You may have seen some hard-hitting, thought provoking and emotive documentaries on BBC3 over the past few years that are fronted by a rather sweet and completely likeable young lady. 25 year old Stacey Dooley had a modest upbringing and was working as a sales assistant when in 2009 she landed a role in a TV presenting role after appearing on a show about sweatshops in India called Blood Sweat and T shirts. Realising that the camera loved her and that she had the perfect mix of an interest in world issues and sheer empathy, not to mention a cute accent and a vocabulary that us ordinary folk can relate to the beeb offered this golden girl the opportunity of a lifetime which meant she landed her own series, Stacey Dooley investigates.
Fast forward to now and a whole new series is launching this week. Stacey Dooley reveals some shocking faces of youth in America. Over three episodes, the fearless presenter meets young people taking extreme action to change their lives.
We were lucky enough to nab 5 minutes of her time in between filming to have a quick chat about the life of a young TV presenter who has to travel to some unusual and sometimes scary locations…
You seem to have come out of nowhere- how did you get into presenting?
My presenting career really developed by complete accident! I have fallen into it, and am incredibly lucky at how things seem to have panned out! I took part in a series that brought six fashion mad consumers over to India to learn how our garments were made. That was five years ago….it was only ever meant to be a one off….what I discovered out there fascinated me and some how I have managed to wangle a fancy job in tele!
Your documentaries are hard-hitting, sometimes dangerous and very emotional- how do you cope with what you see/experience?
It’s a bit of a running joke, among my family and pals, at how I have managed to find myself tackling such serious issues! …It’s no secret that I didn’t study journalism, I didn’t even make it to college…so I never imagined I would witness a fraction of what I have. Some of the places we visit are incredibly dangerous and the stories heartbreaking. But, you know, I think you have to try and do the stories justice and focus on the person you are spending time with. It’s about trying to understand their situation…. of course you have a bit of a cry…you’d have to be a robot not to, although I have learnt to try and hold it down in front of them! I’m a nightmare. MUST.TRY.HARDER!
In a recent survey it was concluded that women feel that we no longer need Feminism- a lot of the issues you tackle are based around discrimination of women in other countries [you’ve looked at prostitution etc] what is your stance on Feminism?
Ah. Feminism. I personally believe that feminism can be interpreted in many different ways. I would class myself as a feminist, in the sense that I love to see other girls doing well and becoming successful. I admire lots of women, and love the idea of girls supporting one another. Women are amazing for many things and lads are great for others. My personal opinion is I, myself, don’t feel I am discriminated against because of my sex. Do I think sexism still exists in the world? Yes. Do I believe whole-heartedly that should be addressed? A million percent.
Tell us about your up and coming series for BBC3?
Ooo, the new series?! It’s all very exciting! I spent the summer over in the states this year, we filmed three programmes focusing on girls in prison, gay lads struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and other young people preparing to try and cross into America illegally from Mexico. The idea is showing what extremes some young Americans (and Mexicans) are going to, to try and change their life. For me, this is my favourite series yet. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to access places I would not normally ever see. What I like most about these programmes in particular, is the fact that I believe the viewers will be able to relate to some of the things on the one hand, and on the other, have their opinions challenged… I’m looking forward to seeing how people respond.
You have to stay in some faraway, hot and sometimes humble places- how do you stay looking for fresh and lovely?!
Fresh and lovely are probably the two most inappropriate adjectives you could possibly use to describe my ‘location look’ !! If you think you’ve stayed somewhere minging in the past, I will absolutely be able to beat you on that one! Slums crawling with rats as big as cats?? Tick. Sewer systems under a bridge? Tick. The hardest is when you’re in Africa. The longest I went was two and a half weeks without a wash! Imagine?! Baby wipes and a toothbrush is as far as it often goes. At the time, I’m like ‘It’s too hot to bother with the mascara and I can’t be arsed to put the concealer on’ …and then the programme airs, and I get so annoyed at myself for not making an effort! Grrrr!
What issue have you tackled that has shocked you the most?
This summer was a big year for me. Learning about how many Mexicans are dying trying to cross the border is unbelievable. I completely underestimated the complexities and dangers. It’s unreal. Really, you wouldn’t believe the things you see and hear. The first day I was out there, I saw a dead body. I saw her ID card next to her and she was beautiful. The last day, there were people shooting guns outside my motel. It’s shocking and hard to comprehend, but real.
What have been your standout moments so far in your career as a documentary presenter?
Standout moments? Mmmm. Not sure I have had it yet? I’m just starting out to be honest, and hopefully will get better and more experienced over the years. I’d love to be brilliant at what I do, but that takes time and a lot of hard work! Better get my head down! I guess I’m proud when someone who doesn’t necessarily watch newsy, current affairs documentaries comes up to me and explains they now know that child soldiers exist in Congo. Or they have started fundraising after watching something I’ve done. That’s a really cool feeling.
What advice would you give to other young girls wanting to make it in the same industry?
Be prepared to work hard! You wouldn’t believe how much sweat goes into making a one-hour programme! Its nuts! Be up for taking every opportunity, even if initially it doesn’t sound that relevant. You never know. Try and focus on topics or ideas that interest you, I find it’s easy to work hard when you are passionate about what you are doing. And go for it! It’s the most amazing gig in the world- I’m very fortunate. Lady luck has defo been good to me!
Stacey Dooley in the USA is on every Monday at 9pm
Click here to watch it online