What I learned from my TV hell

This is going to be a long one. You may want to make yourself a cuppa…

When I first heard I’d been invited to go on The Vanessa Show, I felt proud. Proud that someone had read something I’d written (Why I refuse to feel guilty about my Twitter addiction on Ready for Ten) and thought it was interesting enough to ask me to come on TV and expand on it.

Less than a week later, after recording the show, as I walked along Oxford Street crying into a tall mocha, the expression “pride comes before a fall” kept going through my head. I felt like an idiot. But then I thought, well, that’s a stupid expression. Why shouldn’t I have been proud? Why shouldn’t I still be proud that even though my first TV appearance didn’t go as well as I would have hoped, at least I did it? So I am still proud. And here’s why.

On a school day and everything!

As I headed for London on Tuesday morning, I admit I was feeling a bit full of myself. When I was a kid I was obsessed with London and desperate to live there. London, I thought, was where everything happened. London was where I could be myself and become a success. And then I moved to London and it didn’t quite work out that way. I was shy, insecure, afraid. When I left London (in 1997) I felt like a failure. It’s taken me a long time to be able to enjoy London again and each time I go back, I remember more and more why I loved it in the first place. So on Tuesday, I was thinking about how I no longer have to go every day to a job that I hate. How I get to be a writer and get to go to London and on TV. Get me.

When I got down there, I was nervous, but I met my lovely friend Sarah (and her gorgeous son) for lunch, checked in at my hotel and then got the tube to the studio, so I didn’t have time to get myself too worked up. I did keep thinking back to 1995 I think it was when I went with a friend to audition for a TV show (can’t remember what it was called – it was a film show presented by Johnny Vaughn) and could barely speak I was so terrified. But I’m nowhere near as shy as I was back then and wasn’t I just on the radio last week? This would be just like that only with cameras. And Vanessa Feltz.

Don’t mention Celebrity Big Brother…

As soon as I got to the studio, I was ushered into the make-up room where Vanessa was already sitting. I felt a flash of nerves then – she’s an intimidating presence – but she started chatting and I felt fine. She asked me to give her an example of a tweet I’d sent that day. I’d only sent one, which had been to say that my train to London had been delayed. “Boring, I know,” I said. “Yes,” Vanessa agreed, adding, “appallingly dull and tedious! What on earth made you tweet that?!” I said that sometimes tweets are just good for getting things off your chest, but that someone (Helen!) had then tweeted me to tell me that there were delays between Milton Keynes and London and how Twitter’s great for information as well as for chatting.

Vanessa asked me if I talk on the phone and I said I didn’t very much anymore. She said she doesn’t either, she just texts. I did have a moment when I wondered if she was treating our conversation as research for the interview, but then I thought, no, that would be unfair. And the questions will have already been prepared by a researcher. When I said I was nervous Vanessa said, “Oh there’s nothing to be nervous about! It’ll just be like this, us talking.”

Again, I felt a bit proud. I was holding my own, I wasn’t blushing and I didn’t feel intimidated or shy which – even though I haven’t really felt shy for years – is a massive thing for me. At school my worst fear was having to give a “talk” or read aloud from a book. I remember a teacher asking me to take a note to a teacher in a different classroom and I stood outside almost crying because I hated the thought of pushing open the classroom door and everyone looking at me.

Let’s have a heated debate!

I went back to the green room and chatted with Shamash, a mindfulness expert who was there as the “anti-Twitter”. I’d been a bit worried about this, worried that I’d be attacked and end up having a row on screen, but not only was Shamash lovely, he’s on Twitter. I felt confident that it would be, as the producer had assured me, a friendly and positive debate.

We walked through to the studio and watched Vanessa conduct a debate with a woman who feels bad about bribing her 2-year-old to do certain tasks and a parenting expert who doesn’t agree with bribery. And then it was time for our segment. We sat down. I saw myself on the giant monitor (why they have a bloody great screen directly opposite so you can see how utterly gormless you look I don’t know) and thought, ugh – the make-up artist had straightened my hair, but, by the look of it, only on one side – but then I just wanted to get on with it.

