In an interview with The Times, Clare Balding bares all about realising she was gay in her twenties, not fitting in at school, and becoming a national treasure.

Talking about her new memoir, My Animals and Other Family, of which publishers were sceptical, saying it didn’t contain enough “gay stuff,” Ms Balding addressed her weight, not wanting to have children and why she gave up privacy in favour of being “proud to be happy, happy to be proud.”

Despite not realising she was gay until her 20s, the famed TV presenter has come a long way: “I get really upset if being gay – and the fear around it – stops people being who they could be.”

Ms Balding, who currently has around 280,000 followers on Twitter, hosted the Olympics and Paralympics on television, and is regarded as something of a national treasure, addressed coming out to her parents, and those of her partner, Alice Arnold, of Radio 4 news:

“Alice’s parents were great [about her being gay] and they are much older parents than mine. So I don’t think it’s a generational thing. It’s an attitude thing.”

Being secret and private about sexuality was no longer an option, says Ms Balding, who now says she “feels liberated” for being open about it, but was not at the beginning of her career:

“When I went to 5 Live, I hadn’t had my first girlfriend yet, so I was doing what I thought I was meant to do, which was kiss all the boys… Then you stop kissing all the boys and they wonder why. It was a difficult time. My career was taking off and I was coming to terms with my sexuality… I was terrified. Terrified.”

Ms Balding also said she had praised Ellen DeGeneres to her parents, but at the time, she was not able to say why.

“Lots of women don’t realise that they’re gay until they’re grown up. Particularly if they’re all doing the same thing, which is essentially looking for a husband. To go down the motorway and get off at a junction that isn’t marked, or to go against the traffic, is a difficult thing to do and I didn’t have much of a clue.”

She also went on to talk about struggling before that, when she did not fit in at school:

“I felt out of place. I had all the wrong clothes. I wasn’t posh enough and definitely not cool enough. I just wasn’t right, for whatever reason. I didn’t fit.”

Her mother gave lots of advice regarding love, relationships and marriage:

“She also said to me once, ‘Never ask a question to which you don’t want to know the answer,’ ie, don’t ask the person you are with if they love you or if they are faithful to you or any of that.”

Ms Balding, who was, for a long time, referred to as a “lesbian broadcaster,” addressed issues surrounding her work, and the potential effect it has had:

“Has being gay affected my career? I don’t know,” says Ms Balding. “That’s the difficult thing. Who knows? I certainly don’t think it does now.”

On rising to fame, and being asked for her autograph, Ms Balding said: “My attitude is – God, ride the wave. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Or the only person it might ultimately hurt is me because it will come crashing down in the end. But I know that, and I am very aware of that, so for now it’s fantastic.”