Carol Vorderman

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Group Captain
Carol Vorderman

Carol Vorderman Waddington Airshow 2011 -3.jpg
Vorderman in July 2011
Born Carol Jean Vorderman
(1960-12-24) 24 December 1960 (age 58)
Bedford, Bedfordshire, England
Nationality British
Occupation Broadcaster
Years active 1982–present
Known for Presenting
Countdown (1982–2008)
Pride of Britain Awards (1999—)
Loose Women (2011–14)
Food Glorious Food (2013)
Spouse(s) Christopher Mather
(1985–86; divorced)
Patrick King
(1990–2000; divorced)
Children 2
Parent(s) Tony Vorderman (1920–2007; deceased)
Edwina J. Davies (b. 1928)

Carol Jean Vorderman MBE RAFVR(T) (born 24 December 1960) is a British media personality, best known for co-hosting the popular game show Countdown for 26 years from 1982 until 2008.

Vorderman's career took off in 1982 when she joined Channel 4 game show Countdown. She co-hosted the show most recently with Des O'Connor; before that Vorderman was co-host with Des Lynam and Richard Whiteley (from 1982 until his death in 2005). She left the show in 2008 and was replaced by Rachel Riley. Whilst appearing on Countdown, Vorderman began presenting other shows for various broadcasters including Better Homes and The Pride of Britain Awards for ITV, as well as guest hosting shows such as Have I Got News for You, The Sunday Night Project and Lorraine.

Vorderman was a presenter of ITV's Loose Women[3] from 2011 until 2014.

Early life and education

Vorderman was born in Bedford, Bedfordshire, the youngest of three children[4] to Dutch father Anton 'Tony' Vorderman (1920–2007) and Welsh mother Edwina Jean (née Davies, born 1928).[5] Her parents separated three weeks after her birth, and her mother took the family back to her home town of Prestatyn, North Wales,[5] where Vorderman and her siblings, Anton and Trixie,[6] grew up in a one-parent household. Vorderman did not see her father again until she was 42. In 1970, her mother married Italian immigrant Armido Rizzi.[7] The couple separated ten years later.[4] Vorderman's father remarried; his wife died in the early 1990s.[4]

Vorderman was educated at the Roman Catholic comprehensive Blessed Edward Jones High School in Rhyl. In 1978, when she was 17, she matriculated to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she studied engineering; Vorderman, earning a third in all three years of her education at Cambridge and thus a member of the 'Nines Club',[8] graduated with a third-class honours degree three years later.[9][10][11][12][13]

Vorderman did not trace the Dutch side of her family until 2007 (as part of the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?). It was only at this point that she discovered that her father had been an active member of the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation. He died while the programme was being filmed.[5] Her great-grandfather Adolphe Vorderman played a key role in the discovery of vitamins.[14]

Early career

Vorderman initially found employment as a junior civil engineer at Dinorwig Power Station in Wales and later as a graduate management trainee in Leeds. In her spare time, she was briefly a backing singer with friend Lindsay Forrest in the Leeds-based pop group Dawn Chorus and the Blue Tits, fronted by radio DJ Liz Kershaw during the early 1980s.[15] The group recorded such songs as a version of The Undertones' hit Teenage Kicks (one of the tracks Vorderman had to identify during the "intros round" when she appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in December 2009 – the series often includes questions from contestants' pasts). During 1984/85 she made regular appearances on the Peter Levy show on Radio Aire, appearing mid-morning to read a story for any pre-school children who might be listening with their mothers.

In the mid 1980s Vorderman worked part-time in the Information Services Department of the UK Atomic Energy Authority principally involved in the production of in-house video programmes.

Television career


1982 – 2008

Vorderman's mother noticed a newspaper advertisement asking for a woman with good mathematical skills to appear as co-host on a quiz show for the fledgling fourth terrestrial channel and submitted an application on behalf of her daughter, then aged 21. Vorderman appeared on Countdown with Richard Whiteley from the show's inception in 1982, until Whiteley's death in June 2005, and with Des Lynam then Des O'Connor, until 2008.[16] Initially, Vorderman's only contribution to the show was the numbers game, and she formed part of a five person presentation team. However, over the following years, the team was pared down, and Vorderman's contribution increased.[17] Vorderman thus became a new type of game show hostess, revealing her intellectual ability by carrying out fast and accurate arithmetical calculations during the show. Her lasting success on the show led to her becoming one of the highest-paid women in Britain, ultimately earning her an estimated £1 million per year.[citation needed]

After Richard Whiteley

In June 2005, the producers of Countdown asked Vorderman if she wanted to fill the role of main presenter vacated by the recently deceased Richard Whiteley. Vorderman declined, and a search for a new presenter began while the show went into a four-month hiatus. In October 2005, Des Lynam replaced Whiteley and co-hosted with Vorderman. In January 2007 Des O'Connor replaced Lynam; Vorderman continued to co-host the show.

