When I was little I always loved all things American. I used to speak with an American accent for no reason other than I liked it. I even had elocution lessons to rectify it! After going on a summer camp in America at 16, I realised I wanted to have the American university experience. I was going to apply to go there for my whole university career, but doing the US SATs as well as A Levels didn’t appeal so I found the perfect solution – American and Canadian Studies at Birmingham University with a year in the States.
I always loved history and politics and the course focused on those facets as well as literature and culture. It was a really interesting and varied subject, learning about civil war, African-American history, The Cold War, Vietnam as well as cult American Movies, classic novels and Marilyn Monroe! At UCLA, though, I opted to focus on all things TV, Film and Media. I was in the land of it after all and decided to really make the most of the experts and incredible resources that UCLA had to offer. Work aside, it was the best year of my life – and an experience that shaped my life massively.
My university experience gave me an incredible grounding and provided me with essential skills that were transferable. Focus, dedication, and hard work were cultivated there, and have been fundamental in the challenging career I’ve embarked upon. It gave me transferable life skills and the time to figure out who I was, to grow as a person, have once in a lifetime experiences and leave with a hunger to pursue new challenges. After my year in America I got the bug for the entertainment industry, and I became really independent (although travelling in my GAP year helped with that too.) I also learnt how to survive on limited sleep with a hangover!
I secured a work placement at the London office of Warner Bros before going to LA. I bagged it through a bit of cheekiness and luck. I was volunteering at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, and I was put backstage at the VIP entrance. My job was to give the wristbands out to VIP guests after checking them off a list. I met all sorts of fabulous people that day, and one man rushed up to me demanding his wrist band, claiming he was from Madonna’s record label and needed his wrist band. His name wasn’t on the list and I told him there was nothing I could do. He insisted it was urgent and he was in a hurry so I made a deal with him: I would give him a band if he gave me work experience. He gave me his card in a flap, I emailed him on the Monday morning, and he was true to his word!
The Warner Brothers Record office in Burbank was an amazing place to have an internship. I worked in the international department and it was a fascinating place to be, seeing how the industry worked. I also got to listen to album run playbacks in the famous wooden studios in Burbank – an amazing experience for a 21 year old. That’s where I learnt that I wanted to be the thing that people worked on and not behind the scenes! In all seriousness I learnt how much work, and how important a good team are in selling a product and pushing an artist, and that it’s all about the people you surround yourself with.
After university I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do – the presenting light bulb hadn’t gone off yet. PR really appealed to me and I managed to secure some internships at various PR firms. These included working in the fashion and beauty department at Talk PR, at Hill &n Knowlton in the Pharmaceuticals division and a month at Stella McCartney. I liked the idea of really selling, endorsing and promoting brands and products I truly believed in. To this day I always seem like I have an endorsement with a product if I truly love it and will tell anyone and everyone about it! All my internships came from emailing, arranging meetings, and generally talking my way in!
I realised during a lunch break on the phone to my mum feeling really frustrated that I wasn’t suited to traditional office roles. I had always been into the world of TV, always loved acting and performing and generally had this underlying feeling in me that I wanted to pursue presenting and the media world. It was a clear-cut decision and I just set about figuring out how to achieve this. Ultimately it all took off after a chance meting with a fashion production company owner at an art exhibition who was willing to give me an opportunity to present, even though he didn’t know at the time I had zero experience). I did my first ever piece to camera at London Fashion Week, and my first proper interview was with Twiggy. Needless to say I wasn’t very good but once I started, I made sure I put in the work, time and effort to improve and learn how to become a better presenter. I also worked as a producer for this company alongside the presenting, which gave me a thorough overview of the whole industry, and gave me an in-depth education into the world I was entering.
To go from a pre-record presenter to a full time, live broadcaster at Sky Sports News was an opportunity I jumped at. I had always been interested in sport, not only as a participant but also because my family are big football and tennis fans so it was an area that fascinated me. Needless to say there was a lot of work I needed to do to learn not only the skill set for live broadcast, but the journalistic element and sports that I hadn’t previously paid too much attention to. Presenting had always been the plan and goal. I was hired to be a presenter, but the boss was absolutely correct in making that transition a slow one. First I had to learn the ropes and truly understand the whole process of news production, the journalism involved, the procedure and the editing process – there is so much more to it than sitting at a desk and reading out loud.
I have massive anxiety about making big decisions – just ask my husband when we go out for dinner! In making the leap, I trusted my family and friend’s judgement and people I have as mentors. In particular at that time my model agent Eleni Renton (Leni’s Models) was always encouraging and helping me get TV work. She knew that TV was where I should be and I continue to value her savvy opinion. She is very wise and a wonderful sounding board.
I think at the beginning of any career your moves need to be organic. When pportunities arise, you should take them. You meet people and things develop naturally. Later on in your career when you have experience and an understanding of what you want and the areas you want to explore, its easier to put a strategy in place as long as you have the right team and are open to the fact that you can’t control everything! I think you just have to avoid over thinking things, which I have a tendency to do. If you make the decision to take a risk, then you have to whole-heartedly go for it and see what happens. I believe you will always regret the things you haven’t done, rather than the things you do. The best piece of advice I never got but wish I had is to think of your career as a series of experiences. To know that we have so much to learn, and we may fail, or may not achieve our perceived dream job – the journey is just as important as the destination. We need experiences to grow and become better at what we do. Also do not sweat the small stuff – in the grand scheme of things, little obstacles are irrelevant bumps on a long road.
