With a career in radio and TV spanning two decades, Sara Cox is a professional talker, beloved by her army of listeners for her down-to-earth charm and quick wit.
So it was no surprise that she had a lot to say when we posed some of the big questions to her in the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series – where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Here, the BBC Radio 2 DJ reveals what made her learn about humility, why being famous can be like ‘The Truman Show’, and why her bed is the ultimate snack joint…
What do you do to switch off from the world?
Probably train or work out. I can go for a run or I’ll take the dog and go on the heath. I do love the gym and I love the 35 minute hardcore classes. When I’m riding as well I can’t really think about anything else, especially if you’re going a certain pace on half a tonne of horse, you sort of have to just focus on that!
How do you deal with negativity?
Touch wood I don’t really come up against too much, but if I do on Twitter, I try to block them and move on. Sometimes I answer them back, but I’ll do it in a really chiding way, like a disappointed teacher, rather than being angry. On the whole, I’ve got lovely listeners on Radio 2 and on social media, and all my friends are obviously nice to me! It’s not really real life when you’re a DJ and you turn up to work because everyone is really nice to you all the time. It’s a bit of a Truman Show sometimes being famous, because everyone is really nice to you, makes you coffee and lets you wang on. So when the kids are demanding, I struggle sometimes. I’m like, ‘Hang on a minute don’t you know who I am?!’
When and where are you happiest?
Probably in bed. I know that’s really lazy but I love being in bed. I love going to bed early and I love snuggling up to my husband Ben, then the kids will come and join us, but they’ll usually be a brioche or a piece of banana or cheese in our bed, and the dog will be in there too, so it’s not really a passion pit as much of a kind of snack joint. I also love having no plans – that’s when I’m happiest, when I have no plans for the weekend. Ooh, and I like to have my iPad on the go if I’m all curled up.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
An executive producer years ago, right at the start of my career, did say to me when someone tells you something that you’ve done a bit wrong, don’t explain why you did it, just change your behaviour and do it as they’ve asked. I’m always apologising and explaining myself, and sometimes it’s just better to crack on and take the criticism and take their direction.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
I guess I was quite spoilt at the start of my career because you imagine that things are going to go swimmingly without much effort, but over the years I’ve grown up and matured and I’ve got a bit more humility. It takes a few, shall we say, quieter moments in your career for you to pull your socks up and realise that you’ve got to always do your best, because someone is always waiting to take your place. So I’ve learnt a lot about those moments where I think, ‘Oh shit, I’m actually going to have to get a proper job,’ and then at the last minute something comes in because that’s kind of the life of a freelancer. What I’ve learned over the years this is to just treat people well and do your best, because people will want to work with you.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Probably not to have a spiral perm, but it was the done thing. But the perm I had before it was quite Deirdre Barlow-esque and bouffanty with big curls. I had it done at my mum’s local place in Bolton. But seriously, it would probably be to work bloody harder at school because I didn’t really give a monkey’s – I didn’t really enjoy school.
What three things are at the top of your to-do list?
I’d like to play Polo because I’ve done racing and done showjumping, it’s a big ambition. I have never been to Thailand so I need to get around to that, and I’m always going on about learning Italian but I’ve never got around to that either. I can speak a bit of Pidgin French leftover from my school days though!
What do you think happens when we die?
I think your body is just a vehicle that carries your spirit and your soul, and then when you die I go… I go to Cowley Manor sometimes, which is a lovely posh hotel and they’ve got this amazing slate swimming pool, and I always think it reminds me that you’d just go towards dark, warm water. I don’t know if that’s a great advert for Cowley Manor but it’s a beautiful swimming pool and you feel all sort of ethereal and otherworldly. And then I think you go and wait in a beige waiting room while someone tots up all your good deeds and bad deeds and then makes a decision as to what you’re reincarnated as.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I go to a synagogue occasionally because my husband is Jewish, and it’s quite nice just to sit there and think about how you can be a good person. I don’t really picture a man with a big beard but it is quite nice just to think about how you been behaving and if you have been a good person and maybe you how you can help other people. And it’s quite nice because there’s no phones or screens or anything to distract you, so you kind of just have to concentrate on yourself.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
I think I’m quite nurturing because I like looking after people and I like making them laugh, often simultaneously. And I can make good roast potatoes.
What keeps you grounded?
Oh three kids, god! That’s all you need. They don’t really give a monkey’s what I do, I’m just mummy to them. You can’t help but be grounded, but my husband does as well because he’s the least showbizzy, showy-off person in the world, and he wouldn’t be with me if I was some sort of starry-behaving prima donna.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
I went riding on the Isle of Wight during half-term and it was really nice. We went on a beach ride but Renee, my five-year-old, lost her purple rosette that she got, and she was gutted. But they sent it back in the post, which I thought was a very nice act.
Sara Cox’s Sound Of The 80s airs Saturdays from 10pm-midnight on BBC Radio 2.