Queen of clean Kim on her route to fame

Kim Woodburn
Kim Woodburn
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It’s blisteringly hot and Albert Road in Southsea is full of people. Leaning against the outside of the Kings Theatre, Kim Woodburn calmly poses for the camera in yellow marigolds.

That is until a boy on his bike stops and asks her: ‘Are you that woman off the telly?’ Britain’s favourite cleaner, who is well known for speaking her mind, jokingly tells him to ‘shut his gob’ if he’s going to pester her.

She is famed for being one half of the Kim and Aggy duo on the phenomenally successful How Clean Is Your House? TV show - and for outspoken arguments in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity and drinking a bit too much on Celebrity Come Dine With Me.

So it’s surprising to learn that she is just a typical Portsmouth girl at heart, having been brought up in a small terraced house in Suffolk Road, Eastney.

Kim, 69, says: ‘I left Portsmouth when I was almost 16, but I’m here all the time. I visit my uncle in Portsmouth and Copnor.’

She adds: ‘My family life here wasn’t good, but Portsmouth itself is lovely. I have memories of coming to this theatre 50 years ago. I was 15 years of age and came to see Frankie Howerd, but that was a long time ago. I idolised him of course.’

In 2006 Kim published her book Unbeaten: The Story of My Brutal Childhood. It detailed her life growing up in Portsmouth, the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, and a subsequent move to Liverpool where she had a stillborn son.

She says: ’People are interested in what my life was like, and for a long time I said I’m not going to do this. Then I thought why not? It shocked in some places, and in others it was a sad book. Don’t read it, because you’ll cut your throat. But I stand by it.

‘I think people realised you can have rather a bad life, that things happen.’

She says the city is exactly the same as it was when she was a teenager.

‘You know they’ve got the same pubs they had when I was a kid. Look at the beaches and the sunset, look at Canoe Lake, look at Baffins pond, all the Old Portsmouth. It’s all still here. To me, time’s not changed.

‘The odd thing has sprung up but basically driving along the seafront it’s not changed. The pub my mother met my father in is still there, still looks the same. She met him in Milton at the White House.’

Kimm adds: ‘Portsmouth is a lovely place. I don’t think I realised how lovely it was when I was a child, but I don’t think you do.’

Kim went on to become a live-in cleaner, and even moved to America for 11 years where she cleaned the homes of film stars (and apparently ‘nothing is made up in Hollywood.’) She’d had various jobs, including being a social worker, when she was approached to star in Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House? At the time she was working as a £1,000-a-month cleaner.

She says: ‘Like everyone else I lived week to week. I paid my bills. When the gas would come through I would think oh I’ll wait for the reminder.

‘Then suddenly you’re thrown into the limelight, and you’re part of a phenomenally successful series. You become very famous, and it’s rather nice you know.’

Dubbed the Queen of Clean, Kim’s career went from strength to strength, with a further five series of the show being commissioned, and filming a show in Canada entitled Kim’s Rude Awakening.

In 2009 she decided to take part in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and was runner-up to Gino D’Acampo. Today, she is remembered for her arguments with Katie Price, and stripping off to wash her clothes in the river.

Kim says: ‘I did it because I wanted the challenge. When I was in there I thought I’ve got to get out. It was dirty and you were bitten and you weren’t eating, plus there were those disgusting trials.

‘I am a very honest person, I wasn’t going to go in the jungle and be a phoney. Katie annoyed me and I told her, Joe Bugner annoyed me and I told him.

‘I believe you’ve got to be yourself in there and unfortunately many people aren’t, because they hope if they show a personality that’s sweet and nice and don’t lose their temper they will win.’

Early last year, Kim took part in a celebrity special of TV show Come Dine With Me, and famously got a bit tipsy at the dinner parties.

She laughs and says: ‘Oh, I got drunk on that didn’t I? Darren Day was nice, and Tom O’Connor, he was lovely. Claire (Sweeney) is really nice, because she’s all showbiz.

‘I just wish I hadn’t got tiddled as a newt, which is not professional. I think Claire was slipping the vodka in my wine. I’ve got to blame somebody.’

Kim missed out on a place as a Loose Women panellist because, in her own words, she is ‘too powerful.’

She says: “I wanted to be a panellist and they said oh no you’ll steal the show. But then they’ve got Cilla Black now and (Janet Street) Porter, who is a bit out there. I’d love to be on there.

‘I’d love to be a judge on the Simon Cowell talent show because I’m an older woman, I love kids, I love all ages, I’m well-known in many countries.’

She still cannot believe that when she was 61, and had been on a pension for a year, she became as famous as she did. She insists she’s still just a normal person,

Kim says:’If it finished tomorrow, I’m all right you know. I never expected to get into showbiz. I’m getting on now. I like to rest on my days at home and being with my husband, and my little cat Daisy. I’ve made my money, bought my house in cash and everything. Have I had my 15 minutes? Well, I’ve had eight years.’

Obviously proud of her achievements, Kim doesn’t have much time for celebrities that moan about the pressures of fame.

She adds: ‘There’s nothing awful about it. If you don’t want to be famous and don’t want your fans, go live in a hut on a mountain. Don’t complain, because you’ve never had it so good my love.’

FUNDRAISER

Kim Woodburn is holding an evening for the Portsmouth Association for the Blind at the Kings Theatre, Southsea on June 17.

She wants to raise money for the charity as it is close to her heart. She was brought up in Portsmouth and is blind in one eye.

Kim says: ‘I was born like that so, consequently, I’ve never known anything else.

‘The association has got 400 members. They make their own money with their own dos, they are not funded by anybody at all. I’m glad to do it, it’s fab.’

She adds: ‘They go round to people’s houses once a week if they’re blind and read the morning mail, sort everything out and help them have as much of a normal life as they can.’

An Evening With Kim Woodburn will feature a question-and-answer section, with Kim talking about her career in television and the many celebrities she has met since hitting the big time in 2003.

Kim says: ‘I want to talk about how I got on telly. People ask me all the time. I was 61 when I got put on television. I suddenly got thrown into the spotlight.

‘I didn’t go looking, I was head-hunted. I got put in a show and it’s shown in 30 countries. I’ve flown to Hollywood and Las Vegas, New York, and I worked in Canada. It’s a fantastic story, that at 61 you can get a telly job.’

Kim will be supported on the evening by Portsmouth-based dance groups Instep Dance and Victory-Land Youth Group.

The event starts at 7.30pm and tickets are adults £10-£12 and children, pensioners and students £8-£10. To book, call in at the Kings or ring the box office on (023) 9282 8282.