Celebrity Big Brother’s Vanessa Feltz: ‘It’s amazing what being hungry and horny makes you do’

Vanessa speaks out 19 years after THAT show breakdown

Vanessa Feltz

by Lily Smith |
Updated on

It’s been two decades since one of the most iconic shows in British reality TV history appeared on our screens – Big Brother first aired in 2000, and eventually had 19 series and 22 versions of the celebrity spin-off.

The show launched the careers of a host of stars – including Alison Hammond, Josie Gibson and Chantelle Houghton – with the celebrity version catapulting already well-known names into even greater mainstream fame.

And Vanessa Feltz – who starred in the first-ever series ofCelebrity Big Brother in 2001 – tells Closer why she believes Big Brother was one of the best shows on TV, and how it set a precedent for the nation’s obsession with reality TV today.

She says, “It’s an absolutely brilliant concept. If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d either be in it or glued to his screen. It’s just a fascinating study of human behaviour – how we behave at our most raw.


“Reality TV really wasn’t a thing back then, and it was the first human-experiment type show of its kind. It’s all about seeing people’s real personalities emerging, falling in love or lust, hating each other, getting drunk, people crying, laughing – and it’s all so fascinating.”

Vanessa, 58, was at the height of a successful career in journalism and TV when she signed up to CBB for Comic Relief, starring alongside the likes of presenter Anthea Turner, boxer Chris Eubank and Boyzone star Keith Duffy.

Vanessa Feltz CBB meltdown
Vanessa's meltdown worried some of her housemates ©Wenn

And the mum of two proved to be a memorable housemate, after a scene featured her stealing the chalk used for the shopping board and silently scribbling random words, such as “incarcerated” and “frustrated”, on to the kitchen table.

She then told Big Brother to “f*** off” – sparking concern among both fans and fellow housemates Claire Sweeney and Jack Dee, who were worried about her mental stability.

Check out: CBB's most jaw-dropping moments


Celebrity Big Brother's most outrageous moments SLIDER

roxanne pallett emmerdale1 of 31
CREDIT: Channel 5

Roxanne Pallett accused Ryan Thomas of punching her

When Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas were playing fighting no one was quite prepared when the Emmerdale actress claimed that he punched her hard in the ribs. She was quick to tell the rest of the housemates, ask Big Brother why Ryan wasn't removed from the house and branded him 'a liar', 'manipulative' and 'calculating'. During an eviction the CBB crowd were chanting for Roxanne to leave and shortly after she quit the show.That didn't stop the nation from being furious and Ofcom received over 11,000 complaints. She's since apologised for her actions but Ryan's brother Adam has slammed her apology and so has the Corrie star's girlfriend Lucy Mecklenburgh.

Kim loses her rag2 of 31

Kim Woodburn's explosive row

Security entered the house in 2017 to escort Kim Woodburn out, following an explosive row with her housemates.

Biggins gets the boot3 of 31

Christopher Biggins' shocking removal

In 2016, Christopher Biggins was removed from the house after making shocking homophobic and anti-Semitic comments.

What happens in the bathroom doesn't stay in the bathroom...4 of 31

Stephen Bear and Chloe Khan's bathroom saga

In 2016, Stephen told Chloe he wanted to "f**k her in the bathroom" while the pair got intimate after locking themselves in the bathroom... the noises were unbearable!

Uh oh Bear...5 of 31

Stephen Bear's love affair

In 2016, Stephen Bear's girlfriend entered the house to confront him after he cheated with housemate Chloe Khan.

GC'S diva antics6 of 31

Gemma Collins' controversial decision

In 2016, Gemma Collins chose to have a professional blow dry at the expense of her fellow housemates losing out on hot water and the use of hair appliances for the day.

Mad Megs7 of 31

Megan McKenna's meltdown

In 2016, Megan McKenna's drunken meltdown got her removed from the house by security.

CBB love affair8 of 31

Stephanie and Jeremy's romance

In 2016, Stephanie Davis publicly cheated with Jeremy McConnell, while her boyfriend tuned in to watch every night... awkward.


