With age come wisdom and sometimes, an almost infinite capacity for kindness towards other people. Having a career as a broadcaster for over two decades has shaped how renowned UK TV and radio presenter, writer and podcaster, Kate Thornton sees the world around her. Sitting down with Tara Joseph for a chat, she shares the lessons she has learned from her stellar career in print and broadcast journalism, her successful forays into podcasting and jewelry design, and her passion for motherhood.
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For the love of Broadcasting and Motherhood with Kate Thornton
I love it when my show stretches right the way across the Atlantic. From here in Los Angeles, back home to the UK. Who is our guest? Not only is she a successful journalist, one of the UK’s most popular TV and radio presenters, hosts her own podcast, White Wine Question Time, but is now also a successful jewelry designer. Without further ado, welcome to the show, the wonderful, the one and only, Kate Thornton. Kate, how are you?
It’s so nice to see you. I wish I was sat next to you in Los Angeles now and not here in a windswept rainy London. I’m waiting for our esteemed Prime Minister to address the nation. I think we are about to receive further restrictions as we inch back into lockdown. The lockdown over the summer of 2020 was hard, but at least it was the summer here, you could get out and the blue skies made all the difference. I think we’re in for a long winter here. I’d like to be with you guys in Los Angeles. I love that city.
We need to find a vaccine and we then need to get you here and we need to go out and have some fun.
Do you remember fun?
It’s somewhere in the distant memory of the past.
I went into Central London for a job and it’s a ghost town. It’s tough times.
It is here in LA as well. I think that worldwide, it’s a difficult situation. We’re in for a long winter, but please God, at some point in 2021, we have a bit of light relief.
Never have I adored and admired scientists more.
Let’s not forget, they are the ones we need to listen to, no one else.
In some ways, I think if there was anything that I can find that is a positive shift from this pandemic is the fact that we’re starting to attribute value to those that deserve it most. It’s our key workers, doctors, nurses and scientists. I have a son and I hope that when it comes to choosing his subjects, that he’s opting to further at school, the sciences or something starts to feel far more appealing to kids now because we need to crew up with an army of brilliant scientists, the world over.
How have you been dealing with homeschooling or is he back at school now? I know the situation is slightly different here in the States to the UK.
This is why I feel sorry for everyone in America because you guys are not back at school. We are homeschooling. I was lucky that his school was on it and we’re fortunate that we have enough space at home for him to have his own workspace. Where I’m talking to you from is my kitchen. In lockdown, this became my TV studio. I did all my shows from here. I have another room off this which is my podcast studio for White Wine Question Time. My workspace was the ground floor and his workspace was the first floor. He would come down while I would be on a screen call doing a show and stand behind my laptop, holding up notes, going things like, “What is a square root?”
Do you know the answer? I wouldn’t know the answer.
I’m holding up a standard piece of paper that says, “Google it.” He’s like, “My teachers say we can’t Google it.” I’m like, “I’m overriding your teachers. Google it.” It was tough and it felt long. When I think back to March, when we went into lockdown on the 23rd, it feels like a lifetime ago, not a matter of months ago. I think 2020 is a year none of us will forget and for no good reason.The truth is that you don’t make success happen. It happens to you. It’s all about how you respond to situations. Click To Tweet
I think a lot of people went into 2020, a new decade and everything with so much hope, aspiration and optimism and then come February, it all started to come crashing down.
We followed the news so we could see what was coming and there were 70 people. I don’t know why people had thought maybe like SARS that it wouldn’t reach these shores or our shores or your shores. By virtue of the fact that it’s a pandemic tends not to discriminate against borders or any of those things. We were braced on a work level. I already had a home studio set up starting to be installed in February of 2020. I worked for a big multinational in America with my podcast and they were ahead of the curve in terms of safeguarding their workers and making sure that we were all testing our abilities to carry on broadcasting from home. I felt that by the time the lockdown came, we were already up and running and already doing that from home. I felt like I could literally qualify for a degree in IT now. If you haven’t jabbed and shouted at your laptop, you are not my people.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve even changed the position of the laptop, not when I do a show, but when I’m up now. I’m not doing the whole bending thing and trying to be a bit more aligned.
