Craig Phillips has exclusively told Entertainment Daily that a piece of advice from Dame Barbara Windsor helped to shape his TV career.
Down-to-earth Craig won the very first series of Big Brother back in 2000.
Now, 20 years on, Craig – a builder before finding fame – is one of the few success stories from the show.
And, it seems, the loveable star has a television legend to thank for that.
During our exclusive chat, Craig opened up about his first meeting with Barbara. It took place just three weeks after he came out of the Big Brother house.
What was Babs’ advice to Craig Phillips?
Craig revealed: “She told me something that stuck with me. Many times over the years I’ve thought about it.”
The meeting happened at London’s Royal Albert Hall, while Craig was getting his make-up done alongside Sir Cliff Richard ahead of the National Television Awards.
He told us: “I was in the dressing room and I’m sitting there talking to Cliff Richard. He’s next to me getting his make-up done.”
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Of the “surreal” encounter, Craig added: “We were chatting away. He’d watched Big Brother and knew who I was. The next minute, Barbara comes in with Lulu.
“So I’m now sitting in this small room the size of a caravan and I’m surrounded by these three absolute legends,” he added.
Myself and Cliff Richard were chatting away, he’d watched Big Brother and knew who I was. The next minute, Barbara comes in with Lulu.
Craig said they were “all really nice, giving me lots of advice and tips”.
However, it appears former EastEnders star Barbara took a shine to Craig, who is now looking forward to welcoming his second child – a boy – with wife Laura.
“Bearing in mind I’ve only been out the house for about three weeks at this point, it was quite overwhelming,” Craig continued.
“I was explaining to Barbara that I’ve got all these personal appearances, I’ve got these shows they’re wanting to use my DIY skills and sign me up for some building series.
A “double-edged sword”
“She was like: ‘It’s brilliant Craig, you’ve got to take them up, do what you can do.'”
He added: “But then she kind of said, television is a fantastic industry to be in when you don’t need it. But when you actually need the television exposure, when you need the TV role, she said then it can be a double-edged sword.”
Craig has since been on “thousands” of TV shows as an expert builder. He said he took the advice on board and often thinks of the Carry On legend, who suffers from Alzheimers.
“Sometimes in the early days, I would have a series with the BBC and it would be on for 14 weeks. We’d do 40 to 50 shows in that series.
“Then you’d have no series for two months. I would still get paid for some personal appearances, but luckily for me I jumped onto different series and different channels. But if I was just sitting waiting for that series to be recommissioned, I could wait three, four, five or even six months for it.
“And I thought, I get what she said now. If I was reliant on that money to come in then I would be in trouble.”
Craig managed to “branch out” into different areas. He ploughed all the money he made off the back of Big Brother into buying and renovating properties.
“I’ve had a good innings”
As a result he now owns 22 houses, 17 apartments and has more than 50 tenants.
Craig added: “That way when I wasn’t on TV I jumped on the tools, locked myself away for a couple of months and refurbished the houses.”
He said he “didn’t get worried or stressed about when the next TV job came in. I just kept looking at it and thinking I’ve had a good innings, I’ve made good money. If it all ends tomorrow that’s okay”.
Much like the rest of the country, Craig told ED! has always fond memories of Barbara, who recently went into a care home.
“I always thought about what Barbara said. It is great industry to be in if you don’t need it,” he said.
“I remember her pointing out: ‘I don’t need it, it helps of course. And when they do come along I go and do them, but I just look at it like it’s a bonus.'”
Craig thinks of Babs “often”
Craig saw Barbara a few times after her advice and told her about the impact she’d had on his career.
“She was really pleased that I’d kept my feet on the floor, that I was managing to get lots of media work. She was just really pleased.
“I did tell her I often think of what you advised me on that first night that I met you at the Royal Albert Hall,” he concluded.
Find out more about what Craig’s up to now here.
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