Clara Amfo on conquering nerves and pursuing dreams

·5-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Fast becoming a national treasure, Clara Amfo is a much-beloved radio DJ, TV presenter and, yes, ballroom dancing triumph. Her career has taken her from an internship at Kiss FM (where she eventually landed on-air spots through sheer determination) to presenting at the BAFTAs, interviewing Billie Eilish at the singer's personal request, and taking over the revered 6pm spot on Radio 1 from the iconic DJ Annie Mac.

Here, she shares with Bazaar what she has learnt along the way, and just what it takes to succeed in broadcasting.

You have to love talking to people

"It sounds really obvious, but that was one of the things that got me into broadcasting. I just love talking to people, and especially about things I love: music, the arts, film. I love conversation and I love people who are passionate about what they do, particularly in these fields. You have to bring that enthusiasm to a job like this; you have to like connecting with people in that way because that's what is going to make you good at it."

Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images
Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images

Be confident, not entitled

"There is a very thin line between confidence and entitlement. I was always taught to be confident but not to insist anybody owed me anything. I just had confidence because I knew I needed to be doing this and that if I didn't put myself forward, no one would. I would always say when I was an intern with my old boss that if anyone was ever sick, or he needed anyone over Christmas, I would help out doing anything. We would play a game of guessing music intros where the catchphrase becam, 'If you get three in a row, you can get a show.' Eventually I did."

Cultivate your own fearlessness

"Live TV and radio - it's never not scary! Don't get me wrong, we've all got our insecurities and fears, but when push comes to shove, you've got to be pretty fearless to do it. Whatever is happening in your head or (quite literally) in your ear, you have to be composed. What makes me achieve that composure is remembering that it is all about trust. If you were put at the front of the TV show or any kind of project, it's because the producer trusts you. If you can channel that trust, it will calm your nerves. Just keep remembering that they put you there for a reason: you can do this.

"Of course you still get everyday nerves. For that, it's a case of literally breathing in and out slowly. The most important thing that I do is also to slow everything down when I talk. Everybody has a tendency when they get nervous to speak fast. Remembering to slow my speech is actually also really good at keeping me calm in general."

Be prepared to multitask

"Broadcasting is never just one thing - and I actually love that. I think if you're in this industry you have to be prepared to be flexible and versatile and put your hands to a lot of things. They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I'm certainly that; my to-do list is so long, with radio shows and TV gigs and podcasts, but I love the challenge and having lots of projects on the go."

Quiet your own self-doubt

"Imposter syndrome is something that I think we could talk about until the cows come home. I don't think there's a single interview I've ever read with anybody who does a public-facing job, where there isn't an aspect of feeling like you aren't right for it. We all have our own reasons for that - whether it is class, race, gender, sexuality, or how you you define yourself. All of those things can make you doubt why you belong in a room, right?

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

"But I think there comes a point - I think, for me, it came as a lockdown analysis - where you realise you just don't have the energy to feel that way. Whenever I did, I just told myself: you're not here by accident, people keep employing you. It's a very simple way of thinking, but I think you can navel gaze too much and get into your head. When you do that, you fall apart."

Don't take rejection personally

"In every career, but especially broadcasting, you are going to hear 'no' a lot and you need to be OK with that. Even now, I sill hear 'no'! But I have come to the conclusion that everything happens for a reason. Oprah Winfrey something similar to me when I was lucky enough to meet her, and it really stuck with me: 'Everything you've done has led you to this moment.'"

Always be yourself

"When you're broadcasting, you are putting yourself out there and it needs to be an authentic you. That's what's going to make you special and unique: being you is what you have to offer. Especially as a woman - and as a Black woman - I know that I can make myself more palatable if I present my hair in a particular way or if I dress in a particular way, but I just know I would be doing a disservice to myself.

"It's the same with my work ethic; I always choose projects that are authentic to me. I never work with a product I would never use myself. That's the best advice I could give someone wanting to get into this field: do it because you love the work. It's a tough industry and it's competitive, so you have to really be in it because it is authentically your passion."

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