The Gold Edition Meets… Anna Richardson
The Gold Edition Meets… Anna Richardson

The Gold Edition Meets… Anna Richardson

Anna Richardson is a television presenter, writer and journalist best known for fronting shows like Supersize vs Superskinny, Naked Attraction and the first season of the Changing Rooms reboot. She’s also an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and has recently opened up about her journey with the menopause. We sat down with her to talk career highlights, health insights and what her personal relationships have taught her about love and life.

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I grew up in a vicarage. My father was a priest and my mother taught religious education. Along with my two brothers, we were brought up in the church and our family was very central to our community. It was quite odd because you have this kind of status, but you don’t often have money to go with that. I think that dynamic has informed a lot of my career and the shows I’ve presented. In the church, you learn very quickly to be interested in other people and welcome faces from all walks of life. There’s never really any judgement. 

In many ways it was a happy childhood. But when I was ten, my parents split up and my older brother and I went to separate boarding schools, while my younger brother went to stay with my father. It felt like a quite a fracture in our family – and a bit of trauma really. I remember making a clear decision when I was dropped off at boarding school to swim rather than sink. It was my survivor’s mentality kicking in. Luckily, I was academic (both my parents went to university) but I was a rebel. I was disruptive and the class clown but deep down I wanted to do well. A bit of a two-hander!

Call it fate or destiny, but I always knew I’d work in television. I can’t really explain it, but it was just always in my mind. My father felt the same way about going into the church, so maybe it’s partly genetic. It gave a good focus and a determination to make it a success – which probably explains why I went to London to train as a journalist first. 

My big break came as a producer on The Big Breakfast. These days, it’s much easier to get into television but this was the early 90s – pre-internet and mobile phones. On a Monday, The Guardian published its media supplement which advertised a bunch of jobs – but most of us had little to zero experience. After doing lots of work experience placements for free, I was brought in to interview for a producing role at The Big Breakfast. The show was at its height and they were looking for people with journalism qualifications, which I had. It gave me a bit of kudos – and they wanted that. I also loved and really understood the show, so it was a good fit. 

There’s been a lot of flip-flopping in my career. By that I mean I’ve worked on every side of the camera, which means I really understand how television is made. The Big Breakfast was incredibly cut-throat and competitive so, when I left, I had to take a few weeks off just to recover from the madness of it all. Afterwards, I worked on various other shows in production roles before The Ultimate Shopping Guide. I was a researcher on the show and Lorraine Kelly was the presenter – and one day, they let me do a reporting segment in front of the camera. That led to me being noticed by ITV and being given a Saturday morning show called Love Bites, which was a sex education show aimed at teenagers and young people.

Sex and relationships is certainly a niche I’ve carved out for myself. My personality is very open, straightforward and direct, so after Love Bites I think more people noticed and liked my lack of embarrassment around these issues. They knew I could be trusted to deal with and talk about these issues in a safe and approachable way. And I’m fascinated by people and relationships – I’m a journalist at heart, after all.

It was around this time that I met Charles. We met on one of those classic 90s show called Surprise Chefs when we were both working as researchers. He basically petitioned me to go out with him for weeks, but it worked because we were together for the next 18 years. We’re very similar in terms of our personalities so, even though we’d squabble a lot, we also really understood each other. We never held grudges and we both knew we had each other’s best interests at heart. I never doubted that he loved me. 

Looking back, Charles and I should have gone to couples’ therapy. If we had, we’d probably still be together. But instead, we let our relationship drift. We also became too independent and, once we both turned 40, there was also this feeling of a mid-life crisis looming. Questions like, where is this going? Are we getting married? Should we have children? They all started popping up. He was working more and more, and I was at home feeling a bit abandoned and lonely. Ultimately, the truth was I met Sue [Perkins] through a mutual friend and we fell in love.

