How does a cricket widow get through the Ashes? Mollie King, whose partner Stuart Broad is playing for England, insists she is a “very proud girlfriend”. But the radio presenter and former pop star admits that as a newbie to the sport, she had to ask him to explain the rules when their relationship began.
“There are so many rules, aren’t there?” she says. “I’ve always been very up front, like ‘Right, you need to teach me how this works’.” Broad’s teaching seems to be working: “I mean, don’t test me, but I feel like I could easily watch a game and know what’s going on.”
The pair have been dating on and off for 18 months and are secretive about their relationship, never referring to each other on social media or in public. But today she’s happy to say that life with Broad is “good thank you...it’s really good”. There were rumours the couple had parted ways last summer, but have been spotted happily together since, including at Wimbledon last month.
They live apart, with King’s BBC Radio 1 show keeping her London-based, while Broad plays for Nottinghamshire. “I think if you want to make it work then you just do,” she says. “We’re quite good at travelling to each other on our days off, it’s just about putting in the time.”
It’s the only point in our interview where King is remotely bashful. When we meet at the RSA in the West End, where she is attending an event for animal charity Born Free, of which she is a patron, she is otherwise warm and giggly, just as she is on the radio. She is particularly effusive on the topic of Strictly Come Dancing, where she danced her way to the semi-finals of the 2017 series and which is about to start again on the BBC. “Of course I wish I could do it again”, she says.
If she were asked to come back, she says she would relax more. “On Strictly, if I made a mistake on the live shows my face would show it”, she says. “I’d be dancing”, she lifts up her arms and clutches at a ballroom partner made of air, smiling serenely, “then it would go wrong”, she says and drags her mouth into a gargoyle grimace.
She hopes this season’s winner will be Dev Griffin, a fellow Radio 1 presenter, who now hosts the weekend afternoon show which she shared with Matt Edmondson after joining Radio 1 last year. Edmondson and King have been moved to the weekend breakfast show, a prestigious slot previously held by Fearne Cotton, Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates.
Edmondson and King have gained a following for their on-air chemistry, coming across like an older brother and younger sister. She laughs faithfully at his every joke; he teases her constantly and remains straight-faced and sarcastic. Their banter is drawing in “record” listener numbers, according to the BBC, and King’s performance gained her a nomination for best newcomer at the radio industry’s Arias awards last year. “The figures have been amazing, it’s just been so positive”, she says.
When I raise the issue of equal pay - despite some recent improvements, this year just three out of the BBC’s top ten best paid stars were female, and they were at the bottom of the list - King says she does worry about the issue and “of course” thinks salaries should be equal for men and women in equivalent roles. But she admits Edmondson could well be paid more than her since the pair don’t talk about money - “I feel a little bit awkward asking” - and “he’s been there for nine years longer than I have”.
King became famous for being one-fifth of all-girl pop band The Saturdays, but now hopes she might follow a similar path as broadcasters such as Zoe Ball, and enjoy a long career at the BBC. “I think the BBC are really good at taking you in and letting you grow there and develop”.
She also hopes to do more TV presenting too. She filmed an upcoming short package for The One Show on dyslexia, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 10, and stands in for Holly Willoughby on This Morning when she’s away.
Like Willoughby, King is infectiously giggly and warm, with blonde hair and a passion for fashion. Does she see herself as the next Holly? “That’s a massive compliment”, is all she will say. “Obviously Holly and Phil [Schofield] are so loved by the nation, as are Ruth [Langsford] and Eamonn [Holmes]. So I can’t imagine that they would need me on there for a long time.”
In between her radio and TV work, she focuses on other projects, such as the one she is here to talk about today. Born Free has launched an online initiative called Raise the Red Flag, where people can report animal abuse they witness abroad. The cause strikes a chord with King, after an experience on a childhood holiday when she saw whales and dolphins performing at SeaWorld in Florida. “Literally, the minute we walked into the park all of us were like ‘This is just awful, this is so terrible’”, she says. “It wasn’t until we actually saw it with our own eyes that the dream that we’d all had in our heads just came crashing down.”
“These are captive animals being made to perform for our own entertainment. I remember just thinking: 'God this has got to stop'.”
She still needs to do some last minute preparations for her speech at the charity event, and says she is nervous - something of a surprise for someone who broadcasts to millions of people every week. “But it’s different when you can see them!” she says.
King seems to be open to trying anything in her career at the moment, although says she is unlikely to go back to her brief career as a solo artist, which was something of a flop: she released two singles, one of which peaked at number 90. “I realised it’s not the same when it’s not with the four other girls”, she says. “I felt quite lonely doing it on my own.”
The Saturdays, who enjoyed global fame between 2007 and 2015, are still close friends, she says: “We have a WhatsApp group called The Sats”. She particularly keeps up with Frankie Bridge, wife of the former England left back Wayne Bridge, and sees her “all the time” since King’s south London home is just half an hour away from her.
I ask if they would consider doing a comeback like the Spice Girls. “Never say never”, she says. But “everyone is just really happy doing their own thing at the moment”.