The record-breaking former Blue Peter presenter talks to us about overcoming disappointment, dealing with Twitter backlash and what it's like to have possibly the best TV job in the world.
Describe your typical working day.
It’s a cliché but no two days are the same. I spend a lot of time answering emails while I am moving between places, meetings or filming. If I can, I finish the day on the sofa with my dog and husband.
What was your first job?
I worked in a takeaway on a caravan park. I stank of chips and burnt pizzas but everyone was on holiday so they were in a good mood. They tipped well and it was sociable.
What do you love most about your job?
I have been all over the world with Blue Peter, Holiday Hit Squad and Comic Relief; places like India, Alaska, Sierra Leone, Florida, Turkey, Bangladesh – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most people are so accommodating, they let us into their homes, eat at their table, see their most prized possessions – it’s a real privilege. They also let us do things you wouldn’t normally get to do. I have changed the time on Big Ben, helped an anaesthetist put children to sleep when he was performing facial reconstructions on children in India, had tea with the Queen and walked on a high wire at Battersea power station, to name a few. People bend the rules for TV and thanks to the kindness of our contributors I have had so many once in a lifetime, money can’t buy, opportunities.
What did you buy with your first big pay cheque?
A huge chunk of my first Blue Peter wages went on fabulous genuine hair extensions. They cost a fortune and I got them done repeatedly at a fancy salon in Mayfair. I wore them to run an ultra marathon In Namibia but I was sweating so much they ended up as one huge rat’s tail. I had to have them cut out.
What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?
I walk my dog or swim. Or sometimes I unwind by having a gin and tonic on the train.
Do you use social media in your job?
Twitter, in my eyes, is like a bad boyfriend. Sometimes really useful but often bad for your ego. It’s particularly good for scores and updates when I am out and about but people, myself included, don’t always mean what they say on there.
How did you get to where you are today?
I volunteered at a local radio station, Cfm, to get some experience while studying for a journalism degree at the local college. I eventually got offered the breakfast show at Radio Cumbria, before moving down to London and working at Newsround. I did that for seven months before Blue Peter asked me to audition. Five and a half years have flown by in a whizz of travel, adventure and excitement. It’s the best job for a presenter by far. But now I am taking on new challenges, writing children’s fiction, working in sport and hopefully continuing to develop new projects at the BBC. There’s a long way to go until I am at the top of where I want to be but ultimately as long as it’s fun I am satisfied.
We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance – how do you manage it?
My work is my life, it is an unfair balance but I love my job. Thankfully my husband is very understanding.
Have you had any setbacks along the way?
I have setbacks every month! I have been dropped from shows, missed out on amazing jobs, mucked stuff up, made mistakes and it’s embarrassing. I have done jobs where I know I am out of my depth but I give it a go. Sometimes it works, sometimes I get criticised and it hurts, but I have a go.
What advice would you give someone trying to break into your industry?
I always tell people to get as much experience as they can. Work for free and, wherever possible, do jobs that you enjoy. Don’t chase jobs that pay well or have good status symbols. Go after work that makes you proud and puts a smile on your face.
Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.