Friday, 27 March 2015

13 Questions with...Fifth Harmony

Fifth Harmony: On The Road Again

Fifth Harmony rose to fame on The X Factor USA in 2012, finishing in third place out of thousands of hopeful contestants. The group consists of Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Hamilton, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui. Having already won a VMA, and EMA and a Radio Disney award, I think it's safe to say that the girls have achieved tremendous success. I got the chance to speak to Camila and Ally and we talked about what Fifth Harmony have planned for them in 2015…

1. How is 2015 treating you so far and what do you guys hope you achieve by the end of this year?
Camila: Oh my God! I’m so excited about 2015. I think the coolest thing has been hearing the States sing ‘Sledgehammer’ and to rise on iTunes…and I’m home right now and in Miami it’s playing on the radio a lot. So that’s been really, really cool and that’s something that’s never happened to us before with any of our singles so, so far, it’s treating us incredibly well! I think this year…what we hope to achieve as a band…hopefully have the album do very well. Getting a number one album would be incredible! And I think if we could travel over the pond again, that would be great. We’d love to go to the UK again and maybe do a headlining tour there – that would be a lot of fun. Dreaming out loud here, though! (Laughs)
Me: Hopefully, we’d love to see you back here.
Camila: Aw thanks, we love it there in England.
Ally: Ooh – well, so far the year’s been really, really great. We went to the Peoples’ Choice Awards and also our song was in the top 20 on iTunes and the top 40 on Billboard so it’s been an incredible, incredible start. This year we hope to have a really successful album, and hopefully our fan base will grow so hopefully we’ll get respected by a lot of the other artists that we love who are out there. And then [hopefully] a world tour…and travel more…visit the UK again! (Laughs)

2. Since The X Factor, how have things changed for you?
Camila: I think…I think we’ve grown a lot individually and I think we’ve grown a lot stronger as a group as well. Like, I can’t even tell you how many things I learnt personally from The X Factor about just, self confidence and about work ethic…about just believing in yourself, I think. And I think as a group we’ve gone through a lot obstacles and have had to be like an ‘us against the world’ kind of thing (laughs). So think that’s made us so stronger. 
Ally: Hmm…well it’s quite different now! (Laughs) Now, we’re kinda, constantly either in the studio or in the dance studio or on the road! It’s a very fast-paced life now and before, it was great being at home and everything but you know, I’m living my dream and it’s incredible! The girls and I have been working really hard and our fans are freaking amazing! Yeah, it’s been quite a lot and we have all of it to thank, really our fans, because they’re the ones who keep us out there. Keep us growing and will always support us so, shout out the them!

3. What was it like recording material for ‘Reflection’, which is set to be out soon?
Camila: It felt really good. We had the EP but this is our debut album. I think we definitely felt the pressure because our fans have been waiting a really long time for this music and we had to make it the best it could be because it’s been such a long time coming. We wanted to make the wait worth while. It was really, really hard. I mean, I think that the making of an album is always really challenging it was the literal blood and tears involved, but I think that we…like, us five kinda really stuck together throughout this process to fight for what we want and I feel like the outcome is gonna be reflective of everything that we’ve gone through in the past two years.
Ally: Yes!!! It was so much fun. A lot went into this, running back and forth and a lot of blood, sweat and tears from me and the girls, but it was great, you know. We know have our track list, and now the fans know about it! We’re really proud of it and we’re putting our hearts into it so…an album for everybody to finally hear! From Fifth Harmony! (Laughs)

4. What’s your favourite track from the upcoming album?
CamIla: My favourite track, probably…it kinda changes but I think right now I’m feeling ‘Like Mariah’. 
Ally: Well one of my favourite tracks is definitely…’Top Down’. I love the message of it. Like, going out over the town with your friends and the melody’s pretty cool. And then I love the actual track; the way it was produced is really cool. It was very funky. That’s a word that I’d always use for it. 

5. So you toured with Demi Lovato, didn’t you? How was that experience?
Camila: Yes! It was a dream. It was amazing; I was such a fan of her from a long time ago, I actually did a YouTube cover of her song ‘Skyscraper’. It was like the first song I ever posted of myself singing on YouTube. I was such a huge fan! Just to meet her and see her as down to earth as she seems was just really cool. And she was so nice to us too, like genuinely nice to us. She’s probably one of the most genuine people we’ve ever met.
Ally: Oh my Gosh – she is incredible! We learned a lot from her, from that tour. We learned a lot of how you should be as a headlining artist and she was incredible. She’d always make sure we were doing well and on top of that she did pranks and stuff and we had so much fun as we hung out. She is just amazing, like, all around and that’s why she is who she is today and that kinda inspires us to be like a great example on the road. You know, to make sure we make out tour fun as well.

