Tess Daly — things you didn't know about the Strictly Come Dancing presenter

Tess Daly
Tess Daly has presented Strictly Come Dancing since 2004. (Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Tess Daly has become the golden girl of Saturday night television since Strictly Come Dancing waltzed its way onto our screens back in 2004.

After presenting the popular BBC dancing competition alongside the late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth for the best part of a decade, Tess now brings us the glitz and the glamour of Strictly with co-host Claudia Winkleman.

Strictly is by no means the only feather in Tess’s cap. She’s enjoyed a career as a fashion model, and is renowned for her charity work, both as a presenter of BBC’s Children in Need and patron of The Prince’s Trust. Here are a few more things you didn’t know about her…

Tess Daly isn't actually her real name

Tess was actually born Helen Elizabeth Daly on March 29th 1969 in Stockport. The eldest of two girls, her dad, Vivian, worked in a wallpaper factory mixing dyes, and her mum, Sylvia did shifts in a paper mill. 

Tragically, Vivian passed away from emphysema just 17 days after walking Tess down the aisle at her wedding to TV presenter Vernon Kay in 2003. In an interview with The Guardian (opens in new tab), the star credits both her parents for teaching her “Humility, northern grit, the value of working hard to get what you want.” 

Tess grew up in the village of Birch Vale in Derbyshire, and attended the local primary school, followed by New Mills Secondary School, where she achieved nine O-levels.

Tess Daly at Ascot Racecourse

Tess Daly at Ascot Racecourse. (Image credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)

She had childhood dreams of being a nurse

As a youngster, Tess had dreams of becoming a nurse, but an incident involving her younger sister, Karen soon changed all that. Sharing the story with Stylist (opens in new tab), Tess revealed: “I used to love science — biology, chemistry and physics — and wanted to be a nurse. But then my sister cut herself really badly and I almost fainted. I couldn’t even look. I realised that I can’t be a nurse if I hate blood.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2022 - Tess and Claudia

Tess with Strictly co-host Claudia Winkleman. (Image credit: BBC)

She was scouted for modelling outside McDonalds

Not many people can say they were spotted by a model scout while hanging around outside a McDonalds, but Tess can. After being signed to an agency, 18-year-old Tess travelled to Tokyo for her first professional shoot. 

At the time there was already a model called Helen Daly, so she was asked to change her name, and chose the new moniker ‘Tess’. She’s now been known as Tess longer than her birth name but admits her mum still calls her Hel. 

Tess’s modelling career took her to Asia and Europe, where she lived in Paris for five years, then relocated to New York for another five.

Tess Daly

Tess's real name is actually Helen.  (Image credit: Joe Maher/Getty Images)

She’s great mates with co-host Claudia Winkleman

Tess and Claude made TV history by becoming the first female duo to present a Saturday night primetime show. The ladies have amazing on-screen chemistry, and their friendship isn’t just for the cameras. 

Having first met years ago on the TV circuit, Tess and Claudia have a ritual of enjoying a takeaway together after every Strictly live show, most often a Domino’s. 

And in January this year, Tess paid a sweet tribute to Claudia to celebrate her milestone 50th birthday. Taking to her Instagram account, Tess shared a series of photos of her Claudia having fun along with an adorable message, which read: "Happy big birthday to this little firecracker. Your laughs are limitless, our memories our countless and our friendship endless! Love you to bits @claudiawinkle." How cute is that?

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She met her famous husband at work

Tess started dating fellow model-turned-TV-presenter Vernon Kay in 2000 after meeting on Channel 4’s T4, which he hosted at the time.

In an interview with Fabulous (opens in new tab) magazine, Tess revealed sparks were flying from their very first encounter, saying: “It was all quite immediate, really, because we instantly had such a blast together. I couldn’t imagine having more fun with anyone else. It was pretty explosive, I tell you.” 

Vernon popped the question on Christmas Day at Tess’s parent’s house in Stockport, and the couple tied the knot on September 12 2003. But there was no fancy stately home ceremony or lavish celeb magazine deal for the down-to-earth duo — they exchanged vows at the local church of Vernon’s hometown in Horwich, Bolton, then drove to their reception in a retro VW campervan.

Tess Daly and husband Vernon Kay at the BAFTAs

Tess and her husband Vernon Kay. (Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

She’s starred in two music videos

During her modelling days, Tess starred in two music videos with pop superstars Duran Duran. In 1990, she featured in the video for the band’s single, Serious, lip synching along to the lyrics. Tess also is one of the background models in their video for The Violence of Summer

Although it was a pretty cool gig at the time, Tess’s teenage daughters Phoebe and Amber aren’t bothered their mum got to work with music royalty. She told The Guardian (opens in new tab): “My kids are thoroughly unimpressed. I’m like, 'Excuse me. These guys were the One Direction of my day. I had their posters on my bedroom wall and look, I’m dancing with them.' They’re like, 'What’s for dinner?'”

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She loves a kitchen disco

Having presented Strictly for the last two decades, Tess has picked up a dancing tip or two. In fact she once performed an American Smooth with Anton du Beke against the late Terry Wogan on a Children in Need version of Strictly — and won the competition. 

Her favourite dance is the sizzling Argentine Tango, but Tess loves nothing better than having a boogie around the kitchen with her girls. But all this activity doesn't mean you'll catch Tess running marathons... she has confessed she hates sweating and would much rather spend her time practising yoga.

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Tess Daly's fact file

Frequently asked questions about the TV presenter...

How old is Tess Daly?

Tess Daly is 53. She was born on 29th March 1969.

Is Tess Daly married?

Tess Daly has been married to TV presenter and radio DJ Vernon Kay since 2003.

Does Tess Daly have any children?

Tess Daly is mum to two teenage daughters — Phoebe, 18, and Amber, 13 with her husband Vernon.  

Where was Tess Daly born?

Tess Daly was born in Stockport.

How tall is Tess Daly?

Tess Daly is 5 foot 9.

Instagram: @tessdaly

Twitter: @TessDaly

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.