EXCLUSIVE: Gillian McKeith reveals the VERY painful reason for her curious new braids as she returns to the wilderness for ITV spin-off I’m A Celebrity South Africa
Her first jungle experience was marred by a series of fainting episodes, a fear of rodents and a fractious relationship with Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder.
But after 13-years Gillian McKeith is back for I’m A Celebrity South Africa, a new ITV spin-off based around some of the original show’s more enduringly popular – and undeniably unpopular – former contestants.
Much to the dismay of the returning Ryder, McKeith, 63, surprised campmates after bursting from a crate as it was solemnly walked onto the Kruger National Park site like a veritable Lost Ark during Monday evening’s launch.
Even more surprising was the TV personality’s new look, a set of neatly woven braids akin to the hairstyle famously worn by glamour model Katie Price during her first appearance on the show in 2004.
But McKeith insists the distinctive style has less to do with fashion and more to do with the hard lessons meted out during her former stay in the Australian jungle.
Welcome back: Gillian McKeith returned to ITV screens for new show I’m A Celebrity South Africa on Monday evening
That looks familiar: The TV personality wore her hair in braids akin to those favoured by Katie Price during her first appearance o the show (pictured during original appearance in 2004)
She told MailOnline: ‘I was bitten by a tick back in 2010. I have quite thick hair and it burrowed under my hair at the neck, so I thought I’m not doing that again.
‘The tick bite was very painful. It stuck its pincer into my neck under the hair. It was like being sliced with a razor sharp knife.’
The former You Are What You Eat host credits the show’s resident medic Bob McCarron for removing the bug – and took every precaution to ensure history didn’t repeat itself in South Africa.
She added: ‘Thank goodness for Bob – my saviour. But I didn’t want to risk being attacked by a tick again, so I thought I’m going to put my hair in plaits.’
McKeith also admitted she can’t rule out another fainting episode akin to her notorious 2010 collapse while participating in a live trial with her campmates.
Here she is: McKeith, 63, surprised campmates after bursting from a crate as it was solemnly walked onto the makeshift Kruger National Park site like a veritable Lost Ark on Monday night
All change: McKeith insists her distinctive new braids are less to do with fashion and more to do with the hard lessons meted out during her own stay in the Australian jungle
Opening up: ‘I was bitten by a tick back in 2010. I have quite thick hair and it burrowed under my hair at the neck, so I thought I’m not doing that again,’ she told MailOnline
‘I have a history of fainting since childhood,’ she told ITV. ‘The day before we did the live Trial, I hadn’t had much to eat and I wasn’t feeling very well – which is the precursor to passing out.
‘I have fainted several times and not just in the jungle. I even fainted at a wedding once when I was the bridesmaid. They were about to say: “do you take this man to be your husband?” and I passed out.
‘Sometimes you can stop yourself if you get close to the ground but the problem with the jungle is there were all these leeches and so there was no way I was going to throw myself on the ground.
‘But I have never been able to forget about my fainting in the jungle! I have been reminded about I’m A Celebrity every single day since I came out by taxi drivers and people in the street! They all talk about it as if it were yesterday.
‘They say I was entertaining. It might have been for them but it certainly wasn’t for me!’
I’m A Celebrity…South Africa continues tomorrow night at 9pm and all this week on ITV1 and ITVX.
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