Over the last few years I have learned something – every time I am fortunate enough to meet someone whom I really admire it just hasn’t worked out.
Take Dolly Parton. We travelled up to Liverpool to interview her, amidst a hugely un-exciting, Haribo-fuelled journey through horrendous traffic. The lady herself was fantastic, inspirational and kindly. But she only had nine minutes. And we were stuck all day in a smelly male locker room; my Director and I were crushed in the shower area between a filthy sink and a suspicious-looking urinal. Not my idea of fun, and now, whenever I smell drains, it takes me right back.
The other week I met Chris Evans – my secret career inspiration. After reading his autobiography as a student I, too, marched down to my local radio station and demanded a job. It actually worked! (I was stuck on the late-night slot, conveniently not really being paid. But still, experience is experience, I am sure somebody clever says). Although he was friendly and reasonably chatty, despite being accosted by my slightly flustered self on a street corner in Soho, I was still left feeling disappointed.
Why was that, I wondered? Presumably it’s to do with the real and perceived personality of someone in the public eye. You want them to be as they are on screen or radio – confident, caring and interesting. But when they meet you they are generally not being paid (or, sometimes they actually are – take JLS – they were being PAID to be nice to us and still didn’t quite manage it).
Our expectations are also far too high. You wish for the perfect five-minute encounter where the person makes you laugh, comments on how much they like your outfit and perhaps even takes your number as they think you have ‘potential in the industry’. Let’s face it: it’s never going to happen. The reality, almost always, is a slightly grumpy individual who just wants to get away from you and go home to put their feet up. They are (most of them) only human, after all.
My advice is to meet your anti-heroes. (Not necessarily Rebekah Brooks, or someone who has sold their soul to the devil in dramatic Dorian Gray style) but someone whom you really dislike. Take for example Peter Andre – one of the most annoying people on TV. I hated his adverts, his silly public dramas, his face, his prawn ring…but in person – one of the nicest people I have ever met. I had to stand corrected on that one. Another example – Gok Wan. He used to drive me mad with his repetitive voiceover (‘speak-about-it-in-an-excited-high-pitched-manner…then drop-it-right-down-leaving-the-intonation-unfinished’) and unexciting hair, but he turned out to be kind, affectionate and a true gentlemen who really opened up about his life, his experiences and his troubled relationship with his father. I now have a lot of time for Gok Wan.
Some of the other truly exciting people I have been fortunate to have met are those who aren’t on the cover of Heat magazine, but who have been successful behind the scenes through hard work and true talent. Thea Green, who started Nails Inc, is one of these people whom I truly admire: beautiful enough to be featured in the fashion mags, but with the humility to not to want to be. Her intelligence, success and business sense simply speaks for itself.
So, try meeting someone you love to hate. Ask someone annoying a question that requires a bit of thought to their answer. Don’t dismiss someone because they are on reality TV (and, equally, don’t worship them just because they are). Try meeting someone you have written off; they may just surprise you.
By Anna Trevelyan