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Emma Willis on feeling helpless during the pandemic: 'I wanted to do something but didn’t know how'

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·5-min read
TV presenter Emma Willis said that the lockdown made her feel useless (Image: Getty Images)
TV presenter Emma Willis said that the lockdown made her feel useless (Image: Getty Images)

Like many of us during those lockdown months, TV presenter Emma Willis felt pretty darn useless, which prompted her to think about ways she could help those that had less than herself.

Appearing on White Wine Question Time with friend Giovanna Fletcher, Willis told host Kate Thornton that she found the whole process really frustrating.

“I felt very useless,” she said. “There's absolutely nothing that you can do when all you want to do is help.

Read more: Eleven lessons learnt in lockdown from White Wine Question Time celebs

“You couldn't do anything – and that's what I found really frustrating at the same time as being really bloody relieved that I have a roof over my head and my health – I was conflicted with that most days. I wanted to do something but didn't know what to do or how to do.”

Listen: Emma Willis and Giovanna Fletcher recall their first impressions of each other

Fletcher, who has been pals with Willis for nearly 15 years, said that being aware of how good she had it during lockdown, made her determined to help others.

She said: “I have a garden that the kids can run around in. I'm able to feed the kids – but what if that isn't the case? And I think that's when your attention goes to try to find a way to help those people that are living in those situations.”

That way became Be My Guest, an initiative to raise money for charities to help their response to the ongoing pandemic crisis in the UK. The idea is that people bid for the chance to be called up by a celebrity.

Willis said it was really tricky to choose just four charities, but they eventually arrived at Mind, Refuge, The Trussell Trust and NHS Charities Together.

“We tried to pick four charities that cover different areas that all cover like a massive spectrum of people so that you can try and help as many people as far afield as possible,” the TV presenter said.

Fletcher added: “You have to focus on a select few, otherwise you spread yourself too thin”

After speaking to various charities, the girls realised that some helplines were struggling to keep going – something they wanted to really support.

Watch: TV host Emma Willis talks about ‘The Voice’ 2019 final

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“It was just really important to pick charities that we felt were going to help a huge range of people and keep them going,” said Fletcher. “We've spoken to the charities. We know that they're being called on more than ever before.”

The inspiration came to Willis in the middle of the night and she immediately roped in pal Fletcher to help get it off the ground.

“I just went to the loo in the middle of the night and was like, ‘What if we just kind of ask people to donate their time on a video call?’” she revealed.

She continued: “I called Gi and asked her what she thought. She's like my sounding board, and she was well into it. So that was it. I didn't give her very many opportunities to back out of it!”

The pair have plundered their little black books of contacts and so far have featured an amazing array of stars, including the original three celebrities: Olly Murs, Paloma Faith and Spice Girl, Mel C.

“Their calls were amazing,” exclaimed Fletcher. “When you go backstage, your time with that person, if you've got a backstage meet and greet, it's very limited because that person has a show to go to…

Read more: Emma Willis 'jealous' of husband Matt's 'fun' parenting

“Whereas the beauty of this is that they know that they are literally sitting down with you - you have their undivided attention. We've seen clips of the chats that have happened before and they're just so wonderful. It's amazing.”

This month, the girls have managed to add a whole new host of celebrities into the mix including Matt Lucas, Radio One’s Gregg James and the world’s biggest girl band, Little Mix. The latter saying yes was a huge surprise to the girls.

Fletcher said: “We were talking about it on a call and we were talking about, ‘They're so busy. They are the busiest girls ever.’ I was like ‘I've worked with Perrie, let me just send her a message.’ She like came back within like five minutes!”

Willis said it was definitely a high moment for everyone working on the initiative.

“The WhatsApp group that we've got for Be My Guest… When Gi said that, it was literally like a party all by itself!” she laughed.

You can win a chance to get a call with a celebrity by donating at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving/bemyguest/

Listen to Emma Willis and Giovanna Fletcher talk about their friendship and how it was cemented on the side of a mountain on this week’s edition of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes or Spotify.

Watch: How did the FIFA World Cup almost ruin Emma Willis’ wedding anniversary?