HOW I GOT HERE
Charlene White talks about her extraordinary career
Charlene White, 38, was born in south east London and graduated from the London College of Printing (now University of the Arts London) in 2001. Since then, she’s worked in various media jobs, including her latest role as an ITV News presenter.
AT 16, I SENT OUT 50 LETTERS ASKING FOR WORK EXPERIENCE IN JOURNALISM.
The only one to get back to me was the Guardian. I was disappointed. I wanted Sugar magazine because it was cool, but I had the most amazing time. It made me realise what
I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
AT UNIVERSITY, I JOINED AN ORGANISATION CALLED THE WINDSOR FELLOWSHIP,
which helps black and Asian people get into the world of work. They arranged interviews for us and one of mine was at ITV Meridian. I was taken on for work experience, then offered a job as a trainee reporter.
AT 21, I WAS PRODUCING THE ITV LUNCHTIME NEWS.
There were lots of live inserts, so I learnt a lot. I’m not sure how I balanced it with raving – I’d often get in at 3.30am before a 5.30am start!
A YEAR LATER, I LEFT TO WORK IN RADIO.
I wanted to be reporting, but was too young to be on screen. I heard that BBC Radio 1Xtra was launching, and found an online page naming its senior members of staff. I sent each of them my CV and, about five months later, they asked me to freelance for them. I lobbied for a staff job, which they offered me.
BY 24, I HAD BECOME ONE OF THE YOUNGEST SENIOR BROADCAST JOURNALISTS IN THE BBC.
I was travelling around reporting. I’d get to work at 8am and by 9am could be on a flight or the Eurostar. I didn’t realise I was so young to be working in such a role at the time.
I WAS DRIVEN BY REJECTION FOR YEARS.
I was encouraged to apply for a job as a full-time presenter for the BBC in Cambridge by a senior executive. After sending my CV, I received a rejection email. I hadn’t even been asked for an interview. It takes a lot to make me cry, but I sobbed that night. I momentarily thought I’d chosen the wrong career, then decided I’d show them they were missing out.
I SAW THE VACANCY FOR AN ITV ANCHOR,
but I never thought I’d get it. I applied anyway. Much to my shock, they gave me the job. I think it was down to the fact that I wasn’t nervous in the interview. I thought I had no chance, so was more relaxed.
MY CAREER HIGHLIGHT IS BECOMING THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN TO PRESENT ITV NEWS AT 10.
My parents arrived in this country with essentially nothing, then one of their kids makes history – that makes me proud. The look on my dad’s face when I told him will stay with me for a long time.
I WILL ALWAYS FIGHT FOR WHAT I BELIEVE I’M GOOD ENOUGH TO DO.
I’ve had people tell me not to go for roles because a certain network doesn’t think ethnic minority presenters produce good TV ratings. As far as I’m concerned, that shouldn’t stop you – never let anyone have that power over you.
BEING ON SCREEN, I FACE A LOT OF SCRUTINY.
I’ve had emails telling me to lose weight, and when I was visibly pregnant a guy tweeted about the size of my breasts. A man would never get any of this. It used to upset me, but now I think: ‘Do you know how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am?’
I’VE RECENTLY GONE BACK TO WORK AFTER HAVING MY FIRST CHILD.
I absolutely adore my son, Alfie, but I love being back in the newsroom. Looking after a child is such a minefield, but work makes me feel like me.
‘I WAS DRIVEN BY REJECTION’
Charlene: ‘I love being back in the newsroom’