EXCLUSIVE The secrets of CITV: Danielle Nicholls lays bare the VERY raunchy backstage antics, strict (and sexist) clothing rules and on air blunders with Stephen Mulhern as fan favourite channel shuts down
After 17 years on air CITV officially shut down on September 1, leaving fans and former show hosts bereft.
The channel was the home of many British TV classics and kickstarted the careers of stars such as Holly Willoughby, Cat Deeley and Ant and Dec.
Yet while the presenters always appeared on air with boundless energy, beaming smiles and butter wouldn’t melt attitude, backstage things weren’t quite so innocent.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, former CITV presenter Danielle Nicholls revealed what the stars really got up to behind the scenes as well as the strict rules they had to follow on air.
Danielle began hosting the children’s channel in 1998 after beating 900 applicants to the role.
The secrets of CITV: Danielle Nicholls lys bare the VERY raunchy backstage antics, strict (and sexist) clothing rules and on air blunders with Stephen Mulhern (pictured in 1998)
She auditioned for the show alongside Stephen Mulhern and quickly formed a strong bond, with the pair making a dynamic duo on screen and becoming fast friends.
Danielle revealed meeting Stephen was the highlight of her time on CITV, explaining: ‘The audition process was like Popstars with lots of cheesy activities but we instantly connected. It was like we’d known each other all our lives.
‘Stephen comes from a working class background, his dad was that was a market trader, so we totally got each other and and it went on from there.
‘He was a proper practical joker and thought it was hysterical to wind the cast and crew up! We were always joking around together.
‘I used to say to people I get paid to d**k about. Imagine if I had to have a proper job? The whole job was to d**k about and have a laugh.
‘They would give us a loose script. So we weren’t scripted but they would just tell us how long the link was and what they wanted to get out of it.
‘They were some of the best years of my life just having fun, hanging out with my best friend.’
Yet while they had fun working together, Danielle revealed it was still hard work, with the presenters tasked with keeping the show going and also the practical aspects of working on live TV.
She explained: ‘The producers put a lot of trust in us and I don’t think anyone realises the grounding it gives you.
‘Thing is as well with it being live there was so little time between the link you could never take your mic off, so we’d have go to the toilet with our mic still attached and the sound crew could hear everything!’
Stephen and Danielle looked out for each other during their time on the show, with Danielle recalling the time the Catchphrase host saved her from an on-air blunder.
She explained: ‘Once I almost gave my phone number out live on air! I literally got to the last digit and Stephen’s face just went white and he went “woooo” and coughed and I stopped. We always saved each other.’
The pair first started looking out for each other during the audition process, with Danielle revealing that the casting team took the applicants out for drinks at the end of the three-day test.
Raunchy: While Danielle kept things professional when she was working she revealed that backstage there were some racy antics (pictured last month)
Strict rules: While Danielle may have lost a few items of clothing in her dressing room, on air she had to fully cover up
‘Stephen turned to me and said “don’t get drunk” because we knew they were testing us,’ she explained. ‘You’ve got to remember in those days there wasn’t the internet so you couldn’t research someone. Thank God there was no social media because we were crazy!’
While Danielle kept things professional when she was working she revealed that backstage there were some racy antics, confessing that she seduced a pop star in her dressing room after he appeared on the show.
‘I had a cheeky kiss with a pop star that I shall keep nameless!’ Danielle confessed. ‘We’d wrapped filming because it was a Friday evening and he said something like “come back to the dressing room and I’ll give you a phone number”, something really innocent like that.
‘So I kissed him! I had this massive crush on him for ages and I just thought, you know what, s*d it and I said “can I kiss you?” So we had a little snog.’
READ MORE: Where are the stars of CITV now? How it spawned some of TV’s biggest stars, while others have sought more humble career paths
Recalling another racy backstage antic, Danielle revealed she invited her boyfriend into her dressing room for X-rated fun.
She confessed: ‘I did get a bit cheeky with a footballer! And we did a bit more than kissing in that dressing room!’
And two decades on the pair are still together as Danielle revealed her racy dressing room antics were with her now-husband, former footballer and Charlton Athletic manager Dean Holden, who she wed in 2006.
While Danielle may have lost a few items of clothing in her dressing room, on air she had to fully cover up.
The clothing rules meant that Danielle was banned from wearing anything the channel deemed too skimpy, including spaghetti strap vests.
Danielle – who was D cup at the time – revealed: ‘It was so strict. I had to wear a special bra, a reduction bra that squashed my boobs, and had to have a layer of padding in case the studio was cold.
‘You had to have these kind of conversations cause its children’s tv, but you know what children don’t sexualise boobs!
‘We had to be given guidelines because we wore our own clothes. It’s a conversation there is nothing wrong with saying what they expect from you and I was absolutely cool with it.’
After more than three years as a presenter on CITV, Danielle left the channel in 2001 but returned to work on children’s TV in ITV’s Diggit and Sooty Heights.
Danielle now works at Talk TV, hosting Saturday Night Talkaway with Andre Walker but revealed she has had viewers complain about her naturally large breasts.
She explained: ‘I’ve always had a big bust and after I breastfed, it just never went down. So I went up from a double D on CITV to a G cup after I’d given birth and they just never went down.
‘I’ve been attacked for my boobs and had Ofcom complaints over my chest and I think it’s really cruel.
‘Women get so embarrassed about their breasts but mine fed all of my babies, I’m proud of my breasts they did the job.
‘It seems to be in this world you’re allowed to anything apart from a woman who is actually embracing her sexuality.
Complaints: Danielle now works at Talk TV, hosting Saturday Night Talkaway with Andre Walker but revealed she has had viewers complain about her breasts
‘I get on my high horse about it because these are my boobs they belong to my body and I shouldn’t be bodyshamed. If somebody else sexualises your body it’s their problem, not your problem.’
Danielle hasn’t ruled out a return to children’s TV but with the closure of CITV she doesn’t hold much hope for future programmes.
She revealed: ‘I would tell people there’s no better way to learn your craft than in kids TV but it’s unfortunate now because I don’t think there’ll be that same pathway now.
‘I think it’s the end of the era and things won’t be the same again.’
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