TV presenter, Radio 1 host and podcaster supreme, Alice Levine, 31, is known for her quick wit and wisdom. She’s also one half of the glam supper club brand Jackson and Levine, with fellow TV presenter Laura Jackson, and presents the smash-hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno with Leeds university friends Jamie Morton and James Cooper. She appears to ooze confidence and ease, but insists she hates parties and feels uncomfortable in large groups...
Would you say you’re confident?
“I’m an introvert posing as extrovert. I’m definitely pretending most of the time to be gregarious. I love TV and radio but my instinct is to feel insecure, shy and anxious.
“I think I’ve got imposter syndrome, when you feel you’re not good enough, that you don’t have the skills and you’re operating this huge fraud which is eventually going to come tumbling down.
“A lot of the time you actually don’t know how to do it and you just have to pretend for a bit and then learn how to do it. That’s exactly what I do. Fake it till you make it.”
When were you least confident?
“When I got my first job on Radio 1. I actually felt the worst I’d ever felt about a job, because everybody was so excited for me. I just had to tape on a smile and get on with it, but I was so raw with anxiety for probably the first year.
“I used to have night terrors. I’d wake up next to my boyfriend at the time and hand him this inanimate object, like a lamp, or a pillow or a book and say “these headphones aren’t working”.
“Being the new person at any job is stressful but when you do something wrong on radio, you get something called dead air when you’re desperately trying to find the word you wanted - and millions of people are listening to silence. Dead air is one of the most petrifying things in the world. Now I know just to play a record. If in doubt, play Katy Perry. That’s my mantra.”
What would you say to your younger self about confidence?
“Don’t worry so much. You’re really concerned about what other people think and they really don’t care. Only you care. Everyone is doing their own thing and paying attention to that. I think I had no confidence, but a huge sense of grandeur.”
What have you learnt along your career path?
“One of the big things I learnt quite recently is the power of saying no. It’s incredible. It can be about believing that your opinion matters.
“In the past if someone said “this is going to be good, you should do it” but I didn’t really buy into it, I’d just go along with it and say yes. I didn’t want to offend people. I didn’t want people to think I was being difficult.
“The longer I’ve done my job the more I think, actually I do have an opinion and I do have experience. Everybody’s just giving their subjective standpoints and it’s OK to say mine too.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
“One of the biggest hurdles doing live television is that I suffer from such nerves that it poisons the time before a show, like when I was presenting behind the scenes coverage for the Brit awards. The day or week before it’s all I can think about it, tying myself up in knots and it’s so frustrating because once I’ve done it, I feel such a sense of satisfaction.
“I’m still not great at coping with nerves but I’m getting better by trying not to think about it until closer to the time. It’s probably denial, but it’s working for me.
“The other thing is I’m an over-preparer geek. Folders and labels and lots of highlighter pens, that’s the way to counter nerves.”
Are you afraid of failure?
“I used to be embarrassed about failing. Now I don’t think I would be so afraid to say I was struggling. I think I’m better at expressing that I’m having a bad time, cutting myself a bit of slack and not being as critical as I used to be. What matters is what’s going on in your head and changing your perspective.
“It’s frustrating when people say it’s great to fail, like one of those annoying Instagram quotes on a sunset - “all of the failures in my life have made me who I am today”.
“But I do believe a kernel of that. Small failures are quite useful because you learn a lot. And also only you remember the monumentalness of your failure, other people don’t remember how you dropped the ball on this or screwed up that.”
So you learn from failure?
“Failing is always going to be scary. That’s a good incentive. If you’re afraid of failure hopefully that will propel you to succeed. And if you fail, it’s not the end of the world. If you succeed, great.
“Failure is part of life, so get on with it.”
Have you ever been fearless?
“Times when I’ve felt fearless are when I’ve stuck to what I think is right, even it’s easier to go with the flow.”
Alice Levine is part of THE AMEX FEAR-LESS SERIES which celebrates the achievements of the nation’s rising stars through their own unique and inspirational stories. Alice joins five other British influencers who talk candidly about their personal path to achieving their potential and the bumps in the road they encountered along the way. You can read more of their stories here.
Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.