Jenny Powell on her longevity and life in Cheshire
- Credit: Kenny Brown
Our beauty editor talks to his friend about growing up as a South African child in 1970s England, favourite tunes, beauty tips and how moving to Cheshire has been pivotal in her long career as a TV and radio presenter
It’s hard to believe that this year the effervescent television presenter, Jenny Powell, celebrates a staggering 35 years in the spotlight. The Altrincham resident’s big break at the age of 16 was co-presenting the popular music and lifestyle TV show, No Limits. Since then, Jenny’s versatility has seen her presenting game shows such as Going for Gold to anchoring live events in front of thousands, while interviewing A-list celebrities.
Jenny and I have crossed paths many times over the years but it’s probably during just the past decade that we’ve become great friends. Kindred spirits in many ways, we share a very similar philosophy on life and are both passionate about health and wellness.
Was it always your ambition to be a presenter?
I wanted to be a dancer and trained hard since the age of four. I imagined myself in a West End musical such as 42nd Street or Chicago; happy to be in the chorus not necessarily the star of the show.
How did you get your first professional job?
I was at the Italia Conti Stage School on a performing arts course when I was invited to audition for a presenting role on a new BBC music show called No Limits. There were thousands of applicants and I was very lucky to land the job.
You were born in 1970 in Essex to South African parents. I guess having South African parents in England in the ’70s was quite unusual? How did your childhood experiences shape you?
My parents are Cape Coloureds (the term for a South African ethnic group composed primarily of persons of mixed race) who lived through apartheid and I was born after they came to the UK. I remember being called a 'Paki' on my walks home from school but I never let it bother me. I was always shoved in the middle of the dancefloor when Brown Girl in the Ring came on, which I find hilarious now. We were living in Essex and our family kept the South African culture going, so there were always big family gatherings with lots of South African food and relatives there too. Good times, to be honest, and all about extended family, which is what South Africans do very well.
I’ve met your parents a couple of times and I have to say their energy is incredible. Your mum is in her 80s and your dad in his 90s. What is their outlook on health and wellness?
Laughter, home cooked real food with lots of fish and spices. Stay as independent as your health will allow and keep moving. Stay current and in touch with young people and keep your sense of humour as an armour to fend off illness and bad karma.
Did you pick up any beauty tips from your South African family growing up?
Coconut oil as a moisturiser, a non-toxic sun screen is very important as we are prone to pigmentation, and vitamin D from the sun. At every opportunity I get myself in the sunshine – it's a life giver.
When and why did you end up settling in Cheshire?
I got my first job in TV at 16 years old and it was based at BBC Manchester. I worked with a makeup artist from the area and when I was looking for a place to live they suggested the Cheshire area. This all happened in the late 1980s, so I’ve seen Cheshire evolve over three decades now.
Your career has been incredibly diverse. What are your top three career highlights so far?
1. Presenting the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle for five days with her favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh
2. Interviewing Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger live on stage for An Experience With... production (it’s Mel Gibson next.)
3. Presenting the Robbie Williams concert at Slane Castle for 15,000 people on Sky TV
I have to say your Greatest Hits Radio weekend breakfast show is a great start to my weekend. How did that opportunity come around? Tell us about the show.
I received a call from the bosses at Bauer late last year and they offered me the show. It was just perfect timing as I have always been tempted to do radio but never committed. It's so refreshing to take on a new challenge in your 50s! The music is all from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, so right up my street, and I'm dancing in the studio all weekend. I basically wake up with you and get you off to a positive start for the weekend with a Kitchen Disco track, a few phone-ins, lots of happy, uplifting music and stories to make you smile. Fortunately, I'm a morning person as it's on 6am to 10am Saturday and Sunday, but I love it.
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What is your favourite:
Wake up song? Bill Withers – Lovely Day
Break-up song? George Michael – Careless Whisper
Make-up song? Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
You’ve also been searching for Britain’s Favourite ’80s songs. My own top three, in no particular order, are: Dead Or Alive – Something In My House; Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill; Wham – I’m Your Man. What are your three favourites?
