Jessica Kellgren-Hayes is twenty six years old, hosts and produces three TV shows, has previously had a film column in Latest Magazine, writes television screenplays, has written a children’s book, is engaged to be married, and is the nicest person I’ve ever met. Seriously, I want her to be my best friend. Bjournal were lucky enough to bag an interview with her after the filming of feminist chat show The Rosies on Brighton’s very own TV channel, LatestTV. We watched the hosts film the links for their ‘Word of the Week’ and ‘Rosie of the Week’ features. We sat down afterwards with Jessica and spoke about everything from the difficulties of finding matching wedding dresses to her love of Vin Diesel.
Tell me about yourself – I was born in London, I lived in Bristol for a bit and I moved to Brighton to attend University. I founded the university’s TV channel but before that I did YouTube blogs reviewing classic films because that’s my passion. It’s my favourite thing to do. My father’s a film director so I grew up around films, watching old films and I love going to the cinema. I go twice a week. I got in contact with Latest about partnering with the university radio station and maybe set up a mentorship programme. They said no, but they gave me a job! I started at Latest two years ago doing a movie review show which is still going on now, which I do with my bestie Joseph. We come from very different angles, he likes zombies and I’m commenting on the mise-en-scene but it works really well, Although I do have a love for the Fast and Furious movies. I don’t know why – it’s just every Vin Diesel film! It’s quite an embarrassing thing to admit as a lesbian but I can’t help it. I have to watch every Vin Diesel film and I love them. I also do a weekly show which looks at independent short films and we have directors in for interview which is really great. The Rosies we have just started, where we discuss different social topics. It’s sort of like a politicised version of Loose Women.
A better Loose Women then? Yes, a better Loose Women. I really love doing the show. It’s great to have this job and to work in TV. As someone has a lot of health conditions, I have a neurological condition that affects my nerves. Like MS, nerves can paralyse and stop working, including my hearing. The great thing about this job is that half the time I’m talking at the camera and I don’t have to listen. Or I can have my sign language interpreter off screen. I can lip read and I rely on lip reading a lot but there’s this one analogy that I use that only women get and that’s that taking your hearing aid out is like taking your bra off when you come home. You didn’t even notice it was annoying you but suddenly it feels so much better. I’d much rather see someone signing, it’s much easier for my brain. I’m also getting married next year, I got engaged on my birthday in Rome, at the top of the tallest building there. We have just bought a house in Brighton.
How long has The Rosies been on air? It’s only been on air since the start of October. We started filming at the start of September so we are a month ahead which is a blessing in television. We had an episode recently where we had to cut three minutes out because we had a discussion on drugs and it appeared as though one of the panelists was supporting the use of drugs and we’re out pre-watershed so we have to be really careful. But of course what do you put in to replace it? Thankfully, because we are a month ahead we were able to record a little piece and pop that in. We try and keep as far ahead as we can. With things like MovieLine, we film one on Tuesday and put it out on the Wednesday. If anything goes wrong you have to fix it immediately. Fortunately, I’m the producer of the shows I present, which means I have control of what comes out of my mouth. If I know there’s going to be difficulty with a programme I can jump in and fix it.
How did The Rosies come about? My boss wanted a talk show and ask me if I could come up with a talk show. We didn’t have anything aimed at young women, and I thought we’re not going to come up with something people think young women want, but what they actually want. When you’re a teenager adults will be giving you things they think you want and I was reading teenage magazines and kept thinking ‘this doesn’t appeal to me’. Now I’m in my twenties, I feel like a lot of what media tells me about I’m not interested in. Even when it comes to wedding magazines, they aren’t aimed at me. Firstly, I’m marrying a woman, so when they say things like ‘your hubby’ or ‘your groom’ I don’t care. Someone needs to write me an article on how to find two bridal dresses that are the same but aren’t exactly the same because it’s very hard. You don’t want them to match but you want them to go together. But the things my friends and I talk about when we get together are politics, socialism, cultural issues, we read newspapers whether it be in print or online. People will be reading ten articles a day and sharing things on social media, and that’s our culture now rather than the music shows and the fashion shows. I wanted to make a show that I would watch. Our girls are all very different, we’re from very different backgrounds. Annie is a psychotherapist and one of the things she talks a lot about is that she was the only mixed race person in her school. Kitty is a plus-size model who is amazing and great at social media and she talks a lot about body confidence and accepting yourself. Rebecca is our stand-up comedian who is brilliant and hilarious. She has a different view on life to anyone I’ve ever met. Then there’s me. We were talking about privilege earlier and I was wondering what my privilege was but I’m a disabled gay woman from a religious minority (Jessica is a Quaker, the first religion to marry same sex marriage in their churches, she tells me proudly – and rightly so).
