Radio is a constant companion for us. It keeps us company in car rides, at home, at work and anywhere else in between. It’s a vehicle for some of the most striking historical announcements, and some of the most side-splitting hours of fun. Stars are made by their charisma and wit, not by their appearance or entourage, which leaves the hosts of today in a unique position of huge influence without the clout of traditional celebrity. The magic of radio, possibly, is bringing people so far apart so close together, regardless of differences. For a Presenter/DJ like Pandora Christie, radio is a platform from which to share the joy.
Effervescent, infectiously excitable and endlessly articulate, Pandora is the perfect radio host. Starting out from Heart FM, she made a name for herself as the leading female DJ on Capital FM for three years, and she’s blogged the ins and outs of her journey all the way to KISS FM which is where she can be found now, hosting Kisstory and the morning shows. Addressing the nation in any profession is a high-stakes responsibility, and doing it with only your voice takes a certain kind of cool and collected charm – which Pandora’s mastered.
We spoke to Pandora on how she made it in an industry unlike any other, talked breakfast shows, animal activism, and finding the courage to be yourself, unapologetically. Live in three… two…
Debut: When did you realise you wanted to become a Presenter?
Pandora: When I failed at being an actress! (Laughs) No, really, when I was in college I studied to be an actress, I threw myself into that career path. It took a good two years to realise I wasn’t actually happy doing it – I just wasn’t good at it! I went through thinking “what’s wrong with me?” and after the worst audition ever, I think I realised I just preferred being myself! I excelled when I was just me. I went to radio instead of TV because I’d listened to it all my life. I used to pretend I was a presenter at Christmases and such. I had this memory as a kid but it took me so long to act on it! It takes growing up for you to realise you might be a different person than you planned.
Well said! Is there anything you did that helped prep you for radio, or is everyone’s path simply different?
Pandora: I came across work as a promo girl for Heart FM, and thought, “you know what, that’s what I’m gonna do!” and I did. I got a job and shadowed everyone from marketing to salespeople and since I wanted to get into the industry I had to know everything. I always asked “how do I do this?” and the answer was always to gain more experience. I went off and spent two years doing lots of different shows, from afternoon to breakfast. I learned how to produce my own show and demo as well, I wanted to know technically how to do it!
What was your first experience “On Air” like?
Pandora: If I’m honest, I was petrified! When you’re around your mates (we used to do lots of mock shows) there’s less pressure just mucking around, but when people then start listening to what you say, and how you say it, it’s a sudden fear of being judged really. As people, we do muck things up, but I’m more relaxed and confident as a presenter now so I can laugh about mistakes, whereas before I’d have a mini heart attack!
What’s an average day of work like for you?
Pandora: That’s kind of hard to answer! One day, for example, in the afternoon I’m interviewing The Rock –
Pandora: – yes! (Laughs) And then after the show I leave to go to a secret gig to record backstage with an artist! Yesterday I went to Coventry University to talk about mental health. Anything can happen. Also it’s not just a mic now as a platform, it’s Instagram, it’s Twitter. Anything can give you a voice.
How much control do you have over your shows?
Pandora: The content is all down to me. My boss listens every day but by now I know what to do and what not to do, it’s basically just being a normal person. That’s it!
And how do you go about finding new music?
Pandora: Online! Everything online! People send me stuff – the amount you get – it’s everywhere, which is really good for new artists coming through. Now is the best time for them ever. We’ve had all these new artists which is brilliant because in the past with radio, if I’m honest, if you weren’t an Usher or a Katy Perry you weren’t getting played.
How would you describe your own taste?
Pandora: know what, I love my old school. There’s nothing better than being out and hearing your classic tunes; your Blackstreet, your Biggie, I especially love the Kisstory nights! I’m going to Majorca this year, and I’m gonna be playing so much of this at every opportunity!
Do you ever get nervous before interviewing a celebrity? If so, how do you deal with it?
Pandora: am an awful interviewer – I’m gonna put it out there! I’m just a fan! (Laughs) With the actors and actresses I get to interview, I find it so hard to not be like “ah, give me a hug!” I just have to make sure I watch the relevant film and read up! Be prepared. Be. Prepared. (Laughs) Some people have no clue what they’re interviewing about, and a little bit of research helps so much. I like to take time out to prep by myself and I’ll wanna go through my questions, I don’t wanna have them in my hand! It’s relaxing to remember that they’re just people. We put celebrities up on this pedestal, so it’s about normalising the situation. I always think “this is my moment to ask all these questions I’ve ever wanted to ask!”
