Deep within the central London home of Heart FM, Kelly Brook, the erstwhile queen of pouting lips, teeny-tiny dresses and towering heels is perched on a stool flicking through social media in preparation for her drivetime show.
Her hair is glossy, her features are prettily made up and there is nothing unusual until you look at what she’s wearing – a T-shirt, a long skirt and vegan Birkenstock sandals. ‘I know,’ she laughs. ‘Who would have believed it? I’ve got rid of most of my little dresses, high heels and designer handbags. I’m very happy with my chunky sandals, and if I’m not wearing them I’m in a pair of trainers.’
Radio has not just validated Kelly; it has changed the public’s perception of her. ‘People aren’t judging me because of how I look; they are listening to what I say’
It is not what you’d expect from a woman best known for barely-there outfits, bikini calendars and high-street fashion ranges. But she looks more relaxed and confident as she runs through her notes for the radio show.
She’s in a chirpy mood. Recent Radio Joint Audience Research figures have shown that since Kelly joined Heart alongside DJ JK – Jason King – listeners have gone up by 13 per cent. Unlikely though it seems, Kelly, whose British TV career has been dogged by high-profile sackings (from The Big Breakfast in 1999 and Britain’s Got Talent in 2009) and show cancellations (including Celebrity Love Island in 2005), is proving that she does appear to have a face for radio.
In person there has always been a guilelessness to this Kent-born former model who holds the record for appearing in the FHM Sexiest Woman In The World poll for 12 years on the trot between 1998 and 2010. The daughter of a scaffolder and a cook, she was never in doubt as to why she was plucked from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, first to model and then to appear on television. She looks down at her 34FF chest and shakes her head: ‘I was so young when I started out in television. It was the height of the lads’ mags period and I knew I was being taken on because of the way I looked. And I was just very naive. I didn’t really know what I was doing or saying. I was completely overexcited and under-experienced, and that suited the people I was working for until the point it didn’t. And then it’s just: “Get rid of her now.”
‘Let go’ after six months on The Big Breakfast, Kelly took off for America at the age of 20 and ended up bagging several coveted TV roles, including a lead in the cult show Smallville
‘I was so young when I started out in television. It was the height of the lads’ mags period and I knew I was being taken on because of the way I looked,’ says Kelly
‘And you pick yourself up and get on. You try not to let things knock your confidence, but before I got the offer to do radio I was thinking, “Right, that’s it. I’m nearly 40 and I’m not going to get any offers now”, and then I was offered this. I was really cautious about it. If I was going to do it I wanted to do things right. So I went and worked on local radio in Kent for six months and then I came here and it all just clicked. People don’t see me, but they hear me and they are liking what they hear, and after all this time I think I finally feel validated.’
Kelly’s life has always been a roller coaster, both on a personal and a professional level. She has been engaged four times, first to the action star Jason Statham, then to Titanic actor Billy Zane, then to British rugby star Thom Evans and, in 2014, to former ‘Gladiator’ David McIntosh. For the past four years she has been with Italian-French model Jeremy Parisi, of whom she says: ‘He makes me happy. He doesn’t put me under any pressure.’
Her career has followed a similar snakes-and-ladders pattern. ‘Let go’ after six months on The Big Breakfast, where she was mocked for her inability to read an autocue, she took off for America at the age of 20 and ended up bagging several coveted TV roles, including a lead in the cult show Smallville. ‘You never know what is going to happen,’ she says. ‘You just have to go with it when it does.’
Radio has not just validated Kelly; it has changed the public’s perception of her. ‘People aren’t judging me because of how I look; they are listening to what I say. I like to go through social media and talk about the stories I think are interesting.
Kelly with her partner, Italian-French model Jeremy Parisi. ‘He makes me happy. He doesn’t put me under any pressure,’ Kelly says
‘I think about my mum driving home after work and what she’d like to hear on the radio. She’s a regular listener now.’
Kelly has always been close to her family. She lives in Kent, a stone’s throw from where she grew up. When she was in America her father was diagnosed with lung cancer, so she put her wedding plans to Zane – as well as her career – on hold and returned to Kent to spend ‘every hour I could with him’. She opted to do Strictly Come Dancing because he loved the show, but he died a few weeks into the series and she was unable to continue because of her grief. In the aftermath her relationship with Zane also ended. In 2015 she left LA to come home and care for her grandmother. ‘I was lonely. I felt the place no longer suited me. I wanted to come home,’ she says.
Kelly is not the girl you expect. She shows me with pride a photograph on her phone of her most recent purchase, an original copy of the HE Bates novel The Darling Buds Of May. ‘I read these books as a kid and I’ve always been in love with them because in so many ways it’s a life I understand and a life I live right now.’
On the original cover is a drawing of a farmhouse with a windmill in the background. ‘That’s Cranbrook windmill,’ she says with a beam. ‘My dad used to work there and that picture of the farm is like the place I live in with hens and a couple of stray cats.’
She fell for Parisi while she was in Kent looking after her gran. ‘Jeremy is all about family. We used to take my nan everywhere. I went from driving my sports car to Warner studios to driving my nan to colonoscopy appointments at the hospital.’
When her grandmother died in December 2017, Kelly remained at home. ‘Cook