Holly Willoughby: From children’s TV presenter to darling of daytime telly

Holly Willoughby rose from her roots in children’s television to become the queen of daytime TV before announcing she would leave This Morning.

The bubbly blonde presenter, 42, first entered the limelight when she was scouted by a modelling agency as a teenager.

She broke into television in the noughties when she starred in CITV show S Club TV, a spin-off drama based on the lives of pop group S Club 7.

Later, Willoughby began hosting children’s game show Xchange and the children’s version of talent show Fame Academy for the BBC.

Dancing On Ice 2023
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, who presented Dancing On Ice 2023 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She jumped ship in 2004 to ITV so she could present Saturday morning children’s show Ministry Of Mayhem alongside Stephen Mulhern before taking over from Cat Deeley on children’s music chart show CD:UK.

ITV bosses handed her a presenting slot on newly launched Dancing On Ice in 2006, which saw her matched with Phillip Schofield for the first time, with the pair’s on-screen warm chemistry providing a glimpse into what was to come on This Morning.

She first shared the sofa with Schofield in 2009, after the departure of Fern Britton, which saw the pair’s friendship blossom earning them Bafta and National Television Awards gongs.

In 2016, they famously appeared on air in the outfits they had worn the previous night at the NTAs and shared stories with viewers from a raucous after-party hosted by Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly.

The Magic Roundabout UK Premiere – Vue West End – Leicester Square
Ministry Of Mayhem presenters Stephen Mulhern and Holly Willoughby (Yui Mok/PA)

The presenters’ close bond appeared to be cemented even further in 2020 after Schofield came out as gay in an emotional on-air chat with Willoughby.

He later thanked Willoughby and said he “couldn’t have done that with anyone else … sitting by the side of me”.

In 2022, the co-hosts faced criticism over claims they skipped the queue for the late Queen’s lying-in-state while attending as members of the media to film a segment for This Morning.

The chief executive of ITV, Dame Carolyn McCall, defended the pair in September last year saying they had been “misrepresented” over claims they jumped the queue.

Willoughby has since been at the centre of the This Morning furore following co-host Schofield’s bombshell exit in May when he admitted to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague.

KSI v FaZe Temperrr – OVO Arena Wembley
Holly Willoughby and her husband, Daniel Baldwin (Yui Mok/PA)

His departure came after weeks of speculation of a feud with Willoughby, who said at the time she would remain on the show but is taking early half-term holiday leave.

She took to Instagram at the time saying Schofield’s admission about his relationship with a younger ITV colleague was “very hurtful”.

She said: “When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not. It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.”

Following the departure of Schofield, Willoughby shared the couch alongside Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle as Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond continued to provide holiday and Friday cover on the show.

Willoughby’s return to the show in June was highly anticipated and marked her first on-screen appearance since Schofield left ITV in May.

The episode was watched by an average of 839,000 viewers, the highest daily average for the show since the coronation bank holiday on May 8. It was also above the three-month average of 703,000.

The peak audience for Monday’s show – the highest number of viewers watching at any one time – was 1.6 million, nearly double the average for the whole programme.

She pulled out of the ITV show on Thursday over an alleged plot to kidnap and murder her.

Shopping centre security officer Gavin Plumb, 36, was charged with soliciting a man named David Nelson to commit murder, and incitement to commit kidnap between October 2 and 5 in Harlow, Essex.

The other man was due to arrive in the UK next week from the US, Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard.

Plumb, from Harlow, was remanded into custody by District Judge Caroline Jackson until a plea hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court on November 3.

Willoughby has had a number of other TV roles, including co-hosting I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2018, stepping in for Anthony McPartlin who took a break from ITV commitments and public appearances following a drink-driving conviction, which saw him banned from the road for 20 months and fined £86,000.

Willoughby has three children, Belle, Harry and Chester, with husband Daniel Baldwin, whom she married in 2007.