A tribute to Tova Borgnine

I have met so many inspirational women at QVC in the last 21 years, all of whom possess great strength and determination, but to me, it’s Tova Borgnine who epitomises every aspect of the word “inspirational”. That’s why I’ve chosen to write about her, although I began this piece before we received the news of her passing, so I hope this will be a fitting tribute to her memory…

I met Tova many years ago when she presented her fragrances and Cactine Skincare range on QVC. She independently bought the world shipping rights to the skincare brand, taking a huge gamble that paid off. Not only was she astute in business, I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met. She was then the same age I am now and quite honestly, I don’t think she changed at all over the years.

Always immaculately dressed, beautifully coiffured, and agelessly elegant, she brought more than a touch of Hollywood glamour to our Battersea studios, and in spite of the long haul flights and subsequent jet lag she was always full of sparkle and energy. That inimitable sparkle was added to a stunning range of Diamonique jewellery that she designed, each piece lovingly recreating her own collection that had been gifted to her by her Hollywood actor husband Ernest Borgnine. Presenting these shows with Tova were some of my all-time favourite hours on QVC.

She always took time out to talk to everyone; other guests, backstage and broadcasting staff – she was interested in us all, our lives, our families, and our work.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer she contacted me, confiding in me that previously she had been treated for the disease and had survived it. She told me I would too, regularly writing to me and sending me supportive literature and CDs, which helped me more than she will ever know.

Over the following years, I met with Tova and her business partner Linda whenever she was in the UK, sometimes getting the chance to share a meal after a show, or just have a catch up in her dressing room. I loved listening to her soft warm voice telling me of her life in Beverley Hills, her ongoing work with the jewellery designs, and stories of her life with Ernie. When after 40 years of marriage, she lost him, I was fortunate enough to be able to give back a little of the same love and support she had always given me. And in spite of that loss, she continued working, more determined than ever to keep going.

She celebrated with me when my first grandchild was born, comforted me when my mother died, and complimented me on the publication of my first book. The fact that she continued her visits to QVC UK, Germany and Italy throughout her 70s was a testament to her strength and tenacity, and I know she found it deeply frustrating when Covid put a stop to her travelling. She missed the performance, the storytelling, the interaction with her loyal ‘Tovettes’, but most of all she missed being with people. Never one to be deterred, she set herself up with a home-based studio and continued to work with us remotely. I can tell you, it’s not easy presenting a show when you are working solely to camera and yet she was a consummate professional.

As I approach my 62nd birthday, I sometimes catch myself having a moan about getting older and then I think of Tova. Beautiful, graceful, elegant, witty, hardworking and fiercely loyal to those she loved. She never complained and she NEVER mentioned her age. She was, and always will be forever young, and I am so grateful for the memories and the amazing legacy she has left us. The world was a better place for having Tova Borgnine in it.

With my love,

Ali X

This month, we’re also celebrating Inspirational Women’s Month and welcome you to take a look at the many fantastic, female-founded and led fashion brands we are proud to partner with here.