TV and radio presenter Anita Rani is perhaps most famous for her presenting role on Countryfile, not to mention her Strictly performances and Woman’s Hour hosting on BBC Radio Four. We caught up with Anita to find out more about her latest book, her dream interviewees and her husband.
Anita Rani book
“Until I wrote my book, The Right Sort of Girl, during lockdown, I’d never really given much away about myself,” she says. “Until then, I’d spent so long kind of morphing and shapeshifting into what was expected of me in every situation, I think I lost sight of ‘me’. With the book, I laid everything bare and kept nothing to myself.
“I discovered that actually sharing your vulnerability is quite important and I was the most honest and vulnerable I’ve ever been. What it was like, for instance, growing up in a Punjabi household while at the same time being Yorkshire born and bred. I felt I didn’t fit in, like an outsider, and there was racism... there still is.
“I remember seeing Magenta Devine present the Rough Guide travel shows on TV and longing to be like her, but how? There was no one like me on TV – and there still aren’t! If my experiences help young women like me – or indeed any women – then brilliant.
“I love, love, love being Indian – specifically Punjabi. I think I’ve got the best of both worlds. I’m British but I’m also tri-lingual and innately understand Indian culture. I get what it means to be Western and I get what it means to be Eastern.
"When you have a bit of a platform, it’s important to speak out in the hope it will help others in a similar situation. But, hey...” she pauses. “We’re supposed to be talking about the quiz show, Fastest Finger First, aren’t we?”
Anita Rani's quiz show
Point taken! Fastest Finger First, which will be broadcast as part of ITV’s weekday schedule in August, is a new spin off-format of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire...? As the name suggests, the show expands on the first round of Millionaire, where contestants have to put their answers to a multiple-choice question in a specific order.
On FFF, five contestants play against each other to take it in turn to work their way up the question ladder. Thetwoplayerswiththe biggest score at the end of the round go head-to-head in a FFF duel. At the end of each episode, whoever is in the seat when the klaxon sounds has won a place to be fast-tracked to sit in the Millionaire hot seat in front of Jeremy Clarkson.
“I’m a huge fan of quiz shows,” beams Anita (44). “Jeremy is a formidable host. This is my first ‘shiny floor’ ITV entertainment quiz show and it’s thrilling. I’ve done such a variety of different shows since I started in this business 20 years ago but I’ve always wanted to do a big entertainment format and a big quiz show.”
Anita Rani's TV career
Versatile, that’s Anita, moving effortlessly from hosting a game show to presenting the BBC’s much- loved Countryfile. But she can do hard-hitting, too, as she proves every Friday morning when she hosts the iconic Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four. Who would she love to interview?
“So many inspirational women,” she laughs. “Beyonce, Oprah, the Duchess of Cambridge... The Duchess of Sussex, too. Meghan would be fascinating to interview.”
She still regularly presents Countryfile. Then there’s the second series of Channel Four travel show, Britain by Beach coming up this year, another project she can’t say much about and another book in the offing!
“My husband, Bhupi, says that I never think I’m a success because there’s still so much I want to do,” she laughs. “I don’t think we should limit ourselves – whatever our age.
In Britain by Beach, I spoke to a fabulous woman called Linda who, at the age of 71, swam the English Channel for the first time. She’s 75 now and looks amazing. Her motto is, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’ and I think it’s a great mantra to live by.’’
Anita on family
In addition to her husband Bhupi, Anita’s dog Rafi is the love of her life.
“Oh, she’s brilliant,” she says. “I’m obsessed with her. She’s a Bedlington Whippet who’s almost two and absolutely gorgeous. She even has her own Instagram page!
“We could have lost her a few weeks ago. She ate a packet of raisins, which can be fatal for dogs, and had to have her stomach pumped and kidneys checked. I thought that if she didn’t make it, there was no way I’d ever be able to get another dog because I’m just so in love with her. Fortunately, she was fine and had no lasting damage. Look... here’s a photo of her. Isn’t she special?”
We have to admit that she is!
The Right Sort of Girl by Anita Rani is out now, rrp £16.99