“Hosting GAY TIMES Honours was one of the best days of my life, ever,” says Harriet Rose. “I kept having to pinch myself. Doing what I love and hosting for the gay community, it meant so much to me that I was chosen. It was mind-blowing.” Last year, the KISS FM Breakfast Show alum and presenter celebrated queer culture and community as the host of our fifth annual ceremony, alongside drag entertainer, comedian and author Tom Rasmussen; leading the evening through inspirational speeches and show-stopping performances from stars such as Baby Queen, Raye, Poppy Ajudha, and Rina Sawayama. Honours was a “monumental” moment for Harriet and her career, she admits, because she never thought she would be able to be “out-and-proud” in her industry “or even talk about” her sexuality so openly. “I never imagined I could be on the radio with two straight men, and they would be bantering with me about being single and not being able to get a girlfriend,” continues Harriet. “I’m able to talk about being a lesbian when we have four-and-a-half million listeners. I’m so happy and proud of my journey.”
As well as KISS FM, Harriet has interviewed a plethora of stars at the BRIT Awards, MTV EMA’s and hosted MTV Push Live events, BUILD Series LDN and Heat’s Under the Duvet, Love Island’s official spin-off show. She’s received acclaim for her quintessentially British and nonchalant approach to interviews with talent such as Sam Smith, Dua Lipa, Little Mix, Lil Nas X, Lizzo and [insert any A-List name here, she’s interviewed them all]. More recently, she had a beautiful and profound conversation with the latter about… “wieners and weird noises”. “People always ask if I’m a journalist, I say no. I couldn’t be further from a journalist,” she says. “I’m never looking for a story. In fact, I’m actively looking for something that isn’t a story that might become a story. […] I want them to walk away and go, ‘I would do that again.’ That’s what creates a good interview.”
In this interview, Harriet discusses her illustrious career so far, why she’s “never had a plan B” and her “goal” to “talk about queerness in every scenario possible”. At the wheel of an Audi in this special digital cover shoot, Harriet Rose is on the high road to fulfilling her dreams as an EGOT winner (that last bit will make sense later).
Harriet, you look absolutely bloody gorgeous in this shoot.
I’m very self deprecating and I usually hate every photo of me, but Jesus wept! Morgan [Hill-Murphy] really pulled it out the bag. I’m quite nervous about this because I’m usually the one that does the interviews! I’m never the interviewee. I think I’ve been interviewed one or two times in my whole career and it’s definitely not in my comfort zone.
Don’t worry, you’ve got me babe. It will be a laugh.
I know I’m in safe hands hun.
Let’s start with an easy question. Who is the worst person you’ve ever interviewed?
Honestly, I’ve never had anyone be horrendous to me. I’ve never had anyone be rude. A lot of the time you just have people who are boring, I could have literally shat on the floor or done a cartwheel with my fanny out and they would still not notice. One of my key skills is bringing people out of their shell, so it very rarely happens that I can’t get something out of them.
I was cackling at your most recent interview with Lizzo.
I love Lizzo. I interviewed her in person before she became massive, when she had an album called Lizzo Bangers, which was more hip-hop and rap. I was obsessed with her. I’ve still got the album. I remember at this time being obsessed with her and then all of a sudden it blew up. But I feel like she knew, she was on the precipice and then she just exploded. Now, every time I interview her, it’s the most fun thing in the world. When I meet a kindred spirit, there are few of them that are as weird as me. Lizzo being one of them, also Dua Lipa, Little Mix and Anne Marie, they are just funny girls who are great fun to be around. My favourite thing is connecting with people, especially if they are as weird as me. With Lizzo, we spoke about wieners and weird noises, everything that comes into my head, and there is a lot of weird stuff that comes into my head and out my mouth straight away so I get a lot of weird stuff from interviews. That’s why when people always ask if I am a journalist, I say no. I couldn’t be further from a journalist. It’s something that I’ve morally stuck with from the very beginning. Even when I’ve had a small show, like on FUBAR, I’m never looking for a story. In fact, I’m actively looking for something that isn’t a story that might become a story. For me, it’s about organically making that person have a really good time, which comes hand-in-hand with them then saying something about themselves that’s personal and giving an insight into who they are that you might not get elsewhere. For me, I want them to walk away and go, ‘I would do that again.’ That’s what creates a good interview.
