BBC presenter - Noreen Khan - opens up to our celebrity makeup artist Kaniz Ali, in an exclusive interview.
CEO: Zahraa Saifullah
Managing Director: Nashmia Amir Butt
Front Cover Creative Director: Kaniz Ali
Photography: Sanae Rasul
Hair/MakeUp/Styling: Kaniz Ali assisted by Sibgha Batool
Outfit: Bibi London
Grazia: What inspired you to go into radio / tv presenting?
Noreen: I grew up being immersed in music because of my mum. She’d always have records playing and would take me to the cinema from the age of 3 to watch Bollywood movies. So I developed a passion for music and at school started playing the violin, oboe and was in the steel band for 6 years. I knew then that I’d need to go into a profession that involved music somehow and that’s how I ended up in radio. Having then done radio for a few years it was a natural transition to get into TV presenting too. I love being behind the mic and in front of the camera, if it involves talking and entertaining people then I’m there!
Grazia: You were one of the first radio hosts to make it at the top of your game. You came from a time where hosting wasn’t encouraged as much as becoming a doctor / lawyer / accountant. Can you tell us about your journey?
Noreen: My first proper job was at the age of 19 working in a bank. I did this for 2 years and soon realised it just wasn’t for me and I had to wear a dull uniform which made it even harder, haha! I suppose even as a teenager I was a nonconformist, all my friends went to university but I decided I’d get straight into the world of work and set up my own business. I first did banking, then set up my own business at the age of 21 and I worked in a school for a while too. Again, I knew I couldn’t do a normal 9-5 office job, I needed a career where I could express myself, have fun, be creative and entertain others. I was so fortunate that I had fantastic, progressive and open minded parents who encouraged me no matter what I decided to do. I also used to listen to the radio a lot and always thought it seemed like a really cool and interesting job. I love the intimacy of radio in the sense it’s really just you and that person listening in and you’re connecting without seeing each other. Oh, and it meant I got to play lots of music. So, I started volunteering in my local hospital radio and from there got a break at a commercial station in London. Then I got headhunted to join BBC Asian Network and have been on an amazing radio journey ever since. Last year I did quite a bit of telly work too and can’t wait for everyone to watch BBC 2’s ‘Back In Time for Birmingham’ which I’ve presented and it airs this summer.
Grazia: What are the pros and cons of becoming a radio presenter?
Noreen: I mean the pros are endless – it’s a job which gives you the privilege of connecting with your listeners all around the world, you get to interview some incredible people, you’re playing awesome music and at the same time you can build a fantastic relationship with the listeners. I could go on and on but honestly it’s a job which has brought me a lot of joy over the years and it’s never really felt like work. Having said that, a lot of hard work does go into presenting and putting a show together but it’s insanely good fun too. For me there aren’t many cons apart from the fact you end up stressing over being late for the show – I literally used to have nightmares about this happening!
Grazia: You are one of the most listened to radio presenters. What do you think makes you stand out from everyone else?
Noreen: I never went into radio thinking I’m going to try and stand out or do things to make myself sound different from the others, it just sort of happened. When I am on the radio, it feels so natural to me that I feel like I’m sitting in my lounge chatting with my mate. I think listeners simply find me relatable, I talk about things which they also talk about. I watch and do things that they like to do too. I’m very passionate about things like sports, especially football and cricket. I love yoga, I watch Pakistani dramas, I love Bollywood music especially the classics and I share all my interests with them. So, my listeners, who I call my khandaan, know exactly what I’m into and through the show and social media I get to know what they love and I bring those things in. For me, my listeners are the stars of my show, yes it’s great to get celebrities on but for me personally it’s all about them. I genuinely have a good laugh with them, their texts and emails into the show are sometimes hilarious and I think they like my sense of humour as it can be a little bizarre at times haha!
Grazia: Talk us through a typical week in the life of Noreen Khan?
