What makes a good broadcaster? Most would point to charisma, look, and delivery; all the technical parts that make the magic we see happen. What most don’t know, however, is how much more there is to it. The media industry is an uphill climb (but aren’t they all?), and it’s a journey you can secure yourself in by not only working hard, but working smart – that means adding string after string to your bow. In the face of a quickly-evolving environment, still figuring out where media itself stands in the face of this new digital generation, nailing the charisma, look, and delivery needed to become the face and voice of a channel is the tip of the iceberg.
Vick Hope – gregarious, self-motivated, and polymathic – made her way into the industry through MTV, ITN, Capital Xtra and Disney. No biggie. Striking a balance between walking the walk and talking the proverbial talk, Vick’s work is infused with her personality. The Cambridge-educated Nigerian-Geordie describes her qualities as “verbosity” and “wanderlust”, and if there’s anyone who knows how to hold an audience, it’s her. We spoke with Vick about her career, and along the way discussed handling FOMO, navigating ageism, and why having an itch for adventure makes for wonderful storytelling.
Without further ado, we go live to Vick.
Debut: Did you always know you wanted to be a presenter?
Vick: I didn’t, I thought when I was in Year 8 that I wanted to do languages because I liked them most at school. I imagined being a correspondent and writing for a newspaper, being in a war zone and so on – it wasn’t until I eventually took a year abroad in Argentina that I got my first taste of presenting! Really it is all about language and communication. I came back and had to finish the final year of my degree, and I started getting involved at MTV and ITN. It became something I began to love the more I learned about it. I remember all the way back in Year 7, my teacher once joked I’d be a TV presenter and I didn’t think anything of it at the time! I suppose I just like telling stories.
From MTV, to Disney, to the BBC; how did your path start?
Oh, there’s no prescribed route, there’s no right way! If you’re a doctor or a lawyer you’ve got to pass certain exams, but everyone I know in the industry got there from different routes. Sometimes you find yourself floundering a little, like “what do I do? Where do I go?” It’s a freelance environment so I’ve always kept my options very open in being busy both sides of the camera. I came in as a runner for MTV in the UK internship, I got familiar with editing, scripting, shooting. If you were just pursuing the role of a presenter you’d really struggle, I think. This other way, going into production as a whole, you can make your own content and be useful to everyone. I’d say become deft and able to do both sides, then you’re more accessible to companies and you get creative control! It’s so good to have all those strings to your bow, and still be working on your own things. It’s a fickle industry – if they ever turn around and say “you don’t look right anymore”, which happens, especially to women, you can still stay in a job. Having options is safer.
So, being multi-skilled is like a built-in backup plan?
Yes! Some of my friends have tunnel vision with work, it’s easy to risk these things. We change, and our environments change, so it’s good to not be so single-minded.
For this career, is there any kind of formal training out there that can prepare you?
Yes! The internships, like with MTV. I did a scheme with the BBC called Women In Radio, and that was fantastic. Twenty women got trained up and then were given the contact details of producers and companies around the country. I got a graveyard shift eventually, and I’d have to sleep on the floor of the BBC. It was great, though, because I had my “in”. I’d say it’s hugely down to contacts and persistence. Basically, there’s plenty of work experience out there, but runner jobs are always a great way in, there’s lots of opportunity to develop from that point! There’s also Media and Journalism courses at university.
What was your first experience of presenting a show like?
The first time I did it properly, it was the breakfast shift at ITN. It was a proper baptism of fire! I owe so much to the people who believed in me even when I fucked up so many times. It was so exciting; I’d get in, write the script, send it to a lawyer to make sure there’s no libel, cut my own soundbites. I remember having these little panic attacks going in, I was so afraid I was going to screw up. The more I did it, the more it worked for me.
Speaking through radio is one thing, addressing a camera is another! How do you beat nerves?
I think at the beginning I always had some nerves. You’re giving something of yourself and of course you care what people think of you, that’s why you do the job! The way to beat those nerves is to practice, practice, practice. When you first start, the only way you know how to do it is by mimicking others, which is not always a good thing. As you go on and realise what makes you interesting is being yourself – that’s when you start to get comfortable. Learning who you are is the best way to get over nerves, that’s when you know nothing can shake you. Also, really get to know the people around you, like camera operators and so on, it helps to make a friendly environment!
Being so may places for so many people – does having wanderlust help you out?
One hundred percent! (Laughs) I’m stimulated by change and diversity. Anyone who knows me knows I get itchy feet if I stay still too long. The thing I’ve struggled with most is being with Capital FM doing the breakfast slot for a year – that was my first long-term contract. I’ve had to sacrifice doing lots of different things and exploring variety. I used to be on Capital Xtra and that was more diverse in what I’d do, I enjoy meeting new people and seeing new things; that’s what I love in life.
I wanna be a reporter, not a personality. I’m here to tell other people’s stories, not my own.
Currently you’re hosting a show called Carnage alongside Freddie Flintoff and Lethal Bizzle, congrats! Can you tell us more about it?
Thanks! So it’s a car show, a cross between Wacky Races and Robot Wars. Like, it shouldn’t be safe, but it is! The destruction is so real in each of these arenas, these engineers and mechanics have put it all together and they just go at it, it’s so much fun!