On 25 July 2008, after 26 unbroken years with the show, it was announced that Vorderman was stepping down from Countdown.[18] She later said she had resigned after failing to agree terms with Channel 4 for a new contract, and it was reported that she had been asked to take a cut of 90% from her previous salary, estimated as £900,000.[19] She had considered leaving the show when the show's original host Richard Whiteley died in 2005, but remained on the show when Lynam took over, and until 2008 when his eventual replacement O'Connor announced he was also to step down as the show's host.[20] Vorderman and O'Connor both left the show in December 2008.[21]

Final period

The producers auditioned for Vorderman's and O'Connor's successors. On 21 November 2008, it was announced that 22-year-old Oxford graduate Rachel Riley and Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling would replace them

Vorderman recorded her last Countdown show on 13 November 2008 which was broadcast on 12 December 2008. Both her children were in the audience, together with many of the previous guests from "Dictionary Corner". After the prizegiving at the end of the show, Des O'Connor was presented with a bouquet of flowers by the show's lexicographer Susie Dent, and Vorderman received one from Gyles Brandreth. She was too moved to complete her farewells. A special show, One Last Consonant, please Carol, hosted by Brandreth and featuring Vorderman's highs and lows during the 26 years of the show, was also filmed and transmitted just before her final Countdown appearance.[22] After leaving Countdown, Vorderman continued contributing her column to the British magazine Reveal.

Pride of Britain Awards

Vorderman is the presenter of the annual Pride of Britain Awards, which are televised by ITV. She began hosting The Pride of Britain Awards when they were first introduced in 1999.

Loose Women

In July 2011, Vorderman and Sally Lindsay were tipped for roles on Loose Women following ITV's decision to axe Kate Thornton and Zoë Tyler from the programme.[23] This was later confirmed with Vorderman presenting her first live show on 5 September 2011.[24] From September 2011 to June 2013, Vorderman and fellow Loose Women host Andrea McLean hosted two to three shows per week, however, since the show returned after its summer break in September 2013, she began to host one episode per week with McLean anchoring the remaining four. On 3 October 2013, it was announced that former Loose Women presenter Kaye Adams would be returning to the show later in the year and Ruth Langsford would join the panel in January 2014. Adams, Langsford and Andrea McLean hosted the show in rotation with Vorderman remaining as an occasional presenter on the programme, usually presenting one episode a fortnight.[25]

On 14 July 2014, Vorderman announced her departure as a presenter on Loose Women. Vorderman explained:


Year Title Role
1982–2008 Countdown Maths expert
1987–1989 Take Nobody's Word For it Co-presenter
1990–1996 How 2 Co-presenter
1993 World Chess Championship Co-presenter
1994 Tomorrow's World Co-presenter
1999 Dream House Main presenter
1999–2003 Better Homes Presenter
1999— Pride of Britain Awards Presenter
2000 Star Lives Presenter
2001–2002 Britain's Brainiest Kid Presenter
2004 Strictly Come Dancing Contestant
2004, 2006 Have I Got News for You Guest presenter
2005–2006 Carol's Big Brain Game Co-presenter
2006 The Sunday Night Project Guest presenter
2011 Lorraine Guest presenter
2011–2014 Loose Women Host
2013 Food Glorious Food Presenter

Guest appearances

Outside television


Vorderman has had newspaper columns in The Daily Telegraph, and in the Daily Mirror on Internet topics. She has written books on Detox diets. Her No 1 Bestseller was Detox For Life, produced in collaboration with Ko Chohan and Anita Bean and published by Virgin Books, which sold over a million copies.

Many school textbooks have been published under her name, chiefly by Dorling Kindersley in series such as English Made Easy, Maths Made Easy, Science Made Easy and How to Pass National Curriculum Maths.

Commercial ventures

Vorderman also expanded her business ventures launching a number of Sudoku products. In March 2007 she launched a brain-training game called Carol Vorderman's Mind Aerobics together with BSkyB. Also in 2007, she released a video game for PlayStation 2 in the United States entitled Carol Vorderman's Sudoku.

In the autumn of 2008, soon after she completed her final regular Countdown show, Vorderman announced a new commercial venture in her own property development and sales company that would specialise in overseas holiday and retirement homes within the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Spain. Called Carol Vorderman's Overseas Homes Ltd she saw the company as a natural extension of her own experiences in buying and selling properties over recent years and was aiming at a target market of "families aged 35 plus".[28] However, because of the international financial downturn the venture proved short-lived and during March 2009 Vorderman publicly withdrew her name from the firm, which suspended trading soon after.