The show is recorded “as live” so Vanessa did a link to the next segment (my segment) and then there was an ad break or something. During the break Vanessa said something like “I’m really looking forward to this because it’s a real bone of contention between me and Ben” (her partner, who co-presents the show). “It’s a real argument, not a TV argument,” she continued. “It drives me absolutely fucking mad.”

And that’s when I thought… Oh. Shit.

I must have a life cos it flashed before my eyes

The actually interview is pretty much a blur, but I know she started by saying something about how she was amazed that I’d agreed to join them in the real world, something about “isn’t it true that you never even talk on the phone anymore!” and that my husband gets annoyed that I’m online all the time! And that I’m on Twitter when I’m with my kids!

I was completely wrong-footed. I remember thinking, “Wow. You bitch.” But at the same time I felt a sort of grudging admiration. She’s a pro. And I was naive. And I knew I was screwed. It’s The Vanessa Show, after all.

I don’t remember my responses clearly. I made a feeble joke about everything being in 3D. I know I said something about Twitter not being about what you had for breakfast. I know I told some stupid story about David melting butter on the radiator and how other people had tweeted “boneheaded” things their husbands/partners had done. I know I said I try to give my boys my full attention, but sometimes I’m tempted to go and tweet something they’ve done or said. And that Twitter has made me laugh and cry. But I couldn’t remember any of the things I’d wanted to say. I could barely remember what Twitter was.

It all went by really fast and then Vanessa was thanking me, the crew was congratulating me and then I was outside in the street thinking, “What just happened?” As I walked up to the tube, I thought of all the things I wanted to say, but hadn’t said.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

I wish I’d said that parenting is isolating and Twitter is supportive and encouraging and entertaining. I wish I’d said that my virtual life is in addition to, not a replacement for, my real life, which is wonderful. I felt guilty that I’d talked about David. (Poor David always gets the shitty end of the stick.) I wish I’d told her how amazingly supportive Twitter is. How it can literally be a lifeline for some people. How I can be chatting with friends about TV, looking at photographs tweeted by astronauts on the Space Shuttle, and reading a link to an incredibly powerful and moving blog all within a few minutes.

Before the interview, I wanted to say that Twitter is not just broadcasting, it’s a conversation, but then I worried that – because she’s a broadcaster – it might get Vanessa’s back up. I wish I’d said it now. Because she may be an excellent broadcaster, but she’s not so hot on conversation. No wonder she doesn’t get Twitter.

Imagine All By Myself playing over this bit. Maybe on a saxophone.

As I walked through London, I felt worse and worse. I berated myself for sounding silly and frivolous and making Twitter sound silly and frivolous. I felt like I’d let the lovely women at Ready for Ten down. I felt like I’d let Linda Jones (who has been supporting and encouraging and inspiring me since I first started writing) down. I felt like I’d let everyone on Twitter down.

I wandered and I whimpered and I felt very sorry for myself. I tweeted about it, obviously, and got the most incredibly lovely responses that made me laugh out loud and also made me cry even harder.

Even so, I didn’t want to stay overnight as planned, I wanted to go home and see David and our boys. Leaving London a failure again. But when I woke up on Wednesday morning, I felt much better. I felt strong and confident and positive.

Yes, it’s all about me.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I do think this happened for a reason. It taught me that I can do things I didn’t think I could ever do. It taught me that I’m no longer that terrified girl standing outside the classroom door, scared to go in. It taught me that I’m not the blushing, tongue-tied 20-odd year old at the Johnny Vaughn audition. During the interview, Vanessa asked me if, on Twitter, I feel pressure to be “amusing”. I don’t know what I replied, but what I should have said was that the only thing I want to be is authentic. And that’s how I felt when I woke up on Wednesday morning.

In 1989 when I moved to London, I thought it was where I could be myself and become a success. Twenty-two years later, I no longer live in London, but I am myself (even to the point of not wanting the make-up artist to straighten my hair and replying “Absolutely!” when she asked if I’d be wearing my glasses) and I am a success.

Tweet that, Vanessa.


