FIRST she is being beaten up by her football star boyfriend in a Paris bar, then she's appearing on BBC2 to interview the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Even by modern-day standards of celebrity, Ulrika Jonsson's week has had the lot.
Famous for being famous is one thing; the ditsy blonde who gets to discuss macro-economics in the drawing room at No 11 quite another. Ulrika - one of those TV personalities whose first name alone is enough to confer instant recognition - manages to be both of these, and more.
It's 10 years since a charming, smiley Ulrika turned up as a weather girl on TV-am. TV weather girls are all charming and smiley, of course, nurturing their dreams of where this humblest of on- camera roles might lead. Not many of them make it - but Ulrika has to a spectacular degree. At 31, she is in demand as never before, with a seemingly contradictory blend of hard-drinking raunchiness and a jolly-good-sport willingness to play along in the role of knowing stooge that is perfect for the age of irony TV. The Ulrika image is uniquely hers while containing elements of predecessors in the role of glamour-puss TV presenter: the healthy blonde look of Anthea Turner, the scurrilousness of Paula Yates, the much-vaunted "class" of her fellow-Scandinavian Mariella Frostrup. But humour is where Ulrika really scores - not in the sense that she is a great wit but in her good- natured gameness to have herself sent up. Fancying her like crazy, yet not feeling in the least bit threatened by her, British men have, in surveys, voted Ulrika the woman they would most like to make love to - and from whom they'd most like to hear about European issues. Like any TV personality, Ulrika has had to adapt to survive. Straight woman to hip comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on Shooting Stars - a role that defined her as the empowered, attractive "ladette" of the 1990s - she was a vivacious sidekick to Terry Wogan in the Eurovision Song Contest last month. And now, in her interview with Gordon Brown on Friday, the clever choice to be the person through whom we can learn about European Monetary Union in a way that is both comprehensible and entertaining. It adds up to an impressive portfolio, and the BBC is rumoured to want to make more of her talents and popularity. Back in Ulrika's native Sweden the newspapers have been plastered with her face even more liberally than their British counterparts. The country's biggest-selling popular title Expressen carried a total of six photographs chronicling the row with Stan Collymore. "The Swedes have taken her to their hearts," explained an English journalist working in Stockholm. "They feel that way about anyone who makes it big outside Sweden, and they go mad about Eurovision too. They have not forgotten the glory days of Abba." And it is this Swedish background that may hold the key to Ulrika's career. After all, if you grow up until the age of 12 in a culture that the British habitually look down upon with a sneering sense of cultural superiority, then appearing to be "in on the joke" might well start to become important. A chubby young Ulrika first came to Britain in her pre-teen orthodontic braces to join her mother, Gun. Some years earlier Gun had left Ulrika's father, a Stockholm driving instructor called Bo, and eventually remarried, to an Englishman. But before the eight- year-old Ulrika was able to join her mother in a new family environment overseas, she had to cope alone for four years with her father's fast-food diet and his series of new girlfriends. Once in Britain, Ulrika did well at school and got three good A- levels before deciding not to go on to Goldsmiths College to study French and drama. Instead, she took the job of secretary to the erratic media mogul Bruce Gyngell, who was then in charge of TV-am. Her looks quickly marked her out as a natural in front of the camera and within a couple of years she had distinguished herself as the prototype Scandinavian weather girl. …