Social media's dominated by monstrous dolls who look the same – it's time we accepted how we look, says Holly Willoughby

AS fans of ITV’s biggest daytime show This Morning will agree, presenter Holly Willoughby is one of the most glamorous women on the box.

Despite her early-morning starts, she appears wondrously polished and preened on our screens four days a week, always the height of fashion and with rarely a hair out of place.

Yet after celebrating her 40th birthday in February, mum-of-three Holly reckons her body has begun changing like never before.

But while some may panic about the runaway sands of time, Holly said she is doing everything she can to embrace change.

She said: “When you hit your forties, things change quite rapidly.

“We’re heading towards that kind of menopausal time, skin is changing, hair is changing, body’s changing. Having had a baby, the shape of your body completely changes.

“It’s really important to, rather than look down and go, ‘Oh, my God, look at everything that’s changing, I’m getting older, I’m getting more wrinkles, my t**s are around my knees’, you’ve sort of got to look up.

“You have to go, ‘My body was able to carry a baby and my boobs breastfed three children, and they were fine’.

"You’ve got to kind of go, ‘Yes, my face is starting to sag and my eyes are bloodshot and the rest of it, but you know, I’m healthy and I’m OK’.

“Getting older is a privilege, because not everybody else gets to be here.”

Holly, mum to Harry, 12, Belle, ten, and Chester, seven, with husband Dan Baldwin, a telly producer, makes it clear she feels a responsibility to those who look up to her.

Nearer to home, it is her close relationship with Belle that makes her consider more about how she thinks, and talks, about her body image.

Holly said: “Having a daughter, I’m very aware of the example I set now in this stage. Belle is old enough to be watching me and I want to conduct myself in a way that when she gets to this stage, it’s like I am clearing the pathway for her.

“That’s how I feel about many things, not just about outward image. I have a responsibility there, to do this in a way that is a positive experience for all of us.”

On-screen chemistry

As well as getting across this message in her home life, Holly wants to give out the same, upbeat feeling to her 7.4million Instagram followers.

Speaking to close friend Fearne Cotton on Fearne’s Happy Place podcast, Holly continued: “No one is going to get through this life unscathed.

“But there’s no point dragging stuff like that behind you because you’re going to limit where you’re going. When it comes to outer beauty, certain things you thought important before are less important now.

“On social media, there seems to be a one-stop shop of beauty, a certain way of looking which everything feeds into, everybody buys into.

"It is kind of dominated by youth, which, yes, is beautiful in its innocence, but is not my only version of beauty.

“There are many, many different things in being beautiful. The key is, in order for that to stop, we have to celebrate difference and to celebrate all the individuality and different quirks of anyone around.

Yes, my face is starting to sag and my eyes are bloodshot and the rest of it, but you know, I’m healthy and I’m OK

“There’s only one way to do that and that’s to fully and totally accept those within ourselves.

"If you can’t love your wonky teeth, if you can’t love your nose that may not be a perfect kind of little tiny button nose that someone’s had surgically reduced, if you can’t embrace your individuality and those bits of you, how can you embrace that in other people?

“All you’re going to do is feed into this monstrous kind of creation of this kind of paper-doll society of everybody coming out looking the same way.”

Holly has made no secret of her long struggle with her body image and self-confidence.

After bursting on to our screens at age 19 on ITV kids’ show S Club TV, about pop group S Club 7, she worked her way up to carve out a hugely successful career.

She went on to present ITV kids’ Saturday morning show Ministry Of Mayhem with Stephen Mulhern from 2004 to 2006 — the show latterly renamed as Holly And Stephen’s Saturday Showdown to reflect their huge popularity.

Body image

In 2006, she and her now This Morning co-host Phillip Schofield became co-hosts of ITV’s Dancing On Ice, a gig they will still be doing when it returns in January.

Their hugely successful on-screen chemistry saw ITV bosses in 2009 move Holly on to This Morning with Phil, now 59, and from that moment on she has cemented her place as queen of daytime TV.

Yet although from the outside Holly appears hugely self-assured, she previously admitted there had been times in her career when she could not look in a mirror because she struggled with crippling self-confidence issues.

Last month she released a book, Reflections: Life Lessons On Finding Beauty Inside And Out, in which she writes in detail about finally finding peace.

She now believes her new sense of grounding has spilled over into her work, and that if her glittering career ended tomorrow she would not be floundering.

Speaking to Fearne, 40, her best pal of two decades, about living in the public eye, Holly said: “I’ve never massively engaged with it, even from the get-go.

This is probably very difficult for a lot of people to understand, but if it all switched off tomorrow, I’d be OK

“I come home, I shut the door, and it’s gone. I don’t really think about it, it doesn’t worry me, it doesn’t bother me.

“I’m very grateful and I love what I do. This is probably very difficult for a lot of people to understand but I really, really mean this wholeheartedly, and I don’t want this to happen, but if it all switched off tomorrow, I’d be OK.

“Because my real life and my real love, and my real passion, is when that door shuts. And that won’t ever change, because that’s mine.

“So all the other stuff that goes on, it’s like the cherry on the top. And I don’t want it to go, because I love it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very, very lucky and very fortunate, but if something was to happen to Dan or the kids, or my family environment or my friends, the bottom would fall out of my world. I could not cope.

"That would be me gone. The rest of the stuff is important but not to me and my being.”

One last challenge

While Holly may seem to have life made, she feels there is one last challenge she must overcome.

Laughing, she opens up about struggling to live in the present and reveals husband Dan, who she wed in 2007, is the one who has suffered from this bad habit of hers.

Holly said: “We pay attention to what’s going on tomorrow, or the next day, but we very rarely pay attention to what’s going on now.

“I’m terrible for doing that. You know, my husband says to me, ‘Oh my God, you will organise the fun out of anything, won’t you?’

“It’s terrible but it’s because in order to keep plates spinning you have to be organised, and you have to chase.

“But I’m really consciously trying to stop doing that, noticing those small things and paying attention to small things, and carving out time and space for me.

“I’m starting to get a handle on that again. It really does make a massive, massive difference.”

  • Holly’s interview on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast is available now.

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