'David's Dead' confusion

In 2016, Tiffany Pollard was hysterical after mishearing Angie Bowie's news that her husband David Bowie had died, and mistaking him for her fellow housemate David Gest.

Dirty laundry humiliation10 of 31

Stephanie Davis' knickers humiliation

In 2016, John Partridge, Christopher Maloney and Darren Day came across Stephanie's dirty underwear and publicly mocked her stains, referring to them as "pigeon s--t".

Winston clashes with the house11 of 31

Winston McKenzie's homophobic slur

In 2016, housemates were left stunned as Winston McKenzie's homophobic views were exposed in a task, as he compared gay adoption to "child abuse".

Geordie Shore meets TOWIE12 of 31

Lewis Bloor and Marnie Simpson's shower scene

In 2016, Marnie Simpson and Lewis Bloor enjoyed a naked romp in the showers... Nice.

The Perez Show13 of 31

Perez Hilton's sexual threats

Perez Hilton repeatedly tells Calum Best he'd "shove his huge dk up your ae" during a heated row in 2015.

Perez vs. Katie14 of 31

Perez Hilton harassing Katie Hopkins

During their daily bust-ups in 2015, Perez Hilton tried to lick Katie Hopkins whilst singing "lick it good, suck this d**k just like you should"... charming.

Banana-gate15 of 31

Alicia Douvall banana-gate

In 2015, Alicia Douvall was left in tears after housemates caught her stealing bananas and hiding them under her bed... there's worse sins!

N-word bombshell16 of 31

Ken Morley's racist slur

Ken Morley was removed from the house in 2015 for using the 'n-word' in a heated discussion with Alexander O'Neal.

The love triangle drama17 of 31

Lee Ryan, Casey Batchelor and Jasmine Waltz's love triangle

Following her on-screen romance with Lee Ryan, Jasmine Waltz re-entered the house after he quickly moved on to fellow housemate Casey Bachelor in 2014.

Leslie and Frenchy come to blows18 of 31

Leslie Jordan's row with Frenchy

In 2014, Leslie Jordan lost his cool with Frenchy after she cut up his underwear, calling her "white trash" and a "stinking French s**t!"

Na Na Neigh!19 of 31

Dappy's raunchy bathroom scene

Dappy 'windmilled' after jumping in the pool with Luisa in 2014.

CBB villains Speidi20 of 31

Spencer and Heidi Pratt's villainous antics

In 2013, Spencer and Heidi Pratt prevented housemate Claire Richards from getting a letter from her children... AND celebrated it.

Lauren takes a tumble21 of 31

Lauren Harries falling over 24/7

Lauren Harries constantly tripped over in 2013. How?!

Karissa was not impressed...22 of 31

Denise Welch's drunken antics

In 2012, Karissa Shannon threatened to leave and sue the show as a drunken Denise Welch jokingly pulled down her trousers and exposed her bum.

Frankie doesn't go to Hollywood23 of 31

Frankie Cocozza and Nicola Maclean get steamy in the hot tub

Frankie Cocozza and Nicola Maclean get steamy in the hot tub in 2012.

Julie takes a trip to the fruitbowl24 of 31

Julie Goodyear's banana scene

Julie Goodyear got a little too personal with a banana in 2012.

Jedward in their pants25 of 31

Jedward get vajazzled

Jedward got vajazzled by Amy Childs in 2011... not something you want to see every day.

Naked man alert!26 of 31

Alex Reid's beauty regime

Alex Reid got a fake tan in the buff in 2010.

Verne Troyer drink driving27 of 31

Verne Troyer's drunken collision

Verne Troyer had a head-on collision with the Diary Room after getting a bit tipsy in 2009.

Poppadomgate28 of 31

Jade Goody vs. Shilpa Shetty

Jade vs Shilpa in 2007 led to one of the most controversial CBB moments EVER and to Jade's silent eviction from the house.

And the award for Politician of the Year goes to...29 of 31

George Galloway's cat incident

George Galloway pretended to be a pussy-cat in 2006. A nation shuddered.

