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Sleeping on Floors to Bestseller Lists: An Incredible Journey

Andrea McLean’s story is one of incredible determination and triumph. Born in Scotland and raised in Trinidad, her journey is as diverse and vibrant as her heritage. After moving to England, she completed her education and set off on a global backpacking adventure. With everything she owned in the back seat of her car, she moved to London, often sleeping on floors, all to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Her persistence paid off, transforming her into the #1 Sunday Times Bestselling author. Her acclaimed works include ‘This Girl Is On Fire,’ ‘Confessions of a Good Girl,’ ‘Confessions of a Menopausal Woman,’ and ‘You Just Need to Believe It.’ Now a renowned broadcaster, media coach, keynote speaker, and brand ambassador, Andrea continues to inspire millions with her story and achievements. Her journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and belief in oneself.

Can you share a bit about your journey from backpacking around the world to becoming a #1 Sunday Times Best-Selling author?

Gosh, where to begin! Because of my father’s job, I moved around a lot as a child. I spent most of my childhood in Trinidad in the Caribbean, and lived in the Philippines, Scotland and England by the time I was 15. So I already had a special interest in travelling and seeing different parts of the world. 

Once I graduated (I did a degree in Modern Studies – History, Politics and International Relations) I knew I wanted to travel, so I worked three jobs at once to save up enough money, then set off with my boyfriend at the time. I kept detailed diaries of all my experiences, good and bad, and posted each notebook back home once it was full. It seems crazy now, but laptops, the internet and mobile phones were yet to be invented! I used these notes to write articles when I returned home and was able to sell articles about far-flung places to various magazines.

These articles helped me get a place in journalism school in London, where I moved with everything I owned on the back seat of my mum’s old Fiesta, and slept on a friend’s floor until I found a place to stay, and a job. After finishing my course, I worked for free for anyone who would have me, then eventually got a job as a features writer and sub editor for a small features agency. 

I ended up working in television by accident, because I misread a job advert, and discovered I had applied to be weather presenter! I worked for The Weather Channel (based in London) for 18 months, before moving to ITV on their flagship breakfast show GMTV. There I did a mixture of weather reporting, and features reporting, which is where I learned to transfer my print journalism skills into on-camera skills.

Keeping detailed diaries about all my experiences is how I ended up becoming a #1 Sunday Times best-selling author of four books!

What inspired you to pursue a career as a writer, and how did you navigate the challenges along the way?

Writing has always been my first love. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child, and I just kept doing it, even if it was just for me. If you keep doing something, eventually you become more fluent and fluid in it, and that’s how I see my writing. I still keep notes and journal, only now I do it in the notes section of my phone. Wherever I am, if I see something that triggers a train of thought or an idea, I jot it down, because you never know when are where it might come in handy. 

I wrote a lot of my Sunday Times Best Selling book about overcoming burnout (This Girl Is On Fire: How to Live, Learn and Thrive in a Life You Love) on trains, tubes and taxis in my phone! And I recently came up with the title and a structure for my latest book while sitting on the tube and saw an advert for something. I’d had an idea percolating in my head, and there was a word on the sign that jumped out at me and I thought: “That’s it!”

In terms of overcoming challenges, it’s always a case of being fluid in your determination. What do I mean by this? I mean take on board any reservations or feedback that your peers or mentors may have, but if you genuinely believe in your idea then keep working on it anyway. 

The landscape of publishing has changed, so it’s important to take into account the needs of the sales and marketing team as much as it is to simply have a great idea. Doing whatever you can to make things simple and pave the way through any possible obstacles by thinking ahead is how I navigate challenges. 

A no is not necessarily the end of something, it can simply mean tweaking the structure of my idea, changing course, or my method. That goes for whatever I’m working on.

You’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in the business during your 24-year career as a broadcaster. Could you tell us about a memorable experience from one of those interviews?

I’ve been fortunate to have met many icons over the years, and it’s still very exciting. My most memorable interview was Oprah Winfrey, because I was the most nervous I have ever been! I didn’t sleep a wink the night before, I was so scared about making a fool of myself in front of someone I respected, and who was the ultimate Global Queen of Interviews! I had tried to speak with her the evening before at an event I’d been invited to, but she was constantly surrounded so I wasn’t able to. I always like to meet people beforehand so we can feel more relaxed on the day of the interview, so ‘going in blind’ was a challenge.  