Harriet, take me back. Did you always want to be a presenter? Was that always the dream?
No actually, I wanted to be an actor. I don’t remember ‘presenter’ being a job in my head when I was younger. I used to do all the public speaking at school and all the shows. I was Nancy in Oliver. I also played Bugsy Malone in Busgy Malone. I’m just that kind of girl – loud and shouty. I went to Goldsmiths and did drama there. At the end of the three years, this teacher turned to me and said, ‘You’re not very good at being other people, you are really good at being you though.’ I thought, ‘That’s bitchy!’ I was so upset at the time, but then I realised she is completely right. I’m so good at being an exaggerated version of myself. I’m good at being on stage and being loud and funny. So I thought, ‘What job could I do that in?’ Someone said something about presenting and I thought, ‘Oh my god. That’s exactly what I want to do. I love music and all my friends at Goldsmiths were musicians.’ It was perfect. I remember saying to people, ‘I live and breathe acting, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else!’ and the minute the idea of presenting came into my head it was all I wanted to do. But, I’m not saying I wouldn’t act in the future…
You still have time to get your Academy Award.
That’s correct. What’s that thing when you get one of each?
An EGOT! Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Yeah, I’m waiting for my EGOT, but I’ll wait for one award before I get too cocky. Although, I was once in a music video for my mate’s band called Jenners Field. I fancied the boy who played my boyfriend in it. In the video, he was not very nice to me and was drinking and driving, so my character died. There was a car crash and I went through the window. I cannot tell you how much I lived for the drama though. It was the most dramatic shoot, there were bits of glass all over me. I was awful in it but it was fun.
Was this inspired by Marissa’s death scene in The OC?
I think, maybe, my brain was like, ‘Channel her!’ Mischa Barton, always. Mischa in Notting Hill is my muse. But, that was the only foray I had into acting where I thought I was like Oscar-winning Judy Dench. I’m focusing on the presenting for now, but if someone asks me to play Nancy in Oliver I’ll be there in a heartbeat.
And I will be there, reviewing your performance in the front row. I’ll give you five stars, don’t worry. So, which presenters did you look up to when you were younger?
Davina McCall, 100%. Streetmate, that energy of chaos. I also love Emma Willis. I think there are so many incredible female presenters. But at the time when I was younger, June Sarpong and Davina McCall were my two inspirations, I wanted to be like them. Streetmate, T4, Big Breakfast and TGI Friday with Chris Evans, that was the show that I wanted to host. That and The Graham Norton Show, those big starlet shows with pure bonkers personality-based interviewing, that was the dream.
You would be a shoo-in to host Big Brother if/when it makes a comeback.
I would love to host Big Brother. Do you want another one? I do a Love Island show called Under the Duvet with Chris Taylor, he’s amazing. I have bought him a pair of boxes with my face on, he loves them. I really got into Love Island, I’ve always loved reality TV. I was able to bring the fun, the crazy and the weird and get the personalities and the real side of them. And alongside that looking after the mental health side too. I would love to do something like Big Brother and bring that energy, I feel like they are bringing it back.
There’s been rumblings.
Let’s campaign for me to host it.
At least Big Brother’s Bit on the Side.
Let’s hope! I just love working with people. I think they did this study about reality TV which said it was such a comfort to people. When done right and done safely, I think it’s a fun thing for people to enjoy. I would love to host Big Brother. It would be a dream. I remember when it used to be wild.
What have you learned about the entertainment industry, having been in it for a few years now?
What I’ve learned is to listen to your intuition. A lot of people have opinions about things and want to sway you one way or another. You need to learn to listen to yourself or you really can get lost inside the industry and it will swallow you whole. That comes with making friends. I’ve been in this industry for a minute now. I’ve got some really close friends and colleagues that you can see are your people. I’m good at finding my people now. I’ve got some gorgeous huns. If you want to do this, you need to want it more than you want anything else. I remember a guy saying to me when I was 24, ‘You’re running out of time, you’re not going to get hired.’ I walked away and I cried for a bit. Then I thought, ‘Fuck that guy! Anyone telling me I’m running out of time or I’m not in the right place is wrong.’ No one has ever said, ‘Don’t do this job because you aren’t good enough,’ or that I need plan B. I’ve never had a plan B and I never will. Then, I got put on one of the biggest breakfast shows in the UK. Listen to your gut, because there is nothing more important than your own opinion of yourself and what you are doing. Naysayers are always going to be about. If you believe you are in the right career, then keep going because it will happen.
