“It’s important to remind ourselves that everyone hurts, and everyone has bad (hair) days”
You are our much loved host of We Are Women, a podcast celebrating what it means to be a woman. What has been your most interesting question / moment in the show?
I loved interviewing Gaby Logan who was so down to earth and inspiring. I’m a huge fan of Strictly and I found it very moving to hear her talk about how sad she was when she was voted out of the show. I felt her pain!
To you personally, what does it mean to be a woman?
It means I get to host We Are Women because if I were a man, I really don’t think you would let me do it. But honestly? Being able to be both powerful and vulnerable.
Do you have a go to outfit that always makes you feel confident?
I wore too many sequins for too long so I now consider them to be a curse. I have a Mint Velvet cape jacket (in actual velvet and still pretty mint) that seems to bring me luck.
What was the inspiration behind the book ‘Anna Karenina Fix’?
I wanted to share my passion for Russian literature and prove that these books are not as bonkers and off-putting as they seem. (Actually, they are quite bonkers. But also fun.)
Tell us more about your fascination with Russia, its literature, language and people?
I grew up believing I was Russian because of my strange name (and the lack of internet in the 1970s which meant I couldn’t look it up and find out the truth, which turned out to be rather complicated, as I explore in the book). I studied Russian at university, fell in love with the place and the language and had some rather giddy encounters with Russian gentlemen.
Do books have therapeutic properties?
Books have been my salvation when I’ve been low many times. “Bibliotherapy” – the idea of using reading as a way of “fixing” yourself is now an accepted thing. I strongly recommend Turgenev’s A Month in the Country for a broken heart.
Tell us three life lessons you learnt from Russian classics?
Serious lessons? Always have a sense of humour (Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita). Don’t compare your life to other people’s (Chekhov’s Three Sisters). Appreciate the smaller things in life (Tolstoy’s War and Peace). Less serious lessons? Don’t leave your wife when she’s pregnant (Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago). Don’t kill old ladies for money (Dostoesky’s Crime and Punishment). And definitely don’t throw yourself under a train (Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina). Actually those are pretty serious lessons that you should definitely learn from.
Your Edinburgh show Anchorwoman addressed the new concept of ‘over users’ and how to move away from your screens and slow down. Could you explain a bit more about this?
Most people feel as if they have been suffering from news overload and the digital binge over the last year or so. You know the feeling. When you can feel your eyelid twitching as you refresh your browser for the 157th time that day… Anchorwoman was about how to survive all that and keep up with the news whilst staying sane.
When you are about to go onstage for a live event, is there a specific mantra you say to yourself?
My dad used to say to me when I was little: “K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid.” It works for most things in life.
In your recent Guardian article you speak of the burden of comparison. Could you explain how in an age of social media we can curb the need to envy?
We’re all bombarded by images of other people’s glamorous lives and although we know in our hearts that it’s often all smoke and mirrors (and filters – Mayfair in my case), we fall for it all the same. It’s important to remind ourselves that everyone hurts and everyone has bad (hair) days.