Hey everyone, it’s Zainab here, welcome or welcome back to the blog! Today’s post is an interview that I’m super excited to be doing, I’ll be interviewing entertainment journalist: Myra Ali. I had a great time chatting with her about body confidence, journalism advice and more. I hope you enjoy reading the interview below – let’s jump into it!
Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! For anybody that doesn’t know who you are, could you give a little introduction to yourself?
My name is Myra Ali and I’m an entertainment journalist! I write for the BBC, The Metro, Glamour Magazine and many other publications. I’m also a BBC Guest Editor as well!
That’s really cool – a lot of big publications there! I want to start by talking about your journalism career and going back to the beginning. So, when and how did you start developing a passion for journalism?
So, I’d say I always known I was a good listener and after university I worked as a translator for pregnant women in a maternity hospital. And patients would end up telling me their stories and open up to me. While I was doing that job, I was also on social media talking about my skin condition – I worked with a few charities as well.
I’d kind of always known I wanted to be in media. But about 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure when in media I wanted to be. Whether it was presenting or journalism etc! It took some time, but then an opportunity came with a charity where they asked me to interview a celebrity in London, and I said yes to it. It was all on camera, and while I was there, the photographer was actually Tom Holland’s mum! She said I was really good at interviewing and asked if I’d like to interview her son (Tom Holland) for the next Spiderman film and I said definitely! A couple of months later, it actually happened and I got to interview the other actors too.
After that, there was a really good response to the interview, because they put it on their Youtube channel so I just reached out to a lot of outlets asking to be an interviewer for them. And a few months later, I was interviewing for the London Film Festival (which was my first red carpet event I did) where I interviewed Timothee Chalamet along with other actors, producers and directors, Then after that, I was approached by Marie Claire Magazine to write an article about myself and my journalism. I wrote the article, and it was published. And I carried on reaching out and just built good relationships with publicists. I think it was January 2020 when I interviewed Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx for their new film
Then, covid hit so I just carried on writing articles for different publications and in that time, a Netflix movie called 365 Days came out and I got to interview one of the actors with The Metro and it really helped my social media as it got me a highly engaged audience and enhanced my work in terms of interactions with people. At around that time, the Black Lives Matter movement happened at around this time as well and I did an article about the lack of diversity in journalism and wrote it with Stylist magazine and it got picked up by the BBC and they asked me to guest edit one of their programmes. To be honest, I didn’t know the article was going to be that popular, I just wrote it and then saw the response.
A lot of other interviews happened after that as well! I also wrote for GQ, which was more of a fun article about Christmas drinks – so my work is really varied.
I actually heard about you from your Spiderman interview, and it was really good! So, it’s clear from what you said, that being proactive is really important – why is that?
Journalism is a very competitive field, most people would want to do journalism because they think it’s very glamorous and that you can meet a lot of celebrities. That is true, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes with it, and if you don’t have that work ethic to put all the hours and effort of building relationships with people. You’re not going to get very far with it! And you need to be a real people person, because you will come across people who are downright rude. Unfortunately they can be assistants, agents etc who are very busy people and you can write a polite long email, and you can get a one word answer. Which I’ve had many times, but you just have to get on with it. You’ll even get people saying, ‘you won’t be able to do that!’ or ‘oh, that’s too big for you!’ but you have to have that drive and confidence within yourself. So, by building relationships with other people and other journalists it’s always good to get advice on how to enhance your career.
I would say it’s so important to know your ultimate big goal and smaller goals as well. Because if you don’t have that, then you can feel all over the place because journalism is so big!
Yes I do agree that having an ultimate goal really keeps you n your path towards your dreams! So you mentioned that there are many different fields of journalism: Sports, Political etc! You mentioned you’re specifically in entertainment, so have you ever branched out into other fields? And for anybody that’s unsure of what field of journalism they want to go into, what advice would you give them to pick a field?
I would say to think of what you’re really passionate about because it will be very obvious what your likes and dislikes are and what excited you. Will you write an article in the early hours about politics? If you can’t or you won’t, don’t do any kind of political journalism. However, if you think that you want to write about sports, and you can write about sport any time of the day, that would be a clear indication that you really like it! Because, of course, I do entertainment journalism and I got given an exclusive story which I sent to the BBC and they said I could write about it and it was about a whole load of Hollywood starting a petition for disabled people in entertainment getting the same rights as them – and I was up till 4am finishing up and it cam out at 7pm the next day. So, you have to work really fast but the reward is I wrote for BBC News. So, you have to be passionate about whatever subject you’re writing!
A lot of people say to try a few areas, you can do that but I think deep down people know what they like. You might also come across a certain area you might want to try out while working on another area already and you could get introduced to it. So, you don’t know what happens but I think deep down you’ll know and make that your starting point!
I agree passion is super important! Interviews and writing different pieces are key parts of journalism as well, which you’re very good at – I love watching your interviews! So, what are your go to tips for preparing for interviews, or writing articles?