6. How does it feel to know you’ll be going back on the road to see your fans?
Camila: I’m really, really excited. Especially because we have this new music out so that’s gonna be, you know, new choreography, new stretch, new transitions, new outfits, you know, everything. I think it’s gonna be us kinda going out as the new Fifth Harmony. Like the 2015 Fifth Harmony. So I’m really excited. Also, I think touring is probably one of my favourite things. Just to chill and go out every night and sing, and you have fun. I mean, it’s probably one of my favourite things. 
Ally: It’s so much fun because we haven’t been on the road, in a tour, for a while. The last one we did was Austin Mahone and that was like, in the summer. We’re gearing up, we have a great break. We did some shows in between but now we’re gearing up for the tour! We’re about to start rehearsals soon. We’re gonna have a conversation about our set list and everything so we’re really, really pumped. I love going out on the road, love seeing our fans, performing for them. I love travelling as well and seeing the different places we go to so I’m so ready! It’s gonna be awesome! 

7. Do you have any plans of brining the tour to the UK?
Camila: Oh! Dude, if it was up to us, we would be there NOW. (Laughs) It’s not in our plans and we don’t for sure know the dates but definitely something that we hope to do this year, and hopefully we will. I have a good feeling about this year but I really hope that we get to go over there and perform.
Me: Fingers crossed you’ll be able to come as part of the tour!
Ally: Oh my God! Yes! Please! I love your country so much, it’s incredible! The people are so lovely and I just hope that we’ll be able to go back soon! (Laughs) I have a feeling we will…

8. Many people are comparing Fifth Harmony to the British girl group the Spice Girls, how does that feel?
Camila: I think that’s an honour. We definitely look up to the Spice Girls so much and just what they represent and how strong their personalities are. If they can compare us to a girl group of that category, it’s an honour and thank you so much, because we look up to them a lot.
Ally: They are one of the best girl groups of all time – we’re such big fans of them! You know, when people compare us to them we just get so excited and it’s just an honour. We can never be anything close to the Spice Girls but we hope to learn from them and hope to be as fun and inviting as they were, and as talented. Yeah, it’s really cool!

9. There are five of you and five Spice Girls, so if each Fifth Harmony member was a Spice, who do you think you’d be?
Camila: For one Halloween, we actually dressed up as the Spice Girls. So, I was Baby Spice, Ally was Ginger Spice, Dinah was Sporty Spice, Lauren was Posh Spice and Normani was Scary Spice.
Ally: Yeah, I think I would actually be Ginger! (Laughs)

10. If you could invite a famous/celebrity guest to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
Ally: Oh, my God. OK. I’ll do a male and female. I have a lot of artists I love but , female: I would invite JLo because she is one of my biggest inspirations of all time. I love her so much. She is just so incredible at what she does. She constantly invents herself and she always looks so phenomenal. She’s just one of the best entertainers ever. And the male would either be Ed Sheeran or Justin Timberlake because both of them are so insanely talented. Their songs are like my songs of life. Their albums are just like…me! (Laughs) They both seem like so much fun and so humble and down to earth about their success so…there you go! 
Camila: Erm, I would probably invite Will Smith, because I love Will Smith…I would invite, probably like, Lil Wayne just because I think that the juxtaposition of those two would work. I would invite Tom Hanks – because I love Tom Hanks. I would invite Morgan Freeman, 2 Chainz, Jennifer Lawerence. It would be a fun party!

11. You’ve had some amazing opportunities since you formed as a girl band, what has been the highlight of your career?
Ally: Well, for sure winning a VMA was ama-a-zing! It was crazy because so many of our favourite artists in the entire music history have won a VMA so for us winning was crazy. Such an honour, Also, being able to sing for our president was so cool, that was amazing because that was part of history as well. Also being part of the top 40 or the top 20 on iTunes was really mind blowing! 

12. What would be your advice to any aspiring musicians?
Camila: I think my advice would be…I think it’s important to know who you are as an artist, because if you don’t know who you are as an artist then as soon as you come into the music industry people are going to be telling you how to dress, how to act. They’re gonna try to feed you things that can make you think that you have to change in order to make it or you have to be somebody else to make it, which is always the worst rapt, because people always respond to authenticity. So it’s important to know who you are and believe in it, because if you don’t then you’re gonna be too scared of being yourself.
Ally: I would say, no matter what you go out there and go for it. Live your dreams and don’t let anything hold you back. Especially fear. I feel like fear holds so many of us humans back because we’re constantly worried like “what if this happens and what if this doesn’t happen?” but I think just go for it. Trust your struggle and believe in yourself and don’t change who you are for anybody. You’re an individual as well so you go out there and show it. 

13. Do you have a message for all your fans?
Ally: Yes! Thank you so much to everybody who’s been supporting the girls and I. We would not be here and wouldn’t have fulfilled some of our dreams without you. Ours fans are so passionate and they will be there for us no matter what. That is such a blessing. It’s such an honour to have such dedicated, loving and loyal fans. So, my heart just goes out to them. They’re so amazing. Thank you. And thank you to the UK! You’re a beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back! It’s going to happen! 
Camila: Yeah! Thank you so, so much for supporting us. Thank you for being so nice to us and so welcoming. When we went to the UK it was one of the best times we’ve ever had – ever! And…just keep the Nando’s nice and warm for us – we will be back. 