How do you prepare episodes for The Rosies? With The Rosies, it’s quite an in-demand show. We have guests booked until February so we book people by topic. So for example we wanted to talk about ME so we found someone who had ME and is also part of the ME Association. We also do ‘Rosie of the Week’ so they choose a feminist they want to write about, and I do ‘Word of the Week’ which is a word that relates to the topic of the week.
How do you chose the Word of the Week? It can be quite difficult. I try to go for a word we might mention that not all of the audience would know. The word psychosomatic did come up today which could have been word of the day, but privilege is the one I chose because with disabilities you don’t always look disadvantaged. You can be a white straight male and still have the disadvantage of disability. We also look at feminist theory. If there’s a week where there’s a word that doesn’t immediately pop out then we’ll go back to the social feminist theory textbook. Not everyone has studied these things, not everyone has heard of the stuff before so we try and make it super inclusive.
Do you cover a wide range of topics? Some of the topics we have looked at include hypnotherapy, graduate recruitment, dyslexia, mental health, women in comedy, home-schooling, living with a visual issue, having the courage to dress as you please, etc. We are also discussing Neon Moon, a lingerie brand that don’t have numbered sizes but are called ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous’ and so on and both Annie and Kitty are part of their campaign. We’ve also got the benefits of private schools, we’re discussing the differences between private and comprehensive schools. Our panel have quite strong views on this topic as two of us were private schooled and two weren’t so it should be interesting. Though we try not to turn it into an argument, we want it to be a positive show where even if we’re dealing with negative issues we deal with it in a positive manner.
Do you often talk about topics where you have opposing views? We do, but we work through them as a discussion rather than having a shouting match. Sometimes I like to play devil’s advocate because that makes for a healthy debate. I come from a family that never argued, we never raised our voices to each other. We would sit around the kitchen table and discuss the issue. I am also in a relationship where we never argue, and we talk things through so that’s what the show is like. We discuss things in a positive, calm way.
The response has been widely positive… I think that’s because we have approached it in a positive way and even if someone has something negative to say, they aren’t going to shout back. I know from doing YouTube videos that 70% of the comments aren’t necessarily about the content but they’ll just be rude about my accent, my looks, sexual comments which are just what you need. Some people have told me they would cure my accent with their penis. But we’ve found with The Rosies that people have said they’ve disagreed with what the guests were saying but that they enjoyed it rather than became incensed.
Have you had any negative feedback from people who don’t necessarily like the concept, such as anti-feminists? We have had some who don’t see the point in it but it’s just, like, “watch the show”. People aren’t going to watch a half hour show if they don’t like it, they might send off one tweet but they haven’t watched it.
What about your other shows? MovieLine is the best show on LatestTV, and I say that having two other shows! I love doing it, we watch two films a week and we discuss them and we also discuss a classic film. We often have opposing views but it’s a really fun, quirky show. We use props. There will be light sabers for the Star Wars show. We discuss anything you can watch in Brighton, so we wouldn’t do live streaming, because some people don’t have access to that. We try to look at the latest releases, we also do documentaries like Amy or Carol but we’ve also looked at Jurassic World so we do try and cover everything. We’ve been doing it for sixteen months but we changed to MovieLine three months ago. FilmFest is about independent films and that’s shown after the watershed because there’s a bit of swearing. It can be a bit risqué.
LatestTV can be found on Virgin Media, Freeview and BT. They also have a YouTube channel where you can catch up on recent episodes and also have a live stream which you can find here. You can follow The Rosies and LatestTV on Twitter.