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TV debut aged 17

Hello you little lipstick munchers…

So as promised in my last blog “My beauty training” I mentioned that I was an onscreen starlet when I was just a wee teenager… This opportunity came while I was in my second year at college. We arrived in the September to be told not only would our studies get that little bit harder but there would be a film crew from a company called Landmark films in the building. We were told that they were making a 10 part series for SkyOne all about becoming a beauty therapist and the lives of the students at the college, they were going to be spending time at the college over the next couple of weeks to observe the students and essentially select the few they thought would make good telly. Life went on as normal really over that 2 week period, in lessons there would be a crew member or two sat at the back of the class but we didn’t really notice them. All my friends were adamant I would be picked but I didn’t think i’d stand out enough for them to choose me…. Well they did, they must have seen the star quality oozing from me as I poured over those textbooks 🙂

The next thing I remember is being sat down with consent forms & contracts to basically allow these people into myself and my families lives! At 17 I reckoned this was a cool thing to do and I was happy to go ahead, after a talk with my parents we decided it would be a fun opportunity for me. The weeks rolled into months and I pushed on through my training, working hard to complete my portfolio and get all my treatments signed off, all the while a film crew was popping in and out to capture these moments.

The Write up of the show was – “What’s your idea of beauty therapy? Zit zapping? Brazilian waxing? Or filing the horny bits off other people’s feet? Learn the reality of the beauty business with the students of the Yorkshire College of Beauty in Leeds”

I’d originally thought that it might be a big brother style show where they set up hidden cameras and capture it all as we went about our day, however it was much more “in your face” than that. I learned that I wasn’t to make eye contact directly with the camera lens, to act as if the cameras weren’t there but my nature was to engage with them as if my audience was sat right there within the equipment!

I also assumed the filming would be limited to the grounds of the college, I was wrong again! We had the cameras with us on family meals out to restaurants, they filmed me on my driving lessons, We even got pulled over by the police once for having a camera mounted to the front of the car! They filmed my family at home too, my dad recalls the scene they did with him where he had to make a cup of tea and by the time they had finished and 10 takes later the tea resembled that of dish water! They also interviewed my mum & dad at parents evening! Thank goodness I got a fab report, that could have been awkward!

As well as filming my home life they came to work too, filmed scenes of me doing reception duties, cleaning and the odd treatment. Can you remember me telling you in my previous post about my fear of needles ??? Well the producer must have got wind of this and thought it would make good TV if they filmed me overcoming this fear, their suggestion was to hypnotise me! My answer was a firm no! All I could imagine was me walking around the room clucking like a chicken as you see them do on the telly and I was not partaking in any of that nonsense! haha. I did however let them film me practicing the treatment, one of the pieces of advice my tutor gave me was to practice on hairs that were more corse and thick as they would have larger hair follicles thus enabling me to get the needle in with slightly less precision.

I had no trouble finding a willing volunteer to model for me, one of the salon owners was a larger that life character, loved to be the centre of attention and the idea of him being filmed doing anything was right up his street. He jumped on that treatment bed with so much gusto I nearly fell off my chair! The area of choice was to be his nipple, in all honestly he was the perfect person to practice on as he was dark haired and male which meant he naturally had larger hair follicles and it would be a good place to start practicing. Throughout the treatment he was really nice and encouraged me, telling me it wasnt hurting him and how well I was doing. This was really nice and helped with my confidence. I wasnt much bothered if I was hurting him to be honest and i’m not squeamish with blood if there were to be any I was just petrified that the needle would strike me! However I was wearing gloves and the needle was so thin and fragile it was unlikely it could have penetrated the latex!

You might be wondering if we got paid for our time on the telly, the simple answer is no. I guess we did it for the experience more than anything really, it was very exciting. We were rewarded in other ways, for example they gave us cinema tickets etc which to a 17 year old is like cold hard cash anyway haha

Most of the time it didn’t really feel like we were doing anything out of the ordinary, except on one occasion where we had to go to a studio to film master interviews. It was the one and only time I felt nervous because I wasn’t just going about my business, I was going to be interviewed and my answers had to be right! I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. Also above all else, what was I going to wear?!?!?!

