My twenty-four year QVC journey started with a phone call from my then agent at 5.30pm on a Thursday afternoon. Would I be able to go for an audition the following morning at 10am at Sky television studios in Isleworth. Apparently, someone had dropped out at the last minute and mine was the first name on the reserve list. I am eternally grateful to the anonymous person who decided their future career didn’t lie in being a shopping television presenter. To say it has changed my life, and that of my family, is an understatement.
This was me back in 1993 and I still have the jacket but not the hairstyle, although that is my natural curl and not a perm. I wore that very jacket to my audition where I had to ‘sell’ a product of my choice for ten minutes. I hadn’t had a lot of time to prepare but fortunately we owned a mobile phone, something of a rarity in 1993, and I chose that as it had lots of buttons to press to demonstrate what it could do but also it was easy to life-style. That part of my audition went well so I was then presented with a pencil and asked if I could talk about it for five minutes. There was nothing special about the pencil but somehow I managed to find things to say and it must have impressed as I was recalled for a second audition to meet the American bosses during which I was asked, ‘If you were a can of soup, what flavour would it be?’ What? Being a vegetarian limited my knowledge of choices somewhat and it was 1993, so brands like The Covent Garden Soup Co. hadn’t ‘re-invented’ the soup. For some reason I said mushroom – grey, cloying, usually tasteless and I don’t even like mushrooms. It can’t have made that much difference as I was offered the job and began training on September 4th, a month before the channel broadcast to the nation for the first time at 2pm on October 1st 1993. I say ‘broadcast to the nation’ but in those days very few people had a satellite dish so our reach was in the lower thousands rather than the 28 million audience we can reach in 2016 – little acorns and all that! Still, it was quite a big deal as we made it on to the News at Ten.
The original seven presenters helped develop the ‘over the fence’ style that is now emulated by other QVC’s around the world. It is a much softer sell than infomercials and in the late 90’s we were quite experimental in terms of location. We filmed at the Munich Oktoberfest, the Vicenza jewellery fair but my favourite has to be the six days of live broadcasting from Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. One of my favourite shows from there was with the late Joan Rivers. She was a joy to work with although you did have to stay on your toes at all times, ready to retract any remark that may have been deemed to overstep the mark. Joan was presenting an evening show to QVC US but no-one had realised that our show, in the middle of the afternoon, would be in the full glare of sunlight. Ten minutes before the live satellite link up, the crew were dragging pagodas over to shade Joan and myself and, as I was hearing the thirty second countdown to live via my earpiece, they were sawing off the two metal legs which were obscuring the cameras views of us. I love live television!
I have also formed a lasting friendship with one of the other guests from that Bahamas live broadcast, Simon Wilson. Iconic Butler & Wilson jewellery featured on QVC in 1994 but the first hour-long show was in 1995 and I was the present
er. Simon was very nervous, so much so that he had brought his dog, Paddington, on set with him to calm his nerves. The show was a sell-out success and the start of our twenty-one year friendship. Simon has always been incredibly supportive including hosting my One Hundred Lengths of the Pool book launch party at his shop in Fulham Road and attending the launch party in Chiswick for my first novel
I’ve helped launch lots of brands throughout my time at QVC but one of the most successful has to be Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare. The first show was on a Monday afternoon in March 1996 and was meant to last an hour but had completely sold out after forty minutes. Although Liz is an infrequent visitor to QVC now we have remained friends and she also was at my book launch party for Life’s a Beach and Then… I love the fact that she has always called me by my nickname, Jools.
It has been an incredible journey working at QVC for the past twenty-three years and I am very proud of the fact that I am the only presenter to ever have hosted a £1,000,000 hour – thanks Molton Brown! There have been many changes both in personnel and in what is expected of the presenters, but I have been willing to adapt in order to perform my job to the best of my ability. One of the things we are now contracted to do is write a regular blog, which I am more than happy to do. Mine is weekly and you can check it out here. Read my QVC Blogs