Jessica Creighton – Your path is your path

In this #YesSheCan blog, we talk to Jessica Creighton. Jessica is a journalist and presenter for Sky Sports News. She talks to us about her career journey, barriers and setbacks and her advice and tips for others.
Can you introduce yourself and explain your career journey?

Hi! I’m Jessica Creighton and I’m a broadcaster that currently works for Sky Sports. Before that I was at the BBC.

I suppose it started for me by studying broadcast journalism at University, graduating from that course and then being awarded a place on the BBC’s trainee scheme. I think a year or two to after, I came out of Uni and then once I was in the BBC, I was able to kind of learn my craft and work my way up from training to where I became a supposed reporter and presenter.

What challenges have you faced in your career and personal life?

I suppose the challenges were ever present. There were challenges because it’s a very competitive industry. In the media industry, there’s always more people that want to be in it than there are jobs available. But also, on top of that, it’s a very traditional medium in that the I suppose ideas and processes that go into making content that goes out on TV and radio is very traditional.

There are people that have been working in their jobs for years and years and years, and there’s a set way of doing things and going outside of that is often very difficult and can be seen as quite risky – and so it’s avoided. So if you come in as a young, fresh black woman offering perhaps different ideas, it’s often met with, not necessarily anger, but perhaps disdain.

I think the barriers that exist there in terms of gender and racism have been kind of well documented, and I suppose I’ve experienced both of those. But there’s also barriers in terms of people’s sexuality, barriers in terms of people’s physical ability. So there are a lot of barriers that the media industry, it can be very same. So anyone outside of the very strict confines of what is seen as ‘normal’ can sometimes find it quite difficult.

Who or what inspires you?

It’s an interesting word, ‘inspires’, because usually when you ask someone that question, the first thing they seem to say is a celebrity who they’ve never met. But I don’t like that.

I find myself very inspired by other black women that have gone through or understand what it means to try and progress in the society with racism, homophobia and still each day waking up, getting up and working out a way of how they can still exist. Not only exist but thrive in that environment that continually puts them down – that’s what inspires me.

So there’s many people that come fall under that bracket that I’ve met throughout my life and they’re the ones that I can relate to and they’re the ones that I feel like ‘well, if they can do it, so can I’. I can draw, like, real strength from watching these other black women take on the world.

“I enjoy it so much that I want to be in this industry and if that means trying to overcome a few barriers whilst I’m here, then so be it.”

What does success and motivation mean for you?

To me (success), I suppose it hasn’t really happened yet. I don’t know, I suppose success is subjective, but I suppose that’s what pushes me on is that I don’t think I have been successful yet. So, I’m going to keep pushing until I feel like I am!

But also, I’m one of those people that when usually someone tells me no, I have a problem with it, so I’m going to try and turn it into a yes. There’s a competitive spirit within me. I’ve always competed in sport; I’ve played football all my life. So, I think there’s a very competitive nature to me and so I’m always striving to be better.

It’s a blessing and a curse, but I also think passion for what I’m doing because I love what I do. What else would I do? If someone tells me no, I can’t do it, then there’s almost no alternative for me – what else am I going to do with my life? I enjoy it so much that I want to be in this industry and if that means trying to overcome a few barriers whilst I’m here, then so be it.

I’m a perfectionist and perfection doesn’t exist. I know this in theory, but what happens in practice is every time I get something wrong, I need to work out why it happened and how I can stop it from happening again. But the thing is about that something is always going to go wrong – I’m working in live TV where literally anything can happen at any point. So, there’s always going to be something that goes wrong.

But for me, I’m always I suppose chasing that perfect on-screen performance. So that is just a part of who I am personally, and I think possibly the media industry, the TV industry attracts those kinds of people and it’s those kinds of people that will stay in the industry when things do get tough, whereas someone might fall away and think it’s not worth it. I’m going to go do something else. Us crazies stay because we’re chasing something, chasing this idea of perfection that never exists.

How can the media ensure they are recognising people?

I actually often wrestle with the idea of “do we need these separate lists?”

Do we need a British LGBT sports person list? Do we need a black football list? In theory, we shouldn’t need it but the reality of it is that these oppressions are occurring, racism is occurring, misogyny is occurring, and it’s very deep-rooted and it’s very structural and institutional.

It’s not something that’s going to be broken down overnight – it’s going to take a fair few generations. What the media needs to do is take a look at itself, look within, because there are a lot of problems within this industry, which is why, these kind of separate lists come about and why different communities feel the need to go their own way and celebrate their own community solely by themselves.

I think the industry needs to look at access into the industry. It’s a very notoriously middle class industry – Why is that? They need to look at the fact that the UK media is 94% white -Why is that? Is that because only 6% worth of people of colour want to work in the media? I don’t think that’s true.

So why is it 94% white? Why are the stats around the LGBTQ+ community in media so shockingly low? Those questions need to be answered – they need to be delved into. They need to be investigated so we can eradicate the barriers that exist for marginalized voices to make this media more diverse, but not just more diverse, more inclusive. It’s all right just trying to (say) ‘Okay, we need to employ a load of black people, but are we including them in the conversations when it comes to making decisions and being in positions of power?’

It’s a lot, but it needs to start – it should have started decades ago and hopefully we’re seeing, I suppose, a shift in mentality where the media is willing now to accept that it has got a problem with race, it has got a problem with gender, it has got a problem with sexuality and physical ability, and perhaps it’s willing to look at itself and change.

Representation is massive, visibility is massive, and I think that’s always been for a long time. My driving force, a lot of the time, when I wanted to give-up and I thought, ‘it’s just not worth it’. There’s been times where I feel like I’m wading through drying cement, but it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than my feelings, it’s bigger than my ego.