It’s time to be alive.
I was thinking about you. The first time I ever met you was in the late ‘90s at the Cannes Film Festival. I remember in a crazy time, you were amazing, lovely and kind. Having you on the show, all of these years later, is a lovely experience. I’m excited to be chatting with you and to hearing how it all began in your world. Fill us in a little bit. How did it all begin? How did you go from a successful journalist to TV, radio and now where you are? I’d love to hear a little bit and the readers would as well, particularly, our American friends out there.
If I could give you a prescription as to how it happens, but the truth is you don’t make it happen. Sometimes, it happens to you and it’s about how you respond to situations. I grew up in a town called Cheltenham in Cotswolds here in the UK. I went to a regular state school. It wasn’t a particularly good school. I left not being able to spell, for example, basic stuff. I had these huge aspirations to be a journalist, which seemed like every time I mentioned it at school, I was battered down and told to think about being a typist rather than a writer. There was this overriding arch of because you are a girl. I hated that and I railed against that.
It’s oppressive. I want it to be the change that I wanted to see. I didn’t want to hear that conversation anymore. I thought myself, “I’m going to get out of here. I’m going to go to London, I’m going to study, I’m going to qualify as a journalist and I’m going to be that change. I’m going to do what I want to do.” Somebody has got to fill columns write, report and why should it not be me? I applied to every journalism school in the country and got turned down by all of them but one. Literally from there, part of my studies, and I think it’s important is that they put you in industry. You have to go and get work placements. It’s like an unpaid internship and you get two stints. I knew I had to get a job at the end of one of my stints. Otherwise, I was going home and there were no employment opportunities in general.
Did you know that music journalism was the area that interested you at that point?
It interested me because I was passionate about it. You have the Hot 100 for the Billboard Charts. We have the Top 40 here in the UK. Back in the day, when you could make sets and record off the radio, I would record my own mixtape every week of the Top 40. I would learn every song that I loved and I would edit my own Top 40 and cut out the host. That was my Sunday religion, I suppose. Everybody else has their own religious practices on a Sunday. Music was mine.
It felt like when it came to what shall I write about, something I care about, music was something that I cared about. I ended up in newspapers, by way of work placement and started writing a daily column about music and entertainment. I didn’t stay long because a job came up that was my dream job. There’s a music magazine here in the UK that you’ll know and American readers, maybe not so much, but it’s called Smash Hits. When I was growing up, it was a magazine that was published once a fortnight and it was the Bible of pop music. It was huge. If you make it in Smash Hits, you knew you were going to make it into the Charts. You had to get Smash Hits behind you in order to make it as a commercial out and unapologetic pop stuff. This job came up as the editor and I was twenty.
In 21, by that time, I sat in the chair as the editor and I applied to the job at twenty. I thought, “This is going to be a great experience for me to learn how to apply for jobs because I’d never applied for one as a writer.” I was an editor certainly. I never expected in a million years to get the job, but I did. It was a baptism by fire. It was wonderful. I loved it. I took the reins of Britain’s biggest-selling music magazine. I was the first woman to ever sit in the chair.
That is a huge accomplishment.
I’m thinking, I’m the first woman in the chart. I was dumbfounded that no other woman had been there before me.
Do you remember what the interview was like?
I did ten hours of the interview. It’s a big job. I remember I had to make a dummy magazine and I didn’t know all about men. I sat in my apartment in London and I made out of sheets for what my magazine would look like. I even drew a barcode on the front, perhaps how rubbish it was. They went with it. Either there was some good in what I was doing or there was nobody else available or maybe it was probably a hybrid of the two. I ended up taking the job. Literally, we had a band and we’ll take that at that time, who would cover gold, you put them on the cover, it sold.
They broke up the week I joined as the editor, I was like, “We’re in for a pop drought.” I rinsed their demised as best I could because when this band split up, there were national helplines set up for wheeling teenage girls who couldn’t come to terms the fact that Take That had split. Within that year, so much has changed. It was 1996 and five girls exploded into my office whilst I was in a meeting and refused to leave until I met with them and danced on the desks. They were a five-woman riot and they were the Spice Girls. They almost wrestled me to the ground with this manifesto of girl power saying, “You’re the first woman to sit in the editor’s chair. You owe it to all other women to support other women.”
