Rachel Annabelle Riley MBE (born 11 January 1986) is a British television presenter. She co-presents the Channel 4 daytime puzzle show Countdown and its comedy spin-off 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. She is a mathematics graduate.

Rachel Riley

Born
Rachel Annabelle Riley

(1986-01-11) 11 January 1986 (age 38)
EducationOriel College, Oxford (MA)
OccupationTelevision presenter
Years active2009–present
Employer(s)Channel 4, Sky Sports
Spouses
Jamie Gilbert
(m. 2012; div. 2013)
(m. 2019)
Children2

Her television debut came when she joined Countdown aged 22. With an interest in popularising mathematics and the sciences, she has since co-presented The Gadget Show on Channel 5 (2013–14) and It's Not Rocket Science on ITV (2016). She was also a contestant on the BBC celebrity dance show Strictly Come Dancing in 2013.

Early life and early career

Riley was born in Rochford, Essex.[1][2] Her mother is Jewish, and she has stated that her "family came over in the pogroms" from Tsarist Russia.[3] Riley was raised in the Thorpe Bay area of Southend-on-Sea and was educated at the independent Thorpe Hall School, and Southend High School for Girls,[4] a grammar school, where she passed four A-Levels at grade A, after which she obtained a second-class degree in applied maths at Oriel College, Oxford.[5][6]

During a university holiday, Riley considered a career in the financial sector and completed an internship at Deutsche Bank in the City of London. The experience put her off: she found the extreme behaviour of City traders wearing, and she disliked the early-morning train commute.[7]

Television career

Countdown

On Countdown, Riley replaced the long-serving Carol Vorderman. Like Vorderman, Riley's role is to place tiles on the board for the letters and numbers rounds and to find a solution in the numbers rounds if the contestants are unable to do so.[8] Riley's appointment to Countdown was announced at the same time as the announcement of a new main host, Jeff Stelling, replacing Des O'Connor; the duo of Stelling and Riley was in place for the new series beginning in January 2009.[8] Although she had no ambition to be a television presenter, she was encouraged to apply by her mother, and decided to do so because she was interested in the numbers part of the game. Having beaten 1,000 applicants for the role, she commented, "There's only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it so I'm absolutely thrilled."[8] Since its first broadcast on 2 January 2012, Riley has also performed her Countdown role on the comedy crossover spin-off version, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, alongside comedian Jimmy Carr as host.[9][10][11]

Strictly Come Dancing

From September 2013, Riley appeared in the eleventh series of the BBC One ballroom dancing programme Strictly Come Dancing with professional dancing partner and future husband Pasha Kovalev. She was eliminated in week six of the show, on 3 November, after losing out in the dance-off against Abbey Clancy and Aljaž Škorjanec, who went on to win the series. According to Riley, she lacked a natural talent for performing, so instead sought to frame each dance as that of a character.[7] For the first five weeks, Riley suffered from stage fright, commenting, "As soon as the music would start, I would have a fuzzy brain and it was like an out-of-body experience"; after seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist, she was able to control her breathing, and so was only able to truly enjoy the show for what proved to be her final appearance.[12]

Other work

From 2013 to 2014, Riley co-presented the Channel 5 programme The Gadget Show with Jason Bradbury.[13] She worked on three series of the show and was later replaced by Amy Williams.[14] In 2016, Riley was part of the three-person presenting team for ITV's six-part series, It's Not Rocket Science, billed by the network as an entertainment series celebrating science.[15] In August 2016, it was announced that Riley had joined Sky Sports to present Friday Night Football alongside her former Countdown co-presenter Jeff Stelling, and Fantasy Football Club with Max Rushden and Paul Merson.[16] She left Friday Night Football in 2017.[17]

Personal life

In August 2012, Riley married Jamie Gilbert, whom she had met while they were both studying at the University of Oxford. It was announced in November 2013 that they were separating.[18] The split has been cited as an example of the Strictly curse.[19] She began dating her Strictly dance partner, Pasha Kovalev, soon after the show ended in December 2013. On 28 June 2019,[20] Riley and Kovalev married in Las Vegas.[21] On 15 December 2019, Riley gave birth to a baby girl, the couple's first child.[22] On 5 November 2021, Riley gave birth to their second daughter.[23]

Riley is a keen supporter of Manchester United, like her father, who was originally from Salford;[24][25] in October 2010, Riley presented a programme on the club's television channel MUTV which featured a tour of their Trafford Training Centre in Carrington. She has also hosted episodes of An Audience with... on the channel. To mark her 1,000th episode of Countdown (aired on 25 June 2013), United player Ryan Giggs presented her with a signed team shirt, Giggs himself having celebrated his 1,000th game for the club the same year.[25][26] In her appearance as a contestant on the BBC quiz show Celebrity Mastermind, broadcast on 4 January 2012, her specialist subject was a limited (13-year) history of the club; she eventually finished in joint second place.[27][28]