I realised that someone has to do it so if not me, who? Someone has to put themselves out there to be that voice, to be on that platform soother young black girls can see that it’s a choice if you want it to be, you could come into this industry. You don’t have to, but it’s there and that’s what drives mean I think trying to make it better I feel like if a young black girl comes into the industry and has the same crappy experiences that I’ve gone through, then I’ve failed.

So I’m working hard for the next generation just to make it a little bit easier. It shouldn’t be as tough as it has been for me, so I would hate for anyone else to have to go through this.

How can the media ensure they are recognising people?

I actually often wrestle with the idea of “do we need these separate lists?”

Do we need a British LGBT sports person list? Do we need a black football list? In theory, we shouldn’t need it but the reality of it is that these oppressions are occurring, racism is occurring, misogyny is occurring, and it’s very deep-rooted and it’s very structural and institutional.

It’s not something that’s going to be broken down overnight – it’s going to take a fair few generations. What the media needs to do is take a look at itself, look within, because there are a lot of problems within this industry, which is why, these kind of separate lists come about and why different communities feel the need to go their own way and celebrate their own community solely by themselves.

I think the industry needs to look at access into the industry. It’s a very notoriously middle class industry – Why is that? They need to look at the fact that the UK media is 94% white -Why is that? Is that because only 6% worth of people of colour want to work in the media? I don’t think that’s true.

So why is it 94% white? Why are the stats around the LGBTQ+ community in media so shockingly low? Those questions need to be answered – they need to be delved into. They need to be investigated so we can eradicate the barriers that exist for marginalized voices to make this media more diverse, but not just more diverse, more inclusive. It’s all right just trying to (say) ‘Okay, we need to employ a load of black people, but are we including them in the conversations when it comes to making decisions and being in positions of power?’

It’s a lot, but it needs to start – it should have started decades ago and hopefully we’re seeing, I suppose, a shift in mentality where the media is willing now to accept that it has got a problem with race, it has got a problem with gender, it has got a problem with sexuality and physical ability, and perhaps it’s willing to look at itself and change.

Representation is massive, visibility is massive, and I think that’s always been for a long time. My driving force, a lot of the time, when I wanted to give-up and I thought, ‘it’s just not worth it’. There’s been times where I feel like I’m wading through drying cement, but it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than my feelings, it’s bigger than my ego.

I realised that someone has to do it so if not me, who? Someone has to put themselves out there to be that voice, to be on that platform soother young black girls can see that it’s a choice if you want it to be, you could come into this industry. You don’t have to, but it’s there and that’s what drives mean I think trying to make it better I feel like if a young black girl comes into the industry and has the same crappy experiences that I’ve gone through, then I’ve failed.

So I’m working hard for the next generation just to make it a little bit easier. It shouldn’t be as tough as it has been for me, so I would hate for anyone else to have to go through this.

“There’s been times where I feel like I’m wading through drying cement, but it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than my feelings, it’s bigger than my ego.”

What do you wish you knew before you started?

I wish I knew that everyone’s journey within this industry is going to be different. So you might look at someone and think, ‘okay, I want to be a presenter on the BBC, I’m going to look at all the presenters on the BBC and see how they did it. Then I’m going to try to emulate that.’ But it’s not going to work that way because you are a different person, your paths are different, your knowledge is different, your experiences are different.

So your path to where you want to get to is going to be different to everyone else. So it almost hinders you by trying to compare your progress with anyone, really, even if they are in a position that you want to be in. Your path is your path, your journey is your journey. That would be the first thing.

And also thick skin. I don’t know if you can teach this or you have to just have it within you – some kind of inner resilience. But in this industry, everyone is going to have an opinion on you, whether you want them to or not, whether you know them or not, particularly if you’re on screen. If you’re on screen, you will have people that you don’t know in the street talking about you, you’ll have your friends saying, ‘oh, we saw you on TV’. You’ll have your family, you’ll have your colleagues, you’ll have your bosses – you’ll have everyone critiquing, perhaps criticising, perhaps praising.

You’ve got to try and block that out almost, because the praise can be, well, it can give you a massive head and it’s not necessarily realistic. Same with the criticism as well, it can really put you in a dark place if you allow it to. But again, you’ve got to kind of take it all with a pinch of salt. The best way to get better is not listening to the outside noise but looking at yourself when you are on-screen and thinking how you can be better yourself.

There’s a lot of personal development that goes on within, I think, whereas people seem to think I’ll employ someone else or get someone else to tell me where I’m going wrong. Usually for me, I find that it comes from within.

I’ve had quite a few unofficial people that have picked up along the way, or they’ve picked me up along the way, and they’ve helped me at moments when I’ve doubted myself, when I’ve wondered whether it’s all worth it, whether I want to continue, whether want to fight on, whether I’m any good. So, it’s really been a godsend and these are people with more experience than me that have seen highs and lows that this industry can bring. They’ve just been so supportive and that would probably be another piece of advice actually, is to try and get yourself a mentor.

How do you make sure you look after yourself?

Just switch off totally and not only switch off 0 no social media, no phone. I like being out in nature, personally, I find it very grounding.

So going outside natural light, wildlife, that helps me – it helps me a lot. Also I have some good people in my life which is great, and that are willing to listen to all my gripes about this crazy industry that I’m in, so that really helps as well.

“Your path is your path, your journey is your journey.”

This #YesSheCan blog was transcribed from a video interview that you can watch in full via our membership. If you want to read more about women in the media industry, read Claire Prykes blog here.

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