On my editor Jane Bruton’s desk sits a pair of ridiculous, oversized white sunglasses, which we call her Willy Wonka specs. It was seven years ago that the BBC came to the Grazia office and filmed her wearing these comic creations and we’ve never quite let her live it down.
Those glasses have come to symbolise the madness, vanity and sheer hysteria of inviting a full-on camera crew into our workplace of Britain’s biggest weekly glossy magazine. The documentary was called Scoops and Stilettos and the BBC was keen to film life as it happened over a manic, three montha to make a 40-minute ONE Life film. It sounded glamorous and easy. We’re a bunch of confident types, bordering on bolshie, so we thought that it would be a breeze. But once you are staring down a camera lens, something peculiar happens. It’s impossible to be natural. I’m a Scouser but my accent suddenly came over all Hyacinth Bucket, and I looked about as natural as a Thunderbirds puppet. The shouting and the swearing and off-kilter banter that happens in our conference room on a daily basis (once famously described by a well-known broadsheet writer as a “hen party on acid”) ground to a halt the second that filming began.
I remember one scene where Jane and I were looking at the magazine “dummy” and all I could think to say was: “Ooh, 10 hot beauty buys!” That phrase has come back to haunt me on many mickey-taking occasions since. Another, usually confident, colleague was deemed so boring during a meeting that the entire camera crew walked out, mid-sentence. A workmate who joined after the documentary had aired told me she that didn’t recognise any of us for a good few months.
Then there was the vanity. From being a ponytails-and-jeans sort of staff we were turning up to work looking like Danny La Rue – all eyeliner, helmet blow-dries and head-to-toe Net-a-Porter. We nearly bankrupted ourselves. Our then picture director made the mistake of turning up to work dressed in a reindeer jumper (to be fair, it was nearly Christmas) and she still hasn’t lived down the Mark Darcy comparisons.
The trouble is, as journalists, we were so painfully aware that one false move or dodgy phrase could have brought our valuable brand crashing down quicker than you could say “Drop the Dead Donkey”, a fear that Tatler’s Kate Reardon has expressed. When you work in the media, you are by nature media-savvy – as my mum would say, “You can’t kid a kidder” – and it means that you’re never truly natural, which the reality stars of, say, Gogglebox, manage effortlessly.
Did our documentary capture the true sense of what Grazia is? To be honest, no. We were far too mute, self-conscious and stilted. But there was an upside: Twitter was yet to take off. Though I wish that I’d embraced the Botox…
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