Download Fifth Harmony's debut album 'Reflection', available now on iTunes!

Read how my interview with Fifth Harmony appeared online on BLOCC Magazine!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

13 Questions with...The Janoskians

The Janoskians: 

"This year is a big one!"

Have you heard of the Janoskians? Of course you have! If you answered ‘no’, you've most likely been hibernating. Aged 18 - 21, Melbourne's Daniel Sahyounie, James Yammouni, Beau, Luke and Jai Brooks began posting uproarious videos to YouTube in the summer of 2011. Nearly four years down the line, they have millions of views, they've toured the world, released various singles and they have their own movie coming soon. Impressive, right? Now living it up in LA, the boys are ready for what 2015 has in store for them. I talked to Daniel and James all about their plans for this year and they couldn’t be more excited.

1. How this year treating you so far and what are your plans for 2015?
Daniel: Yeah, this year has been pretty good, actually. Yeah, there’s been a lot of stuff done. A lot of work. Hopefully, all of us boys will work hard this year, get the movie out, hopefully release an album, music…yeah, just looking forward to this year. It’s a big one for us! Especially, with the movie coming out and…just everything!

2. Over three years ago you launched your own YouTube channel. Where did the initial idea for the Janoskians come from?
Daniel: We were all just childhood friends just going out together. One day, Beau came to my house and his brothers [Luke and Jai] already started filming some videos and Beau was like ‘why don’t you come over and we’ll film some videos’. So I went to I went to the Brooks brothers’ house and James was there. They were already in the group, they already made the group, I was the last one and they said I had to drink like this drink full of like cheese and hair and it was full of like, vegemite and all this yuck stuff! They combined it together put it in a mixer and I had to drink it and then I vomited everywhere! Then we just thought, like it would be a good idea if we go out in public and film funny videos ‘cause it’s never been done before. At the time it was really original, no one’s ever done it. 

3. You’ve come a long way since then and have achieved global success. Of all the ‘social disturbances’ you’ve caused in the past, what do you feel is the best video you’ve uploaded to date?
Daniel: Probably one of the ‘Awkward Train Situations’ – I think they made us. Like, the first Train Situations was really funny and just went viral.
*James returns from the toilet*
James: Awkward elevator situations!

4. How did it feel when you launched your own music career?
James: We’d never done music before and we were just doing YouTube videos so, it was like ‘that escalated quickly!’ (laughs). It was weird actually, especially telling our school friends they were all like ‘what was that?!’ (laughs). It was nothing like what we were doing at the start but it wasn’t something we were going out of our way to do, it was just fun stuff.
Daniel: And it’s still fun now, yeah. We have fun with it.

5. So you toured last year!
Daniel: Yeah, we did tour last year. We did the UK, Europe, we came back to America, did all of America and then we did a bit of Australia. 
Me: How did it feel touring together? Backstage and everything – how was all that?
Daniel: Yeah! It was crazy! It was a lot of fun; I mean hanging with the boys 24/7. It can get a bit much, but I mean, we’re all brothers, we all grew up together. That’s what’s different about us, I mean, we weren’t manufactured. We weren’t put together. We’ll always know where we came from, stay grounded.

6. As you mentioned, you came to the UK. What’s your favourite thing about visiting Britain?
Daniel: I like the clubs over there, actually. The clubs are pretty good. 
James: I hate the clubs over there, they were so shit. I like how there;s always a riot when we’re there. 
Daniel: Yeah, it’s always so crazy. And our fans there are so committed, it’s crazy. 

7. Will you be back to perform here anytime soon?
Daniel: Yes, yes. We’ve actually got something really big planned. Coming soon – but we can’t reveal the details. Soon, soon! That’s all I can say – sorry! (Laughs)

8. If you could prank somebody you know, who would it be?
Daniel: I’d prank Justin Bieber. I don’t know how…(laughs)

9. If you could invite any celebrity or famous person to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
Daniel: Miley Cyrus because I think she would be like, dead crazy. Yeah, we’ll have a fun time, it would be crazy. It would be a whole lot of fun. 
James: I’d definitely say Kendall Jenner, for some reason. I think she’d just be like…(laughs)

10. Have you ever met Miley Cyrus?
Daniel: I’ve seen her. I didn’t meet her, I was too scared to. She’s walked past us. I could have said ‘hello’ but…
James: No security or anything!

11. Moving on, you’ve had a successful career so far, what do each of you feel has been the highlight?
James: Probably shutting down Times Square or like, all those stuff…
Daniel: Yeah! Shutting down Hyde Park.
James: I’d go in there thinking there’s only gonna be like a hundred people but there’s like thousands and thousands and thousands…it got crazy. 

