London Hughes, a former children’s TV host and regular on Blue Peter, used the almost farcical scene to demonstrate how broadcasters are falling behind on diversity and illustrate the ‘well-intentioned’ racism that she regularly encounters.
‘I asked my producer to ask her what she put on my face and she confessed that it was hot chocolate. In her defence, she didn’t put Tesco’s own brand on there, it was Waitrose organic at least.’Ms Hughes, 29, said she had also experienced stereotyping during a BBC residential writers course in Kent where she had been asked to develop a sitcom for Radio 4.
‘One day a woman came in to help with our writing and she was so lovely, but I was talking about one of my characters and she said, “Oh, maybe you should write about your characters’ parents”, and I said, “Yeah OK, maybe I can include my parents?”
‘And she was like, “Yeah, maybe include their history or how they felt when they came here on the boat from Africa”. So I said, “Erm, my dad was born in Crawley and my mum was born in Jamaica, but she definitely came here by plane”. And she was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry”.
‘She wasn’t being horrible, but that’s just what she thought.’
Ms Hughes also told podcast hosts Jane Garvey and Fi Glover that she suffers awkward moments when BBC colleagues are unsure how to greet a young, black woman.
‘When they meet me at meetings, [I say], don’t greet me with a fist bump, greet me with a handshake… That’s happened a few times. Don’t fist-bump me at all.’
Ms Hughes further joked: ‘Radio 4 love me. I’m the diversity for Radio 4. Rocking up on The News Quiz, being the only person of colour, they are really excited because they expect another white dude.’
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We are unable to verify what London has said as we don’t appear to have any record of this. But everyone in the broadcasting industry knows how seriously we take diversity and reflecting modern Britain, as evidenced by our output and representation targets.’
Speaking on a BBC podcast, she also told how she was encouraged to write a Radio 4 sitcom based on her parents ‘coming over from Africa on the boat’ – even though that was not their background.
Ms Hughes, also a comedian who has appeared on Mock The Week, told Fortunately podcast: ‘I used to present on CBBC and one of the make-up artists there put hot chocolate on my face because she didn’t have any make-up for black people. That was in 2012.
‘She didn’t realise I was black [in advance] so she panicked. She had Waitrose organic hot chocolate. She didn’t tell me that she was putting it on my face, I found it in her make-up kit.
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