Rachel Annabelle Riley
11 January 1986
|Residence||Thorpe Bay, Southend-on-Sea|
|Alma mater||Oriel College, Oxford|
|Employer||Channel 4, Sky Sports|
Jamie Gilbert (m. 2012–2013)
|Partner(s)||Pasha Kovalev (2014–present)|
Rachel Annabelle Riley (born 11 January 1986) is an English television presenter who currently co-presents the Channel 4 daytime puzzle show Countdown and its comedy spin-off 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. A mathematics graduate, her television debut came when she joined Countdown at age 22.
With a passion for popularising maths and the sciences, she has gone on to co-present The Gadget Show on Channel 5 (2013–14) and It's Not Rocket Science on ITV (2016). In 2013 she was a contestant on the BBC celebrity dance show Strictly Come Dancing.
Born in Rochford, Essex, Riley was brought up in the Thorpe Bay area of Southend-on-Sea and was educated at the independent Thorpe Hall School, and Southend High School for Girls, a grammar school, where she obtained four As at A-Level. She then studied mathematics at Oriel College, Oxford, gaining an upper second-class honours degree. She considers herself to be a "non-religious Jew".
During a university vacation, 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; although already familiar with male-dominated environments in the field of mathematics, she found the extreme behaviour of city traders wearing, and not being a "morning person" she also disliked the early morning train commute.
Her maths degree helped her get a job performing statistical analysis for a price comparison start-up company. Riley also took a postgraduate degree, a master's degree, being attracted by the intersection of mathematics and civil engineering.
Riley's television debut came in January 2009, when at the age of 22 she joined the Channel 4 letters and numbers game show Countdown. Prior to this, Riley had received no training for working in television and had no other experience with the media industry, leading to descriptions of her landing this role as a baptism of fire, given its status as a "jewel in the broadcasting crown", according to one media commentator. While occupying the niche role, she long believed she was not a television presenter, but she came to realise that the industry has changed, so that "I don't think there's such a thing as a TV presenter any more. There are just people who go on TV".
As her popularity grew due to daily appearances on Countdown, she branched out into other roles, co-presenting 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and The Gadget Show, although her profile was significantly boosted by her appearance as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, which largely "catapulted [Riley] onto the A-list" and opened up the doors for new television roles, according to another commentator. In 2014, two years before her role on It's Not Rocket Science, she said, "I'd love to present a popular science programme because it's something I feel very passionate about."
On Countdown, Riley replaced the long-serving Carol Vorderman. Like Vorderman, Riley's role is to handle the placement of tiles on the board for the letters and numbers rounds and to find an exact solution in the numbers rounds if the contestants are unable to do so.
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 were in place for the new series beginning in January 2009. 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".
Riley takes the role of solving the numbers round so seriously that if she cannot solve it on the show, she takes it away with her to finish, commenting "I'm really OCD about it. I have to get it. I like puzzles – that's what I do, that's why I applied for the job, that's why I used to watch Countdown when I was younger. I like solving stuff." She has attributed this compulsion to a nervy and flustered start in the role which resulted in her making some errors, although she says she has since got the hang of it and the task is now a matter of routine. In contrast, on account of her "really immature sense of humour" she has some difficulty in maintaining her composure during the words round whenever rude words appear.
Riley frequently encounters close media and public scrutiny of what she wears on the show, with her wardrobe choices attracting intense social media comment on Twitter and YouTube and even national headlines, particularly if they are deemed too revealing or tight. Working with a wardrobe consultant, she obtains most of the clothes from High Street stores, although some are purchased from a small boutique near her home in Southend. While trying to please everybody with varied choices, she nonetheless takes a phlegmatic approach to the attention, commenting, "even with the same outfit you'll get polar-opposite views, so you can't win. You’ve just got to learn that you can't please everyone all of the time". The number of episodes means wearing some outfits more than once is inevitable—she donates items she no longer requires to charity, some being auctioned by her mother.
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown
Since it was 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. While Countdown is seen as a straight light entertainment show, in explaining the difference between the two, Riley sees Countdown as the role she is happy for her grandmother to see, while Cats Does Countdown is the more risqué, cheeky, role which she shows to her friends. Some of the running gags used on the show are made by Carr at Riley's expense, aimed at her lack of dancing ability and a supposed frosty relationship with Vorderman, while in return Riley is often given jokes which mock Carr's supposed desires on herself and his tax avoidance. Due to scheduling conflicts with filming for It's Not Rocket Science, Riley was replaced by Claudia Winkleman for two episodes in series nine (broadcast 3 and 10 March 2016). Rachel is a fan of Bill Bailey, who also appears on the show.