12. If you weren’t busy being successful in America and all that, what would be your alternative career option?
Daniel: I think I’d be…not too sure. Maybe a soccer player. If I trained a bit more. 
James: Daniel, what’s that team called? Was it Manchester United Junior League…Junior Squad? Like, not for the actual…what are they called?
Daniel: The first team.
James: The what?
Daniel: The first team. Like, not the team that’s on TV TV [not the first team] but the team that’s on like shit TV. You know the junior?
Me: Right!
James: This is information that no one has – so you should feature that. No one knows. I gave an exclusive to you!
Me: Thank you! I appreciate that - I feel honoured. 
James: Ah, that’s OK.

13. When can we expect to hear new material? 
Daniel: It will be coming out really soon. I think definitely in the next month. Maybe next couple of weeks – we’ll see. Yeah, we’re excited as well. We got some good stuff – can’t wait.

Daniel and James also had a message for fans and supporters in the UK:
Daniel: I’d like to say thank you all so much for the support for the last three or four years or however many years you’ve been following us. I’d just like to say, we’ll be out there soon – can’t wait for you to hear our new music and see our new movie. I’m just excited for you to be excited for us!
James: Thank you so much for making a riot every time we come, down there and we’ll see you very, very soon.

Here's to an amazing 2015 for the Janoskians! Don't miss Janofest in London next week! 

Read how my interview with The Janoskians appeared online on BLOCC Magazine!

Thanks for reading!
- Adam

Friday, 13 March 2015

An Interview with...Jo Joyner!

It was the week of BBC EastEnders' 30th Anniversary where Tanya Cross had returned for a couple of episodes. I was in excited to be seeing her back on Albert Square. After Jo Joyner's short stint back in Walford, I opened my emails later that week to see that I had been invited to meet Jo and to interview her regarding her role in the new BBC television series 'Ordinary Lies'. Fast forward a few days and a lot of cups of tea, there I am. London Town, I've missed you! It almost time for my afternoon meeting with Jo. I was nervous. I've done lots of interviews but this particular one had me hyperventilating. Maybe due to the fact that I'd told Jo I was coming and I was worried in case I'd mess up? Human nature, I guess. I took a breather as I entered the building. As I sat waiting in the reception I sent out a tweet: "I'm in the building". OK. So I'm waiting. I'm ready...I think.

Jo Joyner and I at the British Soap Awards 2013.
This was good day.
A couple of moments later, as I had nearly come to terms with the fact that I'm just about to meet JO JOYNER again, it's my turn. I walk though a corridor and after the opening of a couple of doors I find myself standing face to face with her. Wow! There she is. She looks great! I hadn't seen her for almost two years. I'd last met her at The British Soap Awards 2013. This was my chance to really get to speak to her in person, rather than in a 140-character tweet or direct message. 

Anyway, so I greeted her and introduced myself. For anyone who doesn't know, I created @JoJoynerWorld on Twitter to help keep myself and other fans updated about Jo's projects. When I told her who I was she replied: "I know! I realised this! Very good! Welcome to the building! Have you had to come far?" When I told her I'd come from travelled quit a way because I really wanted to meet her, she gasped "You have? Aw, bless you!" This was going well! As hard as it was in this extremely exciting situation, it was time to switch on professional mode the best I could now. Then we began our Q&A to talk all things Ordinary Lies with the extraordinary Jo Joyner...

So, firstly, what can we expect to see from you in Ordinary Lies?
Jo: Well, Ordinary Lies is a six-part drama and in each episode we have a look at each character and we have at their lie that they've told that's spun out of control. Beth is one of the few characters that kind of feeds throughout the whole series actually, so it's not really until probably episode five or six where you get to find out a little bit more about her life and what's going on in it. But when we meet Beth, her husband has been a missing person for for over a year so she's in this very strange limbo where...he went to the shops one day and never came back. She's got two kids and she's been coping. Basically, for over a year she's still managed to keep her job - thanks to her nice boss that she gets on quite well with! (Laughs) She's managed to keep the family going. But she doesn't know if she can move on because she doesn't know if he was killed, or whether he's just left her and if he has, then why, and how could he do that to it's quite complex. So you can expect a lot of different feelings from her throughout the series and maybe a few lies of her own.

I'm quite looking forward to seeing this character! So how did this particular role appeal to you?
Jo: Because it's Red Productions, I think they make such brilliant, brilliant stuff - Happy Valley, The Last Tango...and they used to make a lot of stuff when I was first starting out in Manchester. When the company was quite young with Russell T. Davis and Second Coming and Bob and Rose...things like that. So, for me it's quite nice because I'd worked with them a lot in the past and then having been into the soap and come back out again, I feel like I have come back home, really. Working up north again and with such great company. And Danny [Brocklehurst]'s writing, it's so believable. You're gonna love it. Honestly, because he's one of those guys that one minute you're laughing and the next minute you're going "oh my gosh!" You know, it's fun. Then the cast! It's such a fantastic cast! I mean, what a mixture of people?! You don't normally get that mixture of people in one show and everybody's gonna be great in it. I can't wait to watch it, just to see them! It's good. Great stuff.

What was the best thing about being on set, during the filming process? 

