It’s rare that a person’s home perfectly reflects their personality. But Saira Khan’s vibrant and open Oxford house suits the TV presenter to a tee. Saira couldn’t be warmer when OK! arrives, welcoming us with hugs and a cup of tea, having just returned from a 5k run.
Steve and Saira have recently given their home a £500,000 renovation, transforming it from top to bottom. The four-bedroom house is filled with colourful memories of her Pakistani heritage and childhood in the Midlands.
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The Loose Women panellist shares the beautiful property with her husband of 15 years, Steve Hyde, and their two children, Zac, 12, and nine-year old Amara, who the couple adopted from Pakistan after struggling to conceive.
Saira, 50, is not shy about voicing her opinions. So it is fitting that after stints on The Apprentice, Guess This House and The Martin Lewis Money Show, she was asked to join the Loose Women panel in 2015. “As a young, opinionated woman, that’s the show you want to be on” she tells us, adding: “I used to watch [Loose Women] going: “But I think this, but I think that!””
Her famously outspoken manner – which we also saw during her stint on Celebrity Big Brother in 2016 – has landed her in hot water at times, most famously when Saira revealed she’d told her husband he could ‘go elsewhere’ for sex because of her loss of libido during menopause. “My poor husband was going: “What the heck have you said?” He was devastated,” Saira tells us. But she reveals the incident was the making of her and Steve. “Do I regret it? No. It opened up the conversation. We now make time for each other and I’m on HRT [hormone replacement therapy]. Things are definitely better in the bedroom department.”
Most recently Saira said the UK isn’t a “totalitarian state” following the government’s announcement of a second lockdown, which caused around 25 viewers to complain to watchdog Ofcom. She said, “As far as I'm concerned, charities are losing money, suicides are going through the roof, people have lost the opportunity to have cancer treatments. Sorry but that's not a balanced approach in our country. Lockdown does not provide that.” In response to Andrea McLean presenting some reasons behind the lockdown she said, “We don't live in a totalitarian state! If you live in China, and the government's going to tell you what to do you're going to do it.”
Here, Saira tells us about being outspoken and why she'll never say never to expanding her brood as she shows us around her stunning home.
How did you and Steve meet?
It was in 1997 when we were both working for McVities – I was only a sales rep and he was a big shot. I remember saying to a girl I was working with: ‘See that guy over there, Steve Hyde? I’m going to end up marrying him.’ Steve is the total opposite to me, he’s very measured, calm, sensitive, emotional. We are two opposites who have come together and work as a team.
Your house is incredible!
I grew up poor in Long Eaton in the Midlands and never in a million years did I think I’d be able to afford a house like this. We were living in a two-up two-down in Chiswick ten years ago, and we’d just had Zac and didn’t have enough space to swing a cat. As soon as we saw this house we knew it was the one for us. We also own a property in Chamonix, France, and three properties in London, which we rent out.
Did you begin to renovate right away?
No, but over time things started to need repairing and we wanted to extend. I have the Celebrity Big Brother pay cheque to thank for the extension, actually! My best friend from university, Isabelle Scott, is an interior designer and she’s worked on it with us. She’s brought our ideas of colour, fabrics and family photos to life.
What is your favourite space?
The open plan kitchen is my favourite space. I grew up with my mum creating the most amazing dishes in the tiniest kitchen, so I love having loads of space to cook and talk to the kids at the same time. Guests gather round and meals are really social now.
What are your favourite pieces?
Growing up, my best friend was Joanna Steed and her family owned Steed Upholstery. I always said when I could afford it I’d buy pieces from them, so all my sofas and chairs are from there. The upholstered chair in the hallway is special, it’s Steve’s grandma’s nursery chair. Also the painting we commissioned to depict Amara’s adoption journey from Pakistan to Oxford.
What’s still left to do?
The garden. Now we’ve got these big windows in the sitting room you can see what a state the garden is, so we need to sort it out! We’d love it to be like another room. This is our forever home, I’ll die here, so I want to make it perfect.
Did you and Steve start trying for a family as soon as you were married?
I was 34 when I married Steve and he was 40 so we had to start trying pretty quickly. I never thought we’d have any problems – I’m healthy, I’m fit, I’ve never smoked. But we tried for four years and it was like, God, there’s something wrong here. I had stage three endometriosis so we thought we’d try IVF. I was lucky, I conceived Zac on my first attempt.
Why did you then decide to adopt Amara?
Two years after Zac was born we tried for another baby via IVF, which resulted in a miscarriage. I knew I couldn’t go through another cycle. Firstly we couldn’t afford it, and secondly there are so many children in this world who need our help. My dad always used to say: ‘If you can give a child a home, you should.’ We went to Pakistan because I can speak the language and I’d have the same colour skin as the baby. If there was any country I’d want to adopt a child from, it would have been Pakistan because I know the plight of women in that country.
Did you always want to adopt a little girl?
