If I could buy a starter kit for developing the kind of charisma Cat Deeley has in person, I would buy it. Two, even. The tall, leggy host of So You Think You Can Dance is a dazzling presence, and an ideal subject of study for anyone who has television-emcee aspirations. Nominated for four Emmys in the 11 seasons she's been on the show, Deeley sparkles with energy, warmth and big-sisterly compassion for the program's young, eager contestants. As well, she banters easily with the judges as she keeps them on point, and effortlessly draws the audience in without a trace of me, me, me.
Just as delightful and vibrant off camera, Deeley is brimming with self-effacing humour and unaffected compliments: "Oh I love your jacket," she says soon after we meet at the 2014 P&G Beauty Awards, which she hosted in November. "I love a bit of leopard print -- you can wear anything underneath and just throw that on, and it's like don't mess with me." (It's hard not to fan-girl right there in front of her.)
Here, along with quirky revelations about turning her airline seat into something resembling a baby carrier, and her just-before-landing beauty moves, Cat Deeley tells us about that time she set her hair on fire. For real.
cat deeley's travel habits
You travel a lot -- do you check luggage or take a carry-on?
Carry-on – a Mulberry wheelie.
Really?? But how many pairs of shoes?
It depends. I normally do a flattish boot, and an evening pointy shoe. I like a trouser because that goes from day to night. And I also like a very fancy scarf and a statement pair of earrings, because those can take you anywhere.
On the flight, I normally wear a pair of J-brand jeans and a great leather jacket. I've also got this sheepskin jacket that has a hood so you can put it on the seat – you know those little baby carriers that are like sheepskin? It kind of makes the seat like that! I fasten my seatbelt and I'm "mmmm, I'm very happy here." My head can touch the back of the seat and I'm not worried about who else's head has been there before me. I'm very comfortable!
I also have a humongous grey pashmina that I wrap around my head. Quite often if I'm travelling with my manager, who's my friend, she gets a bit worried that I'm suffocating and holds her hand over my face to check I'm still breathing.
Do you have an in-flight beauty routine?
Most of it is about vitamins and water. I'm very "let's start with the inside out." I buy a couple of big bottles of water. It means I constantly need to pee and it drives me up the wall, but I buy them so I don't drive the air hostesses mad. That and Emergen-C and some vitamins. And I try to travel with no makeup on. I use a heavy moisturizer – I grease myself up like I'm about to swim the Channel.
There are really, really beautiful old pictures of Elizabeth Taylor arriving on a private jet, or Marilyn Monroe – I do not look like that. I do not look like that! You wouldn't even be able to grab hold of me. It's bad. And as we go in to land, I just do an eyelash curl, bit of mascara, bit of an eyebrow, bit of a Nars Multiple, Eight Hour Cream, done.
What do you do with your hair when you fly?
Normally I do an upside-down, then twist it into a knot and put in a crocodile clip – I'm so glamorous when I travel, I hope you're picturing this, frankly. I put a clip [in front] so I can lie any which way. And then when I take it out, it kind of looks really nice. There's no bend from a band or anything like that. Swish it about and you're done. But I just look hideous when I'm in flight.
What beauty items do you pack?
I tend to be quite good about what I do and don't take. I like products that also come in travel sizes. I'm not great at decanting. It's just always annoying. There are certain products that definitely come already in those kind of sizes. Like the Pantene Color & Protect Conditioner comes in a little tube and it's brilliant. People say you're only supposed to use it once every two weeks, but my hair can take it because it's been coloured and styled within an inch of its life. So that works really well for me. And little face sprays and things like that... I try to be economical about it.
cat deeley's beauty disasters
Do you travel with any homey items, good luck charms?
I'm a fan of a smelly candle – I like Diptyque Baies. The only problem is that I set my hair on fire with a candle. ON. FIRE. Not just singed. I did this thing where the TV was on and I couldn't find the remote. The candle was over here, and I bent to look – and it just went. It was the front bit, and it had just been done so it went up like a roman candle, WHOOOSH!, up to my face and I screamed. I had a scarf on at the time as well.
I managed to put it out, but it was like ash over all the floor. It smelled so bad that I didn't know what to do with myself. And we had to stop the whole production so that they could come in and trim it before I could do anything.
Yikes! Er – don't do that again!
I'm that way inclined. I've cut my hair with Hello Kitty scissors, I've permed it within an inch of its life. When I cut it with Hello Kitty scissors, I tried to get my friend [hair stylist Ben Skervin] to fix it. But he'd gone away somewhere, so I walked around like "ha, ha, joke's on you, good luck with that."
I've done the kind of thing where I was blonde and then I see my mum's colour-type shampoo in the shower and think, ooh, red! I'll bring out golden tones! Went pink.
Everything that's dumb, I feel I've at some stage done. I do feel now – I'm 38 – that I know what suits me. I feel like you kind of have to go through all those different stages, and you figure out okay, what does actually suit me and what works for me. And I think once you find that, as a woman you just become more empowered too.
And So You Think You Can Dance...
I love my job. I just love my job. I love dancers as a breed of people – they're so brilliant. I've seen them dance on broken ankles and split feet, and there's no reason for them to do it. You're not going to become rich and famous by being a dancer. There's just no reason for you to do it apart from the fact that you love it and you cannot imagine your life not doing it.
And in this day and age that we live in, where it's celebrity based on nothing and kids just want to be famous.... We're a reality show, and unashamedly. But we're not about getting people drunk and making them fight. It's about celebrating talent. And I love that.
So, can you beat Cat Deeley's flame-on beauty disaster? And how about that tip for making your airline seat baby-carrier cosy?
Cat Deeley hosted the P&G Beauty Awards on November 17, 2014 in Toronto. Presented in partnership with Covergirl, Pantene, Olay and Gillette, the P&G Beauty Awards acknowledge excellence and promote editorial talent in the Canadian beauty, grooming and fashion industry. A list of 2014 winners is at www.pgbeautyawards.ca.