Jo: Working with those people! Sally Lindsay and I used to meet on the circuit years ago in Manchester all the time, we used to be up for very similar stuff and castings and things. We never really expected to work together. Although, we'd spoken together through friends - because we've both got twins - and she started doing Mount Pleasant as I was doing Candy Cabs, so we'd been in touch with each other. But we never really worked together, so that was really lovely, getting to know her. And getting to work with Max [Beesley] who's good fun, he's a good laugh, and Mackenzie Crook who's a brilliant, incredibly talented man. And Rebecca Callard, she's just brilliant in this. It's nice. The best thing about any god job is that you do come away genuinely having made new friends from it. Some of the girls from the offices, I think we'll be really good friends now which is great. 

So what was it like having your long overdue 'Janya' time with Laurie Brett when you returned to EastEnders?
Jo: (Laughs) Oh, it was absolutely fantastic! Because of my epic...mess-up, that night Janya carried on into the hotel, as you can imagine. Laurie and I had quite a few drinks that night, and a lot of talking. A lot of catching up to do, so we were up 'til about 2am the night that I said "how's Adam?" So, it was brilliant to work with her again and she's been up doing Waterloo Road in Glasgow, so we hadn't had a really good catch-up for a long time. It was long overdue. She's just fantastic. And weren't they brilliant Friday night, her and Adam [Woodyatt]?
Me: They were, yes!
Jo: Adam just blew me away. They were just great! 
Me: I was most looking forward to seeing you that week! I was SO excited!
Jo: It was good...then I said "how's Adam". Can you imagine?! 
Me: But you were the the most amazing thing of that week for me, cos I was so excited to see you, you were brilliant!
Jo: Bless you. Can I take that opportunity to, in your column, thank all my lovely followers because I had nothing but love that night on my feed, from people in support. People were so good about it and made me feel so much better. I just thought "I have got the best Twitter followers ever!" 
Me: We do try...!
Jo: (Laughs) 

I'd like to speak about 'The Interceptor' in which you'll be playing Lorna. What can we expect from this series?

Jo: Well, I started that March last year and I finished it two days before I started this in October so funnily enough, that one was filmed before Ordinary Lies but it's not been on yet and I don't know when it is going to be on but I have got a screening next week [of the time of this interview]. Presumably, it's on sometime in Spring. It's quite a different one for me, actually, although as a show it's quite different because it's an eight-parter. It's quite big and it's gonna be shot beautifully but it's quite high octane action stuff. But he's kind of a fallible hero - O-T Fagbenle, who plays the lead. And I play his wife. Like all good detectives, he doesn't really go home much so I'm in the show, I weave throughout it but I'm not a major part in it, really. It was a nice quiet job for me for the lead-up to the kids starting school. Lorna is...well, they [Lorna and Ash, portrayed by O-T Fagbenle] were childhood sweethearts which is really lovely. They were at school together and she knew him when he was a little bit of a bad boy and she is a policeman's daughter. So she's always kept him on the straight and narrow and like all good detectives, he's walking that fine line of the straight and narrow and the world that he touches upon is the world that he used to belong to. There's a kind of battle throughout the series of whether or not Lorna can manage to keep him on the straight and narrow or whether he's going to put himself in jeopardy all the time, and the family therefore. You'll have to watch and see!

That's exciting! Here's a Twitter question from a follower...@No_Angels_Love, Freya...

Jo: Yeah! 
Me: You know her, don't you?
Jo: Yeah! (smiles)
Me: She wants to know what the funniest moment was when you were filming Ordinary Lies
Jo: On Ordinary Lies? Do you know, I was trying to remember earlier with a journalist because these jokes are know, sometimes things make you cry with laughter, don't they? But actually you can't remember what they were because you had to be I'm not sure that any of them will make much sense really but there was a time Sally Lindsay's character in the show has a very big, huge, smelly dog. A character one, right? And she's allergic to it so that day was quite funny because Sally was kind of itching and swelling up and trying to do these scenes! (Laughs) With this MASSIVE dog that was panting away and that made us laugh, a lot! 

Finally, if you could invite any three celebrities or famous people to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Jo: Who would I have this year? I would have Caitlin Moran, because I love reading her feeds. She's hilarious and she'd have a lot to say, wouldn't she? And then, who would I have? I'd have...somebody musical...Max! Why not Max Beesley? There you go, cos he is an incredible musician and he could get on a piano afterwards and bang out some tunes for us all to dance our dinner off to. And, then...who would be a good laugh with us? I find these so hard...Max, Caitlin...who'd make a really good third for that? They'd get on great, those two. Erm...(laughs) need a comedian. Chris Addison! I could talk to him all night and he'd get on with Caitlin. That'd be great. There you go. That's a mixture, right there! (Laughs)

We then played a game titled 'How Well Does Jo Know Jo?' which consisted of quotes from characters Jo has previously played. After I read a quote, Jo had to hold up a straw puppet of each character and I'm pleased to confirm that Jo does know Jo - she got them all correct! Scroll down for some exclusive photos of Jo as Beth in Ordinary Lies, with thanks to BBC Pictures.

