Along with being the founder of Wonder Women TV …
Ria Hebden has interviewed some of the biggest names in showbiz. She has also had a long-standing career as a presenter championing women and diversity in media which notably landed her a nomination as ‘Presenter of the Year‘ by the 2018 Diversity in Media Awards.
Ria is now the lead co-host of BBC Sunday Morning Live alongside Sean Fletcher, making them the 1st mixed race couple to front a BBC daytime series – an interactive magazine show tackles the big topics of the week from hard-hitting debate to heartwarming chat and features.
We caught up with Ria to speak about her new gig on the BBC…
Congratulations on your new job co-presenting Sunday Morning Live with Sean Fletcher. It’s interesting you will be the first mixed-race couple presenting a BBC daytime show. How do you feel being a part of history from this perspective?
I’m incredibly proud to be making history, representation plays such an impactful role in influencing how people view what is possible for themselves. We can’t be, what we can’t see and so, I hope by Sean and I presenting the new series of Sunday Morning Live together, it will attract new audiences and inspire the next generation who want to pursue a career in Television. One of the things that attracted me most to Sunday Morning Live was its commitment to representation and diversity – so I hope we can keep seeing improvements in this area.
You previously worked on ITV’s This Morning and BBC Two’s It Takes Two, is there anything that you have taken from working on these shows that you have further developed working on Sunday Morning Live?
The live experiences I’ve had working on both shows has sharpened my ability to think on my feet as anything can happen in live TV. Most importantly though, it’s taught me to just be myself and to go with the flow. Everything you need is already within you.
How do you balance co-hosting with Sean? Had you worked together before?
This is the first time Sean and I have worked together and we get on really well, which is great. The production team is amazing, so I feel very at home with them and Sean, which makes working together fun.
What can we expect from the change in the dynamics of the show?
In addition to co-presenting the live show every Sunday with Sean, I’ll also feature in the VT’s interviewing guests about their faith and topical issues which is great, as I’m passionate about telling new stories and I like to get out and about to speak to different people.
What’s been the most enjoyable part of being involved in Sunday Morning Live?
I love the fact that there are so many different elements of the show, from filming on location to the ‘review of the week‘ where we discuss topical news stories with guests live on the sofa. I particularly like the interactive demonstrations Sean and I get to do outside of the studio on the piazza, you’ll have seen he was quite nervous when we both recently took part in the Sikh martial art, Gatka. There’s never a dull day.
How are the topics chosen, is any topic off limit and are there any topics coming up that the audience should look forward to?
A team of producers along with the editor, decide which topics are covered in the series. What I love is how collaborative the approach is, everyone’s contributions are welcomed. I’ve pitched a few ideas of my own which you’ll be seeing during the series which is exciting. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing British perfumer, Jo Malone CBE who is one of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs. She was absolutely fascinating to interview, she has this almost super-human gift of being able to smell everything. An incredible woman who overcame adversity with an unwavering faith in God.
How does this show fit in with your ethos on diversity and equality for women’s rights?
I think the programme does a really good job of covering a broad range of stories and topical issues that affects us and gets us talking. While crucially, featuring a diverse range of guests and presenters from all walks of life, with different opinions to discuss them. This is what truly appeals to audiences – seeing their cultures, beliefs and themselves reflected. Being part of Sunday Morning Live really feels congruent with my passion for storytelling and for promoting diversity.
We last spoke to you in 2017 when you were about to launch your platform Wonder Women, since then we’ve seen WW grow and become an important vehicle for keeping the conversation about how women can further their careers in the industry going … tell us a bit about how you grew WW and how you plan to keep it evolving …
After launching the inspirational digital talk show on wonderwomentv.com I decided to host a live event because viewers contacted me to say they loved the show but would also like the opportunity to connect with some of the women who featured in the series. Because I have years of experience working in live events, it felt like the natural next step. We hold it on International Women’s day and each year, it’s become bigger and better as three incredible women share their story in front of an audience of 100 people which is then followed by structured power-networking.
It’s been incredibly humbling to hear that many women have found mentors and got jobs through coming, or that it just gave them the nudge to take a leap of faith to pursue their dream careers. Next month, we launch the Wonder Women podcast which I’m really excited about, it features interviews with the female, high-flyers of the creative industries. Broadcaster and Author, June Sarpong and ITV’s Head of Daytime, Emma Gormley are just two of the incredible women that I interview in the series, who both give revealing insights into what it’s like to be a woman in Television.
You are a busy woman who also has a family, how do you manage work-life balance – family time, personal time vs. reaching your work and life goals?
It’s about focus and being organised. I structure my time to allow me to prepare for creative projects well in advance. I forward plan as much as I can and have a support network to step in to help me with childcare when ad-hoc opportunities come up. While being a freelance parent brings its own challenges, I have the support of my husband who also works in the industry and understands the demands of the job. We bend to support one another’s goals and prioritise family-time.
Three tips for budding presenters …?
Get as much experience as you can interviewing people in different environments to build up a showreel of work. Producers want to see how you are interacting with people and what you look and sound like.
Attend industry events to expand your network and connect with the movers and shakers of the industry and follow the things that excite you.
My passion for Television and genuine interest in people and their stories is undeniable, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and you can see it in my eyes when I’m filming that I am genuinely loving what I’m doing. Follow your passion, you’ll never look back. Good-luck!
Sunday Morning Live airs every Sunday at 11.30am on BBC One.