Stellar career, loving marriage, three gorgeous kids…HOLLY WILLOUGHBY had it all. So why did she feel that she was ‘unravelling’? She opens up to Julia Llewellyn Smith about the life crisis she didn’t see coming

Holly wears dress, Claire Mischevani. Sandals, Jennifer Chamandi

Holly in Claire Mischevani’s gown Sandals Jennifer Chamandi

 Not long ago Holly Willoughby invited her great friend and This Morning co-host Phillip Schofield round to her house in West London – not for dinner, but so she could give him a bath. It was a sound bath.

Do you want to come again? ‘A sound bath,’ repeats Holly, 40. ‘I said, “I know you’ll think I’m mad but just lie down,” and then I played the bowls for him. At the end I asked him how he felt and he sat up and said, “That was amazing!”’

In case – like me – you haven’t the foggiest idea what she’s talking about, allow Holly to explain. ‘Sound bowls are big, deep, glass bowls; they’re all different sizes and shapes and made from different crystals, each with a different healing property. They emit vibrations and sounds that can be felt in the body when struck. I did a level-one sound bowl course in a room with a bunch of people I didn’t know and thought, “Oh God, this is going to be so awkward.” But I just loved it. Now, if I need to chill out, I get out the sound bowls and play, while the cat walks all over me.’

This isn’t what I was expecting to hear from the queen of daytime telly. Holly and Phil can be seen having a few drinks or sharing a meal together with Ant McPartlin (and Declan Donnelly). But in the past couple of years, the girl-next-door Holly we all thought we knew – prone to giggling fits and addicted to chocolate – has subtly metamorphosed into someone intent on exploring the spiritual side of life. She meditates twice a day, is fascinated by the power of the moon and crystals – and doesn’t care if some people find this a bit woo-woo. ‘There is an opinion of people who are into crystals or meditate – a definite sense of wackiness. But for me, it feels right,’ she says.

For years Holly’s hectic life involved hosting not only This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but also bringing up her three children – Harry, 12, Belle, ten, and Chester, seven – all of which meant she had no time to connect ‘with what I wanted or needed’.

Suit, The Deck. Bra, & Other Stories. Earrings, Alighieri. Sandals, Emmy London

Suit, The Deck. Bra, & Other Stories. Alighieri Earrings Sandals Emmy London

The catalyst for change came three years ago when she was asked to co-host I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! With Dec after Ant was admitted for rehab. Holly went to New South Wales in Australia and found herself completely alone for the first times in many years. ‘I was there for three weeks before the kids joined me. I walked into my apartment and felt like Macaulay Culkin’s character Kevin in Home Alone: “Oh my God, my family have disappeared. I’ve got time!”’

She set off exploring the neighbourhood of Byron Bay, Australia’s capital of alternative therapies. ‘I stumbled across all these different places that offered tarot readings and kinesiology [which explores how the body moves] and I thought, “I’m going to do everything and see what happens.” And there was – not an awakening, because when you say things like that people think you’re completely mad – but an opening up. When I came back I didn’t want it to be a holiday romance; I had scratched the surface of something I wanted to dig deeper into. I’d always enjoyed things like this, but life gets in the way and you don’t always have time. Now I wanted to continue.’

Holly last time I saw her was right before my Australia trip. Holly was friendly, but distracted and fast. She seems calm and engaged today, instead. She’s just opened her post and is thrilled to find the first hard copy of her new book, Reflections, a startlingly personal account of her new direction, written during lockdown. ‘Writing it was scary, but I loved doing it and felt it was very much needed. The words just poured out.’

As Holly explains, Reflections isn’t an autobiography or a self-help book. ‘It’s my guide on how to figure things out for yourself, because I can’t do that for you.’ After all, everyone has different concerns. Holly was unhappy with her situation. She often ‘felt numbed and a bit adrift. I wasn’t unhappy but I felt I was missing out on something.

As busy as I was, the more time I spent listening to my own thoughts. 

The busier I was and the more plates I kept spinning the less time I had to sit in silence and listen to myself,’ she says. ‘We give ourselves high fives for multitasking. People say, “I don’t know how you do it!” and you think, “I know.” I was quite happy on the hamster wheel. I was never in a crash, never fell from the hamster wheel. But you can’t sustain that for ever.’

Holly used a combination of therapy and psychotherapy to regain contact with her deepest feelings. She was amazed at the results. ‘I was unravelling and unplugging myself, taking a long, hard look into dark corners and the range of emotions I felt ‒ good and bad ‒ was huge. It was hard to contain my anger after the plaster was removed. Anything that happened to me – for example, someone underestimating me ‒ I felt massively. Someone said, “It’s a hormonal thing,” but it wasn’t, it’s just that I had taken off a filter.’

One example of unexpected rage was when her husband of 14 years, TV executive Dan Baldwin, 46, asked, ‘Why are you watching this s*** on TV?’ Holly says, ‘He didn’t mean anything by it, but the rage I’d feel was disproportionate because I was thinking, “You think I’m crap because I’m watching crap.” Then I’d think, “That’s interesting, I’ve worked out what’s going on here without having a therapist in the room.” Anger is a brilliant emotion because it cuts through bulls*** and if you can work out where it comes from it can be very revealing.’

