Then the production company rang to say that Newsnight had invited me on – my first live telly gig. Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts was being heavily trailed and I think the channel was quite excited about it.
‘Yes, that’s cool,’ I said.
‘Are you sure?’
Obviously I had never watched Newsnight. I didn’t have a clue about its style and tone, or how much of a hard time Jeremy Paxman gave the guests and politicians.
I rang my mum. ‘Mum, I’m going to be on Newsnight.’
‘What?!!’ she spluttered.
‘Yes, I’m going to talk about globalisation and our shopping habits and how we can change as consumers.’
‘You’re mental,’ she said. ‘Jeremy Paxman is going to tear chunks out of you! I think you’d better watch it before you say yes.’
I googled Newsnight. ‘Hmm, I see.’
But I can’t be a wimp, I thought. I feel fairly comfortable about what I believe, so I’m just going to say yes and see how it goes.
On the day, Georgina, one of the other contributors on Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, and I were ushered into the studio. Paxman was very sweet to us – really lovely, in fact – but he seemed to think my name was Racey. ‘I’m Stacey,’ I said. A little later, he called me Racey again.
I was thinking, Shit, don’t get that wrong because we’re about to go live and you’re going to call me Racey.
Just before we went live, I said to him, ‘Look, Jeremy, I know you can sometimes give people a hard time, but don’t try it with me.’
He must have thought, Who on earth is this leery girl that they’ve wheeled in front of me?
But he leant over and winked at me and he said, ‘I only give you a hard time if you’re a politician.’
I really enjoyed it in the end!
Nothing much happened after that. I was broke, and I got a job working in a clothes shop, Jigsaw, in St Albans. Then I started working in a pub in the evening as well. At one point I had three jobs: I was working in Jigsaw, in another shop called the Dressing Room and at the pub.
I didn’t mind it. It was always exciting when the deliveries came in and all the new gear arrived. I’d put something aside and then I’d have nothing left from my wages because I’d spent it all! I loved the camaraderie of working with the other girls and really enjoyed interacting with the customers. The best part was helping them sort out their outfits to go to their dos, their weddings and their christenings.
I sometimes miss working in a shop, even now. I was happy. But then Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC3 at the time, asked to see me, and obviously I jumped at the chance. He started things rolling for me.
‘I found you quite inquisitive: you were asking questions and you weren’t worrying about coming across as being stupid,’ he said. ‘You empathised, you sympathised. How would you feel about your own series?’
He was being very brave because I had no experience and was totally unqualified. But he took the risk and commissioned two 60-minute programmes about child labour.