I work for: Anita Roddick

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The Independent Culture
Karen Bishop is PA to the founder of the Body Shop.

I left college to work at a building society which got a little mundane and tedious - I really wanted to work with younger people, the kind I could socialise with after work. A friend of mine worked at the Body Shop and knew that the assistant to Anita's PA was leaving so he took my CV in. Being one of the few organisations which started up within my local area the proximity of The Body Shop to home suited me perfectly. I went through two rounds of interviews and started work two months later. I was a bit daunted by the fact that there are two thousand people working on site - after being introduced to the sixtieth person I thought: "Goodness what have I let myself into?"

My first job was opening the post and sending it off to the right department. We get over five thousand letters a year which takes up a lot of time. Two-and-a-half years later Anita's PA took a leaf out of Anita's book and left to build her own hairdressing business and Anita thought that I was ready to fill her shoes, in fact everyone did, except for me. I was unbelievably scared by the prospect. I knew Anita's pace and thought that it would be impossible to keep up with her.

When I had first met Anita she struck me as a little bundle of fun rather than a superstarish person. She came hurtling out of her office and called out to her PA, "Diane help me!" and rushed off again. She is an ideas bomb, at meetings she she's such a fast talker it's hard to write all the ideas down. When I see her making speeches she seems ... more dictatorial, almost like a split personality. She loves to know what's going on in my life, if she's been away she will say: "How are you and how's your boyfriend?"

We use Anita as a marketing tool, raising brand awareness as well as awareness of the company and herself. When she started The Body shop she looked through people's bathroom cabinets to see what kind of products they bought

The time I arrive at work is determined by where Anita is in the world. For example if she's in Australia, which is eight hours ahead, I will get in at seven thirty in the morning, if she's in California I will stay at work until seven in the evening. I haven't travelled with her yet because I don't feel confident enough to leave the office at the moment but she's already said that she wants me to go to Europe with her next year which is exciting.

I have picked up Anita's impatience over being left hanging on the phone - it's such a waste of time. People have even said to me that I've even begun to sound like Anita. When Anita's PR recently left I took over some of the PR work. I discovered that a big TV interview had been accidentally cancelled and, knowing that Anita was really keen to do the programme, I rearranged her appointments, rang the company and got it happening again. She was so grateful to me that I got a real buzz. I like to run her life, whilst staying in the background watching her living it. I think a lot of PAs to famous people are shy. Her last PA thought I was very brave to be doing this interview, we usually like to remain just a voice on the phone. Anita has two offices, one to be interviewed in and the other to work in. In her work office she has a huge blackboard which I think is a throwback to when she was a teacher. The office becomes a playroom and the whole atmosphere changes when her three-year-old granddaughter comes to visit her. I think I know who Anita will hand the business over to.

Everyone wants to know why I don't get stressed out and why I am always happy. The truth is that I get just as upset and angry as anyone else but I never let it show at work - I wait until I get home. Being professional means being bubbly rather than grumpy and I've given myself an image and stuck to it. When I started working for Anita I had shoulder length wavy blonde hair and Anita referred to me as Dolly Parton. When I cut my hair and dyed it brown the first thing she said to me was "Hey I've got a real PA now". At twenty three I have already achieved a lot. People have said that the world's my oyster, but I can't think that far ahead. I'm too busy doing my job.

Interview by Katie Sampson.

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