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 Pasha Kovalev. She was eliminated in week 6 of the show, on 3 November, after losing out in the dance-off against Abbey Clancy and Aljaž Škorjanec.
According to Riley she lacked a natural talent for performing, so instead sought to frame each dance as that of a character. For the first five weeks, Riley suffered from stage fright, commenting that "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.
The Gadget Show
It's Not Rocket Science
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. Her co-presenters, Ben Miller and Romesh Ranganathan, similarly had a background in science and maths. Explaining the purpose of the show as popularising science and making it seem less intimidating, she said "It's showing that you can't separate the world of science from the world we live in". She added that while her background is in maths, "You can't separate them either. Maths is the language of science." A key part of the show was a weekly challenge where one of the presenters "risked their lives" to prove a scientific theory – in Riley's case she cycled on a tightrope and zip-lined through a ring of fire.
In August 2016, it was announced that Riley would join 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.
She left Friday Night Football in 2017.
On 26 June 2009, it was reported that Riley had been recruited by Post Office to employ her mathematical skills to help advise holidaymakers on how to make the most of their holiday currency, after a report by the Post Office revealed that a significant number of holidaymakers fail to calculate the actual cost of goods and services when travelling abroad and often overspend their holiday budgets.
Her mathematics background and love of football has seen Riley assist bookmakers in preparing betting odds for football tournaments; based on her analysis she predicted Chile would win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, despite appreciating fans would see it as an unlikely outcome (Chile were ultimately knocked out in the Round of 16).
Riley was married for 16 months to Jamie Gilbert, whom she met while they were both studying at the University of Oxford. After four and a half years together, the couple initially split at the end of 2009, before reconciling. Gilbert then proposed on her 25th birthday on 11 January 2011. They married on 11 August 2012. Although they married in a civil ceremony, Gilbert followed the Jewish tradition of stamping on a glass. It was announced in November 2013 that they were separating.
Riley is a keen supporter of Manchester United, like her father (who was originally from Salford, Lancashire). In October 2010, Riley presented a programme on the club's television channel, MUTV, featuring 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. 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.
In an effort to put her public profile to work for the common good, Riley strives to be an advocate for the so-called "geeky" subjects of mathematics and science, and has visited schools to enthuse pupils on the "joys of applied maths, quantum mechanics and time travel and so on". A blog, written by Surrey University academic Julia Percival and hosted by The Guardian, which argued that Riley's looks and figure would work against any aim to increase female participation in the sciences, was described by The Daily Telegraph as unfair and a case of Riley being damned if she did and damned if she didn't.
|2009–present||Countdown||Channel 4||Co-presenter||With Jeff Stelling (2009–2011) and Nick Hewer (2012–present)|
|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|
|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|
- Guest appearances
- Chris Moyles' Quiz Night (22 March 2009)
- This Morning (26 March 2010)
- 8 Out of 10 Cats (17 June 2011, 12 August 2011, 21 October 2011, 23 March 2012, 11 May 2012, 15 June 2012, 29 October 2012, 1 February 2013)
- Celebrity Mastermind (4 January 2012)
- The Bank Job: Celebrity Special (16 March 2012)
- The Chase: Celebrity Special (19 August 2012, 8 June 2018)
- 12 Again (2 November 2012)
- Pointless Celebrities (17 December 2012)
- Sunday Brunch (10 February 2013)
- Five Minutes to a Fortune (21 April 2013)
- Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (9 June 2013)
- Top Gear (30 June 2013)
- I Love My Country (31 August 2013)
- Sweat the Small Stuff (12 November 2013)
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (4 February 2014)
- The Guess List (24 May 2014)
- Backchat (3 June 2014)
- TV OD (19 June 2014)
- Celebrity Fifteen to One (27 June 2014)
- Virtually Famous (21 July 2014)
- Celebrity Squares (8 October 2014)
- Text Santa (19 December 2014)
- Would I Lie to You? (22 December 2014)
- Room 101 (18 February 2015)
- Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit (26 September 2016)
- Saturday Kitchen (3 December 2016)
- Play to the Whistle (28 February 2017)
- Through the Keyhole (3 February 2018)
- The Crystal Maze (22 June 2018)
- Worsdale, Jim (27 July 2011). "I really love Countdown... trust me, it is not being axed". Echo. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
- "Names Database". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- The edition of 11 January 2011 of the show mentioned that that day was her 25th birthday.