53 thoughts on “What I learned from my TV hell

  1. We *heart* you.
    And Vanessa (who I’ve always had a grudging admiration for) needs a kick in the shins for making you cry.
    A conversation is exactly how I describe Twitter to non-tweeters – and it is also exactly what her show was supposed to be. A balanced debate, not a Vanessa-sound-off.
    I’m pretty sure you’re being harder on yourself than you need, and that you actually made much more sense than you think you did.
    But, if you really truly did look like a gormless donkey with half-straight hair? We won’t care cos we do actually know the authentic real inspiring wonderful you. And Vanessa can Tweet That as well.

  2. I think you were incredibly brave and it sounds like you said a lot of good things – even if you didn’t get to say everything you wanted. You were yourself and the people who know you are proud of you. that’s all that matters.

  3. Ohhhh. I know exactly how you felt. It’s the worst feeling in the world, remembering just that bit too late what you SHOULD have said. But yes, it’s healthier to let it go and remember that you HAVE a real life, unlike shallow, fake and quite frankly, mutton and plasticky Vanessa.

    I still think you’re the most incredible REAL LIFE person I know. And I DO talk about you and your achievements in my life. And I always say I am so immensely proud that I THINK I can get away with calling you my friend ;o)

    The one thing I would say is, though… no matter how badly you feel it went, the chances are, you still did loads better than the average Joe would have, so maybe you could at least consider letting us know when it’s on. We love you and we’re on your side of the debate so we certainly won’t think you cocked up or any such negation.

    Go you, gorgeous xxx

  4. I know a lot of people that criticise Twitter. Have they ever used it in earnest? No. They may have registered, sent a couple of tweets and then declare they tried it but no no-one is on Twitter so it’s not worth the effort.

    Such a shame you had such a horrible experience but who cares what other people, us tweeters know the truth. Next time hopefully you will get to go on a decent show. @GKMummy

  5. *HUGS* It is SO much easier to be articulate and thoughtful in our writing than in person with a camera in our face. One more reason why twitter is so good for writers! And you were incredibly brave to get through it all with a brave face until you were safely out of the building.

  6. I want to give Vanessa a smack! Honestly I don’t think you ever stood a chance, she obviously doesn’t like Twitter so as far as she is concerned that’s that. It was lovely to see you for lunch and I am very proud of you. Look forward to seeing your (one sided) straightened hair πŸ˜‰

  7. I’m so sorry you were ambushed in that way. It sounds horrible. I know this isn’t going to help much but I follow you on Twitter for a reason, because I enjoy your tweets, your company and your conversation. When Vanessa Feltz comes on TV, I reach for the remote control as quickly as possible.

  8. Oh Keris, she stitched you right up 😦 I’m sure you won’t come across as half as bewildered as you think and were every bit as charming and lovely as you usually are, in spite of her.

    But the bottom line is, you held your own and it sounds like you took plenty from the experience. Hold your head up and dive straight back into tweeting. As you said, Vanessa just doesn’t get it.

  9. You’re right, you should be proud that you did it. Some of us are still the shy little girl outside the classroom door πŸ˜‰ I’m sure it didn’t go as badly as you think. Vanessa is so pushy and intimidating and always tries to stomp on her guests and make them look bad. That’s how she gets her kicks, obviously. I think you couldn’t be braver if you’d agreed to go a round with Mike Tyson!

    As for Twitter, I have no experience of it, simply because I don’t need another addiction in my life and I know I would be on it all the time! Also, I’m kinda verbose and don’t like the thought of restricting myself to 140 characters or whatever it is πŸ™‚

  10. Brilliant post, Keris. And I hope Vanessa reads it πŸ™‚

    I seriously think it’s very brave to go to London and go on TV, a LOT of people wouldn’t dare.

    It’s always hard to get your point across when you’re under pressure, but it sounds like you at least said something positive. And I do think we have to think of everything we do that pushes us out of our comfort zones as a success β€” however it turns out. Yay you!

      1. Oh wow, she’s clearly completely out of touch with the modern world. I hope a researcher who secretly hates her prints it out and “accidentally” leaves it in the make-up room, then. πŸ˜‰

  11. I’ve tried explaining Twitter to two people this week as they want to use it for their business…..some people love it instantly, whilst others just don’t.

    I joined Twitter roughly from the start….then deleted my account after a year or two….I missed it and hooray I am back – and I’ve met a lovely bunch of people, even better than the first time I joined!

