How Loose Women went from TV experiment to Bafta&worthy national institution with a slew of controversial moments

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AFTER 25 years of tears, tantrums and midday mischief, Loose Women has finally been recognised with a Bafta nomination.

The daytime favourite has gone from a fluffy experiment to national institution thanks to a mix of huge interviews, trailblazing campaigns — and more than the odd controversial moment.

ITV favourite Loose Women has finally received a Baftas nod after 25 years

The first Loose Women show back in 1999ITV

Panel members Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Jane Moore and Phillippa Kennedy, from the show’s first year on the airRex Features

Instead of selling out and placing youth before wisdom, it has embraced experience as part of its constantly evolving panel.

Far from dumbing down to try to draw young audiences by bringing in influencers or TikTok stars, ITV has banked on more mature household names who can inspire national debate.

The show has been given a nod in the TV Baftas Best Daytime Show category, where it will be up against ITV stablemate Lorraine and the BBC’s consumer show Scam Interceptors, plus crafting programme Make It At Market.

And insiders reckon it stands a good chance of taking home the prize.

Panellists Charlene White, Andi Peters, Babatunde Aleshe and Judi Love are the stars behind the nomination, with their joint episode called Loose Women and Men leading the charge.

‘We’ve heard of control, we just don’t like it’

On Thursday, Charlene celebrated the news online and wrote: “OMG . . .  Me, Babatunde, Judi and Andi are Bafta nominated for Best Daytime show!!!

“Huge congrats to all the @loosewomen ladies, but especially our production team who hugely deserve this. Proud of the whole lot of us.”

Kerry McFadden, Carol McGiffin, Kaye Adams, Sherri Hewson, and Claire Sweeney on the show in 2004Rex Features

Jackie Brambles, Coleen Nolan, Carol McGiffin and Denise Welch in 2008Rex Features

Andrea McLean, Lisa Maxwell, Sherrie Hewson and Jane McDonald in 2010Rex Features

She was right to celebrate the whole team, because Loose Women has been an ensemble effort from the start.

The first episode aired on September 6, 1999 with Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Jane Moore and Karren Brady on the panel.

Smiling and giving a cheery wave, the women burst on to the bright, pastel-coloured set when the show was first broadcast from London.

Nadia opened the show, saying: “Hello and welcome to Loose Women, the show that lets us women do what we do best . . .  no, not that! Don’t let the title fool you, we’re talking talk.”

Looking back over that early footage a few years ago, Nadia laughed and said: “I thought I was as fat as anything, then. Look at me.”

Kaye added: “Jane is a sex kitten.”

Early topics included office workers worrying about making a fool of themselves at Christmas parties, with Kaye saying: “Have they not heard of control?”

Nadia replied: “Yes, we’ve heard of control, we just don’t like it.”

In a pattern that became the hallmark of Loose Women, Nadia then took the hook as a chance to open up on something from her own experience.

She said: “When I was having a particularly heavy drinking period in my life, I started to do that.

“I’d think, ‘Oh I’m not going to go’, because I know I’ll spend three days worrying, thinking about what I’d done.”

Ruth Langsford joined in the second episode, and Coleen Nolan the following year.

Hello and welcome to Loose Women, the show that lets us women do what we do best . . .  no, not that!

Nadia Sawalhafirst ever Loose Women episode

Just like those original stars, the format has stood the test of time.

While other TV shows have overhauled line-ups to oust older stars, such as 67-year-old Sue Barker being axed from BBC’s Question of Sport in 2020, and Arlene Phillips losing out to then 35-year-old Alesha Dixon on the Strictly Come Dancing panel when she was 64, for Loose Women the average age of its panel is higher when the show launch.

The show has been kept fresh recently with Love Islander Olivia AttwoodRex Features

Katie Piper, centre right, and Kelly Holmes, far right, are other recent additionsRex Features

The original panel in 1999 were Kaye Adams, 37, Nadia Sawalha, 35, Jane Moore, 37, and 30-year-old Karren Brady — giving an average age of nearly 35.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s panel of Charlene White, 43, Judi Love, 43, Katie Piper, 40, Denise Welch, 65, had an average age of nearly 48 — 13 years older than when the show made its debut.

And today’s panel came in at an average age of 56, with originals Kaye, now 61, Nadia, now 59, and Jane, now 61 all in place, plus Judi.

Fan favourites including Denise, Linda Robson, 66, and Gloria Hunniford, 83, are also still in the mix years after their first appearances.

But a careful selection of feisty new faces have kept the talk rolling.

Love Islander Olivia Attwood, 32, is the latest permanent addition, while viewers also love Stacey Solomon, 34, and Frankie Bridge, 35.

Gavin & Stacey actress Joanna Page, 47, has fast become a favourite since joining this year, as well as other recent arrivals Sunetra Sarker, 50, Dame Kelly Holmes, 53, and Sophie Morgan, 39.

But the women behind the desk are only part of the show’s endearing success, with a raft of guests and agenda-setting campaigns keeping the show in the headlines.

In June 2016, Gloria Hunniford conducted the first interview with Sir Cliff Richard as he returned to the limelight after being accused of sex abuse.

He revealed he had spent more than £1million in legal fees proving his innocence.

Annoying juice

Eric CowellLoose Women in 2018

Other bombshell interviews have included the Duchess of York, who joined the gang in November to discuss her breast cancer diagnosis and back the show’s Don’t Skip Your Screening campaign to promote mammograms.

Another moment came in 2016 when Katie Price was joined by her son Harvey to discuss the family’s experience with internet trolls.

Harvey Price dropped the c-bomb on the show, but shocked the women into an important debate around online abuseRex Features

Priscilla Presley revealed how much control Elvis had over her lifeRex Features

He infamously dropped the c-word – but also shocked the women into an important debate around online abuse.

