IN a new book written by Bradford-born TV presenter and presenter, Anita Rani has revealed that for much of her life she has felt like a stranger, a girl who just doesn’t fit in anywhere.
The presenter, who has long tried to navigate her Asian culture with all of its Indian traditions, while trying to blend in with the British world outside her front door, realized that she had turned into what one expected from her.
âIt was the expectations of my family, my culture, the community – and on top of that, you step into another world, like school. Maybe I’m just someone who needs to please all the time, âshe said. âIn my own culture, there is a huge weight of expectations, especially on girls. ”
Writing her memoir, The Right Sort Of Girl, helped Rani, 43, find her true identity, reclaim power, she says.
âI had some free time during the lockdown and it was time to tell my story as an Asian woman who reached a platform and has a voice. It was really stimulating for me to write it.
She was raised in a gregarious, boisterous and extremely hardworking family by first-generation working-class Punjabi immigrant parents, who ran a clothing factory and believed in traditional arranged marriages.
There was a lot of fighting in the house when she was growing up, in an environment in which women were considered of little value and over the years a rage built up in her as she endured the racist names of his white peers, and also by his relatives, because of his perceived proximity to whiteness, his way of speaking, his taste, his white friends.
âIn Bradford in the 1980s, racist slurs were thrown like tennis balls at Wimbledon,â she writes. She liked to wear Indian clothes but would only do so in Indian situations; she put up with the racist jokes told in her presence by her teenage friends in high school. Her parents were paying to integrate, but made it clear that she had to keep her ethnicity at home.
âPeople would sometimes shout the ‘P’ word at you from across the street for no reason. You might see him on TV or someone telling a racist joke. I had thick skin and didn’t see my color for a long time.
When her home became a hotbed of arguments, she self-harmed for a few months during her teenage years.
âThe only time I felt I had taken some control over my life and felt some kind of release – felt something – was those times when I would sit in my room and cut myself and watch the blood. slowly appear under my skin.
âGrowing up was really difficult for me. I was straddling many worlds, I was straddling the classroom, and there was a weight of expectation that me and my brother were the new hope.
âI wasn’t going to write about my self-harm, but when I started writing about my teenage years, I felt it was a really important thing to share. Sometimes when you share your own pain it helps others.
Although Rani’s mother saw her forearm covered in scabs and scratches, neither of them said anything.
âI don’t think she knew (I was self-harming) – she didn’t know what to say,â Rani said. “Even though cutting myself off was a release, it also made me feel very ashamed.”
Faced with pressure from home to marry an Indian, Rani was eager to leave and admits she had secret connections at Leeds University, where she studied broadcasting, before moving to London to begin her career on an internship at the BBC, later joining Channel 5 as a presenter.
She dreamed of being the next Oprah Winfrey or Chris Evans.
âThey were masters of their creativity. I loved watching Oprah and still love her. It’s remarkable what she’s accomplished, the way she behaves, and the way she makes everyone feel comfortable.
“I loved Chris Evans on TFI Friday and also watched The Word, all the edgy, lawless and subversive shows that pushed culture forward.”
Ironic, then, that she ended up on Countryfile and Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. âI’m subverting them both,â she laughs.
She thinks she had to work harder as an Asian woman to achieve the success that she has.
âI was always going to work hard, but now brilliantly the landscape is changing. Why wouldn’t we want people from different backgrounds on our screens? But 20 years ago it was very different. Even now we have to push harder.
She remembers the last time she heard the ‘P’ word was only a few years ago in a work situation while having drinks with coworkers, whom she describes as’ liberal types of television â.
âIn this current work situation, as a mature adult in my forties, all I did was laugh awkwardly. Why did I do this? I remember feeling pathetic, crushed, âshe wrote.
Her own response made her question her identity and how weak she was. The book was cathartic in helping her reflect on her life and who she is now. Does she still feel like a stranger?
âIt’s just in my DNA,â she said. âI like to be on woman’s time. I finally relaxed. It’s such a huge space, even though I only do it on Fridays. I’m really happy to represent not only women of color but a whole generation of people who grew up in the 80s and 90s and fought for what we want.
Rani, who appeared on Strictly in 2015, was the first woman in her family to not have an arranged marriage and, for years, saw marriage as a threat to her career.
âIt wasn’t for lack of trying family – I just rejected it. There were no decent examples of marriage around me. I didn’t really see how marriage was beneficial for women. I have remarkable and powerful women around me who have just endured their plight, and I wanted independence, choice and control over my own life.
So her mother must have been thrilled when, by chance, Rani fell in love with an Indian, Bhupinder Rehal, who also happened to be a Punjabi.
âI met the dream Indian son-in-law,â she says wryly.
They met at a warehouse party in Dalston, east London, and a year later they were married – in the kind of massive Indian wedding in Yorkshire she had always been against. opposite.
âHe’s free-spirited, he’s living his own life, he’s been traveling for a year, he has a large record collection – and we have similar values. I just thought, this is someone I could build a life with. He is beautiful, kind and gentle. He just amazed me, because he was gentle and kind and vulnerable, which intrigued me.
She miscarried in 2018 and doesn’t want to discuss it, but she has so much more on her mind. The book ends when she writes a letter to herself younger, in which she tells young Anita to put her fears to bed.
And it seems that she has come a certain way to achieve it.
The Right Sort Of Girl by Anita Rani is published by Blink. It’s priced at Â£ 16.99 and is available now.