- Campaign can count on Rachel Riley's support Archived 31 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Evening Echo, 5 August 2009, accessdate=31 December 2013
- She then completed a Master of Arts degree.Riley's nickname at university was, she revealed on crystal maze, the 'angry chav'. "I really love Countdown... trust me, it is not being axed". Southend Echo. 27 July 2011. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "New hosts Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley Debut on Countdown". The Tart. 16 January 2009. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
- Kay, Richard (21 March 2012). "RICHARD KAY: Countdown queen Rachel's wedding conundrum". Mail Online. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- Countdown's yiddishe gal Simon Rocker, May 10, 2012, Jewish Chronicle
- Rachel Riley: 'Strictly magnified the fault lines in my marriage' Archived 20 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Telegraph numeracy campaign: Remove the stigma around maths Archived 28 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Daily Telegraph, 4 February 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- "Sky host Stelling joins Countdown". BBC News. BBC. 21 November 2008. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
- "Essex girl (and fresh Oxford graduate), 22, replaced Carol Vorderman on Countdown". Mail Online. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
- "How Pasha waltzed off with my heart: Countdown's Rachel Riley". Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
- Hardy, Rebecca (29 August 2009). "I didn't count on this abuse: Rachel Riley on why being Carol Vorderman's replacement adds up to a whole lot of grief". Mail Online. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
- "Strictly Come Dancing 2013: Rachel Riley". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "Rachel Riley returns to the dancefloor". Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "The Gadget Show | Meet The Gadget Show's new presenter: Rachel Riley! by The Gadget Show". Gadgetshow.channel5.com. Archived from the original on 25 May 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- The Gadget Show’s new presenter is an Olympic champion! Archived 26 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- "It's Not Rocket Science Episode 1". Archived from the original on 25 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
- Unbelievable Jeff! Rachel Riley joins Sky Sports Archived 9 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
- Houghton, Rianne (14 June 2017). "Countdown star Rachel Riley quits Sky Sports job after receiving 'hideous personal abuse'". Digitalspy.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Lander, Sebastian (26 June 2009). "Rachel Riley's currency countdown as Britons lose £288m a year over poor maths". Mail Online. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
- Todd, Ben (1 January 2010). "Countdown's Rachel Riley is single after splitting with boyfriend of four years". Mail Online. Archived from the original on 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Rachel Riley begins the Countdown to her big day after getting engaged to millionaire boyfriend". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Emily Sheridan (20 August 2012). "Countdown star Rachel Riley weds her university sweetheart". Mail Online. Dailymail.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- "JOINED BY HER 'COUNTDOWN' CO-STARS RACHEL RILEY REVEALS WHY TWO IS THE PERFECT NUMBER AS SHE MARRIED JAMIE GILBERT IN A STUNNING SUFFOLK CEREMONY" (PDF). 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 January 2018.
- Carter, Claire (29 November 2013). "Rachel Riley in split from husband". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 30 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- Me a sex symbol? It just doesn’t add up, says Rachel Riley Archived 6 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Southend Echo, 22 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- Media Monkey (24 June 2013). "Countdown: Rachel Riley red-faced over Ryan Giggs". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Ryan Giggs to appear on Rachel Riley's 1,000th 'Countdown' episode – TV News – Digital Spy Archived 27 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Episode 7, 2011/2012, Celebrity Mastermind – BBC One". BBC. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "Strictly Come Dancing curse won't ruin Rachel Riley relationship says Pasha Kovalev". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "Countdown star Rachel Riley: I'm learning Russian for Pasha Kovalev – but marriage isn't something I'm aiming for". CelebsNow. 17 May 2015.
- Julia Percival (28 May 2014). "No George Osborne! Girls will not follow pretty role models into science". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
Studies published in 2013 by Diana E. Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa looked at the impact of different types of female role models on girls' opinion of their own ability to succeed at a Stem subject. They found that typically feminine Stem role models not only decreased girls' interest in Stem subjects, but also decreased their belief in their own ability to succeed at those subjects – and the likelihood of studying them. ... I can sympathise with these students. Rachel Riley, the mathematician who appears on Countdown, is a great Stem ambassador, but even someone like me, with a first degree and PhD in chemistry, feels like a failure in comparison to her, because she is slim and pretty – and I'm not.
- Memory Slam on IMDb
- Celebrity Fifteen to One SERIES 1 – EPISODE 4 Archived 30 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Radio Times
- "Celebrity Squares". Archived from the original on 5 October 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Rachel Riley|
- Rachel Riley on IMDb
- Holmwood, Leigh (21 November 2008). "New Countdown hosts confirmed". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- Matthew Moore (21 November 2008). "Oxford maths graduate replaces Carol Vorderman on Countdown". Telegraph.co.uk. London. Retrieved 26 March 2009.