Ordinary Lies will be airing Tuesday 17th March at 9pm on BBC One. Don't miss this six-part series! 

Thanks for reading my blog!
- Adam!

Friday, 27 February 2015

13 Questions with...Gemma Oaten

Gemma Oaten: Plant the SEED to getting your life back!

An extremely talented actress (and very beautiful, might I add!) with a successful and promising career, currently featuring on ITV's Emmerdale as Rachel Breckle, but her journey to the woman is she is today has not been easy. Gemma Oaten has revealed that she has, in the past, suffered from a severe eating disorder. It was a challenging experience but she has battled the illness and is now involved in her mum's charity, SEED, which helps and guides those currently struggling with an eating disorder. To raise awareness as part of her Eating Disorders Awareness Week press campaign, I got the chance to speak to Gemma Oaten about acting, Emmerdale and most importantly, how she bravely overcame her eating disorder. It's time to plant the seed to an eating-disorder-free life.

1. How did it feel bringing Rachel Breckle back to Emmerdale this year?
Gemma: It's been amazing. I'm very tired because I live in London so I do a lot of commuting. I think East Coast trains, they're pretty used to seeing my face now! (Laughs) But, you know, it's fantastic and I've missed everyone dearly. It's really nice to sort of come back and just pick up where I left off, really. 

2. You're a very hardworking actress and you were awarded the role of Rachel quite early on in your career. How did it feel getting the role?
Gemma: Yeah! Way back when! The most surreal, amazing, wonderful day of my life. I'm from Hull and I grew up watching Emmerdale and Corrie - predominantly Emmerdale, being the Yorkshire soap...nothing against Lancashire folk cos my boyfriend's from Lancashire so I've gotta be careful! It was just like, one of those surreal moments! I always remember watching Emmerdale as a kid and thinking "I've gotta do that! That's like the dream job!" So when I got the call to say I'd got it, I was in a little flat living off nothing in a little bedsit and then the call came! The next day I was going to have a costume fitting, so it was the best call. Probably one of the best in my life, yeah. 

3. Have you filmed Casualty yet? 
Gemma: Yeah! It's all filmed, it's so far ahead. It doesn't come out 'til March 28th, I believe. And I filmed it in [the] end of October. So, yeah, there is a big sort of gap in between but I loved it. I was working with a director who actually taught me at drama school so that was even more satisfying, because it sort of felt like I really...I know it sounds silly because I've done Emmerdale and Doctors...but I felt like I'd really made it then cos I'd made Joe [the director] proud, you know, by getting this role and she was directing me now at a professional capacity rather than at drama school. 
Me: I hear you play a drug that right?
Gemma: Yeah! Heroin addict! Oh my God! Mum was like "Oh, for God's sake Gemma, can you not get something happier?" In Doctors I played this girl who burnt down the pub and Rachel, she's had a bit much, hasn't she? And then I get a heroin addict! 

4. So let's move on to speaking about your support for your parents' charity, SEED. Please tell us about the charity and what it aims to achieve.
Gemma: Well, it was sort of born out of our struggles and frustrations when I was younger and developed anorexia at the age of 10. So bearing in mind back then that would've been 1994, because I'm 30 now, things were very different. There wasn't any real support services. I went to the doctor and was told I wasn't thin enough to be anorexic which was just sort of unbelievable because my parents were saying "yeah, but she's losing weight, she's not happy and she's not eating. What more do you need?" Then, as a family, as I went through therapy. I got put in a psychiatric adolescent unit and that was just unbearable. My family weren't supported and we had to go through hell and back at these horrible family therapy sessions, with somebody ripping my family apart, insinuating all sorts. My mum being the woman that she is and being quite determined was just like "no, this is not happening to another family". So her and dad sort of started a little helpline in our front room in Hull! Predominantly for carers; so people like the families, friends. You know, because there's not support out there and [there's] not understanding to them. Then, it's just grown and grown and grown and it's something that, way back when, it was hard thinking anorexia owns so much of our lives as it is, why being more into our family? But actually as I started getting stronger and started recovering I was so, so on board with it. I just understood finally how important it is for somebody to make a difference and I'm very privileged that I've got such a wonderful mum and dad and I'm very proud that they're the ones that have started to make changes. 

5. Am I right in thinking your mum got an MBE?
Gemma: Yeah! She did! Wow. What a day that was. I think I was due to graduate from drama school about two weeks after and we went to...I think it was St. James' Palace. But yeah, she met the Queen and yeah. If was unbelievable. She's a wonderful, mesmerising woman. I know that I am the lucky one calling her my mam. 
Me: Well done to her!
Gemma: Aw, thank you. 

