Claudia Winkleman celebrating having finished filming Strictly with her stylist Sinead McKeefrySinead McKeefry with permission for Varsity

However you may know Claudia Winkleman – as the Strictly presenter, the Head and Shoulders icon, or for her beloved new series, The Traitors – you cannot deny that she always succeeds in captivating her audience. Thus, we can take pleasure in remembering that she’s one of us. Born in Hampstead, London, Claudia attended the City of London School for Girls and then New Hall (now Murray Edwards), Cambridge, earning an MA in Art History.

“Every Cambridge student wonders what famous alumni were like during their time at the university”

Every Cambridge student wonders what famous alumni were like during their time at the university. What did they do, where did they hang out, did they have any idea they’d become famous? Only by asking these questions can we attempt to follow in their footsteps.

Let’s begin with Claudia’s recollections of her student days. In a recent episode of the game show Would I Lie To You? , Winkleman claimed that, while at Cambridge, she would sleep on the floor to make space for a sunbed she was renting for £40-a-month. The panellists then had to decide whether the story was true.

Immediately, the former Art History student was hit with questions like “When was the first painting?” The interrogation reminded me of when people quiz you on a niche part of your subject and you’re forced to reply, “none of my papers cover that”, hardly helping to prove the worth of your degree.

Winkleman's countrycore aesthetic has been the subject of much discussion onlineInstagram (@sineadmckeefry)

Eventually, Lee’s team deduced that Claudia’s story was true. However, nobody at Cambridge could blame Claudia for her decision (it’s freeing to have passed those Lent Term days when the sun sets at 5pm!). Her story brings to mind the infamous Varsity article from 2022 about a student who kept a hot tub in his room for two terms undetected, hosting guests on boozy winter evenings.

“It’s what Claudia Winkleman wears to present the show that has millions of us gripped”

Recently, Claudia’s outfits from season two of The Traitors have been trending, with The Telegraph’s Fashion Director writing, “Forget the drama of Traitors, it’s what Claudia Winkleman wears to present the show that has millions of us gripped.”

The vision behind Winkleman’s attire comes from London-based stylist Sinead McKeefry. When I asked how she balances staying on-trend with maintaining Claudia’s distinctive style, McKeefry explained that she “look[s] for designers who have a classic aesthetic like Chanel and YSL and then I look at the trends for that season and pick out key pieces and mix them in so you get a classic with a twist look.”

As for her favourite aspect of working with Winkleman, that would have to be the time they spend in Blackpool filming Strictly and their huge celebrations afterwards. They all “dance until dawn”, Sinead recalled.

Winkleman's style is truly iconicInstagram (@sineadmckeefry)

Not only would Claudia undoubtedly look at me strangely if I dared to label her a “sidge girly”, but her distinctive style would surely elevate her above such categories if she returned to Cambridge after all these years.

Yet, Winkleman hasn’t always espoused this look. A desperate search for Claudia “without fringe” reveals an Anglia Television report about the 1992 “Bear Necessities” fashion show, organised by Cambridge students and presented at the Corn Exchange. The event was raising money for Oxfam and included pieces by David Emanuel and Vivienne Westwood.

“It’s difficult to imagine the famous Claudia Winkleman spending hours at a desk analysing paintings”

Claudia referred to the show as “a jokey thing […] a chance to be a bit glamorous after the library.” However, it’s difficult to imagine the famous Claudia Winkleman spending hours at a desk analysing paintings.

Indeed, I think people are often surprised that Winkleman attended Cambridge, not because her TV personality doesn’t fit the mould, but because she’s always humble when recounting her university days.

Rather than boast about her Cambridge-worthy abilities, Winkleman emphasises the importance of hard work. “Do your homework,” she writes in her book Quite, encouraging girls to “nerd the fuck up”. Embracing Cambridge’s “work hard, play hard” mentality, Claudia acknowledges, “You can have fun at Harvard or Oxford”. But what matters most is embracing your inner geek.


Mountain View

Beyond the queer love story

Yet, being a geek all day is tough. So, it’s only natural that Claudia is a strong advocate of napping: “Get into bed whenever you can – for 20 minutes after the school run, for 30 after work, definitely at lunchtime if you’re WFH”.

Although she has never explicitly stated that this habit originated during her student days, it’s reasonable to assume that Cambridge’s intensity contributed to her love of the midday snooze. So, next time you feel guilty about napping during the day, just think WWCWD?

From relatable student to iconic presenter, Claudia’s life is too full of entertainment to describe in one article. Hopefully, however, this glimpse into her student days has left you feeling at least tenuously connected to the star.

Winkleman might have studied History of Art but it’s safe to say we’re studying the history of an artist here.