She was one of television’s biggest names, before giving it all up to live on a farm. She talks about her friendship with Princess Diana, the horror of tabloid harassment – and the extraordinary sexism she faced
Selina Scott has come in from the cold. She lights a fire and makes herself a cup of tea – black, no sugar. The former “golden girl” of the BBC lives on a farm in North Yorkshire with a couple of dogs, a handful of rare belted galloway cattle, a waddle of ducks and swans, and the odd otter. The room looks dark and bleak, and the internet isn’t working well, so we struggle to Zoom. “I’m going to move you into another room.” Scott still pronounces room aristocratically as “rum”, but her voice is different from the old days. Back then, it was more of a stately caress, offset by a youthful giggle. Today, her voice is deeper, more flinty, though still with a hint of grandeur. The Yorkshire roots of her childhood have re-emerged and planted themselves firmly in the peaty soil.
It’s 40 years since she made her name presenting News at 10, followed by BBC Breakfast Time, The Clothes Show, The Selina Scott Show for NBC, the magazine show West 57th for CBS and a brief stint at Sky. Scott wasn’t any old presenter. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Princess Diana (or, as she prefers it, the younger Diana bore an uncanny resemblance to her) and, like Diana, she became the nation’s sweetheart. Like Diana, she was hounded by the press – in a way that no other journalist has been. And like Diana she decided to walk away from it all at the peak of her fame. Unlike Diana, she lived to tell the tale.