The nation's biggest names in TV stepped out on Thursday night to attend the National Television Awards, and for some it was their first time back on the red carpet since the pandemic struck. But ITV favourite Lorraine Kelly was notably absent and in her exclusive HELLO! column she explains exactly why. Read more below...
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I couldn't attend TV's biggest night of the year this week, but it was for a very, very good reason. Instead of putting on my glad rags for the NTA Awards as I have done many times in the past, I was instead at home interviewing the legendary tennis icon Billie Jean King on a Zoom call from New York.
WATCH: Lorraine Kelly reveals why she missed NTAs
What an absolute joy it was to have almost an hour to talk about her fascinating and inspiring life. I grew up watching Billie Jean play tennis and I loved reading her new book ALL IN about her success as a sports star and a passionate campaigner for women's rights, as well as a fighter for equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
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I love the fact she has a deep long-lasting friendship with Sir Elton John going way back to the seventies. He actually wrote his number one hit song Philadelphia Freedom for Billie Jean and the two of them have such a brilliant relationship.
Lorraine has previously attended the NTAs, pictured here with Richard Madden
In 1973 Billie Jean famously played tennis professional Bobby Riggs in the much-hyped 'Battle of the Sexes' after the self-confessed male chauvinist boastfully declared a man would always beat an "inferior" woman. I was among the 50 million viewers all over the world who watched Billie Jean soundly beat Riggs and strike another blow for equal rights.
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Their match was made into a 2017 movie with Emma Stone playing Billie Jean and Steve Carell as Riggs so a whole new generation could appreciate Billie Jean's victory.
She was outed in 1981 and overnight found sponsorship deals and advertisement endorsement simply disappeared. All because she happened to be gay. It was tough, but Billie Jean's courage and tenacity have made it much easier for other sports stars who can now be out and proud.
Kate Garraway won an award for her documentary Finding Derek
Billie Jean is a big admirer of British rising tennis star Emma Raducanu but wants us all to give the eighteen-year-old space and not pile on the pressure for her to win Wimbledon.
After I interviewed Billie Jean, I turned on the TV in time to see my wonderful friend Kate Garraway win an NTA for her incredible documentary about her Covid-stricken husband Derek. Kate gave the most moving, articulate and heartfelt speech and quite rightly received a standing ovation.
Congratulations to all the winners and I'm sure I will be back at the NTAs next year to cheer on Ant and Dec to their 21st win in a row as our top TV presenters!
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