Steph McGovern is the host of Channel 4’s successful lunchtime series Stef’s Packed Lunch. Here she talks juggling work, motherhood, and appearing on Strictly
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 Simon Rimmer just made on the show, so that’s tea sorted!”
Such is life for the busy 39-year-old, who presents her Steph’s Packed Lunch chat show 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. Since then, her show has firmly established itself on the daytime telly scene.
Here, Steph talks about her “smugly happy” family life, the pressures of fame, and her Strictly Come Dancing dilemma…
Hi, Steph! So, you’re going all-out for Christmas on the show…
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 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.
How ready are you for Christmas?
I’m a person who buys presents throughout the year. I like to buy things I think people will like, rather than doing it all in a mad rush. I’ve got pretty much everything for this year.
Will you cook Christmas dinner?
Oh no, my partner’s the cook in our relationship – I’m the bins and washing person!
You first presented the show from your house. How was that?
I decided that if we were all working from home, I should, too. Obviously, my child was only four months old, so I was hormonal as well. My partner and I were passing her between us, juggling work and child like everyone else.
John Whaite is one of your chefs on the show – 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 so no one can hear.
Aren’t you torn? Your old Breakfast colleague Dan Walker is up there as well.
Well, when the line-up was announced I was really torn…
AJ Odudu I’ve worked with, Sara Davies is a good friend. I’ve ended up voting across the board. But I’d love John to be the one because he’s like a little brother to me.
Have you been approached to do Strictly?
I have, but it’s never been the right time. I have done a bit of Irish dancing in the past, so I’ve learnt how to move the bottom of my body, but never the top!
In the last few years you’ve moved from being a reporter to anchoring your own show – how are the pressures of fame?
I’m in the fortunate position that I’m not 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!
How does juggling 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 again.
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!
Are things easier now your daughter’s 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 have been 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 on weekdays at 12.30pm on Channel 4 and All 4.
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