Because we already had our little boy Zac, and I was lucky enough to be able to choose, we decided to have a boy and a girl. Amara settled into the family perfectly. I’m not a religious person, but her joining our family made me believe in fate. When she came into our lives it completed our family. I believe I was always meant to not be able to conceive a second child because Amara is the child that was meant for us. The kids are our greatest joy.
Does Amara know that she’s adopted?
Yes, you’re given clear guidance on that. As soon as you get the baby home you tell them they’re adopted. You say: ‘I’m your mummy, but you also have a “tummy mummy” who couldn’t look after you.’ She gets it, and she’s not hung up about it. We commissioned a painting to reflect her journey from Pakistan to our home, it hangs at home and it’s something she’ll take with her when she has her own home.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I was brought up in a culture of, what will people think? So I’d tell myself to care less about the opinions of others. Now I don’t give a f*** what people say [laughs]. You’ve said that you struggled with depression after being on The Apprentice… My family were thrust into the spotlight for the first time and I found it hard to cope. Now I use exercise to improve my mood. I try to run 5k three times a week and also do weights, but I don’t like the gym environment.
Why did you enter the show in 2005?
I’d just got back from a year travelling around south east Asia; I was working in an advertising agency and an email popped into my inbox saying that BBC2 were looking for candidates. I remember looking around the room at the auditions thinking, I don’t fit in – what am I doing here? Out of 6,000 applicants I finished as the runner-up, with Lord Sugar offering me a position. It was the most significant thing that I’ve ever done and it changed my life.
You recently revealed you’ve had veneers. Would you have any other cosmetic work done?
I wouldn’t go under the knife, no way. I try to eat well and I think you can look younger by dressing well, wearing make-up and getting your hair done. I also have regular facials.
How did you feel when you were asked to join Loose Women?
As a young, opinionated woman, that’s the show you want to be on. I used to watch it going, but I think this, but I think that. So when I got the call, it was a real pinch yourself moment. It was tricky at first to find my voice among all the strong characters, but I have to say all those women – Coleen [Nolan], Nadia [Sawalha], Ruth [Langsford], Janet [Street-Porter] and Jane [Moore] – welcomed me. We’re a sisterhood. I know people want us not to get along, but I’m sorry, we get along like a house on fire and we really support one another!
Who would you love to see join the panel?
Graham Norton would make a great Loose Woman and Kate Beckinsale would be good too, I know she watches the show. I’ve also been impressed by Gemma Collins when we’ve had her on. Guest wise, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, would be the ultimate.
It was a huge story when you admitted on air you’d given Steve permission to have an affair because you’d lost your sex drive during menopause…
My poor husband was going: ‘What the heck have you said?’ He was devastated. He’s a big shot businessman and the headlines were saying: ‘Saira Khan’s given him a hall pass.’ He didn’t even know what a hall pass was! Loss of libido is the kind of thing we all talk about among our friends, but there was clearly an appetite to talk about it on a bigger scale as I got thousands of emails. There are so many people my age who are not having sex with their partners, or who are unhappy with their sex lives or not enjoying sex, and you don’t need to bottle it up. Do I regret it? No. It opened up the conversation.
How are things between you both now?
Things are definitely better in the bedroom department. We now make time for each other and I’m on HRT [hormone replacement therapy], that’s helped immensely. It took the public humiliation to make me and Steve address our sex life. But Steve did sit me down and say: ‘You can’t talk about this any more, it’s the most private thing.’
Was loss of libido the only symptom of the menopause that you experienced?
I started experiencing the perimenopause at 47 and the symptoms were horrendous – I had such dry skin, it looked like nappy rash. I couldn’t sleep, I was getting depressed and had no sex drive. I told Janet [Street-Porter] and she said: ‘Just go on HRT.’ So I did and the doctors put me on it straight away. Now my skin looks great, my mood swings have gone, I don’t feel so dark any more and I’ve got my energy back. It’s amazing.
Did you feel emotional about going through the menopause?
It makes you realise that you’re getting old. You can’t have kids any more, which is quite hard. When you know you can’t have them, that’s when you want them the most! I’m still broody now and Steve and I do talk about adopting one more. We’re still discussing it, we’ve got a big old house and it would be amazing to give another child a home. But then we’re very happy as we are. Who knows? Never say never.
How did you find Celebrity Big Brother?
It was hell but it paid well! I met people on that show that I’d never have met in real life. Some unsavoury characters, but then some people like Samantha Fox and Christopher Biggins, who were lovely. My tactic was to be a bit of a pain in the backside and get out as soon as possible, and it worked!
What about Dancing On Ice?
Well, talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! I’d never set foot on the ice in my life so to get to the halfway point was just incredible.
Was Steve worried about the ‘DOI curse’?
Steve and I know that we’re not the best looking people in the world, we completely trust one another, and that’s why we work. When I brought my skating partner Mark [Hanretty], who’s 25 years younger, to the house you could see that Steve was a bit like, oh hello! But they got on brilliantly.
Would you do more reality TV?
I’d love to do Strictly Come Dancing and I’d love to do the jungle. As a woman, as you get older, you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
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