Birmingham-born TV star Emma Willis talks Big Brother, McBusted and the amazing doctors and nurses who saved the life of her close friend’s new-born baby
Emma Willis remembers the moment all too clearly when one of her dearest friend’s discovered that her new-born baby had a life-threatening heart condition. Three years on, the plight of little Rudy Maxwell-Jones feels like it was just yesterday to the star presenter of the hit TV shows Big Brother and The Voice. “It’s something you can never forget, and what the doctors and nurses did for Rudy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital was just incredible. The hospital has been close to my heart and something I am proud to support whenever I can,” she says.
The surgical team operated on Rudy when he was just 36 hours old. He had a narrowing of the aortic valve, a condition called Critical Aortic Stenosis, and the op was his only hope. While his mum Jeanette and Emma feared the worse, the doctors worked their magic, and today Rudy is a thriving toddler. As we revealed in last month’s Birmingham’s Greatest feature, many thousands of parents and children have reason to thank the hospital for its wonderful work, and Emma is among the loudest voices to sing its praises. She tries to give her support whenever she can despite a crazily busy workload on the film set and in the TV studio Born in Sutton Coldfield, it would be all too easy for Emma to forget her roots, after all she is one of the most talked about celebrities on TV, featuring regularly in the gossip columns of the national press and being frequently ‘papped’ when she’s out and about whether with her husband Matt Willis of the band McBusted or on her own. But her love for Birmingham and its people is undimmed despite all the success and bright lights. Emma is a real role model and inspiration to the kids who attend her old school, John Wilmott in Sutton Coldfield. After leaving school at 17, she began modeling and quickly featured in photoshoots for leading brands such as Chanel and GAP and fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire. Her break into TV came as a presenter on MTV and after stints on various other shows she joined ITV’s This Morning programme in 2012.
She’s since become what’s seems like an ever-present on the nation’s screens with appearances including fronting Loose Women and The Paul O’Grady Show and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Emma is best known though as the presenter of Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother as well as talent show The Voice. These days she lives in the countryside outside London with Matt and their two young children, Isabelle, five, and Ace, three, yet she comes back to Birmingham as often as she can – the last time at Christmas when she thrilled staff and their young patients by switching on the festive lights at the hospital she so admires. “The hospital means so much to me that I was honoured to be invited to switch them on,” she says. “It was a very special moment.” It’s not easy fitting in personal appearances such as this to her non-stop schedule, but Emma, who is also an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, makes sure she finds the time because as she says: “Times like Christmas bring happiness and joy to the children and are especially important to the brave young patients and their families. The staff at the hospital are just so amazing and work so hard. It’s very humbling to be part of being able to help them. When you see the little ones running around with excitement, I just get swept away by it all.”
Star names such as Emma are a major factor in helping the hospital’s in-house fund-raising team realizing the hundreds of thousands of pounds each year that pay for improving facilities. Emma’s infectious personality has won her legions of TV fans – she has been nominated as the most popular entertainment presenter at the National Television Awards for the last two years. That, together with her empathy for the young patients and their families, makes her a real winner with everyone at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
- When she was younger, Emma thought she would follow her parents into medicine and work in a hospital.
- Her modelling career started after her mum sent photos to various modeling agencies, and one of them signed her up
- Emma is known for setting the trend with her sleek hairstyles – yet she is naturally curly-haired and spends ages with the straighteners to get that glossy look.
- She first met Matt when she interviewed him on MTV in 2005. He proposed on a trip to Venice.
- A true Villain, Emma continues to be an avid supporter of her life-long football club Aston Villa.