From Top Gear to staying single - 9 things you need to know about Angela Rippon

The former Top Gear presenter and ground-breaking news reader loves a pair of leather trousers and refuses to grow old gracefully.

Angela Rippon is a legendary TV pioneer.

Not only was she the first female news anchor on the BBC at the age of 31, but the 71-year-old has hosted some of the biggest shows on TV.

Read more: Top Gear: 8 forgotten female presenters

From Top Gear to Children in Need and the original Come Dancing, she’s had an incredibly long and successful career. Not to mention a star performance in that Morecambe and Wise Christmas special.

Now, as she returns with a brand new series of How To Stay Young, here are 9 things you might not have known about Angela Rippon…

1. She loves leather trousers

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“When I was buying my leather trousers, I didn't notice a label in them saying: ‘Only to be worn by twentysomethings’,” says Angela, who often wears a pair! “They really are quite practical. It was very cold, I was filming and I knew there would be a bit of outside broadcasting. To be honest, I wanted to wear padded ski trousers, but I didn't think that would be appropriate.

“For heaven's sake, a woman of 70 should wear whatever she feels like wearing,” she added. “The problem is that when you get to my age the style police say you shouldn't wear this or that. I say knickers to that.”

2. But she doesn’t think she’s sexy…

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“I don't do sexy,” said Angela. “I've never been a dolly bird. I've done gowns, of course, but I try to be elegant and to dress appropriately.”

Even at the age of 71, Angela reveals that she can still do the splits - as demonstrated when she took part in Strictly Come Dancing for Children in Need in 2011! “I can,” she said. “I do pilates, which helps.”

3. She never gives up

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Angela is certainly one determined woman. Over 20 years ago, she was told by John Birt – her then boss at the BBC – that at the age of 50, her career on TV was over and she should move aside for “younger women”.

“I was furious,” she recalled. “He said: ‘Angela, I think you've had your day. You have to make way’. He got it so wrong. You don't want TV to be peopled just by 30-year-olds.”

4. She’s not ageing gracefully

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“When I was 50 I decided that I didn't want to go the ‘graceful’ way,” says Angela. “The glorious thing about reaching this age is that you don't know how long you have left and you want to make the most of it.

“When I go to a pilates class there are lots of ladies there in their 60s and 70s who are wonderfully supple and can do all sorts of things. It isn't that unusual. I decided when I was 50 that I was going to grow old disgracefully and I'm keeping to it.”

5. She’s happy being single

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After she wed engineer Christopher Dare at the age of 22, Angela’s first marriage came to an end in 1989.

Since then, Angela has been very private about her personal life. She’s been in relationships that lasted 12 and five years respectively, but now she says she’s very happy being single. Asked if she would want to remarry one day, she said: “I don't think so. I've discovered I'm very happy being single.

“I suppose, if I'm honest, when your heart is broken it's painful and I don't want to go there again.”

6. She’s got a need for speed

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The former Top Gear presenter – Angela hosted the show for two years from its inception in 1977 - owns two cars: a Mazda MX-5 sports car and a Rover 75 Silver Sovereign. Indeed, she bristles at any suggestion that older drivers might not be as sharp as they were, and may need to resit a test at some point.

“I think I’ve got better and more observant as I’ve got older,” she said, adding: “I have a reputation for being a fast driver, but I like to think I’m a safe driver.”

7. She’s most proud of her OBE

“When I was awarded the OBE in 2001, for services to broadcasting, charity and the arts,” said Angela when she was asked what the proudest moment of her career had been. “It was an incredibly proud moment when Her Majesty pinned on the award. She talked to me about being a newsreader - the Royals do watch the news,” she explained.

8. She plays tennis every morning

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Angela, who divides her time between houses in London and Devon, says she plays an hour of tennis every morning. “I have a great coach in Devon and he makes me run around the court, which is a great aerobic exercise,” she says.

Meanwhile, she adds that she’s “fortunate” to have homes in such different parts of the country. “In London my life is high heels and business suits. Down in Devon it is wellingtons, jeans and a T-shirt. I always feel relaxed after a weekend in the country.”

9. She might be on the new Top Gear…

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…Although not as a presenter, of course! Instead, former host Angela says that she would be “fun to do the odd film” on the show.
She thinks that change is a natural part of the 39-year-old programme, which has constantly evolved since she hosted its debut series.

“Top Gear existed before Jeremy Clarkson. The programme I did was a motoring magazine,” she explains.

“We did things about road safety, pedestrians, anything to do with motoring; not cars. It’s a mark of its longevity that it’s never stuck in a rut; it’s always pushing new boundaries.

“Clearly there are a lot of people who think the three of them are embedded in the consciousness of Top Gear and that’s what Top Gear was, but now you’ve got Chris Evans hosting it, it will change again.”

How To Stay Young airs at 9pm on Thursday April 7 on BBC One.

Photo credit: PA/BBC