Emma Willis on growing up with strong women, and how husband Matt taught her to value self-care

The Voice UK host talks to Abi Jackson about feeling strong in her skin, cherishing family time and why communication is key in her marriage.

Abi Jackson
Tuesday 21 March 2023 09:15 GMT
Emma Willis has become an ambassador for Absolute Collagen’s ‘Strong in your own skin’ campaign (Absolute Collagen/Handout/PA)
Emma Willis has become an ambassador for Absolute Collagen’s ‘Strong in your own skin’ campaign (Absolute Collagen/Handout/PA)

What makes you feel strong and confident in your own skin? For Emma Willis, it starts on the inside.

“I think the mind comes into play a lot, for me personally,” says the TV and radio presenter, and host of ITV’s The Voice UK. “Strength to me definitely comes more from a mental point of view.

“And there are days when I don’t feel strong, and I think you get to a certain age and anxiety kicks in quite a bit, you overthink, you over-worry. But if I can stick to a routine, stay on track, stay positive mentally, that gives me the strength I need to call on when I when I need it.”

The mum-of-three, 47, has teamed up with Absolute Collagen on their new ‘Strong in your own skin’ campaign. The supplement brand found 63% of women say they feel strong in their own skin – yet nearly half admit they also lack self-confidence, with a third saying they’ve avoided socialising with friends as a result.

For Willis, feeling strong goes hand-in-hand with self-care. “I think it’s also getting older and really thinking about what your day-to-day life entails,” she explains. “For a long time, I was just running on empty really – because I’ve got three kids, I worked all the time, and life can just get really hectic and heavy. And I was always at the bottom of the priority list, because I wanted to make sure everyone else was OK and everything was getting done,” says Willis, mum to Isabelle, 13, Ace, 11, and Trixie, six.

“I had to step back and go, you know what, I will be at my best and my strongest for my family if I take a bit of time to prioritise myself every now and then.”

She’s achieved this through exercise, mainly in the form of Pilates and strength training. “And my husband [Busted musician Matt Willis] has got me into cold plunges, which I can’t quite believe because I hate every second, but I feel great when I get out!” she adds, laughing.

“And breathing. I’ve never been able to meditate – I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at that a little bit – but now at night I’ll put on a body scan app and do that, and read and fall asleep, and sleep well. That makes a massive difference. So, all the things I once thought were a bit boring, I do now. And I feel great, it sets me up for the day.”

She credits Matt for being a positive influence when it comes to self-care: “Because I see him do it a lot, and I’ve always not really given that time to myself. But now I realise that it helps a lot.”

In Absolute Collagen’s survey, over half of the women aged 35+ polled said spending time with family helps them feel more self-confident, with 52% saying quality family time gave them a sense of strength.

It’s something that’s especially important for Willis. Her elder female relatives have been an inspiration throughout her life, she says, citing her own mum, nan and great-aunts as role-models when she was little.

“We’re a really tight family, and we all lived around the corner from our grandparents and my nan’s sisters,” she recalls of growing up in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. “They were of that generation, you know, they lived through a war. They were phenomenally strong women and they had so much get-up-and-go, they just cracked on and didn’t moan. It was a very specific type of woman, I think, that lived through that.

“They were also incredibly loving and nurturing, and they were fun, really fun. My mum is still like that – 70 going on 17 – and she’s always the person I want to have with me on a night out. Because I know if I get tired and flaky, she’ll keep me going,” Willis adds, laughing. “And she’s been incredible, it’s inspiring, and she’s been very supportive and encouraging. Luckily, I’ve had a family of strong women around me.”

Describing her parents as a “strong couple”, she says they’ve been “really inspirational to me and Matt”. Quality time together isn’t something she’s taking for granted, and these things plays a part in Willis’ wellbeing too.

I’ve had a family of strong women around me...

“For me, it’s really important that Matt and I spend time together, and that we check in with each other, and we talk and have conversations and time to ourselves,” she says.

“It’s also important that my time with my kids is not just when I come in from work, getting them dinner, watching them eat and then putting them to bed. When they say, ‘Will you play with me?’ I want to say yes, because that’s massively important, and that connection.

“I often hear myself going, ‘Yeah, in a minute, I’ve just got to…’ – and I stop myself and think, ‘I haven’t just got to put the dishwasher on, the dishwasher can wait’. My daughter has asked to play with me, and I don’t want her to think I was always saying, ‘I’ll do it in a minute’.”

Her kids have given her a stronger sense of strength, too.

“Every time I’m kind of going, ‘Oh god, I can’t do this!’, they’re the one that put everything into perspective, and I kind of go, ‘I can do this, I will do this’. And I need to show them that they can do anything they want to do, as long as they put in the time and effort, and they work hard and treat people well. You’ve got to believe you can achieve what you want to achieve and have the strength to do it.

“I have to pull a poker face sometimes and pretend everything’s great!” Willis laughs. “But yes, they are the reason I do everything. And they’ve made me live in the moment.

“Before kids, I just kind of bopped around – and that was fantastic because I had a great time. But now I try to live every day to the max. They’ve made me appreciate every day I have with them.”

Emma Willis has partnered with Absolute Collagen for their ‘Strong in your own skin’ campaign celebrating women’s natural beauty that’s nurtured through strength and wellness, inside and out. Visit absolutecollagen.com/strong-in-your-skin.

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