I said, “You’ve got my support. You get yourself out. I will do an introducing piece on you.” They wanted a cover. I said, “I can’t give you a cover until you’ve got a hit. You get a hit, you’re on the cover.” They went to number one on a Sunday, we shot them on Monday. I’m proud of them. Our kids all know each other. I went to Wembley in 2019 with the rest of our gang and sat there with all of our kids, watching them with their kids in the stands at Wembley and thinking, “Look at this. This is bloody amazing.”
It’s special because I noticed you’re looking at your Instagram and everything that you are still incredibly close with all of the girls from back in the late ‘90s like the Appletons, Emma Bunton and all of them. To have relationships that last within the business that we’re in, it’s unusual because people come and go. The fact that you’re all still such close friends, best friends says something about you all.
I’m proud of our friendships and I describe them as my muscles because they keep me strong. We’ve outlived most of the menfolk that has passed through our lives. Not always, I may add, but we’ve been there through births, deaths, marriages and divorces. We’re still as tight as ever. I love the bones of those women and they’re my kind of people. They’re the girls that, like me, sat there as teenagers going, “I want to do more than this. I want to be more than this. I’ve got an appetite and I want to go and experience. I want to make my ambitions and dreams a reality.” They all did that and we had so much fun doing it. It’s almost outrageous that we got paid.
I remember some of those times back then when I was a little bit involved.
You were involved. You were the manager. I remember having to give you a hugging cam because there was a lot.
I did love my job.
You were a female manager in a man’s world. The music industry certainly at the upper echelons is still far too male-dominated.
I do remember when I was managing Nicole and Natalie, who I will always adore, I’d never been in the music industry before and they trusted that I would fight for them. I think that’s why they asked me to do it. I think, in a way, ignorance was bliss at that time because walking into a record company and talking to these people, I think they were like, “Who the hell is this girl?” You’d leave the room and they’d be like, “Now, I get it.” Ignorance was bliss for me because I was fearless. I wish though, the manager I am now with the twenty years of experience, I was back then, but then you live and learn.
The only way to learn in the professions that we chose is to go and do the job. I hate the word mistakes or the language around failure because it’s all negative. You are never going to learn unless you do something that isn’t right or you have to be able to afford yourself the opportunity to fail to learn. Success teaches you little. Failure teaches you so much more. Those are our lessons. I think Stateside, you guys celebrate that in as much as you share those experiences and those learnings and you have rephrased and reframed that conversation. We don’t do that here in the same way. I’m determined in the same way that I hate the words antiaging. How can you be anti the inevitable? Let’s be pro-aging.
I think you should embrace it. I’m going to turn 50 in October 2020. I’m like, “There’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well celebrate it.”
I was doing some press interviews and one of the journalists said to me, “You’re 47. How do you feel about getting older?” I thought, “Would you ask a man that? Would you say to a man, ‘You are 47?’” I said, “Here’s how I feel about getting older. I’m blessed because I’ve been at too many funerals of people my age who haven’t had the opportunity to carry on living and doing this experience we call life.” Every day that I wake up and I see my son grow and evolve is a blessing. I don’t want to sound like a Miss World contestant here, but I think it’s important that we acknowledge that life is precious and we’re living through a pandemic. The older you get, you should stick a badge on it as a badge of honor and not apologize for being older and not afford people to make you feel invisible because with age comes wisdom and wisdom is what we pass. In other communities and other cultures, they put a huge value against that. We need to start doing that.
When I look at someone like Helen Mirren, who is beautiful, she’s in her 70s, she’s aging gracefully. You then look at some of these other people who have had so much work done. I live in LA where it’s all about the amount of Botox. I’ve not the whole house of horrors, not for a long time, but when you’re living in this culture where everyone has something done. If I go to Beverly Hills, everyone looks the same. When I come back to the UK and people generally tend to have a little less of everything done, it’s quite joyous in a way.Wear your age as a badge of honor. With age comes wisdom and wisdom is what we pass on. Click To Tweet
It’s uniform and I think people feel that they need to hide behind lips that they weren’t born with and eyebrows that have been tattooed on or whatever it is. If it makes you feel good, then great. I want to look like the best version of me. I don’t want to look like a reversion of me.