That same year the Women landed a chat with Priscilla Presley, where she revealed Elvis had a huge amount of control over her life.

And in 2018 Simon Cowell sparked conversation for a more wholesome reason, when his son Eric completely upstaged him.

Simon asked the lad: “What’s daddy been drinking today?” and he quipped: “Annoying juice”.

Loose Women has pushed the boundaries with special episodes, such as in October 2020 when it featured an all-black panel for the first time in the show’s history, featuring Charlene, Brenda Edwards, Judi and Kelle Bryan.

I felt it was so important for me to support the Loose Women Facing It Together campaign

Kelle Bryan

The following month it cast an all-male panel to mark International Men’s Day with Marvin Humes, Ronan Keating, Roman Kemp and Iain Stirling.

Over the years other campaigns include Body Stories celebrating all shapes and sizes and work for anti-bullying week.

Andrea McLean, Denise Welch, Carol McGiffin and Jane McDonald in 2012Rex Features

Ruth Langsford, Coleen Nolan, Linda Robson and Jamelia in 2015Rex Features

Nadia Sawalha, Saira Khan, Ruth Langsford and Andrea McLean in 2017Rex Features

The show is currently pushing a project on domestic abuse called Facing It Together, and the panellists have revealed the abuse they have faced in relationships – with a number of support groups reporting as much as an 80 per cent increase in enquiries for support.

Kelle said: “When I was facing domestic abuse, I wish there was somebody that I felt I could have reached out to, that would just be there to support me and help me make the decision for myself.

“That’s why I felt it was so important for me to support the Loose Women Facing It Together campaign.

“The response that these charities have seen, and the stories we’ve heard from viewers first hand, are why it’s so essential to have these conversations.”

Spice Girl Mel B also backed the campaign when she appeared as a guest on the show, telling the panel: “Thank you for doing the campaign this week, it’s so important what you’re doing [and] spreading the message.”

Now the show’s persistent work has paid off in this week’s Bafta nominations.

It’s so important what you’re doing [and] spreading the message

Mel B

Until now, it had only been recognised by organisations including the National Television Awards, TV Choice, TRIC and Royal Television Society.

Since a win at the 2007 TV Choice Awards, the show has picked up just six gongs at those awards.

Stacey Solomon, Christine Lampard, Andrea McLean and Saira Khan in 2019Rex Features

Of course the show has not been without its controversies.

ITV would probably rather forget the day in 2014 when Judy Finnigan made her first appearance and caused outcry with her comments defending convicted rapist Ched Evans and his potential return to football, insisting he had “served his time”.

She added: “The rape was not violent, he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person.”

Outspoken Janet Street-Porter raised eyebrows in 2015 when she compared a photo of Prince George to a “cross-dressing millionaire”.

Guest Rupert Everett said “f***” during an interview in 2013, going on to recall thinking he had a “terrible disease” after an HIV scare in the Eighties.

Singer Jamelia was apparently dropped from the show in 2017 after she argued plus-size fashion “facilitated people living an unhealthy lifestyle” and then again angered viewers when she criticised women who chose to become mothers later in life.

EastEnders actress Jacqueline Jossa blasted the show in 2016 when she claimed her interview contained a line of questioning related to her fiancé’s past relationship, and allegations of abuse and threats, which she had not been briefed about beforehand.

It just becomes toxic for women. It’s a show for women but I don’t feel like it empowered me

Saira Khan

In 2017, Sam Faiers’ partner Paul Knightley branded the panellists “bitches” after they commented about him kissing his mother on the lips.

There has been beef between the women, too.

Denise Welch revealed during an interview with Piers Morgan that she had refused to sit on the Loose Women panel with Janet Street-Porter.

Carol McGiffin, 63, left the show in March last year after 18 years service, saying that she had refused to sign a new “unjust and unworkable” contract and accused bosses of turning the show “very, very woke”.

Saira Khan quit in late 2021 and claimed bosses had asked her to make a mould of her vagina and open an OnlyFans account to create content for the show – allegations that ITV denies.

The presenter, who is Muslim, added: “It just becomes toxic for women. It’s a show for women but I don’t feel like it empowered me.”

But the show’s warm heart has shone through, and the Loose Women’s first live tour in September was a sell-out.

More than one million viewers consistently tune in each day.

And now cast and crew are delighted the hard-working minnow of ITV’s daytime schedule might finally land a major award.

Why I still love this female led show

By Jane Moore, Loose Women panellist 1999-now

AT the end of an audition for a new, all-female debate show back in 1999, I was asked to say to camera: “I’m Jane Moore and I’m a Loose Woman.”

I flatly refused and, consequently, thought I’d never hear from them again.

But they wanted strong, opinionated women who knew their own minds, so luckily my determined stance worked in my favour.

Consequently, on September 6, 1999, I appeared on the first ever show alongside broadcaster Kaye Adams, actress Nadia Sawalha and businesswoman Karren Brady – all specifically chosen for the different perspectives and experience we brought from our varied professional fields.

It started as a month-long experiment of looking at the day’s news through a female lens and, at a time when debate shows were dominated by male voices, it felt fresh, innovative and exciting.

Little did we know that it would become a live, five days a week fixture in the ITV daytime schedule and still be going strong 25 years later.

In the intervening years, Kaye, Nadia and I have left and returned, along with dozens of wonderfully strong, independent women who have become panellists – not least because the flexibility a rotating roster gives fits in beautifully with family life and other work commitments.

But most of all because, when we’re not fiercely debating a hot topic, it can also be fantastic fun.

I have made friends for life on the show, and just doing it is reward enough.

But when it gets recognised as the tour de force it is – not least with a nomination from BAFTA – then it’s the icing on the cake.

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