    And like you, Keris, I have now forgot what I was going to say………….
    Silly, silly Vanessa.

  12. That was a lovely post, even if the actual experience wasn’t so great. I think you’re very brave for going on tv, I would have been a bright pink, stuttering mess. And that Vanessa? I’m very disappointed in her. What a bitch! And to think she sounds so lovely on her early morning Radio 2 show.

    It’s funny how Twitter seems to bring out complete hatred in some people. I guess it’s a bit like Marmite…

  13. What a horrible thing to do. Vanessa Feltz has never lived in the real world. Keris, I wouldn’t take anything that woman has to say seriously. Twitter is fantastic and I most certainly wouldn’t be without it. It has opened so many doors to me, that I thought would always be closed. Thank you for standing up for us, even though it may have fallen on deaf ears. Give her a year and she will have her own Twitter account!

  14. You’re wonderful Keris! And also, a real human being and very brave. πŸ™‚ xx Shame on Vanessa, my opinion of her is now even lower than it was before, if that’s possible.

  15. There’s no way I’d ever appear on TV, I don’t have the guts, so I’ve got the upmost respect for you for doing it – and for doing it on a subject you feel passionately about. You’re absolutely right to feel proud of yourself. We are x

  16. Hurray for you, and thank goodness for blogs and Twitter and the like which give everyone the chance to say what they think (although not always as eloquently as you have).

  17. I think you should be extremely proud of yourself! Think onwards and upwards!

    It made you realise how far you’ve come – to be yourself is one of the best feelings in the world!

  18. A brilliant, heartfelt and honest post, Keris – I don’t believe you had anything to cry about – and, I know, neither do you – because you’re right, you’ve learned not to be shy, you are a success – and you’ve everything to be proud of! Go, you!

  19. This took so much guts, lovely! I think you have every right to be proud of yourself. At the end of the day, Ms. Feltz’s idea of investigative journalism and informed debate is firmly entrenched in Daily Mail World of soundbites and assumptions, and I suspect she already had her ‘debate’ scripted out long before you arrived. No matter what you had said, I think she would have twisted it. The bottom line is that you understand and use Twitter in the best way – as an interactive, community-aware tool – not as a glorified RSS feed for ego trips as certain Z-list celebrities do…

    Massive hugs!


  20. Hi Keris, I was dreading reading this you know. You should know I think the absolute world of you and it makes me sad that you could ever think I would think you had “let *me* down” in any way, shape or form. Me? I’m just glad to know such a warm and real person as you. You are a wonderful writer, a thoughtful, gorgeous and kind person and if anyone gives a shit about how you come across in a media interview set up where you are the “fall guy” then who cares what they think, really? As ever you have been far too kind about me, you’re the one with a two-book deal, lady! I know I can also speak for the team at Ready for Ten in saying they/we are proud of you and the calibre of writing you bring to the site. Go you. I hope writing this post has helped you put this behind you, you know people will watch it and tell you you looked great and sounded funny and nice and friendly. One day when you are on TV again, I hope this experience will help you fly. xxxxxxxxxxxxx (How many kisses can I do?) Oh here’s some more. xxxxxx

    1. Thank you. And lots of kisses back to you too. Here xxxxxxxxxxxx πŸ™‚

      And I haven’t been “far too kind” at all! You were one of my very first online friends and you’ve been inspiring, supporting, encouraging me for years. And we’ve met, so apparently you now count as a “real” friend! πŸ˜‰ xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  21. Brilliant post, Keris. I still think you’re incredibly brave for doing it. It’s all life stories to tell the grandweans, isn’t it?

  22. Great of you to do this. I don’t think everyone can tweet successfully and you do. You must be proud.

  23. I bet you were brilliant really. I’ve only done radio once and I cried all the way home. Everyone who heard it said I was great. Perhaps that’s just the way it is? It must have taken such guts to walk into that TV studio, let alone as Ms Feltz’s fall guy. It sounds as if she had her agenda and it didn’t matter what you had to say, she’d already made up her mind. You have a lot to be proud of and, as Linda said above, go you!

  24. Oooh! What a snake-in-the-grass!
    Don’t feel bad, Keris – you have bucket-loads of integrity, and authenticity (unlike Ms Feltz) – and despite your misgivings, I bet you came across really well!

