Sometimes - unfortunately not often enough - but sometimes, when the stars align, there are moments of pure magic during an interview. The magic happens when my guest and I momentarily forget that we're doing an interview, and begin to engage as two new-found friends getting to know each other. It happened with the Lee Tannen interview. It happened with Ralna English. It happened with Ernest Harden Jr.. It happened with Deana Martin. And it happened BIG TIME with Jonathan Antoine.
Don't get me wrong. I have definitely felt a warm and sincere rapport with every guest I've had the honour to welcome on my show. We chat before the interview begins, and we chat after it ends. On every occasion there has been a warm and friendly exchange during which we've expressed gratitude to each other for the on-screen experience we've shared. Sometimes, for purely egotistical reasons, I wish some of those off-screen exchanges had made their way into the interview! It feels so good to be told by a guest that I've given him/her the best interview of their career - and that does happen a lot.
However, when, during the actual interview, I am able to pierce a guest's "show biz" veil and gently probe inside his/her soul, the result can be pure magic. The conversation rises to a level of intimacy that resonates deeply with the viewer. When I sense from a guest's demeanour and comfort level that he/she might be willing to discuss issues of profound importance to their sense of identity and emotional well-being, I will dip my toe into the water and see what happens. Today, with Jonathan Antoine, it was absolutely the right thing to do.
Jonathan Antoine is an enormously gifted young man whose rich tenor voice catapulted him to world-wide fame after finishing in 2nd place on the 2012 season of Britain's Got Talent. But behind that gorgeous voice and confident stage persona was an intensely shy boy who'd been severely bullied throughout his youth, because of his weight. He has struggled with depression, anxiety and stage fright - all while living under the glaring spotlight of new-found fame, intense media attention, adulation from fans, and coping with the realities of navigating an international show business career in a sometimes brutal industry.
I was deeply touched by Jonathan's capacity to let the curtain drop and show us who he really is. Despite all the best-selling albums, sold-out concerts, constant accolades and success, he has remained a humble, modest young man filled with gratitude at the opportunities that destiny has presented to him. He is acutely aware that, by opening up about his struggles with mental health and self-esteem, he might be able to give hope to other young people trying to cope with the same issues.
It takes courage to talk with a total stranger about painful aspects of one's life - especially when you know that thousands of people will be watching. Jonathan was so candid, so open-hearted and so sincere, that I felt myself wanting to reach right through the screen and give him a big hug. I wanted to cleanse him and heal him of any pain he'd ever experienced at the hands of callous, heartless bullies. And I knew he felt it. By the time my interview with Jonathan Antoine ended, I felt like I'd made a new friend, and I told him so afterwards. He felt the same. We promised to stay in touch, and I have no doubt that one day we'll meet in person - perhaps backstage after one of his concerts.
It's guests like Jonathan Antoine that make me so incredibly grateful for the chance to host an interview show. My life is enriched immeasurably by the conversations I have had with such interesting, insightful and inspiring people. And I hope that when the "magic" happens in an interview, your heart will be touched as deeply as mine.