The One Show’s Michelle Ackerley at home in Alderley Edge
- Credit: Archant
With a degree in psychology and a grandfather who is a tribal chief, Michelle is no stereotypical Cheshire celebrity, writes Janet Reeder.
She's been dubbed 'the new face of TV' because her recent tenure on the BBC's The One Show filling in for Alex Jones (on maternity leave) has thrust her into the spotlight. But Alderley Edge-based presenter Michelle Ackerley has been around for longer than people might think, working on everything from children's programmes to hard-hitting crime shows.
The 32-year-old is a veteran of Watchdog and Blue Peter and she fronts the daytime investigative programme Council House Crackdown. But the prime time One Show is a dream for the former pupil of Alderley Edge School and her natural charm has won her a legion of new fans.
'It couldn't have gone better. I started guest presenting for them around last September then sat in on the sofa when Alex was doing Shop Well for Less,' reveals Michelle as she relaxes with her mum, Mavis, in her Alderley Edge home before catching the train to London to present The One Show later that evening.
'Then I got a call around December asking me to be the main presenter when Alex went on maternity leave, so it all happened incredibly quickly.'
Her biggest fans are probably her mother, her dad, Marcus, and her brother, Jonathan, as well as her extended family who include her maternal grandfather. He was chief of the Ga tribe in Accra before moving to the UK to marry a Congleton girl.
And it's her family's gift for communicating, as well as her degree in psychology from Manchester University that have really helped Michelle in her chosen career.
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'I've always been fascinated by psychology. It's been a family thing. My mum's a life coach and my granddad when he was in Accra, Ghana, was chief of the tribe, which meant he was a kind of ombudsman - you have to listen and communicate with people all the time in that role, so it was a natural fit for me.'
The joy of the job, she says, is to be able to sit down and have a chat to interesting people.
'I really love doing it and the fact that it's live as well means you are very much in the moment and not thinking much about anything else, only enjoying that conversation. To get that opportunity has been amazing,' she says.
One thing that has struck her is just how down to earth some of the Hollywood stars can be, like Jake Gyllenhaal. He forgot his socks and cufflinks and had to borrow from Matt Baker, co-presenter of The One Show. After the programme Jake stayed a while chatting to the presenters.
'It's such a surreal experience but just so funny and afterwards he was chatting to us for about half an hour about farming and how he loves growing his own produce. I was standing there thinking this is a massive Hollywood star and actually he's not let his stardom affect him. When you get the opportunity to meet people like that it's just so refreshing.'
Another star Michelle loved was Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, and Trainspotting. 'He is probably one of the most inspirational people I've ever met,' she enthuses.
'My background is in TV production so it is so interesting to meet someone in that field who has been incredibly successful,' she explains.
'At the end of the show he was asking "Michelle, where have the audience come from?" (We have a studio audience) and when I told him they were all film students who had come to see him he asked "Would it be possible to go and speak to them all because I'd like to know more about them?" He was so engaged with everybody.'
Ironically, just as Michelle landed the role on The One Show (which is filmed in London) she'd just bought a place in Alderley Edge. However she's far from regretting the move.
'I just love Alderley. My family are here, I know everyone in the village. It just feels like home. You walk through the streets and say hi to someone and that's what I really appreciate, especially as being in London is such a busy environment. It's nice to come back here. I'm very close to my family and having them round the corner is ideal.
'If I'm coming back on a Friday, my mum and I head out to somewhere like the De Trafford for a glass of Prosecco and a catch up, or go to the Bar and Grill. We know everyone there, it's really nice.'
Meeting Michelle's mum, Mavis, for the first time, it's easy to assume she's an older sister. 'She's my best mate. She's 60 but looks absolutely fantastic,' says Michelle. ' I've got great genes. We just have fun together. Yes she's my mum, but aside from that she's a lovely person. We can have a laugh, so when I get back from work I can look forward to spending time with her.
'She's really into dancing so sometimes we'll just put music on and have a dance around. My dad is so used to us mucking about he'll just sit there chilling out while we're dancing around like crazy women.'
Another thing they enjoy is shopping. Michelle reveals that since being on The One Show sofa it's almost a full time job finding clothes to wear.
'We always go shopping together. I hate shopping on my own and mum will see something and say "Why don't you just try this on?" She has a great eye for colour, so she's taught me to think about fashion in a different way.
' For The One Show you're looking to wear something eye-catching. It's all about bright colours. They do have a resident stylist but I prefer to go out shopping with my mum. I know the type of things I like to wear and feel comfortable in. I love patterns on clothes but there might be certain things that will strobe and certain things might look quite different in front of a camera than in everyday life, so it's a constant process.
'It's so different from what I wear for Council House Crackdown which is all outdoors, so that's more coats, scarves and practical clothing as you're in and out of people's homes all the time. My main thing is making sure I feel comfortable in what I'm wearing.'
Michelle shops on the high street as well as local boutiques like Pure; Black, White, Denim and Hoopers in Wilmslow. She is as happy in a top from Marks and Spencer as she is in a designer dress for the Baftas, which she attended with her mum.
She recently discovered the Wilmslow-based online brand Sosander and was happy to showcase a couple of their outfits for our photography, including a fabulous cobalt blue jumpsuit that had The One Show all over it.
'It's nice when people tweet or text and say they loved what you were wearing. Not wearing designer gear means I can connect with the audience in a fashion sense, as these are everyday things that other girls can go out and buy too'.
Michelle's busy schedule has left her little time to meet anyone special and for the moment she's happy with that.
'I'm not the type of person who would just settle for the sake of being in a relationship, to be honest, even if you're in one you can feel even more lonely,' she reveals.
'It's got to be right, especially with TV and being in the public eye quite a bit.'