  25. You ber-luddy brave thing you – you are even more MY HERO now, there’s NO WAY I could ever have done that – I am still the quivering child outside the classroom door…. daily – I’m PROUD of you, my little bean, really, truly proud. And I’m so happy to know you. Tweet THAT, Feltz! x

  26. Oh my goodness, THANK YOU for all your lovely comments. Will reply individually later when Harry’s not trying to get me to google various saints!

  27. Geez, Keris. What an experience. I’ve only been on TV on a quiz show (and there isn’t even any footage still left.) and that was pretty intimidating (and was more than one programme, long story).

    I really dislike Vanessa Feltz and it sounds like she’s using her show to pursue their own issues. Twitter is a great place and I’ve met some lovely people because of it. I’ve learned now that some just don’t get twitter and there’s no point in trying to convince them otherwise because you know what? I don’t need their sort on Twitter!!

    I’m sure you were great and if I had been watching it, I would have been shouting at the telly on your behalf – Ms Feltz doesn’t show herself in her best light quite a lot which is why I don’t watch her.

    Well done you for doing it anyway.

  28. I’ve just read this to Neil and his response was,

    “well Vanessa’s a d*ck, she’s always been a d*ck”

    couldn’t have put it better myself! xx

  29. Oh poor you! I had no idea you were going on The Vanessa Show. But I really bet you were fabulous. We always think there’s stuff we should/shouldn’t have said when under pressure, and nerves can make you see things in a different way.

    However, you definitely were not a failure. You should feel proud of yourself for going on and just appearing. And to be honest, does it really matter if Vanessa Feltz thinks you don’t have a life or you use Twitter too much?! I’ve never heard that many people saying ‘Vanessa Feltz is my role model’!

    And let’s face it, how many people watching would have really given that much of a flying f*ck about what Twitter is about anyhow? They’ll have already forgotten about it. And the ones who do care will have known where you were coming from.

    Keep being proud that you did it, and that you have managed to make your mark enough to have been invited in the first place (even if Vanessa had her own agenda).

    Just remember, it’s better to be talked about, than not at all!

    1. Thanks, Andrea. And, no, I don’t care what Vanessa thinks, I just wish I’d represented myself (and Twitter!) better. The show hasn’t been broadcast yet, but apparently it only gets 40,000 viewers so really not that big a deal at all. Except to me. πŸ™‚

  30. The only reason that I would never have agreed to have gone on a programme like this, or to have been interviewed for a newspaper article, is that I’ve read accounts of this sort of treatment before. That doesn’t mean that you “should have known” or that you “should” have read accounts of this sort of thing before. I only knew about the way things go because someone showed me some links.

    Please don’t regret or blame yourself, no fault or sin of omission lies at your door. In fact, the way this sort of game is set up, you have very very little agency. No matter what ideas you’ve had of things to say. Your role, in the game, is that of a sacrificial beast. Vanessa and her production team played their little game, for some kind of minuscule audience, and you get to carry on with the life and the talent and all that good stuff.

    And now I’m following you on Twitter.

  31. damn, used wrong email address for last comment – this one should come up with avawhatsit.

    1. Thanks, Gemma. I really should have known better though and my very first instinct – which obviously I wish I’d listened to – was that it would be a stitch-up, but then I thought I was just being dramatic, stitch-ups are for famous people, why would they bother with me? I even mentioned my worries to the producer, but he was very reassuring. And I don’t know if they intended it to be a stitch-up – I think this is just the way Vanessa is – it’s her show, her opinions, like it or lump it. I don’t even really hold it against her. Much.

  32. I think I’m very like you! I’ve always found London a bit scary and grown-up. I have never lived there, but the thought of a trip to London always freaks me out, although I usually enjoy it once there. I’ve never really liked Vanessa (although I’ve never met her) and this has confirmed my suspicions that she is a self-obsessed bitch! How very cruel of her to treat you in this way. Keep tweeting! You sound like a wonderful, well-balanced person…. the exact opposite of Vanessa, in fact.

  33. What a bitch. Well, at least it is an experience you can learn from for your next interview with someone more talented and professional. *hugs*

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