We’re definitely tuning in! Having grown such a big platform, what do you want to use it for?
I think over the last year I’ve become hyper-aware of the machinations of the industry and where it’s different and difficult for different demographics. I feel like I have a responsibility to young, female, black broadcasters. I wanna share my platform and raise our voices, put some pressure on the culture to change. I’ve been giving a lot more talks about how people can get into the industry – next weekend I’m doing a talk about the women’s movement in the workplace. The nature of the industry can be sexist sometimes, so I think the more you start to make your work for other people, the more you can enrich it.
Do you find life very different in the public eye?
I don’t think I’m in the public eye too much, I think I’m ok! It’s fine by me, but there are people who’ve had a very fast trajectory, and that’s tricky for them because they’re scrutinised immediately. You can probably make a lot more money and fame from it, but I think it’s dangerous. I don’t know if I want my private life scrutinised, the most that will happen is people asking for a picture sometimes or messaging me for career advice. Nothing too damaging so far! The nature is that you’ll get more jobs with more people watching you, people will take into account your followers and you’ll bring an audience with you. You wanna publicise, but make it about your work, not you. I wanna be a reporter, not a personality. I’m here to tell other people’s stories, not my own.
Has anything surprised you about your industry? Is there anything you wish you could change?
I was really surprised when I started, for two reasons. First, how transient every job is; you look at the radio and think “ah, you get that one big break”, but that’s not it. When you get a gig, you don’t even have time to enjoy or celebrate the gig because you’re already planning ahead for the coming months. Sometimes you don’t ever get time to soak up achievements and think “shit!” Another thing is that there’s real sexism in it. I didn’t think there would be, I assumed creative industries would be different, but at the top of the companies there are really old-fashioned ideas. When I saw this diverse push, I thought “wow, they’re gonna find people that look like me, they wanna hear my story!” They don’t. They don’t wanna hear anything about our rich tapestry of experiences. I think the women’s movement can’t go back now, can’t be swept under the rug. I think we’ve gotta keep fighting and sticking up for one another.
Absolutely. You’re also a self-described aspiring documentarian. How do you go about picking your subject matter?
I’ve done a few already, you need to talk about what you care about! It’s really important to me. The subjects I explore, I just wanna know more about. I’ve always seen it as the reason I’m doing this – telling stories about inspirational people or those who have been through a lot. A lot of the ideas I’m working on right now are about refugees and my mum was a refugee, also about immigration and topics that affect young people in my position.
How important is it to nurture all of your passions and not just one?
It’s so important! Otherwise you lose perspective and get so bogged down in one side of things. It’s not healthy to forget why you’re doing this. That includes seeing your friends and family! If you lose your personal relationships then what do you really have in the end? I get told off at work for going out but it’s part of my character, if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t do so well at work, I wouldn’t have my personal fire. When I come back from travelling as well, I’m reignited.
Have you got a tactic for balancing your joie de vivre with such a big work schedule?
Probably very precariously! It’s a genuine issue that I have the most sensitive vocal chords in the world. Everyone hears me croak in the morning and I’ll put my hands up – it has a little to do with going out! I do get serious FOMO though, I really don’t think I’m the best person to tell anyone how to balance their life! (Laughs) When you do get enough sleep and you get a restful weekend you’re like, “shit! I should do this all the time!”
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Might sound a bit silly, but on International Women’s Day, I wrote for Marie Claire about women in the workplace and sexism in TV and radio. I actually think that eleven year old me would be so proud for having written in a magazine I respected so much, speaking about something so important to me. Especially when the response from women was that they felt galvanised, and the more we speak up the more we can create a critical mass and make things change! I’ve worked on so many shows, but in terms of things I’ve done for me, that’s so important.
That’s lovely! Now, burning question – are red carpets really that scary?
Yes! They are brutal! As a journalist you’ve got to sharpen your elbows because whoever gets their mic in and whoever shouts over the others gets that soundbite, and you get quite bullish because you have to be! Now, doing the other side of it and getting to walk it in a nice dress, all I can think about is those poor people trying to get their interviews! Also I always misjudge what the weather’s gonna be, and I always have a nip-slip! My dresses pop open, I trip up, wear heels too high – you just have to try and enjoy it. When you think about it, honestly it’s such a ridiculous thing! It’s kind of shameless to queue for your own photo…
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned on this journey?
To constantly recalibrate. Never get complacent, never think you’ve absolutely made it. Constantly reassess, look at your options. If you have tunnel vision, that failure is going to feel abject and absolute, but if you keep your options open, you’re always going to land on your feet. People would tell you to be careful and not get disappointed from the start, so I did. Always add more strings to your bow, always have a backup, and take it as it comes.
What do you want from the coming year?
I think for me I wanna do more TV shows. From working on Carnage and The Voice the scale of them is mad, I wanna work towards shows like The One Show or This Morning. With the seriousness of documentaries, and the current affairs of reporting, and the chat of radio, I wanna be able to do that all combined; that’s the dream.
Vick is photographed by Nic Ford
Carnage is on every Sunday at 8pm on Sky One and Now TV
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Words by Esmeralda Voegele-Downing