You look fantastic. To the readers out there, Kate looks terrific.
I don’t look at myself, to be honest with you. I’ve had so long sat in front of makeup mirrors or having to watch myself back on chairs. I no longer watch anything back unless I think I’m bolstered up and then I’ll take a look to see how I can improve on that. I took a lot of mirrors out of my house as well. We’ve got mirrors because you need them to put makeup on and stuff. I have to go and find a mirror, the mirror isn’t there. I don’t have scales.
I’m going to look and see if I can cut down on mirrors.
The house I live in now, when I bought the bathroom where the bathtub is, I would get out of the bath and the wall opposite was entirely mirrored. I don’t want to see myself holding myself out of a tub. It’s gross. It would impact my self-esteem and be like, “I saw myself under horrible overhead lighting.” I redecorate. The mirror is gone. When I’m trying to roll out the bath, no one sees it, me included and I feel alright about myself.
We’ve discussed your journalism career and at such a young age, and you have been on many successful TV shows as a presenter. How did the segue happen? Because you’re a presenter, journalist, radio, following on from that question, do you have a preference for any one of those skills that you are able to do?
I love the variety of it. What I do is I broadcast and whether you can see me or you’re listening to me is by the bone. Fundamentally, the job is the same. I’m a storyteller. I put information in a way that I hope makes it digestible to people and depending on the brief of the show, if it’s entertaining or it’s informative or it’s moving. I enjoy the challenge of all of that. There’s no job for life anymore. We all have portfolio careers. Our kids will grow up probably having 4 or 5 iterations of their professional selves. I enjoy that. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to eat the same meal every day, I don’t want to do the same job every day.
I suppose as a manager, at the same time you represent a variety of different people and those clients often change as the years’ progress.
You’re hired and fired and you have got to develop the toughest of skins. The first few times that happens, “Does it burn?” That hurts, but then you have to go, “This is the business.” I try to effect change where I can in a positive way, but sometimes you also have to go, “That is a battle I’m not going to win, so I’m not going to wage yet.” I think age and experience teaches you some of that. You become smarter about where you put your efforts and that’s a good thing. It preserves your energy and your negativity.
In the entertainment industry, we’re not making cures for cancer. I wish we were and you have to take this business with a pinch of salt because otherwise, you do lose your mind whether you’re in front of the camera, a broadcaster, a manager or whatever you might be.
We have a responsibility to do when you’ve been doing it as long as you and I have is our job is to keep the ladders down so we’ve got to a certain point. You’ve got to keep your ladders down so you can help other people up. People that you think you’re like-minded, “I like the way you think,” and you could change the way people think by bringing those people up with you. That’s important. I had a lot of that in my early years of work, brilliant, fundamentally women, but men as well. They liked me, got me and gave me opportunities. I try to do that as much as possible. I tried to make that 20% of my headspace at least every week like for example, a young photography student got in touch with me on Instagram, this girl from Adam. I had a look at how great and her work was good.
She’s like, “I’m applying for a bursary. It was an incredible college. There are only three bursaries available. I’ve got to slam it with what I put forward by way of my projects to get this bursary. I’d love to shoot you.” I didn’t have time to give her a shoot. I messaged her back and I said, “There are loads of actors at the moment who are not working. The industry has grown to a halt. Why don’t you offer an opportunity to give new headshots to actors that aren’t earning? It gives you some work for your portfolio. It gives them new headshots and I will share that on my Instagram Stories.”
I saw that you shared that.
She sent me a lovely message saying, “You have no idea what that means.” I was like, “I do because somebody did that to me once. I know exactly what that means.” It’s important to remember to not delete those messages, but to respond and help and give a share because that’s helping somebody to push the door open.
