Anita Rani shares her experience of racism and being called the P-word in a work environment

·5 min read
TV Presenter Anita Rani poses for photographers upon arrival at the National Lottery Awards, in central London, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)
TV Presenter Anita Rani poses for photographers upon arrival at the National Lottery Awards, in central London, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)

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Anita Rani has spoken out about the time she was called the P-word in the pub with work friends and how it was a 'real catalyst' behind her decision to write her autobiography.

She opened up to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time about writing The Right Sort Of Girl, and spoke about how she felt looking back on the experience.

The Countryfile and Woman's Hour presenter said normally she speaks up when she hears racism or injustice, but that at the time she didn't know how to react.

She said: "That spun me out. That was a real catalyst for this book as well, that moment where that happened in a work environment.

WATCH: Anita Rani on writing about her childhood, competing in Strictly, clinching Woman's Hour and channeling Kate Bush

"[I was] out for a drink with some people from work, I will say no more. And then somebody dropped the P-bomb and just called me the P-word to my face. And the context is, I don't know what the context is. There's never a context. 

"Someone said: 'Oh was it a joke?' I mean, it was a joke, but it's never a joke is it? It's not funny. And it made me feel really... I laughed it off. 

Anita Rani is proud to have been on 'Strictly', but admits she would love to have won. (Getty Images)
Anita Rani is proud to have been on 'Strictly', but admits she would love to have won. (Getty Images)

"And even now, I feel like: 'Who the hell was that? Like, what is that?' 

"Who am I? I can be in my nail salon, and if I hear anything vaguely racist I've been known to just step in and go: 'No, stop it.' I'll stop and defend people and I just couldn't defend myself. 

Listen to the full episode and hear Anita Rani talk about how she met her husband, what music means to her, and the importance of calling out racism

"And it really spun me out and made me want to think about who I'd become, and why that had happened. And why was I that bloody grateful to be in that space? And to own who I am a bit more like, find my confidence. 

"So yeah, I do talk about work. But from my own experience, these are the things that I have felt. 

Read more: Anita Rani speculates she would have made 'Strictly' final 'if I didn't have a brown face'

"Sometimes talking about race historically — or not even historically — it's just very difficult subject to cover because instantly people get really prickly and instantly want to make a judgement: 'Oh, she's saying that she's had it harder.'

"I'm like: 'Look, if we want to have a conversation about experience, then listen to what people have to say. Don't take it personally. Just listen.'

"I'm also writing [the book] for other women, not just South Asian women, but other women. And we just know, we know what we've had to navigate. We know that we are undervalued.

"We know that we've had to deal with casual sexism. We know the whole 'Me Too' movement has blown the lid on bulls***. 

"I started working in TV 20 years ago, I moved to London in 2001. And there was no one like me in the landscape. 

"And I worked in music and loved it, like you. At the time I didn't think about it, [I] was just like, right, I love it. I've got energy, and you do in your 20s and London's amazing and just having a whale of a time!

Read more: Anita Rani reveals lockdown helped with her recovery after miscarriage

"Looking back, actually, I've had to really navigate and kind of twist, turn and have to constantly explain who I am and been told things like: 'Oh, you might be a bit of a risk.'"

"I feel like if we don't use our platforms now and speak like you say, we've been quiet — you're made to feel grateful. I've been called chippy. If I say anything. Like, what? What does that even mean? And then classic — just angry woman."

Saved by a Stranger, presented by Anita Rani (Blink Films/Toby Trackman)
Saved by a Stranger, presented by Anita Rani (Blink Films/Toby Trackman)

Rani also talked about writing the book as a way to give a voice to the women from her family who had not been able to speak out.

She told Thornton: "I'd had a conversation with my mum. I talked to my mum throughout writing the book saying that I'm going to go there.

"I'm going to say things, I'm going to talk about things and she said: 'I want you to get it off your chest. And I want you to say what I got wrong because I didn't know any better.'

"And then she said: 'I want you to speak for me because I was never able to. Because as a generation there's so many of us who can't speak for ourselves, so be our voice.'"

Buy it: The Right Sort of Girl by Anita Rani | £11.59 Was £16.99) from Amazon

WATCH: Anita Rani opens up about overcoming her experiences of self harm

Anyone affected by the issues raised in this story can read more get support on the Mind website.

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