‘You Have To Put Your Emotions To One Side’
We chatted to the presenter and journalist about her groundbreaking new documentary on the dark webé
OK, we’re a little bit obsessed with Stacey Dooley. The mega-talented 30year-old has only gone and made another incredible documentary – and we can’t stop talking about it. Delving into the dark side of digital, Stacey’s eight-week investigation explores the connection between drugs and social media – specifically how schoolkids are buying class A drugs online, coded with emojis (eg, a snowflake = cocaine) and via platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Stacey Dooley Investigates: Kids Selling Drugs Online (watch it on BBC iplayer now), sees her go undercover, questioning dangerous drug gangs and arranging meets with dealers – one as young as 16, who turns up straight from the school playground. We caught up with Stacey last week to find out how she keeps her cool undercover and what she gets up to when she’s not tackling serious
world problems. Not gonna lie, there was also a lot of gushing about our mutual love of Louis Theroux…
Hi, Stacey! Congrats on the new documentary – it’s incredible. Did you expect it to be so surreal? I was so intrigued. We know that the dark web exists, but the fact that kids can go through perfectly legal, legit social apps to buy drugs is pretty crazy. There’s a part in the documentary where you’re filming undercover and you confront one of the schoolboys [who was about to sell drugs to Stacey]. How did you feel in that moment? Did you feel sorry for him? Of course. Some people asked whether the confrontations were necessary, but I think they were. We had to make sure they were actually turning up and trying to sell drugs. But he was only a baby – there’s no joy out of it. It’s so sad. What was the driving force behind making this particular documentary? I’ve noticed it’s a lot tougher for the younger generation, as there are all these social pressures now. I wanted to explore that. We’re familiar with perpetrators using [social media] to push their terrorist views, for example, and we’re shocked and appalled by that, but the idea you can buy class A drugs in 15 minutes isn’t as out in the open. What was the most shocking part? The age of the kids and how enormous the business seems to be. One man claimed 75 per cent of his gang’s takings came from online deals. How can we deal with this type of issue? These social apps have an ethical responsibility for these kids, their customers. I don’t think they’re doing enough. This is my personal opinion and doesn’t represent that of the BBC. Snapchat, especially: the fact that I was going to them very calmly, explaining the situation, and they didn’t even have a few minutes to talk things through on camera – I think that’s appalling. When you’re undercover and you have the hidden cameras, how do you feel? How do you get past the nerves? It can be very frightening but you have to remember why you’re there and put emotions to one side – otherwise they’d cloud your judgement. People always say: ‘You’re so brave,’ but I think anyone would do it if they felt so passionately about something. I think we’re all stronger than we imagine and I’m very lucky to do what I love for a living. I never take that for granted. Can it be quite emotionally draining? Yeah, you do get upset; these people are up against it a lot of the time. Which documentary has been the hardest for you? I made one last year looking at the Yazidi women [Stacey on the Frontline: Girls, Guns and Isis]. Think of your worst nightmare, times it by 100 and you’re close to what they went through. Obviously you meet loads of people through your documentaries – and form close bonds and friendships. Are you ever able to stay in touch? I can sometimes. Often, because they can be so far out, they won’t have a mobile phone or reception, so sometimes it’s tricky. But this is one of the benefits of social media. It does help if they’re on Twitter or Instagram and you can touch base every few weeks. What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far? I was shortlisted for a Grierson Award, which is kind of the Oscars of documentaries. I was the only female under 40 who was nominated for Best Documentary. That was lovely. What documentaries do you love? Louis Theroux, obviously! I met him this year and you know when you meet your hero? It was like that. I was trying to be cool [laughs]. He’s remarkable. We think you two pairing up would be an absolute dream… [Laughs] I mean, he’s so brilliant. What issues are you tackling next? There’s a law in Russia that if you’re in a violent relationship, you can only press charges if he physically breaks bones or hospitalises you. A woman actually came out with a statement and said: ‘It’s just not worth breaking up families over a slap.’ It’s horrifying. I’m going to Russia at the end of this month. What do you do when you’re not filming and investigating? It’s very dull [laughs]. Spending time with my boyfriend or my dog, and squeezing in a holiday when I can. As Look is a fashion magazine, we just have to know, where do you shop? I also love shopping! COS, Zara and
Céline are my favourites.
Social apps aren’t doing enough in my opinion – they have a responsibility
Stacey’s films often put her in risky situations
Stacey exposes the availability of drugs online
Hanging out with her beloved Bernie