Alex Jones: ‘I was a terrible looking child’

We asked the presenter, 39, what her younger self would make of her today…

I was painfully shy as a child. I had a very happy childhood, wonderful parents and lots of friends, but I couldn’t converse with adults. Looking back, my mum feels she was a bit strict with my younger sister Jen and me, which resulted in us being very well behaved, but shy and overeager to please.

You certainly leave your dignity at the door when you become a children’s presenter
Alex Jones 

Ironically, perhaps, I always wanted to be a broadcaster. From about six years old I remember watching children’s programmes on television and thinking, “Wow, that looks like they play all day. What a great job.” I became fixated on it.

It wasn’t an obvious path for me at all because I had this immense shyness. No one would have imagined me turning into an adult who would be fronting a show on national television; it just didn’t marry up at that point. But that was the dream I harboured.

I suppose there is a demand to look a certain way for my job, but I was a terrible-looking child. I was really short, with a gap in my teeth and no boobs until I was 16. So the young me would be quite chuffed at how I turned out.

Alex was a shy child
When I started my GCSEs, my friendship group widened and I discovered a love of drama. My school teacher was amazing and it was down to her that I found my voice. I came out of my shell at that point.

Even then I thought I’d probably end up working behind the scenes in television and I would have been quite happy with that. It wasn’t until after university [Jones studied theatre, film and television at Aberystwyth] that I had the confidence to know I really wanted to give it a go.

Whether it’s Lionel Richie or a couple who have been married for 70 years sitting on the studio sofa, I find them equally interesting
Alex Jones

Presenting children’s television throughout my 20s was a lot of fun. You certainly leave your dignity at the door when you become a children’s presenter. I’ve dressed up as everything, but it’s a really good training ground. You learn your craft and make mistakes. It was a really happy decade for me.

From the minute I had the phone call about presenting The One Show – they found me randomly online – I knew it made sense. Obviously at the beginning it was a learning curve, but now I can’t imagine doing any other job.

I’ve met so many amazing famous people: Dolly Parton, Elton John… But I’ve never been star-struck, it’s not the reason I wanted to do the job. Whether it’s Lionel Richie or a couple who have been married for 70 years sitting on the studio sofa, I find them equally interesting. 

My younger self would be shocked and delighted by where I’ve ended up. I think she’d be really proud of the woman I’ve become. It has taken some hard work and grit. People assume you just get given a job like mine, but there’s a lot of effort that goes into it, and a lot of having to pick yourself up. Obviously it’s brilliant fun and some days it doesn’t feel like work at all, but every day has to be your best.

I feel almost like a different person to the insecure young me, but I do still feel shy on a daily basis
Alex Jones

Like everyone else I always thought, “Yeah, I’ll probably get married and have children.” Then getting to your late 20s, you just don’t know. You can be with someone for a long time and suddenly that doesn’t seem right and then you’re 30 and that seems so old at the time. But things change. Young people put so much pressure on themselves to tick off their targets. I was worried and stressed all the time in my 20s. But I’ve learnt that if you calm down, everything will generally be OK.

Since becoming pregnant I’ve obviously started to think about how my husband, Charlie [Thomson, an insurance broker], and I will raise our child. Although we had similar upbringings, he’s very laid-back. Coming from the southern hemisphere, he has that wanderlust and I’ve also become a lot more adventurous.

I feel almost like a different person to the insecure young me, but I do still feel shy on a daily basis. I’m really happy speaking to four and a half million people on camera, but put me in a party situation and I need a few glasses of wine before I can relax. I always push my husband through the door first and I think the younger girl would think, “Ah, there’s still some of the old me left in you, but you’ve learnt to put a brave face on it.”

Alex will present a new series of Shop Well for Less on BBC One in early spring

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