6. So you admirably battled and dealt with anorexia for 14 years, what would you message be to anyone who's currently battling an eating disorder? 
Gemma: I'm not going to lie. It's a long, hard slog but the change will come when you're ready and you're ready to talk out. That's one of the biggest things that I've been trying to promote; that suffering in silence is that: it's suffering. There are people out there like SEED, they do a lot of good doctors out there and a lot of good teams coming out more and more to raise awareness of eating disorders. My advice would be to be brave and not be ashamed. Not to sort of hide it because an eating disorder is a clever, mental health illness. It tricks you into thinking you should feel guilt, and you should feel shame and you're disgusting and my advice would be don't listen to it. Be strong and make that first step. Just think of your future and think of your life back in control for yourself. Recovery's not easy but it's well worth it. If I can do it after 14 years of hell, anybody can. I stand by that and I know that sometimes when you're in the stick of it it's hard to believe but that's the truth of it. It can be done and it doesn't have to be on their own. 

7. You mentioned your drama school earlier, you graduated from the DSL in 2010 - how would you describe your experience there? 
Gemma: Hard! I did a year's course and it was (bearing in mind I'd spent half my life with an eating disorder and isolated and in and out of hospitals and on bed rest), I'd managed three years previous to start getting my life back on track and was working in retail shops...I even worked in like McDonald's and TK Maxx, and cleaning. So I was starting to build my life up and my grandma died and I suddenly thought "I've got to do this for her" because it's all I ever spoke about to her. One thing that I'm thankful for from my eating disorder: it made me strong. It made me gutsy and it made me determined and I worked really, really hard to get there.

8. How would you describe your experience there?
Gemma: I did feel like a fish out of water at first. You know, I came across as the northern class clown but I think as the year went on I really grew as a person and people started to realise that I meant business. You know, I meant what I said when I wanted to achieve my dreams and I did! I've got some brilliant friends from there, one of them who I'm seeing today so it was a life-changing experience really. 
Me: I'm sure your grandma would be so proud of you now as you're so successful! 
Gemma: Aw bless you. You're lovely! 

9. As I say, you've been successful so what advice would you give to any aspiring actors? 
Gemma: Never let anybody put limitations on you. You're in charge of your own career and your own path. If you work hard and have a good work ethic and ultimately are nice to people, then you'll go far. I think one of the biggest things you have to say is be kind. Especially in this industry, it's a tough one. It doesn't take a lot to be nice and to be kind and to be grateful to other people. Because that assistant director or that runner who you're looking down to one day might be your boss. You won't get the job. (Laughs) It's as black and white as that: be kind, work hard, keep your head down and keep believing in yourself. 

10. So you've also done some radio presenting in your time away from Emmerdale! How was that?
Gemma: Yeah! Yeah, I did. That was brilliant. I did that with Capital Radio which was a brilliant experience and as you can tell I'm a motor mouth so I really had to sort of just take deep breaths every now and again and not say anything wrong! Luckily I came away unscathed and they've not banned me from the station for life so I did alright, I think. I loved it. I loved it. It's really nice being able to be intimate with people, you know in terms of when you're speaking to them and you know that they're listening on your every word, really. I like being me, as well as acting. I'm alright! (Laughs) 

11. What moment do you feel has been the highlight of your whole career? 
Gemma: It's got to be Emmerdale. Yeah. It's got to be. And I guess the soap Best Newcomer nominations were a little bit surreal, back in the day. Having my name flash up at the Soap Awards, that was pretty epic. I know it sounds a bit random but being on This Morning. I've been on This Morning twice now [three times at the time of this interview being published!]. Me and my grandma and grandad used to sit and watch it and I always used to say I'm going to sit on that sofa one day. Unfortunately, my grandma didn't get to see it but my grandad did. I'm privileged that he got to see it in his lifetime. So yeah, that was another massive highlight for me. [Going on This Morning to speak about Eating Disorders Awareness Week], aside from the acting, is a massive achievement, in terms of my voice being heard and being able to support other people. 

12. If you could invite any celebrities or famous people to a dinner party, who would they be and why? 
Gemma: This is probably one of the hardest questions ever...Who would I invite and why? Oh God! Sasha Bran Cohen! Because he's a little bit off the wall and a little bit crazy but then when you see him in interviews he's so intelligent and like on it and I think he's a really talented man and I think he'd be quite good for the comedy values. I think if anything got too deep for a dinner party, I think Sasha could pretend to be Borat and everything would be alright. And...Judi Dench! I've met her before but there's just something about her and I'd love to spend the whole evening with the woman. She's an absolute legend. And then...Albert Einstein, I reckon. Yeah. Bring on Einstein. He could explain a few things to me! (Laughs) Make me feel intelligent or completely baffle me. A lot of his theories are part of The Secret, there's a book called The Secret and I think it'd be fascinating to open up a conversation about philosophy. And he's not just like an inventor, he had a lot of ideas about the way the universe works and you The Secret is one of those things in terms of you give out to the universe what you get back sort of thing. So yeah. Those would be my three: Sasha Baron Cohen, Judi Dench and Albert Einstein. 