I remember, I was talking years ago probably around the time that we’ve been discussing the late ‘90s to Craig Logan, who I know is your friend. He said to me, “I respond to every single email because it’s easier and more polite to respond to every single email than to not because the person keeps on contacting you and at that point it becomes annoying. Why not be polite in the first instance and respond? That stayed with me forever because it’s right. It doesn’t matter who you’re helping and you don’t know who you’re necessarily always helping, but it can make a big difference. What goes around, comes around.
It doesn’t matter if it makes a difference or not.
It’s quicker and easier to respond than to not.
We’ve all been there in those lows or ditches in your career where you’re reaching out to people and they do not respond. It hurts and you can feel unimportant and unheard. I don’t ever want to be responsible for making people feel like that. When people make me feel like that, I remember them. What goes around does come around. It’s cyclical. Some days you’re up, some years you’re up, some years you’re down.
If you’ve been doing that as long as I have, you have ups and downs and the people that are kind as you alluded to at the top of this interview, the other ones that you remember, and it costs nothing. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere. Even if you send a note back saying, “Thanks. I’m slammed here, but I will bear this in mind, if ever I can be of help to you, I will definitely get in touch.” All that says is I acknowledge you. You’re important. It doesn’t matter if it’s an up and coming student with big ambitions or somebody that you’ve worked with fifteen years ago who’s having a hard time. Everybody is important. A lot of people in our business could do well to remember that.
I totally agree. Particularly now, whilst we’re living through this awful pandemic, people need more support than ever because a lot of the actors, their careers have been completely annihilated.
It’s difficult. It’s going to impact everything and we are all going to have to be tenacious. Our survival instincts are going to have to kick in because we’re in for a tough time before the good times come back again. That’s given. The economy is not going to suddenly recover. It’s going to take time and we’re not even at a point of being able to say, “Recovery is on its way,” because we don’t have a vaccine. We are working with the unknown. I promise you, kindness will take you a lot further than fighting to keep the little scraps of what’s available for yourself.
I love that you’re saying that. I love that the readers will be able to take that in and learn from it because I think it’s important. You made such an impact on me. I know I’m going back to what we discussed. That was at a moment where I needed that hug.
You’re fine. You’ve got this. You’re over it. You need to tell yourself that. You often need somebody that’s stood on the sideline getting their pompoms.
That will stay with me forever.
Look what you’ve gone on to do since? What you’ve learned and who else you’ve helped.
Clearly, we’ve both done our bit, haven’t we? I want to hear about the lovely Ben who is your doppelganger, such a handsome boy.
When you become a mom, you start to raise a little human being and you start to shape this person into the kind of human being you want them to be, which is kind, thoughtful and sharing. Everything you say, you say it ten times because that’s what being a parent is. It’s like an echo chamber. It starts to come back to you. Sharing is caring and it’s good to care and it’s good to share. All of this parental chance suddenly make you reframe your own thought patterns and it’s almost like kids are sent along to remind us of the person we aspire to be as opposed to the person that sometimes we become. The simplicity of watching an act of kindness between two children or somebody holding out of their hand to help another is beautiful. You go, “What am I not doing that more?” It sounds basic and it is basic. When you stand back, you go, “How did we forget all of that stuff? What’s more important than that?” I don’t know. Ambition, money and greed.
Alongside being a good-looking boy, he’s also got a kind face. He does look like your dad.Sometimes, it’s almost like kids are sent to remind us of the person we aspire to be as opposed to the person we have become. Click To Tweet
The genes are strong. He’s been my greatest pleasure. Raising him has been the greatest joy in my life. I didn’t have a baby until I knew that I’d literally exhausted my ambition bank. I felt ready to not be the most significant person in my world. The moment that he came along, it’s like he put all the colors in my rainbow and he’s been my everything every day ever since. He’s getting older now. The idea of he’s wearing deodorant and hormones are pinging everywhere. I do spot checks on his phone and I can see the chats are going down. There’s the old aubergine emoji, not from him, but he’s changing and he should be. I know that I have to let go a little bit now.
That’s tough. It’s your baby.
I’m trying to sound like I’m okay with it, but I’m not.
Did you think he’s going to want to go into the business?
He wants to work in sport. He loves football. It’s about the kind of people that you expose your children to. We’re lucky that we’ve got lots of friends in the business. Do you remember Caroline McAteer? She is a good friend of mine. Caroline was the PR for the Spice Girls back in the day.
