HOW I GOT HERE

Char­lene White talks about her ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer

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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’

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