Over the years I’ve had more names than most. I was born Jemma Forte and grew up wanting to write for Cosmopolitan magazine, be a famous actress or work in a shoe shop (because I loved the foot measuring device in Clarkes.) My parents didn’t want me to go to stage school. According to them, I was ‘precocious enough already.’ Instead, they actively encouraged my obsession with reading and writing. For my eighth birthday I was given my very own bookshelf to house my huge Enid Blyton collection. I was thrilled, though thinking about it, isn’t that a bit like giving your child a carpet for Christmas and allowing them to play with it in the hall?
Years later, due to The Kids from Fame (I blame them entirely) my desire to perform hadn’t abated. I began working as a runner on films, dramas, commercials and pop promos. That way, I figured I could learn about the industry I so wanted to be a part of. 7033 showreels and 968 auditions later, my determination and strong resistance to rejection paid off when I was given the chance to cut my presenting teeth at ‘Nickelodeon’. No VHS’s have lived to tell the tale. This is a good thing.
In 1997 I was hired by Disney Channel. I stayed there for five years interviewing everyone from Britney Spears to David Beckham and hosting the Kids Awards in front of 12,000 people at London Arena. There are worse ways to spend your twenties. It was stupidly fun.
Disney ‘let me out’ for other projects including three series of ‘Sub Zero’, a live, complicated and surreal children’s game show on BBC2 where I got to be the captain of a space ship, wore enormous black boots, club gear from Camden and had backcombed glittery hair. The next show I worked on was a fashion- based show for Channel Four called ‘It’s a Girl Thing.’ It was far easier to understand.
In 2002 I left Disney and headed straight to Rhyl in North Wales to stay in a damp guest house, in a room with very basic washing facilities. Not for a holiday but because I was playing the part of Jack in the pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ My CV is hilarious.
Presenting for grown- ups followed with two shows for ITV daytime called ‘House Price Challenge’ and ‘Wedding Day’. Then I presented the National Lottery show ‘Come and Have a Go’ with Julian Clary on Wednesday and Saturday nights on BBC1. I’d only had my daughter four months previously and I can tell you that live Saturday night telly on little or no sleep was an ‘interesting’ experience. I wore heavy duty Spanx throughout.
Charging round the country was no longer practical. I wanted to be at home getting to grips with my little ones so I ducked out of TV for a while. I did a lot of pram miles, learned how to make a cup of tea with one hand, and spent hours talking to myself in playgrounds. It wasn’t until my second baby, a boy, was about six months old, that I unearthed a book I’d written over the course of about three years whenever I’d been in between jobs (out of work). I sent it to a publisher and the day I got my book deal was one of the happiest of my life (along with the day I got that darn bookshelf).
If you’d told me then that all these years later, I’d be a political commentator, a brand ambassador, divorced, writing for The Times and a five times novel writer, I’d have been excited but very doubtful. But all these things are true. Nowadays, the babies are teenagers and I have the pleasure and privilege of regularly talking on the telly box. You can find me on Jeremy Vine on C5, Sky News, BBC News, GMB and Talk. I write, I coach (presenting and communication) and I represent luxury soap brand Molton Brown on QVC. Literally good, clean fun.
It’s an interesting mix - politics and soap. But then, none of this is exactly planned. The common thread is I enjoy everything I do and while I don’t always get it right, I try to be honest and pride myself on not being one of the pundits who’ll say anything for a dollar. No one can accuse me of being a shy author type, although I’m sure there are plenty of people who probably wish I was.
Peace out. Etc x