Explain a little bit about the show – what’s the concept?
The idea is that we’re starting where most dates end, and that is naked. It’s dating in reverse. Modern dating has become a really complicated thing. Most people are dating online, and of course when you are armed with enhanced photos and all your status symbols, and you’re able to hide behind the hair, the make-up, the clothes and everything else, you don’t really know what you’re getting until you actually meet that person on a date. Nine times out of ten, people are saying to me, when you actually meet up with that person, they’re nothing like their profile picture, and they’re nothing like the person they’ve made out that they are. So what we’re saying is “Would you make a better, more informed decision if you stripped somebody of all of those social norms and those crutches? Would you make a better dating decision, by seeing somebody naked first?” Evolutionary scientists say that back in the day we would have picked someone based on primal instinct. So that’s what we’re trying in the 21st Century. It’s is so different from anything else that’s out there on TV, and for me, as a presenter, I want to do three things: have a really good laugh, do something of note, or do something of notoriety. For me, this ticks all three boxes. It’s brave and it’s out there. I see it as a very positive and body-affirming, and life-affirming, show.
It doesn’t mess about, does it? I thought the privates would be the big reveal at the end, but they’re right there from round one!
That was very deliberate, and it’s made it a far more interesting show. Every time we reveal the lower body in round one, you see the shock, you see the awe, you see the immediate embarrassment, but then you see the delight. We did that deliberately. When you meet people, naturally you look at their face first. So with this, we’re sort of saying “This is about raw physical attraction. What judgement do you make about someone without seeing their face first?” We’re asking people to eliminate someone per round, based on who they find least physically attractive at the time.
How were people chosen to take part? Do you know if it was difficult to get people involved?
I’m not too sure about the recruitment process myself, but the feedback I’ve heard, and having spoken to the contributors, it wasn’t difficult to find people at all. That really surprised me, because my first question was “Who on earth would go on national television naked on a show?” But every single person said they were there for similar reasons. Lots of people said they were absolutely sick of online dating, and that they found this incredibly liberating, because they were getting the real person. Once you’ve removed your clothes, there’s nowhere to hide. Other people just wanted to meet someone who was adventurous and you can’t get much more adventurous than appearing on a naked TV show! So if you find someone that you fancy, you already know they’ve got the right spirit for you. There was a guy on who had a prosthetic leg on there who said “When you’ve lost a leg, believe you me this is nothing and also I want people to see who I am. I don’t want them to get that shock at the last moment. With this show, it’s the first thing they’ll see, and if they pick me, I’ll know they’re picking me for me.” But what’s interesting is that all of them remarked what a hugely empowering process it was.
Part of your job, presumably, is to put contributors at ease. Did you have to work overtime in this show?
When you’re there with lots of other naked people, you really are at ease. It’s not as if they were just standing there naked on their own. I spoke to them in exactly the same way as I would if they had their jeans on. So yes, my job is to reassure them, but the truth is I think we all felt really comfortable.
Was there ever talk of you presenting the show in the buff?
This was mentioned. I made it absolutely, categorically clear right from the beginning that I was totally not taking my clothes off, doing a Keith Chegwin and presenting in the nude. I 100 per cent applaud and admire every single person that was on there, because I wouldn’t have the nuts to do that myself. I feel, like a lot of people, self-conscious about certain bits of my body, particularly my boobs, because I’m very heavy-chested. I’m fine about everything else, but I would have felt really awkward about my bosoms. So no, you won’t be finding me presenting naked anytime soon.
Is this just a show to get viewers by waving about a few boobs and winkles, or is it trying to make a deeper point?
It’s fun, and we are saying “It’s as fun show, it’s dating in reverse.” We are making a slightly deeper point, it’s not just an excuse to show boobs and winkies. People do struggle to meet a partner in the 21st Century with online dating and people not really being who they seem to be. So we’re asking what do we really find attractive when the clothes come off, and how easily do we judge people? What’s been a real revelation to me doing this show is how kind and supportive every single person was that took part. Nobody ever passed a negative comment, and I think we could all learn from that in this day and age. We’re all vulnerable underneath it all, and it’s not nice to point the finger and laugh. So it was a hugely uplifting experience.
You’ve said that our clothes and status symbols disguise who we are. Don’t they, in fact, reveal it?
Of course they do in some ways. We can all hide behind what tribe we belong to. How we dress, the car we drive, the profession we have, the Facebook updates we post, they all reveal a great deal about who we are. But if you strip someone of that, what is it that’s really attractive about them? That’s what we’re testing. Even though they were all naked, there were still little clues about people. You become a bit of a detective about people from their clues. There were plenty of people with tattoos and body art. Plenty of people with piercings. There was a guy with a prosthetic leg. You might see someone with a caesarean scar. All of these things are revealing in their own way.
Isn’t this just eschewing the virtues of character and personality in favour of aesthetic considerations?
No-one is pretending that personality and rapport and connection isn’t important, of course it is. That’s what leads to ultimately being with somebody. Do you have a connection, do you share values etcetera. What we’re doing with this is simply doing dating in reverse. More often than not you meet someone based on what they look like, and whether you have the rapport and shared values. You then you might take them home and get their clothes off but you may then look at that person and go “Oh… I wasn’t expecting that!” And that can really affect how attractive you find them. So we’re just making sure people find each other physically attractive without their clothes on. We’re getting that hurdle out of the way, now let’s see if you’ve got anything in common.
In the latter stages, the person choosing also takes off their clothes. Is it quite odd, being the only clothed person in front of the camera?
Yeah, I was aware of that. In an ideal world everybody would be naked. But at no point did I feel awkward or embarrassed, and I don’t think they did either. They all sort of forgot in the end.
Have you said anything about someone’s appearance on the show that you’ve subsequently regretted?
No, absolutely not, and I think that’s a really important point to make. What was terribly uplifting was that nobody ever said anything negative about another person’s body. That’s really crucial. It’s something that was palpable in the studio. I found that terribly hopeful, I think we could all learn a bit from that. We could all be a bit kinder at times.
Can you predict who people are going to choose?
No, and that’s the joy of the show. I’ve got an idea of what I find attractive, I’ve got an idea of what I think they find attractive, based on what they’ve said. But there were times when people would eliminate someone and I’d be astonished. And I know that people at home will also be shouting at the telly. It just goes to show that our judgements get challenged again and again. Particularly when we reveal the face of a person, often you wouldn’t put that face with the body. It’s a really interesting game to play. You think every girl will go with the guy with the biggest willy and the Adonis body, but no, they didn’t. And nor did the guys go with the girl with the fake boobs and the perfect body. It just goes to show that we’re all unique in what we find physically attractive.
Have you enjoyed the opportunity to be surrounded by young, attractive naked people?
I LOVE it. I love being around people when they’re being their absolute authentic self. And you couldn’t get more authentic than being naked. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I salute every single person that turned up.
Naked Attraction is on Channel 4 on Mondays from 25th July at 10pm.