Holly with co-host and best friend Phillip Schofield at the National Television Awards in September

Holly and Phillip Schofield, Holly’s best friend and co-host at the National Television Awards September

It helped that Holly’s children were becoming more independent, leaving time for introspection. ‘The machine spits you out the other side; you’re suddenly going, “Oh my God! Their bums can be wiped. Well, now what’s my role?” You have to start finding your own identity again. Obviously, you don’t suddenly stop being a parent but you do have a bit more space.’

She had previously considered having another child. ‘There’s part of me that would love to have another baby but it isn’t fair to take myself away from the kids I do have, especially when I work as hard as I do and I have my own passions I want to nourish.’

Wonder if the 40th birthday sparked a midlife crisis? But Holly – who wore the same dress her mother wore to her 40th birthday for her own celebrations – had no qualms about entering a new decade.

‘I’m not afraid of getting older. As I age, I feel more secure and stronger. When I was in my 20s, everything scared me. I’d just started my career and was trying to fit in to what was expected of me. You adapt to what others think of you, rightly or not. Better in my 30s. More experience means you can find your voice. And the more you practice tapping into it, the happier you will feel. I find my 40s to be better than my 30-year-old years. It’s like, “Let’s do it!”, so I’m just going to keep riding that wave until… I can’t.’

The youngest of two girls, Holly grew up in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, where dad Terry sold double glazing and mum Linda ‒ a former air stewardess ‒ stayed at home. ‘I grew up in this traditional structure, without a strong desire to be anything. I wasn’t academic; I wasn’t confident in a room full of people. I knew I wanted to be a mum and as I grew up in the country I thought, “Well, that was perfect – I’ll do that.” But life had this different plan.’

With her daughter Belle

Belle, her little girl

Holly, who was just 14 years old when she was spotted at The Clothes Show Live Event by a Scout, became a model for teenagers. Brief stints as a receptionist and a runner on a now defunct satellite TV channel followed before she moved into children’s presenting. Despite this early success Holly felt she didn’t deserve her job. ‘I still have imposter syndrome to an extent. Society dumped expectations on me and I was willing to play that role,’ she says.

Are we talking about the expectations that surround being blonde and pretty – which some people can (wrongly) equate with superficial? ‘Yeah,’ Holly nods. ‘Some of that serves you well, but some you have to let go of. Long time, I accepted being undervalued. It suited me fine because if people have no expectations of you, you can’t disappoint anybody. So I wasn’t ready to defend myself. I was willing to sit in that space, because I didn’t know who I was. I needed to learn the slow way until eventually I realised I had underestimated myself too.’

In the past few years we’ve seen a more confident Holly emerge. Estimated to be worth £10 million, she left her prestigious management agency last year to run her affairs independently. ‘I needed to take a big step out on my own and, scary as it was, it was the right thing,’ she explains. ‘I’m a massive control freak and I needed to take back the day-to-day running of my life.’

Since then she’s launched Wylde Moon – a website, podcast and online boutique which explores this new interest in spirituality. The news can’t have pleased Peter Jones, the Dragons’ Den entrepreneur, who three years ago was said to be ‘furious’ when, just a few weeks before its launch, Holly pulled out of Truly, the online lifestyle boutique they set up together with Peter’s wife Tara Capp. Holly stated that Holly was unable to devote herself to the brand, and it had an impact on her family. ‘It’s not about me having my dream and everyone fitting around it. It’s about putting family first.’ With the stock ready in the warehouse, Peter was forced to slash prices in a huge sale, although he and Tara have since steered their lifestyle venture back on course.

‘Truly wasn’t quite the right time,’ she says diplomatically. ‘Wylde Moon was something I felt I needed to do that channels all this new energy and passion.’ Some have called her the British answer to Gwyneth Paltrow, whose lifestyle brand Goop is worth an estimated £183 million. ‘Obviously, that’s the most incredible comparison. What Gywneth’s done is a huge, global success. Wylde Moon is a tiny acorn, and if success happens, fine – but for me that’s just a by-product.’


As our time together nears its end, she returns to the subject of her TV husband – Phillip Schofield. Holly is closer than ever to Phil, 59, who she’s worked with now for 15 years, and who came out as gay in February last year with the full support of his wife Stephanie and two daughters.

While he says there are no plans to divorce, he is rumoured to have moved into a £2 million bachelor pad close to Holly in Chiswick, West London. ‘It was already a very strong friendship and it deepened during the pandemic when we were in work every day with a small crew. It was often just Phil and I, and it gave us the time to really talk. It was a stressful time for everyone – the four walls of that make-up room have seen it all. In equal parts, we laughed and we cried. He’s a very important piece of my life.’

Phil even opened up about his spiritual side to her. ‘He’s getting into crystals. He’s got one by his bed,’ Holly smiles. ‘We all need to work out what keeps you sane in all the madness. Life’s not perfect, but for me everything looks a little bit brighter and lighter. I’ve got a toolkit that’s working.’

 Holly’s book Reflections: Life Lessons on Finding Beauty – Inside and Out is published by Century, price £20. To order a copy for £17 until 25 November, go to or call 020 3308 9193. free UK delivery on orders over £20http://www.p

Picture Editor: Stephanie Belingard. 

Styling: Sasha Barrie.

 Stylist’s Assistant: Meg Edmond

 Make-up: Patsy O’Neill using Delilah, Suqqu.

Hair by Ciler Peeksah, Virtue, Rossano Feretti, GHD. Bumble and Bumble. Oribe.