Ending my relationship with Charles and starting a new relationship with Sue was a conscious choice. I was fully aware of the leap I was taking but I knew I needed more in my life, and Sue fulfilled that. Having a relationship with a woman was very different but it was very stimulating. Sue has an incredible mind and is very witty – but female relationships can be quite exhausting as a result. It’s a generalisation, but my experience is that men are simpler, less emotionally driven creatures. But Sue is an extraordinary person and, at that time, she was offering me everything I needed.

Although I’m still on great terms with Charles and Sue, I want to make it clear that both break-ups were extremely painful. There’s no getting away from grief. With Charles, there was never any desire to hurt each other – never had been – and that fundamental respect led to quite a mature parting of the ways. When Sue and I split, it was during the pandemic, which was a stressful time anyway. We’d been together for about seven years, so we needed some time apart. But now we have such a deep love and respect for one another and choose to include each other in our lives, which is wonderful.

If I could offer anyone some MID-LIFE DATING ADVICE, it would be the GOOD MEN are OUT THERE.

Today, I’m in a relationship with Simon. We met at a Bar Mitzvah party just over a year ago – when I’d managed to pick myself up and dust myself off. I’d started putting the word out to friends that I might be open to something new, mainly because I didn’t want to do the dating apps. I’m 52, on telly and present shows about nakedness – that’s not really the kind of thing you can put in a Tinder bio. All I said was I looking for someone kind and stable, and a mutual friend suggested meeting Simon. Within 30 seconds, I realised he was one of the nicest, gentlest people I’d ever met. 

If I could offer anyone some mid-life dating advice, it would be the good men are out there. But what you’re looking for changes as the decades roll on. In my 20s and 30s. it was all about having fun. But by 40, when I met Sue, I wanted more stability. Family became more of a focus. Now with Simon, it’s changed again. At 50, and certainly at the start of the menopause, you realise you’re no longer able to have children. But it’s something that bothers me, which is why I still think about adoption. Wanting to be with alpha, loud and sociable partners is no longer my priority – Simon is calm, kind and grounded. He’s a Jewish Buddhist – and it couldn’t be further than the image I had of myself at 25.

Creatively I get very excited by new ideas in television. Naked Attraction was something that was offered to me, and I did have a hand in developing the concept to make sure it wasn’t just some kind of piss-take. It was supposed to be about acceptance, even though I knew it would become cult viewing. There’s a reason it’s still going and I’m hopeful it will be back next year. 

Twenty-five years after Changing Rooms went off the air, there was an opportunity to bring it back. It was really fun to be involved in the first series. Sadly, it didn’t rate as well as we’d hoped, which is why they decided to eliminate the role of the presenter in series two. But I miss it – it was fun. Being a freelancer never really gets easier, even after 30 years. You can’t ever relax and think you’re going to be okay. At 52, I’m still thinking how will I keep going? It’s a tough industry right now, too. The economy isn’t great and ad revenue is down, and we’re in a bit of a commissioning crisis. Hence why I’ve gone into podcasting and writing my column. I have to wear a lot of different hats. 

Pivoting is something women of any age can do. Entering perimenopause and menopause actually gives you a lot of freedom – it’s the second half of your life, and now’s the time to embrace it to do what you really want to do. You have the knowledge and self-confidence, and you don’t need to worry about getting pregnant anymore! The only thing holding us back is ourselves. If there are gaps that need filling, then learn a new skill and follow this new path. You never know where it might lead.

Personally, I’ve retrained as a cognitive hypnotherapist, so I’m very aware of the power of self-limiting beliefs. But all you can do to get out of the rut is start using your brain again and learn something new. It doesn’t have to be huge – but you’ll realise you’re a very skilled person and capable of far more than you think. I know I can present, produce, write – all of it. There’s no reason to put yourself in a box and feel like you have to stay there. There’s no ‘job for life’ anymore – and while the millennials and Gen Zers have realised this, we older women have a lot to learn on that front. They get a bad rap, but I think there’s a lot that young people can teach us.

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