What was studying at Cambridge like?
Cambridge was an intense bubble, so unlike anything I’d experienced before. Study was rigorous and there was a lot of pressure, but it was the most stimulating environment, and the opportunity to focus solely on nurturing your mind is so unique. I made some really special friendships and got involved in everything, from playing for the women’s football team, to campaigning with Amnesty International, and performing with the contemporary dance society. While there I juggled work experience at newspapers and TV channels, and did the most bizarre selection of part-time and holiday jobs to make money. Needless to say, I was well prepared for the long days, nights and graft of working in the broadcast industry.
You must have been very studious, what advice would you give younger people who might want to think about studying at Oxbridge?
There is truth in the stereotypes, but don’t let that shut you out or discourage you. At first I felt very out of place at Cambridge, it was so different to growing up in Newcastle, everyone seemed so intelligent and well-to-do and I felt like an impostor, but I found my tribe, connected with people who shared my passions -no-matter our backgrounds- and learned so much; it was completely worth it and I guarantee you’ll come out stronger, more confident and able to adapt to any situation. To anyone thinking of applying, I’d say research the admissions requirements and then read around and go beyond them; rather than a hindrance, see obstacles as an opportunity to prove yourself: My school didn’t offer Spanish as a subject, so I taught myself; I took extra classes at the local adult education centre and took two extra A-levels off my own back, so that the admissions tutors could see that although I wasn’t necessarily at the level of kids from Eton, I was resourceful, incredibly hard-working and had potential. In turn, the work you put in to make it there serves as a constant reminder that you deserve your place.
You’ve been presenting and hosting for a while now, who is the most inspiring person you’ve interviewed and who has been the most famous, in your eyes.
The most inspiring was a guy called Shaun Stocker who I spoke to for The Resilience Sessions podcast. He’s a war veteran who lost both of his legs and his sight in a blast while serving in Afghanistan. He told his story with such open honesty; it was heartbreaking and deeply moving, and yet he was irrepressible: he recounted his journey to learning to walk on prosthetics, retrain and find work, build a business and work with young people who he mentors and encourages to tell their stories too. He was frank about seeking help when his mental health was at its lowest and had an incredibly positive attitude in the face of such adversity which I feel we could all learn from. I’ve never come away from an interview feeling that way.
Who could be deemed the most famous interviewee is something that shifts with the tides of pop culture. Up there, in my eyes, are probably Justin Timberlake, Boy George, The Rock and Harrison Ford, depending on which era we’re talking about! My favourite interviews have been Sacha Baron Cohen and Childish Gambino/Donald Glover as they were both so hilarious. And I was weirdly most starstruck dancing alongside Faye from Steps on Strictly last year, as I loved that group so much growing up!
You’ve written for various publications, what sort of things do you write about?
I started out as a print journalist covering Latin American current affairs, politics, arts and culture for a publication called The Argentina Independent while I lived in Buenos Aires. Since then I’ve written travel pieces and many personal female-focussed columns for Marie Claire magazine. Recently I wrote pieces for them about belonging, identity, solitude, burn-out and sexism in the workplace.
Would you describe yourself as a creative?
Whether presenting TV shows, radio hosting, or writing for newspapers, it all boils down to storytelling, which is why I got into this industry in the first place from having studied language. I love communicating, crossing boundaries to meet interesting people and find their compelling stories to share, which is a creative endeavour, so in that respect yes I guess I could describe myself as a creative. I always think the word ‘creative’ suggests letting the mind run wild and free (which mine often does!) but as a journalist in fact research and precision are key, while there is a very technical side to presenting (especially live TV) which mustn’t be overlooked.
As an accomplished presenter / host, if you could host any event, what would it be and why, taking into account The Oscars, Grammy’s, Bafta etc.
I think the dream show to take the helm of would be Desert Island Discs or Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. Hearing such disparate yet compelling stories from a wealth of characters and their experiences, especially (in the case of DID) learning about them through the prism of what their favourite songs mean to them would be the most beautiful job in the world!
I like taking time over the chat, really getting to know the interviewee and love that this depth meets dynamism in late night talk shows, so to have my own, with my own stamp on it, is the eventual goal. It would always have great musical performances too.
In terms of events, I think the Olympics and Paralympics represent the global community at its most positive, uplifting and celebratory, and having worked in sports broadcasting over the last few years of my career, involvement in the coverage of Tokyo 2020 and beyond would be fantastic.
What are your top three favourite films of all time?
Oooh, tough one! I was obsessed with Almodovar, Inarritu and Cuaron films growing up, they were one of the main reasons I wanted to learn Spanish…Let’s pick Amores Perros… Then I’d stick a Tarantino in my list, probably Pulp Fiction (cliched, I know, but has to be done)… and then I think for the sheer watchability, nostalgia and just how much it meant to me as a teenager: 10 Things I Hate About You.
Where do you see yourself in five years – time?
Travelling with work a great deal more. I currently host the Capital Breakfast show, so am on radio here in London every day, but when possible the biggest buzz is getting to broadcast from other countries, make programmes exploring different cultures and learn about the world on film. I’m working towards a travelogue series, and it would be great to use the languages I studied too: French, Spanish and Portuguese.
What is your favourite piece of art – or the one piece you would love to have on your wall or at home?
Some dream artwork for the home would be Egon Schiele’s nudes (so evocative!), Gustav Klimt’s sketches (those intertwined bodies!), a Turner seascape (I could gaze into the mist for hours) and a vivid Frida Kahlo. I have prints of works by all of these artists in my little flat in Hackney, but can you imagine actually owning an original?!
Do, or did you have any business or political role models?
Che Guevara was the first poster I had on my wall. And a calendar. And plaque. And T-shirt. I was about 13, had just watched The Motorcycle Diaries, did some reading around and became obsessed. This was around the time I started working for Amnesty International, writing weekly letters to governments about the incarceration of freedom fighters and prisoners of conscience. I guess I was first and foremost attracted to Guevara’s ideals, his spirit of rebellion and revolution, championing and fighting for the poor.
Growing up I was also hugely impacted by my mum’s love of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. It was important to her that my brothers and I understood the history of racial inequality that preceded us, especially as a mixed race family who, in another era, would not have been able to exist.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
I volunteer with the kids’ group at a local weekly refugee project in Hackney called Akwaaba, which I’ve been doing for almost 4 years now, I think it’s important to give back to your community and it’s a cause very close to my heart. I’m also an ambassador for Help Refugees and Amnesty, as well as Made By Sport, which uses sport to help change the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m actually running the Great North Run (half marathon) this year for Made By Sport, so I am gradually getting into training as I’ve never run any sort of ample distance in my life and am absolutely bricking it! I love dancing and still take classes since Strictly Come Dancing – My favourite styles are contemporary, ballet and street dance. And above all, a lot of my spare time is spent writing, as my second children’s book, Listen Up, is set for release later this year.
Who is your favourite clothing designer and why?
Zuhair Murad’s gowns are so exquisite, the intricacy of the detail in beading and lace is stunning, and the colours, textures and shapes are just perfect, I’d feel so honoured to be able to wear a piece for a red carpet event one day.