In the third part of our ‘Getting Into’ series we explore the best ways to begin a career in TV presenting. Read on for tips from some of the UK’s most renowned TV personalities from This Morning’s Holly Willoughby to jack of all trades Reggie Yates.
1. Tess Daly
Tess Daly has been co-presenting BBC flagship entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing since 2004. Born in Stockport as Helen Elizabeth Daly, Tess first stepped foot into show business aged 17 working as an international model.
Like many presenters of her generation Tess got her big break on Channel 4’s Big Breakfast after putting a show reel together in breaks between modelling jobs. She has proven herself incredibly versatile, presenting children’s, family and later night programmes. Tess puts her success down to learning from her parents ‘humility, northern grit [and] the value of working hard to get what you want.’ (The Guardian)
2. Dermot O’Leary
Born in Colchester to Irish parents, Dermot O’Leary began his presenting career as a DJ for BBC Radio Essex. A desire to work in TV saw him send out 200 letters to different production companies seeking experience. The work paid off with a documentary film company giving him a chance. Of this time he told Sunday Post ‘It was quite a stern place, but it instilled a work ethic in me. And I think starting from the ground up is really important in television.’
He then took up the opportunity of joining Channel 4’s ‘Light Lunch’ as a show runner before joining T4 on the same channel as a presenter. Andi Peters spotted Dermot warming up the ‘Light Lunch’ audience before the show which lead to his T4 role. He was the main presenter for ‘Big Brother’s Little Brother’ for seven years. In 2007 he replaced original ‘The X-Factor’ presenter Kate Thornton where he’s remained into the present day with the exception of 2015 when Olly Murs and Caroline Flack filled in. Alongside his television work, Dermot has been presenting for BBC Radio 2 since 2004.
3. Anita Rani
Anita Rani was born in Bradford and studied broadcasting at Leeds University, Her passion for journalism began at an early age and lead to her hosting her first radio show for Sunrise Radio aged 14. She began her career as a researcher before landing her first presenting job on Channel 5 live news show ‘The Edit’ in 2002. She started presenting for the BBC Asian Network in 2005. Anita is probably best known for her work on The One Show and Countryfile.
Anita told the Telegraph about her tenacity as a younger woman searching for a career break: ‘I did student radio at university and got my first job in telly quickly after that. It was always my passion. My 20s were the most fun. I moved to London like Dick Whittington and had this unbridled energy.’
4. Phillip Schofield
Philip Schofield is a titan of British broadcasting having presented ITV’s live magazine show ‘This Morning’ since 2002 alongside numerous other family favourites. Like many of his colleagues he began working in the industry at a young age taking up a hospital radio position in Plymouth aged 15. He moved to London at 17 to become a bookings clerk for BBC Radio where he was the youngest member of the team. He moved to New Zealand with his family in the early 1980’s where he presented youth programme ‘Shazam!’ In 1985 he returned to Britain becoming the Children’s BBC’s first in-vision continuity presenter.
Phillip’s career is an example of the importance of working hard and showing enthusiasm when navigating the entertainment industry. He is very active on social media strengthening his TV persona. A strong public persona is something which stands presenters in good stead when it comes to career longevity.
5. Holly Willoughby
Like her frequent co-presenter Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby began working in the entertainment industry from a young age. She was spotted by a talent scout aged 14 and modeled for teen magazines before being cast in an acting role for a CITV production. She found work as a runner for a shopping channel then got her big break as a children’s TV presenter for the BBC’s ‘Xchange’. From there she worked primarily in children’s TV until landing a ‘Dancing on Ice’ presenting role alongside Phillip Schofield. She has been presenting with him on ‘This Morning’ since 2009.
Holly told the Guardian of her early experience in children’s TV ‘when you knocked out hours and hours of telly live and things went wrong left, right and centre but you had to just pull it together… it’s just a really good training ground.’
