BBC presenter Anita Rani on life after Leeds
Bold, witty and fiercely independent, Anita Rani is a force to be reckoned with. From hosting her first radio show at the age of 14, and graduating from Leeds University with a Broadcasting degree, she has gone on to have a varied and successful career as a presenter; from music shows, Cricket AM, The One Show, Watchdog and Countryfile, Anita has turned her talents to many subjects.
One of her most rewarding achievements to date was working on the On Four Wheels documentary series alongside Justin Rowlatt, roadtripping across India, China, and Russia to explore the effects of the motor industry on these societies. She regales her tales with a captivating fervour, describing how India was ‘an assault on the senses’, China was ‘disarmingly modern’ and, for her, Russia was the most surprising. ‘It’s one of those countries you expect to be so cold and barren, but it was incredible. The people I found were a lot warmer than I thought they would be.’ She was able to sample the delicious Indian cuisine, and eat like a local in China; ‘I ate some weird stuff, like this fermented fish – it was delicious. I even tasted donkey, but I wouldn’t go there again.’
Travelling the world with a TV crew at your heels sounds like a dream, but Anita admits it wasn’t all plain sailing. ‘In India, my team decided to film on a bridge we didn’t realise that we weren’t allowed to film on, and neither did we realise that the chief commissioner of police was driving past, so they all got taken down to the police station for six hours.’ The risks and potential for danger are all part of the project for Anita; ‘If you’re cynical and don’t want to take risks, then don’t do travel.’
Anita’s career just goes to show that making it as a successful presenter isn’t as far out of reach as it may seem. She says of her time at Leeds University, ‘I extracted and made the most of every aspect. I did a placement in industry in third year and if you want to work in media, and in television particularly, it is invaluable. You have to go and offer yourself and work as a runner. You cannot leap from being a nobody to working as a director, you’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up.’
She admits her transition from student life to the big, bad, working world was unusually easy; she got offered a job as soon as she finished university, starting work a few days after her final exam. However, she knows this won’t be the case for everyone, and advises ‘If you want to work in television, just flipping get out there. There are plenty of independent TV companies up North. Offer yourself. If you’re good and you’re keen, and if people spot you and like you, they will give you a job.’
Having worked in areas such as politics, sport and motoring, Anita is forging the way ahead for women in what some may see as traditionally male dominated areas. She takes everything in her stride, however, saying ‘I do not allow myself to worry about my gender, my race, my nationality or my Yorkshire-ness. Obviously there’s still a lot that needs to be done in terms of getting rights for women, not just in Britain, but globally. Even if you have to work a bit harder than the next person, I think that just makes you better.’
When asked about her future prospects, Anita was brimming with enthusiasm about the huge variety possibilities that lie ahead, and reveals she’s planning on heading back to India later this year to film another BBC programme. ‘The world is my oyster, that’s how I feel, and I think we should all feel that.’ And that is exactly how I felt after my conversation with Anita; she goes to show that, rather than seeing your post-university life as one of a terrifying lack of employment prospects and debt, we should all be striving to get out there and enjoy what the world has to offer – it’s all within our reach.
Follow Anita on Twitter @itsanitarani