Anita Rani Reveals How 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Empowered Her And 'Changed Her Life'

'I am the first generation ever, in my family, to have a choice about my life.'

Anita Rani has credited ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ with “changing my life”, after taking part in the series back in 2015.

Anita’s episode was one of the most moving in the show’s history, as viewers saw her learn about how her ancestors’ lives during the partition of India, discovering her grandfather’s first wife ended her own life when her village came under attack.

In the two years since she explored her family history on the programme, the ‘Countryfile’ presenter has - in her words - been “galvanised to use my voice” to support various causes.

“It made me realise that I am the first generation ever, in my family, to have a choice about my life,” she told HuffPost UK. “On ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, we discovered about the partition of India and how women took their own lives, or their lives were taken by the men in them.

Anita Rani
Anita Rani
Press shot

“I discovered all of this outrageous stuff about how little say women had in their own lives, so it really empowered me to want to use my platform and my voice.

“And I’m really lucky that I’m living at a time when this is all on the agenda, and about time too really.

“We need more women in positions of power, that is what absolutely needs to change.”

Anita then explored the events in greater detail with a two-part documentary, ‘My Family, Partition and Me: India 1947’, which she describes as “so extreme and so raw, and deeply personal, and horrific”.

“It was just pure emotion that I probably wouldn’t have shown in my real life,” she admitted. “I had the most remarkable response to it and that in itself was really heartening, everyone saying ‘my god, thank you for showing that story’.

“It’s a real moment in my career to have made that programme.

“I’m delighted that the BBC commissioned it really, and put it on BBC One. It was really important for them to have done that.”

Anita is ending 2017 by voicing her support for a new campaign, which calls for companies to create an equal dress code for genders in the workplace.

Discussing her own experiences of feeling pressure to present herself in a certain way while working in television, she said: “I didn’t have a lipstick until I started working as a presenter.

“The first time I got a lipstick was when I got my first TV job, because I felt that’s what people do, you wear make-up on television.

“And I often got it wrong, [with] the stress I put myself under, just thinking about what to wear for different jobs I had in the past.

“It’s got better now as I’ve got older, but it can still be very stressful.

“Women’s clothes are always noticed on television but we don’t really care about what men are wearing.”

Anita also pointed out the effect seemingly flippant comments on women’s clothing or make-up can have, not just for television presenters but also those in more traditional, office environments.

Women have just got on with it in the work environment and learnt to deal with comments, but actually they can be very detrimental,” she said. “They can hurt your feelings, knock your confidence, make you feel confused. All sorts of reactions can come off the back of one flippant comment.”

Anita Rani was speaking in support of totaljobs and their campaign highlighting the impact that office dress codes have on employee well-being.


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