly and had such an amazing job. However, I felt like I was being held together by a piece of string which could snap at any time. Anti-depressants helped me get up in the morning and stopped me from being sad, but what they also do is stop you from being happy”.

Flack, who hosted all five series of the Bafta-winning Love Island after its launch in 2015, is survived by Burton, her parents and her siblings.