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Lorraine Kelly on BAFTA award, LGBTQ+ allyship, and returning as Morning Gloria: ‘Just let me know when’

Exclusive: "I never take it for granted because it's a huge honour," Lorraine Kelly says of her allyship and bond with the LGBTQ+ community

By Alastair James

Lorraine Kelly
Lorraine Kelly (Image: ITV)

Without doubt, Lorraine Kelly is an icon. So it came as little surprise, and great news, when it was announced she was to receive the BAFTA Special Award at this year’s BAFTA TV Awards.

On Sunday (12 May) Lorraine will be celebrated for her more than 40-year career in broadcasting, which has seen her interview politicians, celebrities, and members of the public across a vast array of topics. With her trademark warmth, charisma, as well as steeliness, Lorraine has often used her self-titled show to platform important stories including those of the LGBTQ+ community.

A staunch ally, Lorraine has ensured that LGBTQ+ people are visible and can tell their stories in their own words. She has also defended us when people have sought to attack or divide us.

In an exclusive interview with Attitude, the TV and gay icon (anyone else remember her Attitude cover as Morning Gloria?) recalls her early days, where her LGBTQ+ allyship comes from and also what it means to be a ‘gay icon’ (“It’s wonderful!”)

How does it feel to be the recipient of the BAFTA Special Award?

It’s overwhelming, to be honest. Obviously, it’s a great honour. It’s an excuse for a party and it will be very nice. The only trouble is it’s a Sunday night, so I’ll have to behave because I’m working on Monday. I’ll make it up the next weekend.

There’s no two ways about it, you’ve had an amazing career. Is it possible to identify a highlight?

Gosh, so many. The thing is every day is different and what I love about it is every single day you’re learning something, and it might be something terribly profound, or it might be something silly. I’ve been lucky enough to talk to some amazing people like Buzz Aldrin, Kirk Douglas, and Sammy Davis Jr., all the big, massive stars. They used to come over for the Terry Wogan show, and then we would steal them. That was phenomenal. On my very first day in London at TV AM they were interviewing Bette Davis. I could not believe I was in the same space as this incredible woman that I loved. All About Eve is one of my favourite films in the world.

I’m most proud of the campaigns like the Change + Check breast cancer awareness campaign because we know that they save lives. Having the opportunity to do that and then also to do daft fashion like the Met Gala, all that sort of stuff. That’s the great thing about it is that you do quite powerful and emotional stories, but you also do fun as well.

What else has made you proud about your career?

We went where an awful lot of people wouldn’t go back in the day. I was one of the first ones to talk about Aids. Back then the government campaign was dreadful. It really was. It just made everybody frightened. Sadly, one of my friends died of Aids very early on, probably 1985/86. It was very important to me to not be judgmental and let people know that we’re all human beings and it doesn’t really matter. The best way to let people know about what it’s like to be a trans person is to talk to a trans person. Hear their story.

What upsets me with all this toxicity is that it becomes this thing where trans people must justify their existence in a very toxic debate. Just treat people like human beings. We’ve got to stop this throwing rocks at each other because it doesn’t do anybody any good. I feel as if we’ve gone backward, and it breaks my heart. In the 70s and 80s everybody just went ‘Oh God, that must be hard. I’m sorry. I hope you’re alright.’ We’re light years away from that and it’s sad. I hope things are changing.

You’ve always been a very staunch LGBTQ+ ally. With social stigma in the 80s, for example, has it ever been hard for you?

I don’t think so no. Quite early on I found my tribe. I’ve got friends from the whole spectrum. I don’t put labels on my friends, they’re just my friends. When I worked as a correspondent in Scotland, it was only me. I didn’t have to deal with the usual sort of sexism that you would have got back then because I was out and about doing football as a young woman TV reporter. I suppose I was breaking down barriers, but I wasn’t aware of it.

I’ve been through so many different changes, but the job essentially is the same, and that is about telling people stories. Whether you’re an A-lister or somebody coming on to talk about something personal to you. My thing is everyone gets treated the same. Everybody’s that’s coming in, they need to go away thinking they’ve done themselves justice. That’s my job, to make them feel that they’ve done the best that they can. It’s a huge honour.

You’ve always been very good at representing the LGBTQ+ community and making sure that those stories do get told. Was that always a straightforward decision?

It was never thought out in that sense. It just doesn’t matter who you are, you should treat everybody the same. Nobody’s more important than anybody else. And I suppose there was that thing of if somebody hasn’t got a voice, you speak up for them. Most people are pretty accepting but you’re always going to get the exceptions. Now, of course, it’s amplified by social media. I don’t pay any mind if I do get somebody who doesn’t agree with me. I just mute them because if you block them, they know that they’ve got to you. If you mute them, they’re ants with megaphones. 

Do you ever get a sense that in having these conversations you’re having an impact?

Absolutely. And it does make a massive difference. I always say that to anybody who comes on.

We saw that with the gay wedding you hosted on the show recently, a great reaction!

That was my favourite show of all time. They were so lovely. Everybody cried. It was overwhelmingly positive. And we wanted just to make it a wedding. I had a mad outfit on, I was channelling Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek. It was very important that we were just like, here are two lovely people getting married because they love each other. They were a delight. I don’t understand how anybody can object to two people saying that they love each other in front of all their pals.

Would you be interested in returning as Morning Gloria?

I would love to! Just let me know when and I’m there. That was the best day. We had such a laugh and I’m also not great at getting my picture taken, I find it a little bit stressful. I looked like Queen Elizabeth I mixed with Helena Bonham Carter in Alice in Wonderland as the Queen of Hearts. I loved it! I’ve still got the costume. At the drop of a hat, I’m in it.

What do you make of being a ‘gay icon’/honorary gay? 

It’s wonderful. The Attitude Awards was fantastic. Again, just really honoured. [The LGBTQ+ community] get me, that’s the thing. You’re saying I’ve been really supportive, but the community’s always been really supportive of me. Anytime that we’ve done anything, or I’ve been out and about people are so nice. I never take it for granted because it’s a huge honour.

The BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises will be on Sunday 12 May, broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer.