When you live away from home, there’s an instant connection the minute you speak to someone who’s from the same part of the country as you. Geography immediately bonds you, which is exactly what happens the minute Josie Gibson logs on to our scheduled Zoom call and hears I’m from Bristol too.
We’re soon trying to work out if we’ve got mutual friends and she’s telling me about her hopes to move to the area I grew up in, as well as her little boy’s love of the local nature park I was also a regular at as a kid.
“It’s weird because when I was [living] in London, I honed into anyone from the south west – it’s like a little weird connection that we’ve all got. You don’t know it unless you’re from round here, do you know what I mean?” she says, speaking to me in between running some errands from her car, which she laughs is pulled up outside a Bristol rubbish dump.
It’s this kind of down to earth quality that has seen Josie cement herself as one of the most loved members of the on-air This Morning team in recent years. And as one of only a few on-screen stars with a notable south-west accent, she is glad to be representing her fellow Bristolians.
“I didn’t realize I had this much of a strong accent until I went to London!” she says. “It was only when everyone started taking the mick out of me. Then you hear yourself on TV and I think, ‘God, I’m really Bristolian!’
“But I’m so proud to represent not only Bristol, but the south west. Loads of people say, ‘Oh well done for raising the Bristol flag!’ People are so supportive, aren’t they? You know what it’s like round our way – your door’s always open for a cup of tea, isn’t it?” she adds.
It’s now 12 years since Josie charmed the nation and was crowned champion of Channel 4’s final series of Big Brother, before immediately re-entering the BB house to take part in an Ultimate version featuring a host of all-star housemates. She left of her own accord a few days later as she missed former housemate John-James Parton, with whom she’d developed a romantic connection.
The relationship didn’t last, but Josie remained in the public consciousness, appearing on other reality shows, writing magazine columns and releasing a fitness DVD. But she was struggling to make her dream of becoming a TV presenter a reality.
Josie Gibson is greeted by Davina McCall after being announced the winner of Big Brother 11
Yui Mok – PA Images via Getty Images
“I think because of the Big Brother thing, it held me back a bit and nobody wanted to know – and I mean nobody,” she says. “Over two years, I tried and I literally put myself out there. Nobody knows this, but I got into it [TV presenting] because I didn’t stop trying. More than 72 people I tried – I had a list of people who I’d asked for a job.”
It was an appearance on This Morning that completely changed things for her, after impressing one of the show’s stars when she sat down on the famous sofa for an interview.
“I went on This Morning one day and Eamonn [Holmes] what on there. He said: ‘I like you, you’re different. Go and send some ideas to the bosses at This Morning.’ And then they gave me a chance, and even though I wasn’t great to begin with, my This Morning lot stuck with me. They’ve helped me grow.
“They’d only give me a minute of TV first of all, then they’ve give me a couple more, and then four minutes, five, and now I’ve been presenting the show!”
Josie appeared as a guest on This Morning in 2018, when she was interviewed by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford
Since joining the on-air team in 2018, Josie’s been sent here, there and everywhere on a range of missions – whether it’s riding roller coasters, taking on assault courses or interviewing some of the world’s biggest stars.
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon remain their favourites: “They were so up for a laugh. I always thought they would be girls’ girls, but I didn’t realize how much girls’ girls they would be – they really were just lovely,” she says.
Descending into giggles, Josie – who is currently taking part in Babybel’s Active Living Challenge campaign after realizing that traveling as part of her job means that she spent much of her day-to-day life sat down – recalls the moment where she fell into Caversham Lakes live on air when she was sent to host a segment at an inflatable water park.
“I took my little boy to work with me that day, so I was there presenting and all I heard was him going on the side of the lake, ‘Muuummmyyy!’ So it put me off, and that’s why I fell in,” she laughs. “That’s what people don’t realize! The lifeguard thought he was David Hasselhoff and he tried to fish me out that lake and it was just my big backside over all the monitors at ITV!”
As well as taking on her regular roving reporter duties, recent months have seen Josie fill in as a main presenter on This Morning more frequently, after proving a hit with viewers when she was drafted in at the last minute to cover for a sick Holly Willoughby last November.
Since then, she’s fronted the show with an array of co-presenters, including Holly, Philip Schofield, Alison Hammond, Dermot O’Leary, Vernon Kay other Craig Doyle.
“I wouldn’t have been where I am without them,” she says of her ITV family. “It’s like going in to an adopted family and them helping you with life skills.”
Josie hosting This Morning with Phillip Schofield
Revealing the tip long-standing host Phillip taught her about co-hosting, Josie explains: “You don’t want to talk over your partner, otherwise it would be a mess. So, if you want to keep going with a question because you think you’re on a roll, or you want to say something, you’ve got to listen and you take little breaths. They are listening all the time. They make it look so streamlined, but you won’t notice it.”
There’s one particular member of her TV family she has an extra special bond with, though, and Josie immediately lights up the second she starts to chat about her.
“Me and Alison were good mates before This Morning – we’ve been on holiday together – but she’s got a very special infectious energy,” she beams. “She’s like a magnet, you just want to be around her energy.”
She credits her co-star – who, like Josie, also went from Big Brother housemate to beloved daytime TV star – for lifting her up in moments of self doubt.
She says: “Alison always gives me advice. I don’t think I’ve been that great with my confidence in the past and Alison is the one that’s really helped me. I go, ‘Oh Al, I can’t do it,’ and she pushes me and goes, ‘Look, you deserve to be there as well as anybody else. Josie, as long as you’re having a good time, they’re having a good time, and that’s all that matters.’
“You can phone up Al and you can be on the floor, but you will get off that phone call and feel a million pounds – you will feel invincible. She’s got this special way about her and it’s so lovely.”
Josie credits close friend Alison Hammond with improving her confidence
Last year, the pair even spent Christmas Day together at Alison’s home in Birmingham, which Josie insists she’s never experienced anything like before.
“She laid out every single type of food and it was lovely, her spread was amazing,” she says, quickly adding: “I’m hoping I’ll get another invite!”
For now though, Josie is busy ticking things off her bucket list, citing a recent interview with one of her big heroes Jonathan Ross as well as revealing her dream to sit down with Dawn French, whose comedy she was bought up on.
As her rise and rise continues, the world is most certainly Josie’s oyster, but Bristol will undoubtedly remain her home. “It’s the perfect place to live,” she says. “I like the way of life. No one is showy down here, no one cares what car you drive, so I think it’s a bit more me… I can go to the shop in my pajamas and no one would even blink an eye!”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Josie Gibson has teamed up with Babybel to get the nation moving as part of the Babybel Active Living Challenge. For more information, click here.