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‘There’s a seat at the table for everyone’: In Conversation with Daisy Maskell

CW: Spiking. 

Daisy Maskell is, in short, a multimedia superwoman. Her documentaries have aired on BBC and Channel 4, she is the youngest breakfast show host in radio history (just 23 when she got the gig), and she recently featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. As if she wasn’t busy enough, Daisy produces her own documentaries too.

Daisy’s entrance into the industry came about through what can only be described as hard graft. She made her own showreel using B&Q wallpaper samples as backgrounds and holding microphones that connected to nothing. Then, she handed a USB stick round to receptionists at media companies. Through this, Daisy got a foot in the door at 4Music leading to a twice a week live presenting slot and “things sort of snowballed from there.” However, Daisy has noticed big changes in the industry since then, noting “I think I was probably the last person through the door at 4Music” and “those sorts of opportunities don’t really exist anymore, at least from a broadcast TV perspective, which is such a shame.” 

On the topic of interview tips and tricks, we get onto Daisy’s interview with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, which she cites as the favourite of her career so far. “As I was walking into the hotel to do the interview, my heel broke. […] I hobbled through the Corinthia Hotel lobby up to the room and I thought well, he’s not going to know because I’m going to be sat. Then when he came into the room, I thought well I have to stand up to greet him! He’s a tall guy anyway, so I was already six inches smaller and one of my heels was broken. So that was a really good icebreaker.” This could have felt like a disaster, but Daisy took it in her stride and turned it into an opportunity for connection. In fact, Daisy’s top interview tip is to have a personal anecdote or icebreaker to begin the interview on a note of personal connection. In doing this, you are recognising that the interviewee is just another human. I think I managed to take that advice, in a meta sort of way, using her Dwayne Johnson icebreaker as our icebreaker. 

Daisy praises press junkets like the one with Dwayne Johnson as “a very, very unique experience. The first interview I ever did was a junket, it was with Queer Eye, I remember. It was a really good training ground for me to learn how to do interviews because it’s super, super stressful. It’s more time sensitive as well, because you’re just being pushed in and out, and you only have a small amount of time to capture what you need. Whereas, when I do interviews on the radio we are welcoming someone into our studio, into our space and it’s just a little bit less of a stressful situation.” 

As well as both TV and radio presenting, Daisy works behind the scenes as producer on her documentaries, including the BBC’s Daisy Maskell: Insomnia & Me, and multiple episodes for Channel 4’s Untold series. The latter is aptly named, as Daisy categorises the topics that appeal to her as “anything where I feel as though it has a perspective we haven’t explored or seen yet, so anything with an untold, unheard or unseen angle or perspective is always super interesting.” In reference to her hands on investigative style that led to her getting spiked on camera (under medical supervision) and advertising her virginity for sale online, Daisy said  “I love a stunt as well. If there’s any way that we can wrap a stunt into a film or into the style of investigation, I really enjoy that […] with spiking, for example, we obviously went really radical with it and we did a live spike on camera. I find if there’s a subject area where we can really hammer home a new perspective or dangers, then that really draws me to explore a topic.” 

I ask Daisy about what it means, practically and in an everyday sense, to be a producer. It turns out the role is as diverse as the somewhat nebulous title suggests. It involves “overseeing visually what you want the project to look like […] dealing with the day-to-day technical ways of actually making that shoot happen” including the big questions like “how am I going to execute that? How are you going to film this? What is the style that you’re going for? And what equipment do you actually need to be able to execute that vision? For factual [i.e documentaries], it’s finding contributors. And there’s also a huge duty of care to consider with producing, too”. Additionally, there’s the administrative side of “what filming permit do we need to be able to shoot the things that we need to capture? Sometimes it’s sorting out accommodation and sorting out flights. So there’s so much that goes into it and I think it really depends on the project.”

Despite the demanding nature of the job, Daisy speaks with unwavering enthusiasm and clearly finds the work massively rewarding: “I think that’s always an amazing process. When I think about the films that we’ve made from the ideas that I’ve come up with in my bed at 3am, to then see them air on TV and get the response from viewers. It is a really special experience. You really do see the impact of your work, which I think is what it’s all about really.” She also emphasises the importance of teamwork in making these ideas happen. “I love collaboration. When you have a team of people that you love and you respect, it’s so nice to be able to collaborate. It’s really important to be able to acknowledge that, whilst you have this idea, and you may have this vision going into it… there’s a seat at the table for everyone, especially in factual, everyone has a new and different perspective on any topic that you’re investigating. Which I think makes a better film, as well.”

Of course, being a young woman in male dominated spaces comes with challenges. Issues such as impostor syndrome, self criticism and having your opinion pushed aside by others all factor in. Particularly for people struggling with this earlier in their careers, Daisy says, “it’s really important to never have your worth stripped. […] because being in those situations, it can really, really beat you down. And it can make you second guess yourself.” 

“Oftentimes, [this behaviour is] through insecurity, or the other person is projecting those feelings onto you. It’s nothing to do with you and it’s everything to do with someone else. It’s not that you aren’t worthy. It’s not that you don’t deserve a place at the table. And I think you have to have that mindset to push that feeling of inferiority and that feeling of  imposter syndrome aside, I would say it’s really about believing in yourself.” She also emphasises the importance of having a strong support system to check in with and help you find the strength to persevere. 

Finally, she underlines the importance of flagging up these situations, despite fear of the backlash that is especially prevalent in the media industry. “If you ever go through anything, please, please, please find those people to speak up to. It’s not okay to be in any workplace and feel as though you are being silenced or you aren’t being heard or you’re being undervalued. It’s important that we all work together to be able to create spaces that feel welcoming and are diverse as well. No matter your age, no matter your race, no matter your gender. That is super important.” Ending on a positive note, Daisy remarks “I really do hope in the next ten to fifteen years, we do start to see a massive shift in the way that people are treated in the workplace because we spend so much time at work. So we deserve to be happy and we deserve to be supported by our employers, too. We give so much and we deserve that respect back.”

In terms of career progression, Daisy advises that “it’s always worth checking in with yourself and realising that if there’s an area or role in that industry that you enjoy, or you want to learn more about, you have the opportunity to do so. I don’t think you have to have it all locked in and figured out and be in that position for the rest of your life. I think whatever makes you happy, and makes you feel like you’re growing and brings you fulfilment, it’s always worth exploring.” Daisy certainly doesn’t shy away from new areas and roles, leading to her diverse portfolio of achievements. 

Her advice for those looking to break into the industry given the shifting landscape? “Talk about what you love, showcase your talent on the platforms that you have available to you, because there are people watching and that really feels like a space where people are hiring from now … it’s really exciting to see new people breaking through as well. I love to be able to track the journey of other young people that are rising right now. It’s super, super, super exciting.” 

With Daisy so firmly wired into the pop culture zeitgeist, I would be remiss not to ask for her recommendations. So in the last moments of our interview I ask her recent favourites. Daisy is rewatching Gilmore Girls, is a lifelong diehard Elton John fan, and recommends the content of rising-star comedian Gabby Bryan, particularly “L’Podcast” with co-host Zack Signore- which is indeed hilarious. I can confirm that, additional to her ever-expanding repertoire of achievements, she also has great taste.

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