Job Title: Feature Writer and Columnist, Telegraph Media Group
What was your favourite subject at Queen’s Gate and why?
I loved History of Art with Miss De Leeuw, even if I did often hand in my homework late (it’s a habit that, at the age of 32, I still haven’t managed to get out of, always filing copy late, causing editors to lie to me about deadlines!)
What is your fondest memory of Queen’s Gate?
Mrs Holyoak, then the headmistress, giving me a hug for getting good A-Level results. I’m not sure you would have got that at a bigger school.
Looking back, what do you feel Queen’s Gate has given you?
Friends now are amazed that there were only 20 people in my year at Sixth Form, but I liked it. You didn’t fade into the background –you were very much encouraged to be yourself, and say what you thought. I remember, in my interview to get into Queen’s Gate, I was asked what I liked to do in my spare time. My answer was ‘play Mario Bros on my Nintendo’. Most schools would have turned 11 year old, Nintendo-playing me away, but Queen’s Gate didn’t. They saw what potential I had and turned me from a mousy, shy girl with average grades, into an outgoing one who left school with a string of A grades under her belt and an interview at Cambridge. The pastoral care was second to none.
How do you think Queen’s Gate helped you get where you are today?
I think the only commendation I ever got in a science subject was for writing an essay about the digestion of a cheese sandwich. I pretended to be the cheese sandwich, screaming as the enzymes broke me down. That was the moment I knew I definitely wanted to be a writer.
What do you think Queen’s Gate’s unique selling point is?
It’s a school without a playground and yet STILL it’s awesome. How many other places can claim that?
Tell us about what you went on to do after Queen’s Gate.
I did History of Art at UCL, but I dropped out after a term! I had got work experience at the Daily Express during my gap year and ended up staying for the whole year and being given a column about being a teenager. I knew it was what I wanted to do and so I decided, instead of getting into debt at university, to pursue journalism. I told myself that if it all went wrong, I could always go back to university, and almost 15 years on I’m still sticking to that mantra!
Tell us about your journey from The Express to your job now.
I carried on doing the column for the Express, and then the Daily Telegraph got in touch. At the time they had a section for teenagers, and they asked me to write a bit for it. Then a job came up as showbiz editor, and I decided to go for it. I was 19 and totally inexperienced but I think I tried to convince them that an actual teenager was exactly what they needed for their teenage section. That was the year 2000. After that I moved to the features department at the Daily Telegraph, and 13 years on I am still here, writing weekly columns, features and interviews with celebrities. The journey from 133 Queen’s Gate to Telegraph towers has been a pretty amazing (and eventful) one!
Do you have any advice for those thinking of a career in journalism? Do you have any top tips for those just starting out?
Read, read, read. Books, newspapers, magazines. Young journalists now are frighteningly brilliant and keen – they are great at social networking and keeping up to speed with all that is going on in the blogosphere. But make sure you get to grips with actual papers too. Read the opinion pages, the leaders – devour everything.
Professionally, what would you like to be doing in 5 and 10 years?
What I am doing now, perhaps with a couple of best-selling books under my belt.
Are you still in touch with QG friends?
Yes! I see Louise Wilkinson, Olivia Lamb (now Bridges) and just this morning spoke on the phone to Emma Snow (now Kennedy). And obviously my sister, Naomi, plus a few of the girls from her year – Sarah Wallace and Caroline Busch.
What do you miss about Queen’s Gate?
Quadruple French on a Wednesday with Madame Singh (I might be pulling your leg). Oh, and endless trips to the Natural History Museum.