HOLLY Willoughby appeared “fragile” and to be holding in “suppressed tears” as she hosted This Morning for the first time without Phillip Schofield, according to a body language expert.
Holly, 42, returned today after being absent from the set for the past two weeks — during which time former pal Phillip, 61, came clean about his affair with a much younger ITV runner.
Phillip, who was married at the time, branded the relationship "unwise but not illegal".
In the opening of today’s show, Holly addressed Phillip’s exit from the show in a specially prepared statement, saying she felt "shaken", "troubled" and "let down."
Body language expert Judi James told Fabulous that Holly performed a "key gesture" to show her feelings towards the saga.
She said: "Holly’s key gesture to the viewer was a placing of both hands on her heart to suggest love and honesty as she thanked everyone for their ‘kind messages’."
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Judi also said Holly "suppressed tears" during her speech.
She explained: “Sitting survivor-small and slightly fragile in her seat next to a very protective, watchful-looking Josie, who had even been placed on a higher chair at one point during their trailer, Holly opted for a hint of suppressed tears and a lot of empathy for her speech, assuming we were feeling the same as her and addressing us as personal friends and fellow survivors.
“She breathed out in a sigh and then blew air from her mouth to suggest stress and pressure as she started.
“Her breathing sounded shallow and stressed as she delivered her speech and she used an in-breath to suggest regret when she spoke of the ‘toll on Phil’s mental health’.”
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Judi added that Holly’s body language shifted after hugging Josie.
She continued: “It needed a body language break-water to announce an end to the nasty stuff and a return to the perky bits.
“Holly was one carpet bag short of the full Mary Poppins as she tossed her hair and re-booted that beautiful wide smile to announce business as usual and on with the show.”
Judi said Holly looked nervous for the beginning of This Morning, and explained: "Holly’s body language through the first half of the show suggested vulnerability and some suppressed anxiety.
"Josie followed up on her proffered hug at the start by frequently placing an arm round the back of the sofa behind Holly in a protective-looking gesture.
"Holly was picking at her fingers and swaying and bobbing slightly and when the two women turned to look at the screen Holly’s feet were with the toes pointing inward, which is often a sign of childlike vulnerability."
However, her confidence started to "rebuild" by the second half, with Judi adding: "The exercise segment saw her begin to take the lead role more and there was also the telling gesture of some body splaying for the first time.
"Holly also began to use precision gestures when she asked questions, another cue to suggest she was getting back on top of her game again.
"Even though Holly’s performer confidence returned, there were still body language cues to suggest inner anxieties.
"As she went for the break, she pulled her wedding or engagement ring up and down her finger several times.
"This is a gesture that usually signals a desire for family support."
HOLLY WILLOUGHBY’S OPENING SPEECH AFTER PHILLIP SCHOFIELD’S EXIT FROM THIS MORNING
"Josie, thank you for being here.
"Right, deep breath.
"Firstly, are you OK? I hope so. It feels very strange indeed not being here with Phillip.
"I imagine you might have been feeling a lot like I have. Shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the well-being of people from all sides of what's been going on and full of quesitons.
"You me and all of us at This Morning gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth, who they themselves felt they had to resign from ITV and step down from a career that they loved.
"That's a lot to process and it's equally hard to see the toll it's taken on their own mental health.
"I think what unites us all now is a desire to heal and the health and well-being for everyone.
"I hope as we start this new chapter and get back to a place of warmth and magic that this show holds for all of us, then we can find strength in each other.
"From my heart thank you for all of the kind messages. Thank you for being here this morning."
Holly took a week off when Phillip initially announced he was leaving the hit daytime programme, before then jetting to a £8million holiday villa in Portugal with her sister, parents, and family for another week.
After posting a cryptic message on Instagram to her followers, she returned to the studio today and is joined by co-host Josie Gibson.
Holly posted a picture of the Strawberry Moon on her Wylde Moon page alongside words urging others to "maintain a positive perspective".
Holly will focus on light entertainment topics on today’s show and will interview Queen singer Adam Lambert to celebrate Pride month and the LGBT community.
Staff have removed pictures of Phillip from the ITV corridors to signify a new era — but not as a snub to him, it is claimed.
In another move, phone-ins involving the public will be heavily vetted by production staff to filter out any attempted viewer outbursts over the scandal.
Later this week, Holly will be joined by Irish presenter Craig Doyle, while Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary will be back for their usual slot on Friday.
Phillip told The Sun in an exclusive interview that Holly did not know about his affair.
He said: “I’ve lost my best friend. Holly did not know. And she was one of the first texts that I sent to say ‘I am so, so sorry, that I lied to you.’”
The former TV star's statement, where he apologised for lying about the “unwise, but not illegal” affair, came after reports of a growing rift between Holly and himself.
Holly has not commented since taking to social media last weekend to reveal Phillip had lied to her about his affair.
She wrote last Saturday: “It’s taken time to process yesterday’s news.
“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 this was a lie.”
Earlier today, Holly was pictured arriving at ITV for the first time since Phillip's shock This Morning exit.
A TV source said the host personally prepared the opening monologue because she wants to tell viewers how difficult it has been for everyone behind the scenes on the show.
One person who won't be watching is Phillip, 61, with sources telling us he is simply too devastated to tune in.
Friends of the former This Morning presenter said that despite his support and affection for Holly, “He physically could not watch.
“Even listening to the opening credits would be hugely triggering.
“His family is being incredibly careful not to have the TV on when he’s in the room to ensure he doesn’t see anything.
“Of course he is aware Holly is back on air today and he absolutely wanted her to shine, and smash it.
“But he physically could not watch — he is not there yet.”
Colleagues are said to be sympathetic towards Holly and will try to make her return to work as smooth as possible.
Holly is now said to be thinking about the future of This Morning — and is keen to move into a new era for the flagship daytime show.
Holly joined This Morning as Phillip’s co-presenter in 2009 when Fern Britton, 65, left the show.
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