STRICTLY Come Dancing host Tess Daly has revealed that she sobbed uncontrollably watching hubby Vernon Kay suffer in the I’m A Celebrity castle.
The couple were out of contact for five weeks — but she said their enforced separation made them appreciate each other more than ever before.
Tess, 51, said: “Every time he welled up on the TV, I would find myself welling up because I felt like I was going through it with him.
“I mean I was fed and never cold — but he slept on the floor for two and a half weeks, which the edit didn’t show, because he didn’t fit in the beds.
"So whenever he welled up, I felt like I was going through it with him.”
Despite being separated for more than a month, Tess admits their relationship is stronger than ever — and said the secret is a simple one.
She said: “As long as you still fancy each other, I think that goes a long way. I definitely do.”
Vernon, 46, and Tess met in 2001 and have been married for 17 years. They have two children together — Phoebe, 16, and Amber, 11.
He frequently mentioned them during his stint in Wales’ Gwrych Castle for the ITV reality show.
Tess said: “Often he would refer to the girls and I would look across to our 16-year-old Phoebe, who is a teenager and doesn’t show that much emotion when it comes to her parents.
“But there was a moment between us where we acknowledged the fact that we were really proud of him.
“Then when he did a little message to me in the telegraph in the final, I was like, ‘Oh god’ — I had to leave the room quickly so the teenager couldn’t see me cry.
“Time apart does bring us closer. He was away for five weeks in total for I’m A Celebrity.
“They genuinely had their phones taken away and people were saying ‘Oh but you can talk to them,’ but there is no contact, I couldn’t speak to him and that was really strange.
“For 20 years we have always been on the other end of the phone several times a day.
“And as soon as he left, everything broke at home — the dishwasher, dryer, kettle, heating and the gates. No lie.
“I was like, ‘he does everything’. I realised how much he does in the house and was like, ‘God I miss you even more because you’d fix this’.
“It was weird to not pick up the phone. For us girls at home watching him on this journey was a bonding experience. I know we’ll never forget it.”
Tonight sees Tess and Claudia Winkleman hosting the final of Strictly Come Dancing.
The duo first appeared as an all-female hosting partnership in 2014 following Sir Bruce Forsyth’s decision to step down.
And it proved to be a landmark moment on British screens.
Today Tess says she is proud of the huge impact both the show and their hosting role has had on the country — especially in a difficult year rocked by the Covid pandemic and lockdowns.
And despite admitting that showbiz can be ruthless as stars age, she hopes to be on screens long into the future.
She said: “I’m still loving it to bits. I know how lucky I am that it is still part of my life.
“I started that show in my 30s. It’s been part of our lives now for so long, it’s wonderful.
“Showbiz years are like dog years — one year of showbiz is seven years. It can be a fickle industry, we are fortunate that we have both survived and grown with it.
"Even my children were involved — I was pregnant with each of them while I was still with Bruce, so it’s a big part of all of our lives.
“When me and Claudia first took over I thought little of it, it was only when other people raised the fact it was the first time two women had stood side-by-side on a Saturday night it felt more historic — that was exciting.
“Now I often see two women on a sofa on a morning breakfast show and it’s great, and you never saw or thought about it before.”
Vernon added: “It’s weird how something so simple can cause a big impact. I think it goes to show how TV is evolving. It can’t be stuck in its ways and has to reflect what is going on in the outside world.”
Tess said the landmark also had a powerful impact on their daughters. She said: “It meant a lot to me because our girls go to a girls’ school.
"Our eldest was in the assembly and they talked about me and Claudia being examples of women pioneering the way in a sometimes male-dominated industry.
“She was secretly quite proud. She was proud which made me proud and I thought it was pretty cool.”
Tonight’s show is likely to be the most-watched TV moment of the year with well in excess of ten million fans expected to tune in.
Vernon said: “It’s part of us as a nation. People would say fish and chips, takeaways, the Queen, the England football team and Strictly Come Dancing.
“It’s become part of that now, reflective of what we are as a nation.
"I think the BBC putting pressure on Boris to tell us what the new lockdown is going to be, people are going, ‘Hang on a minute Boris, you’ve got to be quick because Strictly is on’. That’s how big it is.”
And Tess said the team have been proud to bring the nation together during a difficult year. She added: “This year it felt like a privilege to be able to do the show.
“I felt so grateful to go and do a show that I love and we weren’t sure whether or not it would be able to go ahead at one point because there were so many boxes that we had to tick, obviously to meet government guidelines.
“Also to be part of something that was bringing people some light relief from the doom and gloom for a couple of hours. It just felt like something special to be a part of that really.
“And I’m A Celebrity did a similar thing. Watching it each night felt like being part of something.”
Despite the show’s changes — a heavily reduced audience and a slimmed down judging panel after Bruno Tonioli was forced to stay in America by travel restrictions — the contest remains as popular as ever.
Even acid-tongued Craig Revel Horwood appears to have mellowed.
Tess said: “He has still been a little mean with his marking up until last week and he gave out some threes and fours earlier on, but he has been ending with positivity.
“He is brilliant I think, and a great part of the show.”
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