Pregnant Rachel Riley inspired into feminism by her ‘power lesbian headmistress’

Pregnant Rachel Riley inspired into feminism by her ‘power lesbian headmistress’

05/29/2019

Countdown star Rachel Riley says a "power lesbian headmistress" inspired her to become a feminist.

The pregnant TV personality, who is expecting her first child with ex-Strictly Come Dancing professional Pasha Kovalev, said she never anticipated gaining a political profile from speaking out about the growing problem of antisemitism.

The 33-year-old added that feminism was a key part of her upbringing.

She described her "power lesbian headteacher" at girls' grammar school, Southend High School for Girls, in Essex, who taught them that "girls can do anything they want".

Riley said that women should stop "underselling" themselves.

Her comments came during a candid podcast interview with Alistair Campbell, the ex-Downing Street Press Secretary, and his daughter Grace, a comedian and activist.

Her chat on Campbell’s new podcast, Football, Feminism, and Everything In Between, is available today.

Riley, who bagged her Countdown job when she was just 22 years old, said: "Anti-Semitism is nothing to do with Jews.

"It's all to do with anti-Semites. It's to do with racists. They're so interconnected, I don't think a lot of them know or care who they're discriminating against.

"They’re lumping a whole group of different ethnicities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, together as one homogeneous group to discriminate against them.

"You can sod off if you think I'm going to stand for that."

When asked why it has fallen to her, as a self-confessed atheist, to speak out against it, she added: "Because I saw it happening, and I saw the massive niche.

"As soon as I got my job on Countdown, people were really interested in my opinion.


"They wanted me to open this envelope, or come and open this function, and it didn't interest me at all.

"But I realised what my value was as a TV presenter, and why people want to use me and my brand.

"As a woman, you wear a dress and you get in the papers. It doesn't matter what you're doing, seemingly, but you shine a light on stuff.

"I saw that there wasn't a light being shone on this. Not only was it not getting the attention it needed, but it was being downplayed and lied about while it was spreading.

"You don't have to be religious to understand the Holocaust and everything that went before that. I've been brought up knowing about it.

"I never understood how a whole continent of people could have allowed that to happen.

"But now I see things spreading, and I don’t know where they’re going to lead, and it’s really horrible. People need to stop putting money ahead of hate," she said.

And speaking of her recent involvement in anti-Semitism in politics, Riley said: "I never anticipated any of this. I want the hell away from it.

"I wish some grownups would come in and clear up this mess.

"It’s opened my eyes to racism in a way that I wasn’t aware of before, and the way things spread, and I guess I’m grateful for that and that I can make a bit of a difference.

"But this level is unsustainable. It’s not healthy, it’s not nice, I don’t want it in my country."

Riley describes herself as a "swing voter", saying she has voted for three different parties in the past, but emphasising: "I don't think it is relevant who someone votes for."

And she described herself as "quiet naive" growing up, stating that feminism was "indoctrinated" into her at her girls' grammar school, Southend High School for Girls, in Essex.

She said: "Feminism is easy, it's just part of my core.

"We had a power lesbian headmistress who just indoctrinated us into feminism, feminism, feminism. She just promoted women.

"It wasn't even that men and women were different, that wasn’t even on our radar, it just didn’t even filter into my peripheral vision.

"It was just always that girls can do anything they want. It wasn’t even in reference to boys, it’s just that us girls, we can achieve whatever we want.


"We can get whatever job we want, whatever grades we want. We can do whatever sport, whatever activities.

"It wasn't until I went to university and met some boys from all different walks of life – especially public school boys – that I became aware that people don't see each other equally.

"As adults, we think that boys can do something and girls can't. It's just ingrained. I don't blame anyone for it, but I think we need to recognise it."

Riley added: "I did leave a TV job because I was being treated differently as a woman.

"When I started I was kind of green and learning and would listen to everybody.

"But then I learnt, and I realised that I didn’t want myself portrayed in a certain way, or having words put in my mouth.

"I didn't want to be treated a certain way where I could see it being different with other presenters. I didn’t need the aggro," Riley said.

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