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror
Stevie Wonder – Lately
Looking after yourself is very important to you. What are your tips to looking good and feeling great?
Hot Yoga and sleep... afternoon naps are a must. I have no sugar in the house and eat lots of fermented and unpasteurised foods. Look after your gut health first and foremost.
When it comes to beauty what are your three favourite skin care products?
Transformula’s Marine Miracle Crème, transformulas.com
Eve Lom cleansing balm, johnlewis.com
Esthederm Photo Reverse High Protection, esthederm.com
I’ve been fortunate to do your makeup and would say your style is a soft, smoky eye with the rest being natural and understated. What three makeup products could you not be without and why?
Semi-permanent lashes by Lash ArtistryUK Great lashes that stay on for ages if you look after them. I don't have to use mascara for weeks and they just make me feel glam from the moment I wake up. lashartistryuk.co.uk
Trinny London BFF Cream Skin Perfector SPF 30. Light coverage that's brightening and great for my dry skin as a minimalist base. It's the closest to not wearing any base or coverup on your skin and less is always more. trinnylondon.com
MAC Teddy eyeliner. A subtle smoky dark brown liner that lasts, smudges nicely and works for daytime and night-time. maccosmetics.co.uk
You’re an ambassador for GreenstemCBD. Why did you get involved with them?
I got involved with Simon Horth at GreenstemCBD after a long time of suffering with cluster migraines and seeking a more holistic remedy. Simon saw me on Lorraine talking about migraines and got in touch suggesting I try CBD oral drops. I did and they have worked wonders and I hardly ever suffer from migraines now. Greenstem has done due diligence from the plants growing in non-toxic soils in Colorado to use the best extraction process and deliver a top-quality form of CBD . I'd trust no other quite as much. greenstemcbd.com
The various lockdowns and the past year have been challenging for everyone. How did you navigate your way through that and what positive outcomes have come from that period?
I have done a hell of a lot of yoga. I have spent a lot more quality time with my daughters, Pollyanna and Connie, and I've learned to relax more and give myself time out when I need it. It's been a great time to concentrate on what is going on ‘inside’ and navigating around all the noise 'outside'. I have also disconnected from mainstream media – the healthiest thing I have done... ever.
How do you see your career evolving?
I will be conquering the world of radio and attracting even more A-List movie stars to interview with An Experience With, working hard on keeping my podcast The Hot Mess Mums Club up in the top five podcast charts and staying current in my career in my 50s. Boom. instagram.com/thehotmessmums
What do you think has been the secret to your longevity in the industry?
Not living in London in the limelight and living in the North. And staying grounded as a mother first and foremost, with longstanding, loyal and lovely friends and always choosing the right job to do.
Name three people who you would love to interview and why?
Mel Gibson: a controversial and intense character who never really gives interviews. He is a complete genius but has had his ups and downs and everyone has a strong opinion about him so it will be great to get the truth of who he really is. Wish me luck.
Will-i-am: I love his energy and the interview he did with Joanna Lumley and I would really enjoy discovering what makes him tick and his view of what will happen in the world in these times.
My dad: He is now 93 and has so many stories still to tell as a Cape Coloured during apartheid and beyond. He has lived in this world for so long and seen it change until it's almost unrecognisable. It's so hard to imagine, and he has a great memory; it would be the biggest honour.
What else is planned for 2021?
Finding my way around present circumstances and making sure my children have a positive path to follow. Improving on my yoga as always, and looking for a happy place for us all to be in mind and body.
Jenny Powell hosts the new weekend breakfast show on Greatest Hits Radio. Listen 6-10am Saturday and Sundays.
Jenny’s podcast, the Hot Mess Mums Club, is available on all podcast providers.
Follow Jenny on Instagram @jennypowelltv