■ The presenter of Naked Attraction, 48, on enormous penises, girlfriend Sue Perkins and starting a mental health business
What’s the justification for a game show like Naked Attraction?
It doesn’t need any justification because we’re in series five now but when we started there was a lot of controversy. The justification is it’s a totally accessible, joyous, celebratory show about all types of bodies and all types of people. Where else on British television do you get to see naked trans people saying, ‘This is the journey I’ve been on and I’m absolutely worthy of love’? It’s a really positive show.
What’s the success rate of the dates?
More than you’d think. One couple has moved in together and some people got together who were in the pods — the bodies got together, not the picker and the person they picked.
How old would you go with contestants?
The oldest this series is 57 but we’ve been talking to Channel 4 about going older. I’d love to have 80-year-old people on the show. It’s a case of finding older singles who are prepared to do it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on the show?
On the first series one of the guys was really tall, had a prosthetic leg and an enormous penis with elephant ears tattooed around it. He had such a big willy it was an elephant trunk. That was a show stopper. What’s been interesting is to see the transsexual journeys. It’s a privilege to see what British surgeons can do in terms of changing gender. There’s nowhere else you can have a genuinely open conversation with someone who is on their trans journey.
What’s the overall standard of tattooing like on the show?
We’ve had everything from really appalling tattoos where you can’t read the writing or understand what the symbols are to some really amazing body art. Practically everyone we’ve had aged 20 to 40 has a piercing or a tattoo. It’s more unusual to see someone without a tattoo than with one. The art spans all kinds of quality control.
Do you have any tattoos?
I had a shockingly bad tiny sun on my back which looked like I’d fallen over and landed on something. I was in my 20s and thought, ‘I’m going to be really trendy and go to Camden and get a sun on my back.’ I got it covered over with a peacock feather when I was 40.
What are the highs and lows of being in a showbiz couple?
I enjoy the work Sue does, and we’re privileged when we go out and people recognise us — they’re very kind and nice. The low is that people can scrutinise you. You can’t be stroppy or upset in public. You only need to look at Paul Hollywood to see what an absolute nightmare it can be when people are interested in your private life. If you’re in an all-female relationship that can add scrutiny. I’m very open about our relationship but Sue wants to keep things more private.
What do you have in common?
We make each other laugh, we both love animals, we’re both kind people and we both enjoy domestic life. We’re happiest walking the dog in the countryside. We have a lot of shared values.
Why did you become a hypnotherapist?
I did a show called Supersize Vs Superskinny and I had to road-test diets. For one episode I had to try hypnosis. I remember going in with the film crew and saying, ‘This is going to be so s*** it’ll be hilarious’, but something profound happened in the hypnosis session and I lost two and a half stone. The mind-body connection is massive. Three years ago I decided to train as a cognitive hypnotherapist.
Do you practise?
No, to be a professional therapist of any type you need to do continual professional development and I don’t have time. I have worked with friends. I did one session with a friend and he lost a stone and a half. I have set up my own online mental health business called Mindbox. It makes online therapy available to everyone 24/7. I’m passionate about making mental health provision accessible for everybody. There are more incidents of anxiety and depression than ever before — one in three people is suffering.
We live in an age of deep anxiety. We’re exhausted by this world — there’s climate change, the ice caps are melting, there’s Brexit anxiety. Then you have social media — we measure ourselves against each other. We’re emotionally exhausted so it’s no surprise so many of us are deeply anxious or depressed. It costs the economy a huge amount of money in terms of sick days so mental health needs to be at the top of the agenda.
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
I did the Q and A with Sue when she did her book tour last year and I really enjoyed it. So I’d love to do a Naked Attraction live theatre show.
■ Naked Attraction is on Channel 4 on Wednesday nights
I’d love to have 80-year-olds on Naked Attraction — it’s a case of finding them