She used to work with Alan Edwards.
She presents probably the premium sports stars here in the UK. She gets us tickets sometimes to go to football games. Ben has been able, through her network, to have access to the inner workings of the football industry. He’s sat and met players or watched players discussing team tactics. He’s had that incredible opportunity to look in on something that normally football-loving kids don’t get. He’d love to be a player. He’d love to be a footballer, but there is a business to football and he’s interested to explore that. One of our friends manages a team here and I’ve already volunteered him for work experience.
He can go and understand how a club works. What’s the business side of it? Those are incredible opportunities. I keep saying to him, “I wanted to do stuff like that when I was a kid and I got told to be a typist. The window is open for you to walk. You can get into that world. You go and grab it with both hands and you love it. You’ll never work a day if you love what you do.” That’s all I want from him. If he says, “I want to pick pumpkins for living because that’s going to make me happy.” I’m good with that.
He’s lucky to have you as a mother because I’m sure he must have all the right values and everything.
He’s the person I wish I could be. He’s lovely. He’s charming. He’s a good kid.
What team does he support?
I also want to know about your podcast. Tell me more.
My podcast is called White Wine Question Time. Every week, I collect together well-known friends. People that you would know here in the UK.
The lovely Dani Behr, she is my partner at Dantar Productions.
I ask them three provoking questions over three glasses of wine. The idea being that I wanted to capture the conversations I have with my girlfriends, which normally starts at point A and runs all the way to Z and cover every gamut of possible emotion along the way. I’m not talking about falling down drunk here. I’m talking about sharing a bottle of wine. It’s a beautiful way to unlock conversations between friends and the questions are always designed to be a gateway to memories, nostalgia, anecdotes. We’ve been running for not quite two years yet, but it’s gone well here and we’re doing some great shows. I’m thrilled to that. It’s my professional baby.
It’s a fun process doing a podcast. It’s different. For me, I’ve never been in front of the camera and I love chatting with people.
I’ve always been interested in people and I think as long as you’re interested in people then you’re interesting to listen to, I hope. Every show that I’ve made is made with love and tender loving care. I love the fact that you can do it on your own. It’s low-cost. It’s high-end fun if you enable it to be. It’s an army of listeners that get it on its feet and start sharing recommendations with friends. I think as well sometimes, I love being part of a big team on a big show and you’re the shop window when you’re the host. You’re representing everybody’s hard work. I get a real kick out of that. Especially the big live shows, X-Factor that we’ve done here or Idol that I’ve worked on or The BRIT, which is equivalent to the Grammys.
There is something lovely about the simplicity of a podcast, which is I’ve got an idea. I’m going to bring us some friends and put them on as guests and see if this gets any traction and it does. You realize that it doesn’t take a huge amount of knowledge, but it takes a load of passion to make podcasts work because nobody accidentally downloads a podcast. If you’re going to listen to somebody’s podcast, it’s a deliberate action to download it and subscribe. They’ve already invested in you. By the time they get to hit play, they’ve already done a lot of work to be there.
You don’t stack across and stumble across audiences. It’s a different relationship that you have with your listener. Even if you’re starting a podcast from scratch and you’ve got five listeners, those five people went out of their way to listening with you. There’s a commitment and relationship there that you don’t get when you’re on the radio in the background and they’re turning you up and down and talking over you. You tend not to talk over a podcast. It’s something that you check-in for. I love that. I love the commitment that sits between you as a broadcaster and your subscribers. They are your friends.
I’m looking forward to listening to more of your episodes. I’ve listened to your one with Nat and Donna Air. I enjoyed that. That was a lot of fun to listen to.
I had Bananarama on the show and that was amazing because when you’re talking about women in music, those girls were instrumental in affecting change because they refused to do as they were told by men. That’s probably the most succinct way I can put it. They became international superstars wearing Donkey Jackets and Dr. Martens. They showed no flesh. They refuse to be sexy. They quite often refused to brush their hair. If they didn’t want to do something, they said no. If there were consequences, they lived with it. Forty-odd years on, they’re still selling out shows around the world.