13. Finally, do you have a message for all your fans and supporters?
Gemma: They're amazing and I can't thank them enough from the bottom of my heart, for welcoming me back so lovingly and I was in the studio yesterday and I got this gorgeous card from everyone on Twitter. And it's such a privilege to be a part of soap because it's part of everyone's lives and you get people saying thank you for making us smile and it's so bizarre but yeah, it's such a privileged position to be in And I can't thank the fans enough for making me feel like one of the luckiest! 

If you are struggling with the similar challenges that Gemma faced, or you know someone who is, visit SEED - the eating disorder support service. Follow @GemmaOaten's journey on Twitter. Watch Gemma talk about her anorexia and more on This Morning earlier this week, as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Thanks for reading!
- Adam!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

An Interview with...Union J

Christmas with Union J!

Union J rose to fame by participating in the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012. Since then, they've had three UK Official Top 40 top ten singles, a top ten studio album and they have even opened for Selena Gomez! Impressive, right? JJ, Jaymi, George and Josh are back with new music and are releasing their fifth single 'You Got It All' from their new album 'You Got It All - The Album'. This winter, Union J will be all around the country meeting fans and promoting their new single. Earlier this month, I talked with them about new music, inspirations, Christmas and a lot more! Here's what happened when I met Union J...

How does it feel to be here, switching on the Meadowhall Christmas Lights?
JJ: Absolutely amazing. We performed here last year and it was a highlight...performing in front of 15,000 people was insane. It's sold out again today and we're looking forward to it. We're really excited. 

So what do you guys have on your Christmas lists this year?
George: One of the John Lewis penguin thingies!
Josh: Yes! The new John Lewis advert is well class. £95 - you can get the official penguin. 
Jaymi: Yeah...or anything from Morrisons. Mossisons vouchers! 

What's your idea of a perfect Christmas?
JJ: Snow!
Me: I don't think we'll be getting that this year...
Josh: I know! We never seem to get any. But it's still quite early.
George: We might get a little white Christmas. 
Jaymi: Family. Family and time off.

When can we expect to hear your next album?
Josh: Next album is officially out on the eighth of December. So it's going to be out on iTunes, it's going to be out in all the Morrisons shops out there, HMV and all of that stuff.
Me: Maybe somebody could buy it with their Morrisons vouchers!
Union J: Yes!! 

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Josh: I think just work hard. I mean, it doesn't happen over night. Obviously, we did The X Factor so it kinda did happen over night for us but before that, we all were in different bands, we all worked really, really hard and stuff. So I think just work hard at what you do and if you put enough time and effort into it, it will pay off. 

So, I've got to ask you because I adore Selena Gomez - what was it like opening for her in Lisbon last year?

George: It was amazing. She's a really lovely girl and and she was really welcoming to her team and everything. They're all really cool people. Had pizza and chilled out afterwards, which was fun!
Josh: Very fun!

Who inspires each of you?
Josh: Jaymi Hensley, I think.
JJ: Yeah, Jaymi Hensley!
Josh: You know, he's had a tough time and he's got through it.
JJ: That's why we're here for him. 
Jaymi: I've come out the other side like a butterfly!
Josh: So yeah, Jaymi.

Here's my signature question...if you could each invite any celebrity or famous person to a dinner party, who would they be and why? 
George: That is a good question...
JJ: Erm...
Josh: Jaymi Hensley, I think...(laughs)
George: I'd invite Miley Cyrus because I think she would be a bit of a party animal. She;d be fun...
Jaymi: The Queen!!
Jaymi: Miley Cyrus is better than the Queen?
George: ...that's the world we live in!
Me: I've met Miley Cyrus, she's lovely...
Jaymi: I've met the Queen. No, I haven't really! 
JJ: I'd invite Simon Cowell. Yeah. He's cool.
Josh: Erm...
George: Me. I'll come with you...
Josh: Justin Bieber! Just to see what he's really like!

Finally, do you have a message for all your fans?
George: Merry Christmas!
JJ: Merry Christmas...we love you so much!
Jaymi: Have a happy new year...
George: Have an absolutely wonderful new year!
Josh: Eat loads of Yorkshire puddings and it's fine to put on a few pounds...I have!
JJ:...and the thingies in sausage and bacon...?
Jaymi: Pigs in blankets!
JJ: Eat lots of them!
George: ...and orange chocolates.
Jaymi: Hope you enjoy the album, and the single.
Josh: Don't go changing. 
JJ: We love you so much!
George: Love you!
Jaymi: Peace out. Merry Christmas!

If you're in Sheffield over the Christmas period, why not take a look at their amazing lights this year?! A festive trip to Meadowhall will most certainly get you into the Christmas spirit if you aren't already! Don't forget to pre-order Union J's album 'You Got It All - The Album' which is out on 8 Decmber and also their new single, which is out at midnight on 30 November. Follow Union J on Twitter for updates on their promotional tour, including signings, TV appearances and a lot more. 

My video interview with Union J will be posted soon, check back @adamiqbal for updates!

Merry Christmas!

- Adam