I chose what can only be described as a ‘bubblegum pink’ jumper reminiscent of The Pink Panther with matching accessories! This was the fashion at the time believe it or not. All hand selected from New Look in the Arndale shopping centre by my house. On £10 a day that outfit probably cost me a weeks wage but it was worth it as I wanted to look my best. With my hair and makeup done I was taken to the studio, the company had arranged a taxi for me and I arrived at the studio nice and early. I knew exactly where I was, it was a small building on Meanwood road, an area I knew well as I had been brought up not far from there in North Leeds.

There weren’t many other girls there as we must have been scheduled in time slots so we pretty much only saw the previous girl leave and the next girl arrive. After a bit of titivating in the bathroom mirror I was “camera ready”! I walked in to basically a couple of cameras, a few crew and a big white backdrop and floor!… This was where I was going to sit and be interviewed. Not as glam as i’d imagined to be honest, I had visions of Graham Norton striding in giving it large and asking me how I had become so bloody fabulous!… That wasn’t the case. Regardless of that it was still pretty exciting! I’d just done an interview in a proper studio with a set and everything, I was ready to hit the cobbles and have a hot pot with Betty!

For a while we didn’t know the title of the show, the main title that had been floating about was something like “It’s Glam up North” but this didn’t sit well with the college so changes needed to be made, i’m pleased really 🙂 They settled with “Beauty School” which was soon to have its own logo and music and narrator! Crazy 🙂

As with any TV show they had to dress it up a bit, if we had all been “normal” it would have made pretty boring viewing. I know some situations were dramatised. One student was made out to be poor, another girl rich. One student was highlighted to be failing her studies due to working 2 part time jobs. All these scenarios were true but scattered with TV glitter for ratings. It’s totally normal, at the end of the day it was a “doc-soap”. I learned form that experience that not all that you see on TV or read in the papers s wholly true but that’s media for you.

One moment of realisation came when my nana spotted me in the news paper and then again in the TV guide (before the days of SKY Plus) .. My photo emblazoned across the pages advertising the show. That was rather cool, my family cut out the photos like family do when you’ve done something noteworthy.

I’ll never forget the “launch night” the night it first aired, we were all poised and ready for action, my mum had a cassette in the VCR ready to tape over her beloved corrie (I was worth it). It started, the music played and the voiceover began, all our work was here to see. We loved it. It was so funny too, I never imagined there would be things to laugh at. The narrator did an amazing job and i’ll never forget the song they played while I was doing my electrolysis, “danger, danger, High voltage” haha absolutely hilarious!

The aftermath was something i’d not once considered, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t pandemonium in the streets but small things like being stopped in the supermarket and asked in the doctors surgery became common place. I thought i’d lavish in the attention but I actually scurried away from it, when people would ask where they recognised me from I denied all knowledge. It was my dad who couldn’t stop telling everyone. In fact he still talks about it to this day!

I actually remember going for an interview at a nail company and the regional manager was there, she recognised me! She had watched the shows and spotted me straight away!… I got the job for my skill but recon the idea of having a celebrity at the nail bar made the decision easier LOL Emma is still someone I class as a friend today and it’s lovely to think that I have friends in the industry after all these years.

Many years ago I used to manage a counter in “Britains favourite department store” and on my first day I met a fellow counter manager Ann-Marie in the canteen, the first thing she bellowed to me in her Geordie accent was “Oh my god you’re that girl from Beauty school”… We’ve been friends ever since, she claims she was my first ever fan LOL.

Life at college was most certainly anything but dull, I loved it and to top it off I was given the opportunity to experience some TV work. Ive always wondered where my classmates are now and how their careers have panned out, Maybe one day they might make a “where are they now”? I know i’d tune in 🙂

After the Airing of Beauty School and my graduation from the Yorkshire College of Beauty I began an exciting career in the industry taking me to different companies, training in advanced treatments and having the time of my life.

In my next instalment I will take you on the journey of my career, the highs, the lows and what led me to being a Body Fixer.

Big hugs & Smooches, Melissa x