Steph McGovern is full of apologies when she starts our interview a few minutes behind schedule. “The chairman of Channel 4 arrived at the studio, so I had to do a bit of meet and greet,” she explains, before revealing, “but I’ve got two portions of the lasagne that Simon Rimmer just made on the show, so that’s tea sorted!”
Such is life for the busy 39-year-old, who presents her chat show Steph’s Packed Lunch every weekday in Leeds, before heading home to her partner and two-year-old daughter in nearby Harrogate.
Steph found fame on BBC Breakfast, moving to Channel 4 to launch her own show just as the pandemic hit.
The early episodes were broadcast live from Steph’s own living room, with her daughter only four months old. “Living in a TV studio was quite hard,” she admits.
Since then, her show has firmly established itself on the daytime telly scene, and is currently spoiling viewers with Christmas tips galore in the run-up to the big day.
Here Steph talks about her “smugly happy” family life, the pressures of fame, and her Strictly dilemma…
Hi, Steph. It looks like you’re going all out for Christmas on the show this year…
We’re doing it earlier than last year, because everyone’s last Christmas just felt a bit rubbish. I’d normally be the Grinch, wanting us not to go too early, but this time I’m all aboard the Christmas train!
What are your own plans – will it be a family Christmas?
I have three weeks off, which is amazing. My little girl is two now, so I’m hoping she might understand a little bit more about it. It was her birthday recently, so she kind of got the concept of opening a present. We’ll have lots of family around us, which will be lovely.
Are you the organised type when it comes to Christmas, or more last-minute?
I’m a person who literally buys presents throughout the year. I like to buy things that I think people will like, rather than doing it all in a mad rush. I’ve got pretty much everything for this year. There’s a cupboard where I keep all the presents, which is quite handy if there’s a birthday you have totally forgotten – you can quickly get something out and wrap it.
Will you be cooking Christmas dinner?
Oh no, my partner’s the cook in our relationship – I’m the bins and washing person!
But we hear you do contribute to the kitchen in another way…
I do often bring home what the chefs make on the show. If my partner sees the cooking slot, she’ll text, “Please bring some back”!
You first presented the show from your own living room. How was that?
I’m pretty private about my home life, but I decided that if we were all working from home, then I should too. Obviously, my child was only four months old, so I was quite hormonal as well. My partner and I were passing her between us, juggling work and child like everyone else.
You’ve had Kerry Katona and Katie Price on regularly, has this changed your opinion of them?
Obviously, I’ve seen a lot in the papers about Kerry and Katie, but I just try to take them on what I see – and both of them have been fab. But I don’t know them outside of the show.
John Whaite is one of your chefs on Packed Lunch – we presume you’re cheering him on in Strictly ?
I’m going to watch him next week on the show. John is incredibly funny, but also so kind and caring. He’s not afraid to talk about whatever he’s dealing with in his life, which is brilliant. And for those of us in the LGBT community, he’s a great role model. I always want to know the Strictly gossip when he’s in, but we take our mics off before we have a little chat so no one can hear.
Aren’t you a bit torn – your old Breakfast colleague Dan Walker is up there as well?
When the line-up was announced I was really torn, because Rhys Stephenson has been on my show, AJ I’ve worked with, Sara Davies is a good friend.
I’ve ended up voting across the board to keep it fair. But ultimately, I’d love John to be the one because he’s like a little brother to me.
Have you been approached for Strictly ?
I have, but it’s never been right at that time, because of family stuff. I think it’s an amazing show and it would be a total honour. I have done a bit of Irish dancing in the past, so I’ve learned how to move the bottom of my body, but never the top!
Your other former Breakfast colleague Louise Minchin is in I’m A Celeb… how do you think she’ll do?
Brilliantly and she’ll love it. Louise is a great all-rounder. She’s really fit and athletic and I think she’ll be quite motherly – she’ll bring people together and be the one that they go to. She loves being part of a gang.
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In the past few years you’ve moved from being a reporter to anchoring your own show – how have you found the pressures of fame?
I’m in a fortunate position – I’m not like someone the paps want to take photos of every day. Although they did catch me in rollers and with no make-up on recently, which was really funny! I am conscious about what I put online, and I don’t talk about my family in any great detail.
What steps do you take to deal with online trolling?
What I’ve learned to do is to write a reply, but then not send it, just so I feel like I’ve said it. Trolls are like school bullies, and I was someone who got bullied at school, so I just liken it to that.
These people clearly have their own problems. I think Scarlett Moffatt’s response is great, she replies to them with the Samaritans’ details.
How does the show work with family life?
On Breakfast, I was getting up in the middle of the night and travelling all over.
Now I can take my daughter to nursery, then pick her up. Knowing where I am every day means this is the best work/life balance I’ve ever had. I’m also so much less tired – on Breakfast I could have napped on a park bench at any time!
Have you found things easier as your daughter’s been getting older?
Well, she can move now, which makes things a bit trickier!
She’s started nursery, and comes back with a bug every week, so we’ve spent a month with a cold. But I’m one of those smug people at the moment – I’m having a nice life.
You are open about your sexuality and your family, is that important to you?
I don’t go around shouting “My name’s Steph and I’m gay!” But I will talk about the fact I have a partner and a daughter, because that is my normal life.
The more we talk about our families, the more normal it becomes for everyone to see different families. That’s the key to taking away prejudice.
If someone says, “Oh, Steph’s gay, and she’s got a little girl” but they think I’m alright, then that’s great. I like to show people my life is normal – albeit with a hint of madness in the form of telly!
Steph's Packed Lunch Airs Monday to Friday at 12.30pm on Channel 4 and All4
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