For interviews, your editor will be someone who will guide you because they will want a certain piece. So for instance, you should have an idea of what questions you’d like to ask the person, and then work with the editor to get their angle to get what they want – so you kind of work together. Then, you will do the interview, and after you get the answers and the conversation from the person, your editor will read the transcript and they can say what’s a good angle to do the article on and what the headline would be. But you will also get the gist of that as well and you can always say to your editor what you think is a good angle and if they don’t agree with you that’s fine because at the end of the day they’re your boss so you have to go with what they say. It really depends, but if you have any idea on how you’d like to do your article, you can always cater your questions.
When I did my article with The Metro with the actor from 365 Days the editor said the headline would be about ‘controversy’ and why the film was a bit controversial so I had that in mind that it was the main question which is why that was at the top to start the feature. Then, you can pair it with other films and actors that have been a bit controversial. So, there needs to be a good flow and you need to be good at writing, essentially essays as they’re really similar to articles. So you need to learn how to do this, which you can learn through doing a journalism degree or workshops set up by other journalists – you can learn via those as well!
That’s cool! Would starting a workshop ever that you’d maybe be interested in?
Maybe in the future! I don’t have time, presently. But definitely in the future.
I want to move onto a topic which I think is super important, but isn’t talked about enough: Body confidence and positivity. You’re a huge activist for this! So, do you mind giving us a brief description of your story and journey in terms of your body?
So I have a skin condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa and it’s like having permanent burns. I kind of show and write what my condition is about because it’s unpredictable and has given me a lot health issues. But what I show is, it doesn’t matter what you look like and what you’ve been through – with passion and positivity you can get through it! It doesn’t really matter what your circumstance is. So, despite having a lot of plastic surgery and operations, I feel that it’s a part of life and I get on with it – it doesn’t stop me from work or anything.
I think you have to try and show if you’re comfortable within yourself and confident, other people will see that and they will respond to you the same. Whereas, if you say and show how much you lack confidence, people will pick up on it, and reflect that back. So, I’m a big believer of putting out what you want!
I saw a very similar quote – and your motivation is really inspiring! Many teenagers (especially girls) can struggle with body positivity and confidence, so just for you personally, when and why do you think you truly learned to love yourself and how do you think that happened?
I would say it’s probably when I started working as a journalist, because probably in the early days, in the back of my head I would think there are not many other journalists that look like me – so would I get what I want, in terms of my ambitions? Then I thought, ‘No don’t think like that!’ because it’s not very positive and you’ll hold yourself back. Just be confident, and you know you’re talented at what you do, so just go for it!
And really what gives you confidence is your talent and if you’re good at your work. If you know you’re good at your work, then it will be obvious! That’s really what matters because it doesn’t matter what you look like (it’s not going to get you so far) but if you’re good at your work, you know how to build relationships, you’re confident and you have a strong work ethic that is what will get you far!
Yes work ethic is super important! So, could you share advice for anybody struggling with confidence to do with their body?
I would say if you feel something is really holding you back, you may need some extra support in terms of counselling – and there’s nothing wrong with that because everyone has therapy these days. But, if it’s a bit of low confidence, you’re not alone at all because everyone feels like that. You could watch TV and see a girl that’s absolutely perfect, and she will have the same insecurity as you – so you’re not alone. And in this day and age of social media, it’s harder for young people who struggle with body positivity.
But, the media is becoming a lot more diverse so what sorts of images are mot accepted? But, again, if you don’t love yourself and embrace yourself then no one else will. If you don’t, then that lack of confidence in the area of what you look like, that will stop you from excelling in other areas!
Yeah that’s so true! So, why do you think it’s important that body confidence should be talked about more and there should be more activism around it?
Well, there has been a lot of talk about it because of artists like Lizzo and Ashley Graham etc. But, I think why it should be a topic that it should be continually talked about because, people need to see themselves. So, no matter who you are, everyone wants to be part of the conversation, nobody wants to be excluded. People want to feel they can relate to people.
So, I hope the conversation keeps going and bigger brands help people no matter their ethnicity, weight etc all have a platform so everyone feels involved, and feels that their beauty is shown. Because, we can’t have one type of beauty because it’s also very boring as well. Everyone is unique and everyone likes to see bits of themselves on the screen or on social media.
For the final part of this interview, you’ve already accomplished so much in your journalism career, but could you share some of your future plans, and goals with us?
I’d like to have a platform where I can interview whoever I like, and I don’t need a publication to back me up. And there are a lot of journalists who do that, but it takes time. Because normally you have to be approved by an editor and the publication, whereas on my own, I can just go to the agent/manager of the artist, and it’s done. I have done that before with some other actors and models, but with A List actors, you have to have that publication backing because they’re so big. So, that is my aim, to make my own platform even stronger!
A big thank you to Myra Ali for agreeing to be interviewed! Let me know in the comments what advice you took away from her – and make sure you check out her social media and her spiderman cast interview below!
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