Comic Oprah with a kosher touch: She's fat, she's brassy, she's bold, she's funny - she also read English at Cambridge and she's about to fill your TV screen

START Vanessa Feltz off on a subject - any subject, but especially Jewishness, fatness or sex - and the patter comes thick and funny and fast. 'She usually gives good quotes,' says her husband, Mike, an orthopaedic surgeon, when Vanessa has gone to change into an evening gown so she that can stand in the rubble that will one day be her kitchen to have her photograph taken. It was her idea.

The Feltzes have been in the house three weeks, and she can only find an evening skirt; she hitches it over her ample bosom to look like a dress anyway and hovers by the cooker. Her daughters, Allegra, seven, and Saskia, five, wander in, see her four necklaces, and summon oceans of sarcasm to say: 'Oh, yes, very snazzy.'

Until recently, few people had heard of Vanessa Feltz. After 13 September there will be few who haven't. Feltz - she doesn't like it put this way, but knows it's true - is set to become the British Oprah Winfrey. Her exuberance, and big, generous personality (she gives good quotes because she treats the interview as a performance) seem set to make her far more successful here than Oprah, with her weird American guests, could ever be.

Twelve Vanessa shows have already gone out in the Anglia television area, taking 67 per cent of audience share. 'People said it wouldn't work in England - you wouldn't get audiences jumping to their feet to say, 'I'd like to pay for sex.' No- Trouble-At-All]' Two afternoon network slots a week have been created for her. And she's been hired as a columnist by the Daily Mirror, starting at the end of August.

Vanessa Feltz is 32, and her greatest ambition was always to get married. She went out with the same boy from 13 to 21; he used to carry a copy of Eliot's Four Quartets everywhere, take her to hear Ted Hughes reading when other people were at discos, and make her life a misery. 'Someone once told me he had all the tantrums of genius without the genius. And one day I realised it was true.'

Her grandmother found Mike. 'She was in hospital and he came to do a blood test. She said: 'Are you married, are you Jewish, how old are you? Have I got a girl for you]' That afternoon when I turned up with a bunch of grapes, she told me: 'Brush your hair and borrow my mascara, and go down to Casualty and introduce yourself.' I said I couldn't possibly. But she said: 'I'm your grandmother and I love you and I'm telling you to go.' ' She and Mike were engaged within five weeks and have been married for 10 years.

It was always obvious that she would work. Her father, who is known in north-west London, where Vanessa grew up and lives now, as Norman the Knicker King, 'had the Jewish version of the Protestant work ethic, which is the same thing but with a lot more guilt and Angst and misery thrown in.' Norman made and imported underwear; his daughter was expected to work as a secretary throughout her year off between school (Haberdashers') and university (Cambridge, where she read English).

She was sacked from her first job, as an editorial assistant on Campaign, the advertising trade magazine. 'I was told when I was hired to use it as a springboard. The job consisted of making the tea and typing, so I made the best possible tea and typed the best possible typing, and waited to spring. I used to get in at 7.30am and leave at 7.30pm, and then I was sacked for not looking totally in love with the job. 'But,' I said, 'I was meant to spring]' '

She married soon after, and started to make her way as a freelance journalist, writing for Wedding and First Home and Hair and Beauty - 'the sort of thing you can do while breastfeeding and in the middle of the night. I never thought, 'I'm better than this.' I just thought, 'I love my husband, I love my children, I'm earning some money, I wish it was more money, but thank God I'm doing this, now I'll go and defrost a chicken.' '

She has never employed a nanny. Her mother and mother-in-law both live nearby, and she has often worked at night. Under these circumstances, her career has been meteoric. She began writing for the Jewish Chronicle, and produced an article claiming that the Jewish mother - 'at the hub of her family, stirring gefilte fish while breastfeeding and looking after her husband' - was nowadays more often out shopping or training. She became the paper's first woman columnist, and its first under 30.

Invitations to speak at Jewish charity events followed, and she now does two a month, for non-Jewish charities as well (unpaid: 'I think it might be my insurance against rotting in hell'). She is booked up until November 1995. In true showbiz tradition, an impresario spotted her at one of these, and booked her into the New End Theatre, Hampstead, for an evening of stand-up. The show, which she describes as 'nice smut, the sort of smut you wouldn't mind your grandmother hearing, like 'is sperm kosher?' ' led to further sell- out shows at the Shaw Theatre.

Invited on to Greater London Radio's Jewish programme, she was so good she was asked back the following week, and the week after. She talked about 'Jews and toilets, Jews and furniture, Jews and plastic surgery' nearly every week for a year (unpaid again) until they asked her to host the show. She has since moved on to present a non-Jewish programme, which despite going out in the Sunday-night deadtime slot, between 10pm and 1am, attracts 650,000 listeners. She has also started presenting the Friday afternoon show, Something For The Weekend, Sir?, in which a satisfied patient of a surgeon specialising in penis extension recently tried to show her the results on air (the surgeon forestalled him).

She took over from Maureen Lipman as the back-page columnist in She magazine; and an appearance on the Richard and Judy Show to talk about one of her columns led to a contract. Her interviews - with Sylvester Stallone, Omar Sharif, Johnny Depp, Kurt Russell and others - were enough to convince Anglia and co-producers Multimedia (who make the longest-running talkshow in the world) that she was right to front an Oprah-style show here.

Consequently she has just returned from New York and 'an orgy: much better than sex' of clothes-buying: 'They've got better clothes for fat ladies over there. So having 150 outfits to try on was multiply orgasmic, if I knew what a multiple orgasm was, which I don't'

Vanessa Feltz is, as the Mirror has promised, 'big, bold and brassy'. She is also very intelligent, perceptive, and clever with words; a typical north London Jewish housewife (with media ambitions) who can see exactly what she is and doesn't want to be any different.

She doesn't even want to be thinner, if that means having to eat less. 'I'm not saying I particularly enjoy parading round a communal changing room. But I've got nice legs and a very nice pair of boobs, good shoulders and quite a nice face. I have hearty appetities. I know my aim in life is supposed to be to feel delighted about not having a chocolate mousse. I know lots of people who feel good today because they didn't have the chocolate mousse. But somehow I still want it.

'I'm quite disciplined in almost everything else. I work hard. I'm freelance, so I have to be self-motivated. I try like hell to be a good mother and not deprive my children of my presence. I'm nice to my parents, and I keep a kosher kitchen. I feel I'm a good girl; I can't eat salad as well. I don't take drugs, I don't gamble, I don't drink. And I really cannot bear not to have the chocolate mousse.'

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

*****English/Maths Teacher*****

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: English/Maths Teacher require...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Assistant and Nursery nurse...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album