Could Michael Underwood and Angellica Bell be TV's next Richard and Judy?
It may not have been love at first sight, but after a decade of tumultuous twists and turns, the Surrey-based TV presenting duo Michael Underwood and Angellica Bell finally tied the knot in New York over Christmas. Here, they talk to Angela Wintle about how they finally realised their feelings for each other, why they hope to start a family as soon as possible and what they like most about living in Kingston upon Thames
Office romances may be nothing new, but when the couple in question are well-known TV presenters – and one half has just split up from her husband – it’s certain to make the media sit up and take notice. And so it proved when the forces of attraction turned out to be too strong for Michael Underwood and Angellica Bell.
When the couple, who live in Kingston upon Thames, were photographed kissing and cuddling in Ham Park in the summer of 2008, it prompted banner headlines, with one tabloid newspaper likening the pair to “love struck teenagers”.
But this was no flash-in-the-pan romance, and Michael, 35, and Angellica, 32, finally got married in a whirlwind ceremony in New York over Christmas. They were wed in a penthouse suite at the top of the Trump SoHo Hotel in Manhattan, Angellica looking radiant in a white 1920s-style wedding dress purchased at Pie in Kingston, and Michael looking equally fetching in a Vivienne Westwood tartan suit bought at a boutique in Wimbledon.
“We’d planned to get married in a villa in Tuscany in the spring, but when our rings arrived ahead of schedule, a cheeky little thought entered our heads and we decided to get married right away,” says Angellica. “We’d already intended going to New York for Christmas anyway, and thought it would be fitting to get married in the same place where we’d got engaged the year before.”
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But they hadn’t bargained on the extreme weather conditions and by the time they reached New York, a blizzard was raging and the streets were carpeted with two-and-a-half feet of snow. “Our wedding almost didn’t happen,” says Michael. “The day began with a call from our hotel manager informing us that a lot of staff hadn’t been able to make it in. Then we had a call from the chaplain, who told us that she, too, was snowed in, and we couldn’t get an answer from our florist or cake shop.” But thankfully, everything fell into place at the last minute and everyone pulled out the stops to ensure their special day ran as planned.
Their surprise marriage made headlines here in the UK, but not before Michael and Angellica had sent a video message to their family and friends informing them of the news.
“If we’re honest, there was a little part of us that thought it would have been nice to have our loved ones present, but I didn’t have to go through the stress of organising a big white wedding and, ultimately, it was about me and Michael, and it was special because it was just us,” says Angellica. “I’m not sure I would have felt quite as emotional if there had been lots of people there.”
Michael nods. “I only want to get married once in my life and that was the best way for me. I have no regrets at all and would do it exactly the same way all over again.”
Now the couple are keen to have children, not least, says Angellica, because Michael is adopted and longs to have a family of his own. But don’t let all this baby talk fool you into thinking they’ve turned their backs on their careers because we’ll be seeing plenty more of them this year.
A busy schedule
You’ll probably know Michael best from his three-year stint on GMTV’s Entertainment Today, where, alongside glamorous co-presenter Jenni Falconer, he interviewed some of the biggest names in showbiz. Late-night ITV1 viewers may have also caught him fronting Bingo Night Live with Melinda Messenger or co-presenting The Zone, a shopping and gaming destination, with Angellica.
And then there are his stints behind the scenes for ITV2 at the National Television Awards, Movie Awards and British Soap Awards (co-presented with Angellica), securing those all-important backstage interviews. In 2009, he also competed in ITV1’s Dancing on Ice, despite having to pull out of the contest the previous year after breaking his ankle.
But as a roving reporter on BBC1’s The One Show, Angellica is similarly no stranger to the limelight. After breaking into mainstream television with The Great British Village Show, she presented the BBC travel programmes Departure Lounge and Holiday Hit Squad, got her groove on in Dance Xtra for BBC Entertainment and became a savvy air hostess on the ITV2 reality show Celeb Air.
You may have also caught her presenting Project Parents, currently airing on CBBC, in which children find a date for their single parents.
Fortunately, the couple aren’t eaten up by any professional rivalries. “I’m actually pushing Michael to be more successful, so I can stay at home and eat cake, do lunch with my friends and have babies,” laughs Angellica mischievously. “At the end of the day, the money is coming to the same house, so why worry?”
Move to Kingston
The couple bought their plush family pad in Kingston last March, but Angellica’s links with the area date back to her childhood. “I grew up in Ealing and my gran used to treat me and my sister to a shopping expedition at Bentalls department store. I fell in love with the area all over again when I started training for marathons in Richmond Park, and bought a house here in 2004.”
