Carol Smillie on growing older and loving life away from telly

Carol Smillie, of Wheel Of Fortune and Changing Rooms fame, left TV to pursue a career as a businesswoman, and hasn’t looked back.

Now 55, she connects her professional shift to her age, saying: “It’s no secret that there’s no women over 50 in television. The work’s not there the way it was when you were younger.”

But she’s not bitter about the cut-throat reality of showbiz: “I had a fantastic run. Better than most can dream of. With shows like Changing Rooms and the Holiday programme, these breaks don’t come very often in a presenter’s career, so I have nothing to moan about. But it can’t last forever.”

Carol in her early presenting days in 1990 (PA)

Does she miss being a TV personality? “No. I actually don’t. When I was doing television there was no social media. That makes me sound like I’m 103, but in the days of Changing Rooms, there was nothing like that. There wasn’t any high-definition television. I didn’t have the pressure of people saying, ‘Ooh I don’t like her hair’, or, ‘Ooh, she looks a little bit fat this week’.”

Carol’s company, Pretty Clever Pants, sells washable, water-absorbent underwear for light stress incontinence, “just that little leak when you jump, run, cough, sneeze, whatever”. Designed by Carol and launched in 2012 as Diary Doll, they have rebranded and recently signed a deal with High Street TV to sell the product worldwide.

“I’m really thrilled about it,” says Carol. “I started the business five years ago, on a bit of whim. I had no experience in business. I’d never tried something like this before. I had no idea how to bring a product to market. But people do it, so I thought I’d like to give it a try.”

Here Carol shares her health and wellbeing tips and thoughts about ageing…

On how she stays healthy

“My exercise consists of walking my two dogs once a day. I’ve got two black labs, mother and daughter. I think that a brisk walk in the fresh air every day does as much good as sweating it out in the gym without the pressure of an expensive gym membership. I’ve never been much good at that.

“I don’t really drink. One glass of wine, two at the absolute max. That might be my saving grace. I’ve never smoked. I eat quite healthily. I love bread and chocolate and all these things, but I don’t have a massive sweet tooth.

“I’m lucky I don’t have an issue with weight. I’ve never struggled with it. But definitely as you get older, it changes. Body shape changes, but that’s just getting older. You can fight it a bit, but I’m not interested in fighting it with surgery or needles or anything.”

On getting older

“I’ve always been quite comfortable with the age I am. I’ve got to 55, I’ve never had breast cancer. My children are all healthy. Lots of thing could have happened along the way and they haven’t (touch wood). I’m a very ‘cup half full’ kind of girl, not a ‘cup half empty’. You have to look at the positive side of things and that’s another reason why I’m glad I’m not in television. I’d start thinking, ‘Am I young enough? Am I thin enough? Should my hair be cut differently?’ Ugh, God no!

“It’s pressure we put on ourselves. It’s not anyone else putting it on us. Television is a very unforgiving industry that is so much about what you look like. I’ve looked at that for a long time, and it was fine, because I was young. But I don’t want to live like that. I want to think ‘Yeah, my body’s got bits I don’t love, but I’ve had three children and that’s great. But it doesn’t come without its legacy. I just have to be more careful about how I dress.”

On her mantra

“There’s a cheesy one I quite like: ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I think that’s probably true. I’ve had challenges, I’ve had manufacturers go bust on me because I didn’t really know what I was doing. Sometimes it feels like a personal slap. I think, ‘How could I have got that so wrong?’ ‘I’m so stupid’ or ‘People will think I’ve failed’. And I’ve just got to stop and say, ‘I’ve never done this before. I’m going to make mistakes. I’ve got a lot of stuff right as well, don’t worry about it.’ It does hurt sometimes, but you get used to it.”

On being a role model

“I don’t think about being a role model to other women. But my daughters, yes. That’s my job. I want them to understand the importance of being able to pay for things and making their own way in the world, and being brave, and understanding that you get loads of stuff wrong, but it’s OK to get stuff wrong and learn from it.

“That’s what parents are. We tell them to chase their dreams, and we don’t compare them, because they’re very different. You try to give them as much help as you can, but they’ve got to fly on their own. They’ve seen what I’ve been through and they’ve seen the pressure I’ve been through with it, and watched it and thought, ‘It’s not that easy’. Even when you’re on the telly.”


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