In 2017, Riley was the co-winner with Idris Elba of the Rear of the Year award.[29] She and her husband became vegan in 2018.[30][31] She is an atheist who identifies as Jewish through her mother.[3][32]

Politics

In 2018, Riley began a campaign against the way the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn had handled allegations of antisemitism. She said she decided to speak out after seeing "Israel is a racist endeavour" posters on London bus stops.[3][33][34] In September 2018, after criticising Corbyn over the ongoing antisemitism allegations, she stated she did not have "any party loyalties".[35]

In February 2019, according to The Times and i, Riley had been involved in talks to set up a centrist breakaway party from Labour.[36][37] According to Jewish News in April 2019, Riley backed the Stop Funding Fake News campaign.[38] In November 2019, Riley posted an image on Twitter of herself wearing a shirt with an edited image of Corbyn carrying a sign bearing the caption "Jeremy Corbyn is a racist endeavour". The tweet was condemned by some for erasing the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa, the original subject of the sign, to make a political point, with some users calling for Riley to be fired.[39] The professional photographer who took the original shot, Rob Scott, also declared his displeasure, claiming she had "illegally manipulated and printed" the picture to "cynically promote her agenda", adding: "I am appalled by the abuse of property, moral rights and change of anti-racist message to anti-Corbyn one."[40][41]

In February 2019, Riley and fellow campaigner Tracy-Ann Oberman instructed a lawyer to take action against 70 individuals who had posted tweets which Riley and Oberman regarded as either libellous or harassment.[42] As a result, Riley and Oberman sued one person who had retweeted a link to an article which had accused Oberman and Riley of harassing a young Labour activist who had commented on antisemitism in the Labour Party. In May 2019, a High Court judge ruled that the article that was linked in the tweet was defamatory. In July 2020, Riley and Oberman dropped their joint libel suit and contributed towards the defendant's legal costs.[43][44]

In 2021, Riley was awarded £10,000 damages by a High Court judge after suing Laura Murray, then an aide of Corbyn, over comments made on Twitter that included "This woman [Riley] is as dangerous as she is stupid."[45] On 16 November 2022, Riley was awarded £50,000 in damages after a libel action against Michael Sivier, a blogger who had accused Riley of abusing a teenager during a 2019 Twitter discussion. Sivier had previously been found liable for three of the four claims against him before the UK Court of Appeals ordered a review of the exclusion of a public interest defense. The High Court's subsequent decision reaffirmed the judgment against Sivier and the damages awarded to Riley.[46][47] Riley was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to Holocaust education.[48]

In April 2024, during the Israel–Hamas war, Riley accused Apple of antisemitism when an iPhone update displayed the Palestinian flag as a suggested emoji when users type in the word "Jerusalem".[49] After the 2024 Bondi Junction stabbings, and before the facts of the incident emerged, Riley linked the attack to support for Palestine and the "global intifada", stating: "If you want to know what 'globalise the intifada' looks like, see the Sydney mall."[50] The post was "heavily accused of perpetuating Islamophobia", and there were calls for Channel 4 to terminate her employment.[50] Riley subsequently deleted her post and said she was "sorry if this message was misunderstood". Riley stated that her comments were not meant to imply a link to Islamic extremism.[51] The perpetrator was later identified as Joel Cauchi, a 40-year-old mentally ill man from Toowoomba.[52][53][54] Channel 4 stated: "We have reminded Rachel of her obligations as a contributor to Channel 4 programming."[50]

Other work

Riley has visited schools to enthuse pupils on the "joys of applied maths, quantum mechanics and time travel and so on".[7][12] In June 2019, Riley was criticised by environmental groups and accused of greenwashing for her promotion of the "future energy solutions" of Shell, an oil and gas company.[55] She participated in an April 2022 study by Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that Instagram failed to act on 90% of abusive direct messages sent to high-profile women.[56][57] In October 2021, Riley published her first book, At Sixes and Sevens: How to Understand Numbers and Make Maths Easy.[58]

Filmography

Television

Year Title Channel Role Notes
2009–present Countdown Channel 4 Co-presenter With Jeff Stelling (2009–2011), Nick Hewer (2012–2021), Anne Robinson (2021–2022) and Colin Murray (2022–present)
2010 The IT Crowd Herself Cameo as herself on Countdown
2012–present 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown Co-presenter With Jimmy Carr
2013–2014 The Gadget Show Channel 5 Co-presenter With Jason Bradbury
2013 Strictly Come Dancing BBC One Participant 5th celebrity to be eliminated
2014 Memory Slam Watch Presenter
2016 It's Not Rocket Science ITV Co-presenter With Ben Miller and Romesh Ranganathan
2016–2017 Friday Night Football Sky Sports Co-presenter With Jeff Stelling
Fantasy Football Club Co-presenter With Max Rushden and Paul Merson
2019 Celebrity Countdown More4 Co-presenter With Nick Hewer

Guest appearances

She has also made brief appearances in Dispatches, Britain's Brightest and 1001 Things You Should Know.

Recognition

References

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External links