6. Reggie Yates
Renaissance man Reggie Yates has been successful in almost every entertainment field; acting, DJing, presenting, documentary making, film making and writing… and breathe! He made his onscreen debut in 1991 at the tender age of eight. He has since hosted Top of the Pops, voiced Rastamouse for CBBC, starred in Doctor Who and made some serious hard-hitting – but always very watchable – documentaries.
A thirst for knowledge has helped him navigate through the industry, as he tells The Telegraph ‘I never stop learning, and I’m by no means the finished product in documentaries, so I want to get better and better.’ He told the same paper about the importance of finding mentors in the industry, referring to his long term friend and fellow presenter Fearne Cotton and meeting Chris Evans for coffee: ‘He is the benchmark in terms of presenters. (…) The chat only lasted an hour but it was phenomenal; he gave me such good advice.’
7. Davina McCall
Legendary British TV presenter Davina McCall began her working life pursuing a singing career with the support of her then boyfriend Eric Clapton. She soon decided this wasn’t going to work for her and took jobs in a modelling office, as a cabaret dancer and nightclub hostess among other roles. She dances in Kylie Minogue’s 1991 music video for ‘Word is Out’. Having put a show reel together she was hired by MTV a year later. This work bought her presenting gigs for a late night game show and the Channel 4 dating show ‘Streetmate’. Davina is probably best known for presenting Big Brother for a decade from its first broadcast in 2000.
‘MTV started and so I thought ‘right, I’m going to get a job there’ and I started sending them tapes until finally they gave me an audition. I’ve got 37 letters of rejection, lots from people that have since then employed me; just because you get knocked down doesn’t mean that they won’t employ you at some point in the future, its just that you’re not right for now.’ Davina told icould career stories.
8. Ore Oduba
Ore Oduba’s first taste of working in television was a placement shadowing his local BBC news sports anchor as a teenager. He initially had dreams of becoming a footballer but decided to compromise by becoming a sports broadcaster. He regularly applied for an Edinburgh TV Festival scheme before eventually becoming successful in his last year of eligibility. This opportunity lead to him meeting the director of CBBC who would ultimately give him his first chance as a ‘Newsround’ presenter. He has since presented for ‘The One Show’, the BBC One Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle coverage and the Olympics.
Ore told the Daily Mail that his early work experience was the event that altered the course of his life and character: ‘[I got] a day’s work experience at BBC South Today when I was 17. I’m 32 now and that was my first step on the broadcasting ladder – I loved it.’
9. Naga Munchetty
Naga Munchetty is best known as a co-host for BBC morning flagship show ‘Breakfast’. She studied English at Leeds University followed by a post-graduate course in Journalism. Her work life began in business journalism for newspapers before she made the move to TV with Reuters Financial Television, CNBC Europe and then as the Business producer and reporter for Channel 4 News. She then moved to now defunct BBC 2 show ‘Working Lunch’ as a presenter.
In common with the other presenters in our list, Naga’s is a story of hard work and dedication. She acknowledged to the Guardian the importance of constantly evaluating your style: ‘[my mum] records the programme every time I present Breakfast, and she watches it, fast-forwarding through the bits that aren’t me. She gives me proper feedback; it’s really helpful.’
10. Matt Baker
Matt Baker was a junior gymnastics and acrobatics champion. Whilst a drama student in Edinburgh he toured the North of England with a disco revival dance troupe as an entertainer. His first step into show business was a big one – iconic BBC children’s programme ‘Blue Peter’! He’s best known now for presenting ‘Countryfile’ and ‘The One Show’.
Matt told Celebrity Radio about his life philosophy on being ready for opportunities: ‘People often say that I’m lucky (…) but actually, you know, I believe that luck is a lifetime of preparation for a moment of opportunity and if you’re not ready for it it won’t happen and those things will just pass you by, but if you have put some work in and you’ve done something and you’re ready for it then you do create your own opportunities.’