Vanessa Feltz was born in Islington, London, and grew up in Pine Grove, Totteridge. On her radio show she frequently refers to Totteridge as "the Beverly Hills of North London" and her middle class Jewish background as like "growing up in Fiddler on the Roof". Her father, Norman, was in the lingerie business.
Feltz was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, an independent school in Elstree, Hertfordshire. She then read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with a first class honours degree.
Feltz was the first female columnist for The Jewish Chronicle and later joined the Daily Mirror. She wrote her first book at this time entitled What Are These Strawberries Doing On My Nipples? I Need Them For The Fruit Salad.
Feltz replaced Paula Yates on Channel 4's morning TV show The Big Breakfast, presenting a regular item where she interviewed celebrities whilst lying on a bed. She has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Rolf Harris while interviewing him on the programme. In 1997, Feltz was tricked by the spoof TV show Brass Eye.
She presented the ITV daytime television chat show, Vanessa, made by Anglia Television. She moved to the BBC to host a similar show, The Vanessa Show, in 1998 in a reported £2.7 million deal. ITV replaced her show with Trisha.
In 1999, The Vanessa Show suffered from bad publicity as some guests were alleged to have been actors. Despite her having had no involvement in the booking of guests, Feltz was seen to be at fault, and the show was cancelled soon after.
In 2001, Feltz joined the local radio station BBC London 94.9 to present a mid-afternoon phone-in show and it has continued to run since then at various times, most recently from 2005 to 2015 at 09.00 to Noon. Beginning in 2016, it is broadcast from 07.00 to 10.00 Monday to Friday.
Also in 2001, Feltz was a contestant on the first series of Celebrity Big Brother. She has appeared on its spin-off shows Big Brother's Big Mouth, Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Bit on the Side on numerous occasions.
In 2002, she made a cameo appearance in the comedy film Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. In May 2003, she was voted 93rd on the list of worst Britons in Channel 4's poll of the 100 Worst Britons.
In 2004, she made an appearance in a sketch in the first episode of the second series of BBC comedy sketch show Little Britain, playing a spokeswoman for fictional slimming club Fat Fighters. Also in that year she appeared in the second series of reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club in a bid to lose weight.
Feltz has also appeared on three different episodes of The Weakest Link. In two episodes she made it to the final round but lost to Sue Perkins on one occasion and to Tony Slattery on the other. The third episode she appeared on was the Special 1,000 Celebratory episode to celebrate 1,000 episodes of The Weakest Link being made. She was the 6th one voted off.
In 2010, Feltz and Ofoedu won their episode of the Virgin 1 show A Restaurant in our Living Room, preparing a dinner at their home for 25 people.
Feltz returned to the Big Brother house on 3 September 2010 during Ultimate Big Brother, the last series to be broadcast on Channel 4. She was evicted from the house on 8 September, two days before the final.
Feltz took on a greater workload of radio and TV presenting in 2011. She took over the BBC Radio 2 Early Breakfast Show on 17 January 2011 broadcasting from 05:00 until 06:30 each weekday in the slot formerly occupied by Sarah Kennedy. Writing of her Radio 2 debut, The Daily Telegraph radio critic, Gillian Reynolds described Feltz's voice as "like lemon tea with honey". She often covers Jeremy Vine's news and current affairs show on Radio 2 when Vine is away, with her early show covered by another presenter.
On 7 March 2011, Channel 5 moved The Vanessa Show to an afternoon slot at 14:15 following disappointing ratings for the morning slot. The move allowed Feltz to appear in live editions of her TV show after her morning radio commitments. Ratings eventually improved and a second series of the show was planned to commence in September 2011 but it never went ahead. The Guardian's "Media Monkey" blog dubbed Feltz "officially the hardest working woman in broadcasting" due to her weekday broadcasting commitments.
On 7 September 2013, she re-entered the Celebrity Big Brother house to take part in a task. She left the house the same day.
In December 2006, Feltz became engaged to Anglo-Nigerian singer Ben Ofoedu and originally planned to marry the following year. She lives with Ofoedu in St John's Wood, London, in a house previously occupied by Reverend John Hugh Smyth-Piggott and by Charles Saatchi. It was featured in Sir John Betjeman's documentary Metro-land (1973).