I assume that was a white straight man?
It was a white straight man, what a shock! And it’s happened a few times and it’s always been men. When I came to KISS, my boss was a young, experienced woman in radio. She saw me and had been following me for a while. She saw past following, she didn’t pick me because I was an influencer. She literally watched my videos for years and wanted me on the show. There are going to be people who see you and your talent and get you to where you need to go. Without those people in my life, I would not be where I am today. So many people have helped me because they believe in me and care about me. That is what means the world to me in this industry, those people who have grown with me. It’s why I want to do stuff for other people too. That’s why I want to help people who want advice too. I do DJ nights where I bring on young female DJ’s, as when I was starting there were not that many. It’s about paving the way forward and keeping the good people close.
You are loud and proud about your queerness on social media. When you wanted to break through the industry, did you ever think this was a possibility for you?
No. Oh, I nearly got emotional when I said that. When you said that, it was triggering because I never thought that I would be able to do this out-and-proud, or even talk about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I remember when it first registered in my head that I fancied girls, I cried for about two weeks. I didn’t want it, because I already thought I wasn’t good enough and if I’m adding being queer into the mix it’s othering myself even more, because my self-esteem was zero. I want to spread this awareness about gay culture, queer life and how it’s okay. Whatever the spectrum of sexuality you sit on, it’s okay. I make it my life’s mission. I’m in talks with a documentary about it at the moment, which I’m really excited about; talking about my queer journey and how I never felt gay enough and how I never fitted with the gay community or the straight community. It was all because of my own insecurity and my own internal homophobia and fear of being rejected and abandoned, fear of people not loving me. When I talk about it and I see people’s parents messaging me on Instagram, saying their 12-year-old listened to me do a podcast about being queer… I don’t know why I’m crying!
Stop, you’re going to make me bloody cry…
I never imagined I could be on the radio with two straight men and they would be bantering with me about being single and not being able to get a girlfriend. I’m able to talk about being a lesbian when we have four-and-half million listeners. If I had that when I was younger, maybe I would have realised I was gay. I wouldn’t have waited until I was 23. I’m so happy and proud of my journey, and of everyone who helped me learn about queer culture and its history. It made me feel like I could talk about it in a succinct way. My goal in life is to talk about queerness in every scenario possible. You can fancy whoever you want and align with whatever sexuality you think you are. So many girls I talk to struggle with bisexuality, they are so scared to go on a date with a girl and have it not work or change their mind. I always think that’s the same as going on a date with a guy you’re not sure you fancy. You aren’t committing to being in a relationship or being monogamous with someone by going on a date with them. If I’d have realised that, I would have been able to come out at 16/17 and not be internally homophobic for five years. I’ve got young people around me who I am close with who are queer and they talk to me about how they feel about it, and that is so important.
So, what was it like for you then, hosting GAY TIMES Honours in a room surrounded by queer people?
Hosting Honours was one of the best days of my life, ever. Tom Rasmussen was the most incredible human being. The moment we met, we had synergy. They were very inspirational to me on the night and I loved every second of it. Actually hosting that, I kept having to pinch myself. Doing what I love and hosting for the gay community, it meant so much to me that I was chosen. It was mind-blowing. People were laughing, people were listening and people were engaged throughout. I loved every second of it, it was such a monumental experience for me. I am so unbelievably proud to be queer and be part of this community now. I’m so overwhelmed with joy and pride and also like… What the hell?! I’m having a lot of, in the last year or two, these huge pinch me moments. Hosting Honours was one of my biggest pinch me moments.
Harriet, what other projects have you got lined up? Reveal all!
Hosting Under the Duvet, a Love Island show with Chris Taylor, doing some presenting at Brighton Pride. I have my own stage Harriet’s House Party at Smoked & Uncut Festival. I’m on Kiss Breakfast and have a KISSTORY show every Sunday from one until four pm, and also I’m playing live at KISSTORY Ibiza in the summer. I am also really excited for my partnership with Truly. We’ve got some really exciting things coming up over the summer.