Heeeeeeere's Jackie!30 of 31

Jackie Stallone's shock arrival

Jackie Stallone's shock arrival in the house in 2003 was accompanied by the immortal line: 'Yeaaaah, Jaaaackie!'

Feltz Meltz31 of 31

Vanessa Feltz tragic meltdown

In the first ever CBB in 2001 Vanessa Feltz had a meltdown and scrawled posh words all over a table.

And Vanessa says that moment was catalysed by the pressures of being under surveillance, with the other housemates, and crippling homesickness – something she hadn’t anticipated.

She says, “It was a complete living nightmare from hell, being in the Big Brother house. I don’t know what I thought it’d be like, but I didn’t think I’d feel the way I did. I think my breakdown began from the moment I walked in, after seeing my daughters in the crowd and crossing that bridge.

"My time was weird, lonely, difficult, unnerving and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be watched all the time and be told what to do. And everyone would be sobbing during nominations, and when I myself got nominated I felt terrible – even though I didn’t think I would.

Vanessa Feltz Ultimate Big Brother wedding Ben Ofoedu
Vanessa made a brief appearance in Ultimate Big Brother ©Shutterstock

“And [the chalk incident] was a mini meltdown. I was fine afterwards, but at the time I couldn’t help myself. I was in a volatile state emotionally – I’d just got divorced [from surgeon Michael Kurer] and my mum had recently died. I was desperately missing my daughters, my home, books, sex, and being able to eat what I wanted when I wanted. It’s amazing what being hungry and horny will make you do!”

Read more

Big Brother series two - where are they now?

Alison Hammond reunites with Big Brother co-star after 18 years

Big Brother series seven: where are they now?

Watch: Rylan Clark-Neal spills the beans on Harry Potter role

Despite struggling in the house, Vanessa – who has been engaged to singer-songwriter Ben Ofoedu since 2006 – emerged as one of the most remembered contestants of all time, even returning for 2010’s Ultimate Big Brother alongside the likes of Nicholas “Nasty Nick” Bateman and Nikki Grahame.

And despite her prior success, Vanessa is adamant the show did wonders for her career, saying, “It was definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done, although when I signed up I had no idea that my decision to go on it would be so monumental. At the time, I had my own TV show, I was a columnist, I was a presenter – but still, CBB was huge for me. To this day, people still ask, ‘Why were you writing on the table?’”

Read more about the return of Big Brother in this week's Closer magazine ©Closer

Fans were left heartbroken in 2018 when Big Brother ended, and as the nation experiences its own version of house lockdown amid the pandemic, producers have compiled an anniversary show with highlights from the last 20 years. It’s set to air on 14 June and will be fronted by veteran host Davina McCall and Rylan Clark-Neal.

And Vanessa admits she’d love to see it make a return. She says, “Back then, no one had any idea a show like this could make or break a career. Nowadays, with reality TV, everyone knows what they’re doing, but back then nobody really had a clue.

“Big Brother was the first-ever reality show and it paved the way for the genre. I miss it and I want it to return – it has to! It’s entertaining, frustrating brilliance. As long as other people are interested in the way we all behave – which we all are – it’ll always be fascinating and popular. I can’t wait until the day it does return.”

Celebrity Big Brother secrets: Vanessa spills the beans on Jack Dee's 'escape' attempt

Jack Dee
Jack Dee poses for Comic Relief in 2001 ©Getty

“At one point, my housemate [comedian] Jack Dee came into the room covered in mud, seemingly like he’d tried to get out of the house. I thought, ‘That’s odd, because everywhere is paved. There is no mud!’ The producers had clearly given him some to make it look like he’d made an escape.”

CBB secrets: we weren't paid a penny

“Back then, it was all for charity, for Comic Relief – which is great. But it’s funny how, later on, the show was paying millions in celebrity fees. Ray J, Kim Kardashian’s ex, was reportedly paid £800k in 2017, even though he quit after a week. We weren’t even paid expenses!”

Big Brother: Best Shows Ever starts Sun 14 June, 9pm, E4

Read even more celebrity interviews in Closer magazine each week. Can't get to the shops? No problem. Find out how to get Closer magazine at home.

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