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7 July 2021

Anita Rani Q&A: “People will look back at our era with disgust“

The TV presenter on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jacinda Ardern, and why she wants to make movies

By New Statesman

Anita Rani was born in Bradford in 1977. Her first presenting job was on Sunrise Radio at the age of 14. She has since hosted TV programmes including “Countryfile”, “Watchdog” and “The One Show”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Going to the hospital to see my brother for the first time, when I was two. I was very excited to be a big sister.

Who are your heroes?

Oprah Winfrey. She’s a badass. Her story is incredible – where she came from, what she’s achieved. She’s sensational.

What book last changed your thinking?

Isabel Allende’s The Soul of a Woman. She’s got this “fuck it” attitude and is unapologetic about the way she feels. She opened my eyes to being able to speak your truth and not being worried. Also, she met her third husband in her seventies. Go girl!

[See also: Marina Warner: “I’ve always found it very hard to know what I’m like”]

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Which political figure do you look up to?

Jacinda Ardern. She seems to connect in a way that is so human, unlike certain leaders who seem like they come from an alien planet and have never met a normal person ever. Can she run the UK as well?

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

It’s got to be something light-hearted, so maybe Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’d happily watch those over and over again.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I think people will look back at our era and go, “What?! People didn’t have access to education, and women were still having smear tests with that prehistoric equipment?” I’d like to go to a time, maybe 200 years from now, when people look back at our era with great surprise and disgust at how we did things.

What TV show could you not live without?

Poirot. Having read the papers, after a big Sunday lunch, if I have an episode of Poirot to fall asleep to, I’m happy.

Who would paint your portrait?

One of the classic artists that used to hand-paint these beautiful, huge Bollywood posters for billboards.

What’s your theme tune?

“Unfinished Sympathy” by Massive Attack. The song is really epic, but it’s the video that gets me. It’s one shot where she’s walking with such purpose and I love that, striding forward in your own world, knowing that you’re heading somewhere.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Before I went to uni, my dad and my brother told me, “Don’t go to the pub if you can’t afford a round.” I guess it’s saying: always make sure that you can return the favour. I’ve always lived by it.

What’s currently bugging you?

The patriarchy. It’s exhausting and it underpins everything.

What single thing would make your life better?

Can I have three? More hours in the day; a PA; and a bigger garden.

When were you happiest?

I’ve just had a couple of amazing weekends with friends, in Devon and Norfolk. After a year of going nowhere, it’s magical to be hidden away in the countryside.

[See also: Can bookshops survive in the era of Amazon?]

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d like to make movies. You can tell any story you like with a movie.

Are we all doomed?

Nah. Nature is perfect. It’s designed to be just as it is. Pain and joy are all part of living.

“The Right Sort of Girl” by Anita Rani is published by Bonnier Books

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This article appears in the 07 Jul 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The baby bust