Nicola Thorp: Being pregnant with a girl ‘turned me into a lioness’ fighting for women’s rights

The former Corrie star has put a lot of energy into campaigning (TalkTV/PA)
The former Corrie star has put a lot of energy into campaigning (TalkTV/PA)

TV presenter and former Coronation Street actor Nicola Thorp says being pregnant with a baby girl has made her even more determined to campaign for gender equality.

“It’s definitely not made me softer, I’ve turned into more of a lioness on stuff,” says the host of TalkTV’s breakfast show, Talk Today, alongside co-host Jeremy Kyle, which launched in October. “It’s no longer about me fighting for myself, it’s about me fighting for my daughter – and not just on issues of misogyny, but issues of race as well.”

The 35-year-old, who played Nicola Rubinstein in the ITV soap from 2017 to 2019, is engaged to actor Nikesh Patel and they announced they were expecting in September.

“There are people out there, believe it or not in 2023, who don’t think me and my partner should be having a baby, because we come from different ethnic backgrounds. So I really feel even more strongly on issues of racism.”

Now in her third trimester, the early mornings as a breakfast show host have been suitable preparation for what’s ahead. “I have to be in that make-up chair at 4am. I feel like this job has been perfect for getting me ready for motherhood, looking after a newborn!” she says with a laugh.

Thorp first made headlines in 2016 after being sacked from her receptionist job for refusing to wear high heels – she started a petition that was debated in Parliament to change the law on sexist dress codes. Now, she’s an advisor to Labour on stalking and harassment, having been a victim herself.

In April, Ravinderjit Dhillon, 30, was convicted of stalking involving fear of violence, following a terrifying two-year campaign against the presenter, during which he used multiple online aliases, initially sending an intimate photo and later making rape threats. He’s due to be sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on December 5.

Thorp says it “makes a big difference knowing he is in custody, awaiting sentencing”.

She adds: “The cruel nature of anonymous cyber stalking is that, you don’t know the identity of the person who’s doing it, so they become everybody or anybody in your life.

“Some days, I wouldn’t think about it at all, and other days I’d just get a funny feeling at a bus stop and think, was that guy looking at me a bit weird? Is he following me? Is that the same guy that was in the shop that I was just in?”

Following her campaigning, Thorp received a lot of messages from women who wanted help reporting their perpetrators – and she says Dhillon even used this as a tactic to contact her.

“He pretended to be a woman who had been harassed by a boss, who wanted me to meet with her to go to the police,” she says. “It’s really quite sick.

“The most emotional I got was when I came face-to-face with him at a sentencing hearing – because it’s quite an overwhelming thing to see the man who’s obsessed over you for years.”

She’s since called for a legal change so that victims can be told by police the identity of their alleged stalkers before seeing them in court (Thorp first saw her perpetrator in the queue entering the courthouse).

“I wasn’t allowed to know who he was. I knew that there was this man out there who’d been anonymous for years, and he knew everything about my life. And I knew nothing of him – police wouldn’t even tell me if he was an ex partner,” she says. “So that was pretty scary. I want to make sure that that’s changed for other people.”

She has never held back from speaking out publicly to shine a light on gender inequality. In 2019, she told the Mirror she was once locked in a toilet at work aged 19, and wasn’t allowed out until she kissed the manager. At 21, she says she was harassed by a married director, and later by a man in the public eye who approached her to do a documentary – ironically on women’s rights.

“Women feel like we need to toe the line, we need to stay quiet, we need to stay in our lane. I was a little bit too gobby for that,” says Thorp.

“I would think to myself, is this a world that I would accept for my daughter? Am I happy with the way things are right now if I were to bring a little girl into this world? Hey, look, I am now!

“Initially, I was a bit of a thorn in the side of people, this campaigner who a lot of people said, ‘Oh God, isn’t she just attention-seeking? Shouldn’t she just shut up and wear her flat shoes and stop complaining?’

“There were definitely days, in the early stages of campaigning, where I would be the subject of a debate and people would start talking about my appearance, rather than what it was that I was fighting for.”

Now though, with a platform on the new TalkTV show, her first broadcasting role, she says she can “make a real difference” – and it feels “empowering”.

Throp calls her and co-host Kyle an “unlikely duo” for the show, which covers all aspects of news, views, entertainment and sport, but she’s “really proud” of their work.

She’s all too aware of the expectation that women will put their careers on hold to have a child though, and “spent some time really fretting” about the timing of the new job and her pregnancy. “This is biggest opportunity of my career so far and I would have hated to have felt like I couldn’t have said yes, purely because I was ready to start a family.”

Thankfully, she’s received nothing but support from work, but she knows women can face a whole new set of prejudices if they become mothers.

“A lot of the stigma comes from women ourselves,” she reflects, “putting pressure on other women to give birth the way they did, or raise a child the way they think is right.”

Thorp isn’t planning to take a long maternity leave, because, she says, work is “really, really important” to her sense of identity, and she’ll share parental leave with Patel.

“The acting industry is really sporadic, Coronation Street was the most regular work I had. When there were long or short periods where I didn’t know what I was doing every day, I felt purposeless,” she says.

“When I moved into broadcasting, I think that came hand in hand with me finding my identity. I wasn’t playing a character anymore, I was being myself. I really feel like I’ve come into my own.”

Watch Talk Today, Monday to Friday from 6am – 9:30am, on Freeview 237, Sky 522 and Virgin Media 606. TalkTV is available on Freeview channels 7 & 8 in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, North Wales, Teeside and Tyne and Wear.