Moving to Kiss FM is huge! Congrats on your award-winning morning show. What’s your experience of the industry been so far?
Pandora: Yay! I’ve never won an award in my life! I have found the industry so much fun. I didn’t think I’d get this far, and I didn’t think I was good enough for an award. Weirdly, being on radio has made me more confident. The more barriers I knock down, the more I achieve, it’s made me bolder and happier.
Has anything really surprised you?
Pandora: Yeah – how far I’ve got! (Laughs) I don’t think anything has surprised me, I’m constantly growing and climbing and climbing and climbing, you’re constantly trying to evolve. I’d say there’s always something to learn.
How have you been finding life in the public eye?
Pandora: Ah… ok. You know what, when I first started out I was so worried about what people would think of me, that they’d judge me on the things I’d say, my opinions, what I’d choose to wear, and no one wants that, but when you’re in the public eye it’s just a fact. It’s a skill to not let negativity or criticism or trolls get to you. Spin criticism positively; there will be people out there who love you and your show, and there will be ones who can’t stand you. When you know that, you can just be yourself. In time I thought, “you know what, this is me, I’m here because of my opinions.” You have to learn to love it.
As well as DJ-ing you run a blog, how do you find time for that?
Pandora: I’m struggling! If you follow my blog you’ll know I used to do two posts a week and it’s now one since I came back from New York. I guess my time management is rubbish! Being in this industry you ought to be organised – and I’m not organised. You need a diary, a PR, anything to keep you in check. I love my blog, it’s another voice for me so it’s like a release, and I use it for everything I wouldn’t say on the radio which is therapeutic. I’m trying to sort myself out… I’ve always got like four different stories I need to write about before a new one can go into the works!
There’s more female talent out there than ever now. We’re here and we’re ready and we’re hungry
On your blog you talk about fitness, the pressures of being female, and how to stay positive – what are the best life lessons you’ve picked up so far?
Pandora: Nothing is unachievable! Hard work pays off, you just have to be prepared to put that work into it. Secondly, never be afraid to be yourself – you asked about the public eye, and now I’ve become more confident, I’ve realised I should never hide from my true feelings, because it’s MY personality. It’s me that’s getting the job, so I shouldn’t turn into anyone else. It’s easy to have idols and hold yourself up to them but it all comes back to being you. Oh, and don’t be afraid to take time out. I love going out and having adventures, and there’s always pressure in this industry to be at everything. It comes down to mental health, too. Everyone needs time out. Put yourself and mental health first. The Brits I was working at last year, I was up at 5.45, and even though I wanted to party afterwards, my professionalism came first and I had to make that choice. Don’t be afraid to not be at everything. I’m staying in tonight to blog and watch TV!
We hear that you’re an animal rights advocate, and love it. What does having such a large platform mean to you?
Pandora: Yes! My dog’s right here between my legs! It’s the most incredible feeling in the world to know going into those doors at KISS, I’ve got the ears of millions of people, and I would call it empowering! I’m pretty ditzy and for me it’s a huge achievement. I run my own desk! I produce my own show! I mainly use my Twitter and Instagram for my politics. I cannot understand why we’re having to protest this in the first place, concerning animal rights – it’s us who are causing harm to animals, and I use those platforms to speak out.
Is there anything you hope to achieve or change within your industry?
Pandora: You know what, I would like to hear more females on the radio. I would really love to see that. It’s about time, there’s more female talent out there than ever now. We’re here and we’re ready and we’re hungry.
If you could tell a younger you something important, what would it be?
Pandora: When something bad happens, I promise there’s always something good around the corner!
What tips could you give our readers who hope to get noticed in the industry?
Pandora: Knowledge. Knowledge is key. Know exactly how to run your own show. From producing, to running decks, to running the station. Experience is another thing, don’t just think by one show a week you’ve got it, it’s all about listening, learning, critiquing yourself, growing from there. Just learn how to do everything! When you rely on other people, you can be left waiting. If someone says “hey, I want a demo from you tomorrow morning”, if you don’t know how to make that, what are you gonna do? You’ll miss opportunities otherwise. Be an all-rounder.
We respect that! What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
Pandora: I’m looking forward to life! So many incredible things are coming up. Who knows what’s around the corner?
Words by Esmeralda Voegele-Downing