Noreen: I’m on the radio Monday to Thursday from 11am to 3pm. On Fridays I try to have a little break but it doesn’t always work out as I usually get asked to host something or be somewhere and if it interests me I end up going. Over the years I’ve hosted and been part of endless events, it’s actually a very big part of my career. On the weekends if I’m not hosting an event or doing stand up comedy I try to catch up with my family or close friends. I love hanging out with my family, I’m the youngest of 8 siblings so I have a lot of family to see when I have time. Oh, and I spend a lot of time doing yoga.
Grazia: What are your 3 make-up must-haves?
1) Concealer – it’s a must!
2) Blusher – all about the cheeks
3) Lippy – I do love a bit of colour on my lips!
Grazia: If you were not a presenter, what would you be?
Noreen: Oh, now that’s a tough one, probably quite a few things! Maybe an actress, motivational speaker, designer, yoga teacher just to give you an idea. Yes it’s pretty varied.
Grazia: What’s the best advice you can give to someone who is thinking of heading into a career of radio and TV presenting?
Noreen: Firstly ask yourself why you want to do it and how badly you want it and then go from there. Get to know the radio station you want a show on, like get obsessed and know everything about its output. Get radio miles under your belt via voluntary work or ask to shadow and get some experience if you can so you get an idea of what the work is like. Once you feel you are up for the task, take yourself and your personality to the airwaves or on TV.
Grazia: What does the future hold for Noreen Khan? What are your plans 2022 / 2023?
Noreen: My plans are to do more TV work, comedy related work, travel more and I’m working on my yoga Youtube Channel. I actually recently passed my yoga course which means I can now teach, even though that’s not a priority but I do want to share my knowledge via free YouTube videos. I cannot wait for others to benefit from yoga like I personally have.
Grazia: Tell us about your new show soon to be aired on UK’s BBC 2?
Noreen: I’m so excited about this show! BBC 2’s ‘Back In Time For Birmingham’ will follow a modern-day family of British Asians who go back in time to experience what life in the city was like for previous generations. It’s going to be a really important, informative show educating the viewers on the struggles, hardships and achievements of our South Asian grandparents and parents from when they arrived in the 1950s. I’m so proud to have presented this 4-part series as it really does celebrate the vital contributions South Asians have made and continue to make in the UK. The show will also celebrate the city of Birmingham.
Grazia: What are your top 2 favourite holiday destinations and why?
1) Istanbul – simply love this city. Been around 5 times!
2) Pakistan – naturally because my parents were born there. I’ve only been a few times but have loved every trip. There’s so much still to see and explore and that’s something I’m planning to do in the near future.
Grazia: What do you like doing in your spare time?
Noreen: Yoga, lots of it and I’m still studying it in my spare time as it’s an endless learning journey. I love horses and am trying to improve my horse riding skills, it’s a slow process! I enjoy travelling and am really keen to see more of this beautiful planet we live on. I love eating out, listening to music and watching interesting shows and docs.
Grazia: How would your friends and family describe you?
Noreen: Oh, wow, where do I start? They’d probably say I’m funny (which I am!) quirky, adventurous, driven, hard working and just generally fun to be around. I could write more but then it might make me look a little sad (haha)!
Grazia: What are the qualities you look for in your ideal man?
Noreen: Here’s my list!! (Please take note)
1) Kind and caring – has to have a good and kind heart. Not into bad boys or meanies.
2) Good sense of humour- not take himself too seriously. We need to have a laugh!
3) Adventurous – I like a man who wants to explore, is inquisitive about life and can be spontaneous at times too.
4) Has to be into health and fitness – it’s important to me that a man knows how to respect and take care of his mind and body. It’s something we all need to do.
5) Someone I can have good, long, deep chats with. I’m quite philosophical and a deep thinker at times and it’s important that I can nourish and feed my mind in a healthy way with someone.
6) Lastly, if he happens to look remotely like Keanu Reeves or has his type of thing going on then that’s a bonus too, haha!