Stacy Dooley told Jeremy Paxman not to “try it with me” before he interviewed her live on BBC Newsnight after hearing of his reputation for asking tough questions from her mum.
Dooley, who is now a famed documentary-maker covering global political issues, shared the anecdote in her new book On the Frontline with the Women Who Fight Back, which is out now.
She revealed she had “never watched Newsnight” before being invited on as a guest following her appearance on BBC Three series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, which aired in 2008.
“Obviously I had never watched Newsnight,” she wrote. “I didn’t have a clue about its style and tone, or how much of a hard time Jeremy Paxman gave the guests and politicians.
“I rang my mum. ‘Mum, I’m going to be on Newsnight.’
“‘What?!!’ she spluttered.
“‘Yes, I’m going to talk about globalisation and our shopping habits and how we can change as consumers.’
“‘You’re mental,’ she said. ‘Jeremy Paxman is going to tear chunks out of you! I think you’d better watch it before you say yes.’
“I googled Newsnight. ‘Hmm, I see.’
“But I can’t be a wimp, I thought. I feel fairly comfortable about what I believe, so I’m just going to say yes and see how it goes.
“On the day, Georgina, one of the other contributors on Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, and I were ushered into the studio.
“Paxman was very sweet to us – really lovely, in fact – but he seemed to think my name was Racey. ‘I’m Stacey,’ I said. A little later, he called me Racey again.
“I was thinking, Shit, don’t get that wrong because we’re about to go live and you’re going to call me Racey.
“Just before we went live, I said to him, ‘Look, Jeremy, I know you can sometimes give people a hard time, but don’t try it with me.’
“He must have thought, who on earth is this leery girl that they’ve wheeled in front of me?
“But he leant over and winked at me and he said, ‘I only give you a hard time if you’re a politician.’
“I really enjoyed it in the end!”
Dooley revealed it was former BBC Three controller Danny Cohen who gave her her first journalism break, commissioning her for two hour-long programmes on child labour.
She said Cohen had told her that he found her “quite inquisitive” and wasn’t “worrying about coming across as being stupid”, adding: “You empathised, you sympathised. How would you feel about your own series?”
She wrote: “He was being very brave because I had no experience and was totally unqualified. But he took the risk…”
It was revealed today that Dooley, who won last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, will front two new one-hour documentaries covering the international arms trade and US bounty hunters.
Stacey Dooley’s On the Frontline with the Women Who Fight Back is out now, published by Ebury Publishing.