Anita Rani’s see-through dress is the outfit of a star on the rise

'It projects confidence but also vulnerability': Anita Rani wore a see-through dress by Rebecca Vallance to the Baftas ceremony
'It projects confidence but also vulnerability': Anita Rani wore a see-through dress by Rebecca Vallance to the Baftas ceremony - Ian West/PA Wire | Iona Wolff/Bafta

One of the big winners at Sunday night’s Bafta TV Awards was presenter Anita Rani, even though she didn’t go home with a trophy.

Instead, Rani triumphed on the red carpet thanks to a daring see-through dress that got everyone talking – and speculating about whether the popular Rani is on track to become the next BBC star.

After all, as she declared to Good Housekeeping Magazine this month: “I’m right at the beginning of my chapter two and there’s so much more I want to do.”

Rani, 46, is already a staple on the broadcaster’s schedule as the host of Woman’s Hour on Radio Four and BBC One’s rural affairs programme Countryfile. But this was Rani in a very different guise: definitely no mud or wellies involved.

She strutted her stuff on the Baftas red carpet in a daring floor-length pearl-encrusted gown by Australian designer Rebecca Vallance. The sheer material showed off Rani’s trim figure, with her modesty protected by a nude bodysuit beneath, and she accessorised it with Sole Bliss platform heels, asymmetrical earrings and glamorous hair extensions.

Rani’s stylist, Krishan Parmar, told The Telegraph that they chose the dress because it projects confidence but also vulnerability. It shows that “Anita is really feeling herself and comfortable in her own skin.”

Anita showcased the eye-catching dress at the Baftas
Anita showcased the eye-catching dress at the Baftas - Shane Anthony Sinclair/BAFTA

Caroline Leaper, The Telegraph’s senior fashion editor, explains: “It’s an excellent example of someone using fashion as a tool to make a big personal statement. The dress is so far removed from the everyday wardrobe people will have seen her in on screen – this is glamorous and fun, more like something we would see on Rita Ora at the Met Gala. She’s clearly feeling confident, and wants us all to know it.”

Rani told Good Housekeeping magazine about embracing her independence following her split in 2023 from Bhupinder Rehal, her husband of 14 years. She’s moved back into her old London flat and is turning it into what a friend described as “a Parisienne dream house.”

That means “lovely cream drapes and white floorboards,” Rani revealed. “My bedroom is dusky pink and I’ve turned my spare room into a dressing room. Just talking about it makes me happy! It’s my little sanctuary.”

The presenter admitted that she was in “uncharted territory.” She continued: “I’m a single, Asian woman with no children, and do you know what? I love it! I’ve got a blank slate in front of me, and that feels really good.”

Rani also sounds fired up by the experience of writing her debut novel. Baby Does A Runner is, similarly, about a British-Asian woman figuring out who she is. Rani’s protagonist, Baby, faces pressure from her mother and aunties to get married and have kids, but when she discovers secret love letters between her grandfather and a mysterious woman, she travels to India to find out why her family left, and how their generational trauma affects her.

Rani explained that, in retrospect, she’s angry about growing up in a Punjabi culture where men and women were “treated very differently, and I could see the inequality everywhere around me. But when you have something to fight against, it really empowers you. It’s like a fire inside that drives you.”

Rani definitely sounds, and looks, like a woman on a mission. Since her marital split, and while promoting her book, she’s been a much more visible presence, doing frank interviews and stylish photo shoots.

Anita Rani
As she enters into a new period of her life, Rani is embracing bolder looks and taking on new projects - Andrew Crowley

She’s been praised for her courage and openness in talking about how she suffered a miscarriage. “Vulnerability used to scare the s--- out of me, but it has been liberating to share my personal story and see the response,” she said last year.

She added that she’s become much better at self-care and asking how she wants to live her life, rather than “trying to please everybody”.

That builds on the wisdom of her best-selling 2022 memoir The Right Sort of Girl, in which Rani recalls how she learnt to navigate between her two cultures while growing up in 1980s Yorkshire.

On the one hand she was called racist slurs – but she also struggled in her traditional home, in a family that believed in arranged marriages. Her parents ran a clothing factory and wanted their daughter to study law. She was a rebellious teenager, and sometimes a deeply unhappy one: she even self-harmed.

But she’s now proud to be a visible role model for women of colour, and one who has become part of several British institutions. As well as presenting on Countryfile and Woman’s Hour, she competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2015, reaching the semi-final.

Rani ultimately embraced the sequins and skimpy outfits on Strictly, although she quipped that the first outfit she tried on involved “side ass on show” – which was “really exposing and terrifying.”

Anita Rani appearing on the Strictly Come Dancing live show in Blackpool
Anita Rani found her Strictly Come Dancing wardrobe 'terrifying', but successfully reached the semi-final - Guy Levy/BBC/PA

She’s since learnt to use style strategically, such as wearing a sari while covering the Platinum Jubilee for the BBC. “For so many years I was made to feel shame,” she said, explaining how she felt she had to tone down her Asian side “because no one wants to deal with that. But now I think being able to move between two cultures is a gift. With the Jubilee, I thought ‘When else am I going to have a moment like this?’”

Rani also made waves when she conducted an interview for Channel 4’s Britain By Beach while wearing a swimming costume. “I’d spent my entire life worried about my body, never getting into bikinis in my 20s and 30s – I had this dysmorphia of thinking I didn’t look good enough,” she recalled. “Now I think ‘Sod it.’”

Will that confidence translate into a glittering new chapter in Rani’s career? She certainly has grand plans. ‘I’d like to take Woman’s Hour out on the road,” she told Good Housekeeping, before adding, tellingly, “and I’d like to host my own talk show. I want to turn my book into a film or a TV show, and I really want to carry on changing the landscape for the next generation of Asian women.’

She was thrilled to be asked to host ITV’s game show Fastest Finger First in 2022, a spin-off of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, because, she said, there are stereotypes about Asian women being “square and clever”. When asked if she had ambitions to present the news, “I have actively said ‘No, my passion is music and entertainment,’” explained Rani.

Anita Rani
Anita Rani dressed in her more familiar Countryfile garb - Pete Dadds

Recently she’s appeared as a celebrity on Michael Macintyre’s The Wheel and a guest co-host on Pointless, and she hosted Netflix’s spin-off web series Beneath The Crown.

BBC cameras picked her out several times during Sunday’s Baftas, suggesting the corporation understands her potential as a rising star. Will she be the next queen of Saturday night TV?

It’s certainly possible. Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman are currently a devoted presenting duo on Strictly, but as the series celebrates its 20th anniversary tomorrow [15th May], might this eventually inspire them to move on to pastures new?

You wouldn’t blame Rani for having her eye on the top glitterball prize, although she did host the show’s live stage tour in 2017 (stepping in for Mel Giedroyc), and she wasn’t necessarily a natural in the role.

She’s an excellent journalist, but would need to let loose more and build up her comic chops for light entertainment hosting. And she’d need to think outside the box if she’s to avoid the fate of Lily Allen and Davina McCall, whose attempts at chat shows were swiftly consigned to the TV dustbin.

However, she’s proved to be a very safe pair of hands for high-profile occasions like royal events. She could also suit a programme like The Piano, should Winkleman ever tire of it, particularly if she can channel the warmth and emotional candour she’s recently demonstrated in her writing and personal interviews.

Rani has definitely paid her dues, and is now well positioned to both represent the establishment BBC and show its embrace of more progressive values – whether through her work, her eye-catching fashion, or both.