Michael agrees. “We love Surrey. It has big open spaces, there are lots of cultural things to do and we live just round the corner from Norbiton Station, so it’s a 28-minute ride into Waterloo.”
But though their working lives may be frenetic, they still manage to squeeze in some ‘me’ time. In between filming assignments, Angellica has set up her own cupcake business and has sold some of her delicacies at the Boho Caf� in Kingston. Not to be outdone, Michael has completed an intensive round of Italian cooking classes and is pleased as punch with his spinach and ricotta ravioli.
Angellica burns off her cupcake calories by regularly competing in those marathons (she has completed five Great North Runs to date, not to mention the London Marathon), helping to raise much-needed cash for the Born Too Soon charity at Kingston Hospital.
They’ve also been in the throes of doing up their new home. “We’ve been drowning in brick dust for months because we’ve had new wooden sash windows installed in virtually every room,” groans Michael.
A BBC romance
But when they met at CBBC in 2000, neither of them could have guessed they would end up living under the same roof. “We were thrown together recording continuity links, and Michael was a bit jealous because I was given the prime time afternoon slot,” says Angellica. “I also thought he was a bit of a nerd. He’d just moved to London and wasn’t that streetwise, whereas, being a city girl, I thought I was really cool.”
Nevertheless, a date at the cinema ended with a kiss, though just a fortnight later Angellica started seeing someone else and Michael had to reluctantly stand aside. For six years, he kept his feelings under wraps and by the time he eventually plucked up the courage to tell her how he felt, Angellica was engaged to be married to personal trainer Stuart Amory.
“Michael asked me to postpone the wedding, but I was on a roller coaster and couldn’t jump off,” says Angellica. They agreed not to see each other, to give her marriage a chance, but when it did collapse 18 months later, Angellica linked up with Michael again while he was performing in Dancing on Ice, and they realised they still had strong feelings for one another.
Path to fame
Both marvel at their good fortune. Angellica, the eldest of four, was raised by a single mum, and admits their lifestyle was a far cry from the comforts she enjoys today. A timid and chubby child, she took part in public speaking and drama events at school to overcome her shyness and after graduating in politics at Bristol landed a job in BBC admin. In no time at all, she was screen-tested as a potential new CBBC presenter and went on to host the prime time children’s TV slot for six-and-a-half years.
Michael’s path to fame was no less remarkable. Adopted at six weeks, he was brought up by his loving, adopted mum in Northampton.
After gaining a teaching degree in drama, he planned to train as an actor but was thrown off course when a friend spotted an advert appealing for would-be TV children’s presenters to follow their dream by taking part in Gaby Roslin’s BBC show, Whatever You Want.
Having sent in a showreel, he found himself battling it out with two other hopefuls and after winning a public vote was offered a six-week contract at CBBC, where he remained until his switch to CITV.
The undoubted highlight of his career thus far has been working on Entertainment Today and he will never forget coming face-to-face with Jennifer Lopez. “I thought she was going to be this huge diva, with an entourage of thousands,” he says. “But I had her all to myself for 20 minutes and she was a dream to interview.”
Angellica, meanwhile, loves her roving reports for The One Show. “The great thing is that it’s so reactive and you never know what you’ll be doing from one day to the next. I meet incredibly interesting people and their stories really inspire me.”
Two of a kind
But what does the future hold for these two ambitious TV presenters? Well, Angellica is keen to move into the world of factual entertainment, though perhaps she’ll have to put her ambitions on the back-burner if her plans to start a family come to fruition. As for Michael, he’d love to present a family show on early Saturday evenings.
“Longevity is really important to me, so I’ll put my time in, work my way up slowly and see what happens,” he says.
Something tells me he needn’t worry. And who knows? Perhaps we’re witnessing the next Richard and Judy in the making.
Our Favourite Surrey...
Restaurant: Layla in Esher High Street. It’s Lebanese, with a great vibe. The food is always amazing and it has a really nice ambience.
Pub: The Canbury Arms in Kingston upon Thames. It serves great gastro pub food and the wines are fantastic. We know all the guys behind the bar and take all our friends there.
Shop: Bentalls department store in Kingston. You can get everything you want and they’ve got a new beauty section where we’ve had some facials and eyebrow shaping.
View: The highest point of Richmond Park, where you can see right across to Canary Wharf. It’s beautiful, especially at night.
Place to chill: Our new home. The plans for our new extension have just come through and we’re enjoying the house before all the turbulence starts again. We need to find good builders and source a good Surrey kitchen supplier, so send us your recommendations!