On 2 March 2010 Vorderman publicly launched her new commercial venture of an online mathematics coaching system for 4 – 12-year-old children under the name of the MathsFactor.[29]

Endorsement controversy

Vorderman had maintained a long-standing endorsement of the debt consolidation company First Plus, an association that ceased in 2007. In 2006 the charity Credit Action attempted to highlight the potential dangers of debt consolidation, calling on Vorderman to stop giving First Plus credibility. Her agent responded that Vorderman had no intention of curtailing the contract for a service which was perfectly legal and offered by an excellent company.[18] When quizzed by The Daily Telegraph in November 2008 Vorderman herself responded with:

"The secured loans market was criticised and it was pertinent to pick me out, because I was a face. I advertised FirstPlus for 10 years. We had something like £1.5billion out on loan and until a matter of months ago there were no repossessions. When that programme [BBC's Real Story] was made, [there were] no repossessions. Did they say that? Funnily enough, no."[28]

Other activities

On 18 September 2010 Vorderman, a Catholic, co-presented events prior to the Papal Vigil in Hyde Park, alongside author Frank Cottrell Boyce.[30][31]

In 2014 Vorderman qualified for a private pilot's licence and announced that she plans to fly solo around the world.[32]

On 20 November 2014 Vorderman accepted the appointment of ambassador to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets saying; "I am truly honoured to be appointed as an ambassador for the RAF Air Cadets. I can’t wait to meet the cadets, and the adult volunteer staff who give so much of their time to support them. The cadets themselves are a shining example of the best of British youngsters, standing with them on a parade square will be a great privilege." Vorderman will assume the rank of Honorary Group Captain RAFVR(T) for the duration of her appointment. She is the first and only female to be appointed Ambassador in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets' 76 year history after taking over from former ambassador Group Captain Sir Chris Hoy MBE.

Personal life

Vorderman was first married in 1985[33] at age 24 to Christopher Mather, a Royal Navy officer and former international rugby league player, but the marriage lasted only twelve months. Her second marriage was to management consultant Patrick King in 1990 at age 29.[34] Vorderman had two children, Katie (b. 1992) and Cameron (b. 1997),[32] with King; the couple separated in 2000.[35]

After meeting at a Christmas party in 1999, Vorderman and Daily Mail columnist and PR consultant Des Kelly lived together in London from 2001, also using their other house in Glandore, West Cork, Ireland. After five years together, Vorderman and Kelly separated in December 2006, publicly announcing the amicable split in January 2007.[36] and after a brief reconciliation in Bristol according to reports.[37][38]

Vorderman shares her Bristol home with her mother, her two children and her best friend Mandy along with her own two teenage boys. Vorderman has commented that it is like a commune with endless coming and goings and much laughter and noise.[39] Vorderman has lived with her mother all her life.[40] Her brother lives in The Hague.[41]

Honours and awards

Vorderman was honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for "services to broadcasting" in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2000.[42] She has been elected as an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University in North Wales[43] and, in 2000 received an Honorary Degree (MA) by the University of Bath.[44]

Vorderman was voted UK Female Rear of the Year in 2011.[35] She became the first celebrity to win the award twice in 2014.

Political views

Vorderman has been critical of the Labour Party's education policies.[45] In February 2009, it was announced that she was to head a task force established by the Conservative Party to look at the teaching of mathematics.[46] David Cameron commented, "Carol has got a passion for maths. We have all seen that on Countdown with her brilliant mental arithmetic and she is going to lead this task force so we can get the answers right."[47]

In an appearance on Question Time in March 2010, Vorderman was critical of all three major parties for hypocrisy in taking donations from non-domiciled taxpayers.[48]

Charity work

Vorderman presenting an RAF Wings Appeal show in July 2011

Vorderman is a patron of the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA)[49] (her older brother, Anton, was born with a cleft lip and palate). In 2005 she was the winner of Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations ITV ran a series of the nation's favourite game shows featuring celebrities competing to become Gameshow Marathon winner and raise money for the charity of their choice. As series winner Vorderman won £60,000 for CLAPA.[50] In November 2011 Carol also appeared in the music video for New Vorder's 'Carol O Carol' (playing herself) a song written by Jim Salveson in 1999 about his love for Carol Vorderman. The video is directed by legendary music video director Tim Cocker and was released on 28 November 2011 in aid of charity CLAPA.[51]

Vorderman appeared in a short film entitled 'Run for the future' which promotes prostate cancer awareness and a charity run held every year on the Bristol Downs to raise funds for the BUI prostate appeal.[52] She has also taken part in the Great North Run on several occasions to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. This was in memory of Richard Whiteley's sister Helen, who died of the disease.[53]

Vorderman is an active supporter and advocate of the RAF Wings Appeal charity, appearing at airshows and taking part in other fundraising events.[54][55]

Videos and published writings

  • Carol Vorderman's Pop Music Times Tables, 1990
  • Carol Vorderman's How to Write a Perfect Letter, 1991
  • How Mathematics Works, 1996
  • Carol Vorderman's Guide to the Internet (written with Rob Young), 1998
  • Carol Vorderman's How To Do Sudoku, 2005
  • Carol Vorderman's Massive Book of Sudoku, 2005
  • Eat Yourself Clever, 2008
  • Carol Vorderman's Guide to Maths
  • Carol Vorderman's Detox Diet
  • It All Counts, 2010


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External links