Emily Clarkson was moving into a new flat in Fulham when her father called to tell her he had been suspended from the BBC. “It was upsetting,” she says, remembering that “surreal day” in March. Jeremy Clarkson’s eldest daughter and her family rallied together as the story developed. News emerged of a “fracas” where the Top Gear presenter punched producer Oisin Tymon over his failure to provide a steak supper during filming.
As she recounts the fallout, drinking an espresso in the home she and her boyfriend are now settled into, it is clear that Clarkson has inherited her father’s gumption, fearlessness and sense of humour. She is 20 years old with wavy blonde hair, Jeremy’s blue eyes and a nose ring that her mother, Frances, hates.
“I see a lot of Dad,” she says. “Although he is a busy bee for someone who is unemployed. If Top Gear was Dad’s baby it was my sibling, it’s a sad situation. But of course Dad will bounce back.”
Tomorrow Jeremy will make his first TV appearance since the incident, on Chris Evans’s TFI Friday, while Netflix and ITV have been mentioned as potential future homes for the show. “There’s a lot of politics around his return,” says his daughter. Will the BBC regret suspending him? “Probably, I don’t know.”
Concerns have been expressed about Clarkson, after he wrote about a mouth cancer scare. It has been said that he has given up alcohol but all Emily knows is that he has a new gadget. “I bought him a slow cooker for his birthday in April but it’s still in its box. And I can’t imagine him making a smoothie.”
Even in the thick of the media furore she was able to make a joke, tweeting: “Oh God, BBC please take him back…He’s started cooking.” She explains: “The tweet seemed amusing and made light of the situation. When I sent it he had just made a spicy Vietnamese soup. It was so hot I was sobbing and thinking ‘My mouth is on fire please never let him cook again’.”
She compares her father’s fame to “having a huge nose. If you have one you get used to it.” She admits to having “a harder shell” as result of him and holding back her surname when she meets new people “unless they push. I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to it” but says, “I am incredibly grateful for my thick skin and for my confidence. He is the hardest- working person I know and I am really proud of him.”
Young/REX) On Clarkson’s kitchen counter, next to the wine bottles from a dinner party last night, there is a framed picture that she found in the loft of her family home of her as a baby sitting on the bonnet of a station wagon with her parents. Clarkson is still decorating the flat but has put up a Charlie Hebdo print. Her shelves hold a scarf she made for her mother (“I’ve starting knitting and am amazing at it”) and a Ken Follett book about the World Wars which she “has become obsessed with — they are horrendous but so interesting”.
The spotlight turned on Clarkson this month when newspapers printed a picture of her father taking her out for a pub lunch. She was criticised for wearing tights with sandals. “Shocking,” she says of Tightsgate. “They didn’t look that bad. I was in such a rush to meet dad, it was pissing with rain but really sunny.”
When the photo was printed she thought: “Bummer. But life is too short to be sad because someone living in his mum’s basement says I’m fat.”
Then she saw holiday pictures of Samantha Cameron in her bikini and was driven to write a blog post about trolling. “There was Sam Cam looking immense and the comments underneath the piece said ‘I could be thin too if I didn’t work’. It’s the ‘all right for some’ brigade — that drove me bananas so I wrote a piece putting pictures of these people looking amazing next to the comments.”
She continues proudly: “I’ve started a vigilante account online to be nice to people. I’m called Andy and I pick people up when they are mean. Sam Cam won’t be reading it but if I was reading it about me I’d want them to say, ‘looking good Emz’.”
Her main focus is her blog, Pretty Normal Me, “to help women to be the best that they can be. I go out looking to be provoked for articles sometimes,” she admits. Where does she gets that impulse from? “Where do you think?” she retorts, grinning.
Pretty Normal Me started last August and has 20,000 readers — “when I found that out I nearly fell off my chair. I had the idea after seeing an adverts for a company called Pretty Little Thing which didn’t stock clothes bigger than size 14, then one for Jacamo bragging they had men’s T-shirts in five times XL. It’s double standards.” She was “incensed” but says “you won’t get anywhere if you are not offering solutions”.
The blog includes health tips from her friend Holly Wright, a nutritionist. Clarkson describes her own body shape as “size 10 on bottom, size 14 on top because I have enormous boobs”. She was diagnosed as gluten- and dairy- intolerant last year but it isn’t a food blog like Deliciously Ella’s, although “I went to school with Ella — she’s lovely. Bless her she was so ill. Serious respect to her for living that lifestyle.”
Clarkson’s most controversial blogpost was written in defence of Page 3. The Sun ended up publishing it — “that was the coolest day of my life”. Her argument is about “how we are killing the curvy woman. Again there is a double standard. When Keira Knightley took her clothes off for Vanity Fair feminists said it was amazing yet they criticise page 3 although the women are healthy.” Is there a class element to this? “Probably, sadly. Kids are exposed to willies and boobs on the internet. Look at Miley Cyrus — she is basically naked in photos but with her ribs sticking out. That feels more exploitative than page 3. We’ve always taken The Sun at home and I think Page 3 is great, it’s given me a healthy view of women because they have natural figures.”
Daddy cool: Emily getting a lift in her dad’s Ferrari (Picture: Beretta/Sims/REX) Her family helped build her feminist attitude. “Mum is amazing, great for girl power. My dad is a feminist as well. And every woman is a feminist to the extent that they don’t want to sit at home, make a lasagne for their husband then open their legs on demand.”
She quotes Caitlin Moran and speaks eloquently about the need for shops not to “patronisingly label clothes plus size. To tackle obesity we should teach schoolkids about nutrition”.
Clarkson grew up in the “gorgeous” Cotswolds with a brother, Finlo, 18, and sister Katya, 15. Her mother worked managing her father but usually did the school run. “When Dad wasn’t filming he was there but was never strict”. The couple recently divorced after 21 years of marriage. Jeremy has been seen kissing Phillippa Sage, an events organiser, but his daughter says: “Absolutely no comment, sorry.” The family are “all very good friends”.
At 13 she went to Rugby boarding school — “Why wouldn’t you like boarding school? You’re living with your friends, it’s the best fun.” Was she embarrassed by her motormouth dad? “Everyone is embarrassed by their parents but I adore Mum and Dad.”
She had a place at Leeds University to study politics but didn’t take it. “A-levels were a shocker. Dad was supportive but I’m the first kid so it was a bit of a kick in the teeth when I said ‘Sorry lads, I’m not going to uni’.”