I went to see them when they were in LA, Peter Lorraine got us tickets. It was such a nostalgic evening. You forget how many huge hits they had and the audience was going crazy. I didn’t realize how huge they’d been over here as well, but it was packed.
Venus was a huge song for that high energy sound. Also things like Ain’t What You Do, The Way That You Do Do It, but that still sounds cool. They and their sound have aged beautifully. They’re still challenging and they’re still pushing back against the tides of people saying, “You can’t do this.” A male executive said to them, “Why are you still making music in your 50s?” “What kind of dumb ass question is that? Because I’m a musician.”
No one would dare say that to someone like Madonna because Madonna would punch them in the face. You can’t let these people put down women and put you in a box and it’s not acceptable anymore. It never was.
There’s another brilliant young female singer songwriter that I had on the show called RAYE. You should listen to the RAYE episode because she is hope in the form of music in terms of she’s 22, she’s straight out of The BRIT School. She’s an amazing top known writer. She’s written for Beyonce, John Legend and she’s an artist in her own right. She’s incredible. She insists on simple but effective changes like she will always insist on working with a female sound engineer. She was told early on in her career by a manager that she had to look at other women in her space as competition. She was like, “Why?” They’re like, “Beyonce is already successful so there’s probably only room for one more. You’ve got to slay them.”
She’s like, “No. Widen the lane so we can all be there. Don’t build a ball, build a longer table.” She’s been amazing in getting all of these other great singer-songwriters like Charli XCX or Camille, all these amazing topline writers. Those three women alone have probably had over 2 or 3 billion streams on Spotify of their own original compositions. They work together and they keep their ladders down, collaborate, congratulate and don’t do that, “Get out of my lane,” thing, they widen their lanes and she feels like change. I love that and she excites me. She’s 22. I’ve wanted to bang her drum and say, “Go listen to RAYE. Her music’s amazing. Listen to what she’s got to say because she’s right.” She’s not just talking about it, she’s doing it, making those changes.
Billie Eilish is internationally acclaimed now, but I do love the way that she is eloquent about what she believes in and she doesn’t conform. “This is me and take me as I am.” I saw her, she was airing her political views, which a lot of artists don’t do fair game to whatever you decide to do, but the way she spoke and I think because she’s still young. If I was that age now, I would have been totally drawn in and inspired by what she had to say and why it made sense to her and why she needed to share it. I love it when musicians with that power basically are able to speak to their peers.The pockets that we live in just don’t show enough of what humanity is capable of. Click To Tweet
If you’ve got a following, connect them to issues. Don’t make it political, make it issues-based. I think Taylor Swift has been effective at doing that.
I love her documentary. I changed my opinion of her quite dramatically after that. I always thought she was an amazing songwriter, but hearing her and seeing some of who she is, I’m a huge fan.
I would encourage any teenage girl with aspirations of working in the industry to discuss it and watch that. Watch the Beyonce film, that’s a strong film, and also the Katy Perry. That was excellent and insightful. These are women that we must carry on supporting because they’re doing great things and even if you don’t like their music, like their mission, it’s much easier to help somebody up than it is to kick them down.
Here in the States, people embrace successful women. I think sometimes in the UK successful women are, “We don’t know how to handle this. Let’s keep you in a box and you can’t do all these different things you want to do. It’s a bit scary. Why can’t you fail? You are too attractive.” It’s the opposite here.
If you are intelligent, you have to be one or the other. I think it’s changing. If you talk about a woman’s ambition, it feels like a negative. If you talk about a man’s ambition, it feels like a positive and rather than whinge about that, help to change that.
One last question I have for you. I need to know about Kate Thornton, the jewelry designer. Tell me about your collection.
This came to me by a message on Instagram. I love jewelry and I was approached by a company here called Bibi to be like, “Would you be interested in being the face of the brand?” I was like, “No. Thank you anyway.” The woman who runs the company, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She said, “can I at least take you for a coffee? Maybe, I can share some ideas with you because I think you’re wrong about this.” I loved her persistence. In the end, I’ve no idea why because at that time I was busy and it goes back to what I was saying earlier which is respond to the email and message, be kind.
