As Wheel of Fortune fans tune into the brand new series, fronted by Graham Norton, we take a look at the life of one of the iconic game show’s original stars, Jenny Powell
Wheel of Fortune fans have recently enjoyed a nostalgic trip down memory lane as Graham Norton revives the classic game show after more than 20 years.
Originally adapted from a US programme of the same name, Wheel of Fortune first burst onto UK screens in 1998, and soon became a popular Saturday night favourite. Scottish broadcaster Nicky Campbell was the first host to be appointed, with Bradley Walsh, John Leslie, and Paul Hendy.
The show also employed several ‘hostesses’ – including TV and radio presenter Jenny Powell. Often referred to as ‘glamorous assistants’, these women were responsible for turning letters around while the host asked questions.
This time around, Graham is presenting solo, and many disappointed long-time viewers have called for Jenny, now 55, to resume her iconic role. Judging by her own thoughts on the show, however, this doesn’t exactly seem likely.
Although many would envy Essex-born Jenny’s glittering career, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts grad later went on to express regrets over her time on Wheel of Fortune, stating that she only did it ‘to pay the bills’ and break away from children’s TV.
Jenny, who was only 26 years old when the game show made her a household name, opened up about how the ‘t*** and teeth’ role really made her feel during a 2022 episode Learning As I Go podcast. Expressing ‘hatred’ for the show, Jenny shared: “I ended up doing The Wheel of Fortune, which I hated. It was the biggest thing, but I hated it. Because I was just a girl turning bl***y letters around.”
She continued: “If someone said to you, right Jenny you are going to wear a really short skirt and we are all going to discuss the length of it for like four meetings, wear high heel shoes and turn some letters around and just look pretty and don’t say anything. Would you, do it? I know what I would tell my daughter today. I wasn’t actually allowed to speak.”
In September 2023, Jenny revealed that she was embarking on a rewarding new career away from the bright lights of the TV studio. In an Instagram post, Jenny shared that she was training to become a yoga teacher, while encouraging her followers not to give up on their own personal goals.
Jenny wrote: “I have procrastinated, deliberated, and finally pushed the button and committed to starting my online yoga teaching training course.” She continued: “I’m a technophobe and in my mid-fifties, some would say I’ve left things a bit late but I say noooooo! We are a generation of women who are different to those before us, we are empowered and ready to make our second half the best half. Guys and gals whatever you’ve been putting off just be honest about what’s stopping you and imagine THAT feeling once it’s been achieved.”
On top of her yoga routine, Jenny enjoys a healthy lifestyle, keeping to a fresh organic diet. She’s also game when it comes to giving new fitness activities a go and has previously tried out daring pursuits such as cold-water swimming and sky diving.
Heartbreak and finding love again
Jenny’s most famous romance was probably her three-year relationship with Take That member Jason Orange, who she remembers as being a ‘really, really kind, humble guy’. During an interview with The Sun, Jenny recalled: “Jason used to send me anonymous Valentine’s – I worked out it was him. We dated on and off and again it was in the height of their fame. He was quite spiritual and gave me really good self-help books. Take That fans used to put their lit cigarettes through my letterbox. I’m still really close to his mum, Jenny.”
The celebrity couple called it quits in 1995, and, three years later, Jenny embarked on a new relationship with company director Toby Baxendale, whom she married in 2006. The couple went on to welcome children Constance and Pollyanna, but split shortly after their second daughter’s birth in 2009.
Expressing her devastation in an interview with the Daily Record, mum-of-two Jenny said: “After my ex and I split I was just heartbroken really. I was hollow and numb and it was a horrible feeling. I said to my mum yesterday, the unfortunate thing is there are no photos of Polly as a baby and I don’t remember a lot about her first year. I was so distracted. I was trying to get through it and I don’t remember a lot apart from trying to cope and get better.”
Cupid struck during Christmastime 2010 however, when Jenny bumped into sports therapist Martin Lowe at a branch of Pret a Manger at London’s Euston Station. Sparks flew, and the couple remain very happy to this day. During an interview with Fabulous magazine last year, Jenny revealed that their romance is still very much alive, sharing: “I strongly believe that you have to keep making the effort with each other, or it’s a slippery slope. And my one golden rule for maintaining intimacy in a relationship is: don’t have a TV in your bedroom.”
She added: “Sex in your fifties gets better and better. Let’s face it, when you know someone so well and you’ve been through so many journeys, it’s just the best way to relax and enjoy each other.”
Daughter approached by Love Island
In September 2022, Jenny divulged that her older daughter Connie had been approached by ITV to partake in Love Island, following an appearance on Loose Women. During an interview with The Sun, Jenny admitted that she nearly ‘spat out [her] coffee’ when she heard the news. She continued: “After I appeared on Loose Women with my eldest daughter Connie, Love Island producers got in touch and asked her if she’d be interested in going on the show. She is gorgeous, so I left it to her. […] And [Connie] replied, ‘That I’ve got a boyfriend and I’m doing a History of Art Degree in UCL’. And she left it at that.”
You can catch Wheel of Fortune at 5.25pm, January 3, on ITV1. Follow Mirror Celebs and TV on Snapchat , Instagram , Twitter , Facebook , YouTube and Threads .
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