Striding into the room in her trademark leather trousers, all caramel tresses and long limbs, Cat Deeley could not look more Californian if she had a surfboard under her arm and the Hollywood sign tattooed on her forehead. But those Brits who have been pining for the down-to-earth, smiley presenter ever since she embarked on a multiple-Emmy-nominated career on US TV over a decade ago are in for a treat. Cat is finally back (at least for a bit), lured by the temptation of new show Sing: Ultimate A Cappella.
‘I wanted to find the right project for me to come back home, really,’ says the West Midlands-born 40-year-old, a former teen model who found fame presenting anarchic kids’ TV show SMTV Live with Ant and Dec.
The warm-hearted and diverse Sing taps into the explosion in a capella’s popularity in the UK, fuelled by cult comedy Pitch Perfect. Groups ranging from university mates to gospel aficionados compete for the chance to make an album at London’s Abbey Road, with a single released for Christmas. Unlike the BBC’s controversial Pitch Battle, no backing tracks or instruments are allowed – and the level of talent is astonishing.
‘It’s a bit different and that’s why I liked it,’ explains Cat. ‘I liked the fact it was really legitimate and it was real.’ While she says the UK ‘absolutely’ still feels like home, it doesn’t sound like the star, who broke America hosting huge talent show So You Think
You Can Dance, will be settling back in the land of Marmite any time soon. She may have loved filming Sing at London’s classic art deco venue the Troxy but LA is still very much her base, and a new series of SYTYCD is under way. She’s even appeared as herself on The Simpsons – a true sign you’ve permeated American culture. But why does she think she’s been so successful across The Pond when so many Brits, from Cheryl Cole to Robbie Williams, have failed to make an impact?
‘I actually don’t know and if I did I would make a fortune and I would bottle it!’ she laughs. ‘I was incredibly fortunate that the broadcaster who took me on allowed me to just be me. Often, with an audience, you have to grow on them a little bit. ‘What might seem weird or kooky grows on them because, actually, it comes from a real place and it’s not Stepford and cookie cutter.’
In many ways, despite the LA gloss, she seems very much like the same slapstick-adept Brummie. While she’s a long-time lover of yoga and healthy grub, she seems stumped when I ask her what the most ‘LA’ thing she does is, insisting she’s never tried the most ‘Goop-y’ things I fire at her, from cupping to crystals. Her musings on yoga are refreshingly prosaic: ‘Running and gyms don’t suit me, you have to find what you like. I’m not very stretchy naturally so yoga helps me, otherwise I’d look like an old lady!’
It’s clear that Cat’s time crossing continents has left her feeling like an international citizen. ‘I feel like we’re global now and that’s kind of how we should be,’ she says. ‘We watch the same films, we read the same books, we drink the same Starbucks, for goodness’ sake. It doesn’t really matter where you’re born.’
Her marriage to Northern Irish TV personality Patrick Kielty, with their 20-month-old son Milo growing up mostly in the States, has surely influenced this world view. Cat lights up when speaking about family life with ‘Paddy’, Milo and that mesmeric minx Peppa Pig, and enthuses about motherhood.
‘It changes everything,’ she explains. ‘I don’t think anything quite prepares you. You can ask a million people’s advice and you’re never quite ready for it. It’s crazy how much it changes your life – but in the best way possible. It makes you appreciate your own mum so much more.’
Her life seems charmed, for sure, but for someone with a small kid and jetlag, Cat seems insanely fresh-faced and upbeat. So what’s her perky secret? ‘I’m very, very lucky that I love what I do,’ she says, ‘so it’s kind of like playing the whole time, really! I can only be honest. I don’t really have a tip. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, it makes it very easy.’ Sing: Ultimate A Cappella airs on Friday October 6 at 9pm on Sky 1 and Now TV