In the end, she wore me down and I ended up going for coffee and I was fully prepared to sit there and say, “Have you thought about approaching this person?” or trying to recast the business that she was looking to fill with me. In the end, she got me excited about what she’s doing. I said that the only way I’d be interested in doing something is if I could roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty. I would love to learn how to design. I’d love to work with experienced designers that can help to teach me, but I would not be prepared to sell anything that I wouldn’t wear. She said, “That’s fine. Let’s do it.” I said, “Let’s not commit to anything. Let’s spend some time working together. I’ll give you my time for nothing if you’re prepared to give me your time for nothing. We make no great commitments and we’ll see how it goes.”
I ended up falling in love with it in ways that I never expected and I was learning. My brain was working again and I didn’t have the answers and I loved not having the answers when you figure stuff out. Like a million miles removed from what I normally do, but sometimes you forget to use other parts of your brain. There’s another part of my brain now that’s alive and awake to this. We sell here in the UK on QVC and we have a retailer here called Next. Does Next do well in the States? I don’t know. They’re like the biggest retailer here.
It’s different in the UK.
It’s working well.
It’s a beautiful collection.
Anything on there is something I would wear and I wouldn’t put it out. It’s been picked up. I’ll put the TV on and I can see someone wear my jewelry and you get a kick out of that in a way that is hard to explain. They’re saying, “You bought it. Thank you.” I would say, “If you want anything else, I’ll send it to you.” I have to be reminded that’s not how you make money. I keep giving it away.
If the readers want to buy some jewelry, tell us how they go about doing that.
I encourage everyone reading to check it out because the pieces are gorgeous.
Much of it is inspired by some great designers that I love that are based in LA.
I love all the stars.
Stars mean so much because no two stars are the same, like people, they have their own unique DNA as do we. I’m particularly obsessed with the North Star because the North Star is the one that shines brightest and will always guide you home. I find great comfort in that. Go find the North Star, sit there and stare at it. I promise you if you focus on that, it starts to make sense if you had to bet. It’s weird. Maybe it’s just me.
What you’ve said is important and inspiring and helps to make things a little bit easier and a little bit happier for everyone. We need to hear people like you because people listen because you have a voice and I think it’s important. My final question, COVID aside, what would you ideally like for the next 5 to 10 years?
It’s an underwhelming response, but it’s honest. I want to keep doing this. There are no massive professional unfulfilled ambitions on a personal level. I want to show my son the world. One of the first gigs that I got as a TV host was as a travel host for the BBC and for five years, I was paid to travel the world. Can you imagine? I went to the most phenomenal places. I trekked with gorillas in Uganda, hiked canyons in Madagascar, I did a whitewater rafting trip to Ethiopia and the world is a beautiful place. The pockets that we live in don’t show you enough of what humanity is capable of. My big burning ambition over the next ten years is to fill his passport with as many stamps to as many amazing places as possible and to broaden his horizons and to learn from other people because school’s great, but people are also fantastic educators.
Don’t forget to come here, the two of you.If you believe enough in something, you can make it happen. Click To Tweet
I want to take him to Pixar, Lion King and down to Malibu. I miss it so much. Some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten down in Malibu. I want to take him to see Sharon and Ozzy because they haven’t seen them for so long. For so long, LA was a bit of a second home. I want to show him that side of the city and its people because I think that Los Angeles, on a good day, has some of the most creative minds you’ll ever be lucky enough to meet.
Dani and I say this all the time, whatever dream you may have, if you believe in it, anything is possible here. More so than maybe anywhere on the planet.
People don’t rain on your parade.
They’re like, “That’s different. Tell me more.” If you sound convincing enough and you believe in the project enough, you can make that happen.
I always say to my son, “If you take the T off ‘can’t,’ what have you got? Can. Let’s drop the T.” There’s no such word as impossible. The word itself says, “I’m possible.” I think that’s so LA and I love that.
On that note, thank you for coming onto the show. It’s been an absolute joy. It’s lovely to chat with you after all this time.
Lots of love and thank you. Stay safe and healthy.
- White Wine Question Time
- RAYE episode – Episode on the White Wine Question Time podcast