I’m in my forth year at Sky Sports News now and I really love it. I finally feel comfortable and at ease in the chair. I always thought I was but now I can have fun when I am on air and not sweat the small stuff – mistakes happen, its only natural and actually I think the viewer likes to see that human element. I love the live environment, I have regular shifts now with the same co-presenter, and we have built a good rapport and understanding of each other. Sky Sports is an amazing place to work – it’s always evolving and modernising and it has a great energy about the place – even at 4am!
Now a normal day starts with me waking up at around 3am and driving to the studios. I then prep for a coupe of hours – making sure I am ready for my shift ahead, knowing what the main stories are, what live sport is on, what big events are happening that day and any interviews we will have or guests coming on the programme. On a 24hr news channel there is plenty that you can not plan for but we try and cover as much as possible – failure to prepare, prepare to fail. I have my hair and makeup done and get dressed and we go live at 6am. I am on air until 10am on a strand called Good Morning Sports Fans, and we tend to reflect on the sport from the night before, the action and drama and also look ahead to the big events coming up in the day. There is a lot to fit in to our 4 hours and the programme is all live and constantly evolving with stories developing all the time so it is pretty intense.
The best piece of advice I never got but wish I had is to think of your career as a series of experiences. To know that we have so much to learn, and we may fail, or may not achieve our perceived dream job – the journey is just as important as the destination. We need experiences to grow and become better at what we do.
I have not received negativity about fronting a sports programme as a woman, although of course, I have received plenty of online negativity – but that tends to be the nature of being on twitter and TV! If you are passionate, hard working and driven, sports media and broadcast is a fantastic arena to be in – irrelevant of gender. It can be difficult as there are not lots of on-screen positions for women at the very top due to the nature of punditry usually being retired male sportsmen, but that is definitely changing and expanding. Lots of traditionally male dominated fields can be slightly harder to permeate but this is constantly evolving and if you want it bad enough, and work hard enough then there really is no reason not to.
Waking up early and working on days like Christmas can be a bit difficult. I have lots of time off in the week – when no one is around, and then on weekends I have to be in bed early and up very early. It takes its toll on me – and the longer I have been doing it, the more I realise how much sleep I need to try and catch up on. I am however really into health and fitness. I recognised quite early that with crazy hours, what I eat and exercise are so essential for a happier healthier life, and so I try to avoid refined sugar, don’t have much dairy or gluten and exercise about 5 times a week. I also love a good movie on the couch. I tend to burn the candle when it comes to socialising and working on weekends, and save up my sleep for mid-week! My husband being a night owl and DJ/ music producer isn’t ideal either – we are like ships in the night on weekends! If I didn’t love my job it would be a hard lifestyle to sustain – but hopefully its putting in a bit of groundwork for babies.
My husband, friends and family are wonderful. They really get it – although admittedly its quite annoying always declining evening arrangements and never having a lie in! But we make it work just fine, and my husband’s crazy hours make mine seem normal. If one of us had a 9-5 it would definitely be harder to cope with. Being permanently tired is pretty boring on everyone so I try to just get on with it– thankfully coffee is never far – or is a little meltdown. A good cry sorts everything.
Unlike other industries, it’s not possible to too plan far in advance. There are not the same tried and tested traditional routes that are guaranteed to a presenter, and there are no certainties based on qualification or experience. My career, although in its infancy, has come about through various opportunities presenting themselves (not necessarily in areas I had initially thought about or directly pursued) and me grabbing the chance to have a go. I am a big believer in the Celestine Prophecy and synchronicity – the basic principle that everything happens for a reason and although it may not be clear to you at the time, there are lessons or things to be learned from every situation. I think it is important to stay open-minded and positive and if sometimes we don’t feel like we are moving upwards but sideways, to embrace that for the new opportunities that good rise from it. I am very ambitious and have high expectations from myself, so think it is important to keep challenging myself and pushing my boundaries.
If I could give any advice for anyone planning on going into presenting it would be to learn your craft. Presenting has a varied and important skill set that is more than just reading out loud. So work hard on understanding how to deliver information in a way that is true to you yet informative, conversational and easy to digest. It is important to not think being a presenter is about you. The job of a presenter is to relay information or find out information about others. If news broadcast is an area you want pursue, then having a journalism degree and working for local newspapers, radio and TV stations are so beneficial. Being savvy with the digital space especially when it comes to news gathering is now essential. The best thing you can be is genuine and authentic – the viewer can see straight through anything else.
I am most proud of the fact that my first proper presenting job was on a channel that has over 2 million viewers a day. I jumped in at the deep end and didn’t sink. Where I will be in five or 10 years time is something I am still trying to figure out. I know the future holds more challenges, more exciting opportunities, fulfillment and achievement. Most importantly it holds happiness, satisfaction and balance in both my professional and personal life.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Photographs by Dvora for The Lifestyle Edit.
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