She was very professional, knew exactly what was required of her, and was charming to everyone she came into contact with. She made us all feel ‘seen’, was lovely to our studio audience, and then “poof!” she waved goodbye, left and was never seen again. 

Hosting ITV’s Loose Women for 13 years must have been an incredible experience. What did you enjoy most about being a part of such a popular show?

I was already an experienced anchor by the time I joined Loose Women in 2007, but hosting a show like Loose Women was unlike anything I had ever done. It meant sharing my personal experiences as well as interviewing guests, which I found challenging at the start. Then I gradually became used to it, and now I am so grateful for it, because I learned that sharing one’s vulnerabilities makes us more human, and builds connection, which to me has always been key to everything I have done. 

As a media coach, what do you find most rewarding about helping entertainers, creatives, authors, and brands tell their stories effectively?

Working in television, mixing with and interviewing people at the top of their game allowed me access behind the curtain. I saw that no matter who we are and what we do, we are all just people trying to do our best, and have our own insecurities that hold us back. 

What I love about my media coaching business is that I get to share my experience with people who simply want to be able to express themselves better, so that they can share their passion with the world. 

It doesn’t matter if their passion is their business or their latest book or film, the process is the same – I help them reignite the enthusiasm they feel about it in a story about their journey that they can share with the world. People buy people, not products; there is a reason why we feel a strong pull towards a product or service, and it’s because there is something in its origin story that speaks to our own personal experience. 

You can’t fake that, you need to be authentic and genuine, and I help people discover that in themselves, along with techniques to help them perform brilliantly in public, whether that’s simply networking, talking to peers on a stage or being interviewed by the media.

Could you share some key insights or advice from your CPD Accredited Online Coaching Course for handling challenging interviews in a television environment?

The biggest mistake people make when being interviewed on television is assuming that the presenter and the audience care about you and what you have to say. They don’t, at least not in the same way you do. You are fighting against possible misunderstanding, a different perspective, a conflicting agenda, or simple distraction, so you have to get people onside at lightning speed. 

The first way to do this is by paying attention to how you look, as it is the first thing people will see and make a snap judgement on. This means your clothing, your hair, your make up all need to represent ‘you’, whether you like it or not. 

The second thing is you will always have less time than you think to get your message across, so you need to be able to explain yourself in a few sentences, just as you would in an elevator pitch, but without it sounding ‘salesy’. 

The third thing is to welcome the uncomfortable question, don’t dread it. Prepare for it, and be ready to address it. See it as an opportunity to correct a misinterpretation of you or your business, or to authentically address something that has gone wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, and genuinely addressing them can be a power move.

Your investment in the tech world with is intriguing. How do you see AI altering the landscape of media coaching in the future?

Whilst there are undoubtably many concerns surrounding the use of AI in media in general, with regards to its use in coaching I think it is a very useful tool. I created an AI version of myself because I wanted my clients to be able to access ‘me’ and my expertise at any time day or night, from anywhere in the world, in a way that I would not be able to support them in real life. I’m human and I need to sleep sometimes!

I created it by inputting queries and answers based on my 20 plus years of broadcasting, public speaking and hosting experience, and the best-selling books I have written on personal growth, overcoming fear, and building confidence. It is 80% based on my knowledge and experience, and 20% from the internet; because just as I would look up an answer to a question I don’t know in real life, I wanted my AI to be able to do the same. 

As an in-demand keynote speaker, what topics do you typically cover during corporate motivation days and on the after-dinner circuit?

My main topics are ‘Overcoming Fear’ and ‘Resilience’ because these are the things I have the most experience to share. Fear and our attitude towards it shapes every single action we take and reaction we have, whether it is in our personal or professional life. Our three fundamental fears as humans are Death, Abandonment and Failure. 

These fears show themselves in obvious and subversive ways; and our behaviour to protect ourselves from feeling these things can range from refusing to try anything outside of our comfort zone in case it doesn’t work out, not getting too close to anyone or anything in case they leave us, and not making any decisions that could cause too much change, disruption or disapproval from others. 

As someone who has experienced epic failure in every aspect of my life (and I mean epic!) and so far, have lived to tell the tale, I enjoy sharing my stories to give people hope and encouragement that it is not the end of the world when things don’t work out as you’d liked or planned. 

I have been divorced twice, married three times, I have experienced domestic abuse, and I have experienced financial loss and embarrassment when my business failed. And I have done all these things in the full glare of the media and the public eye, which adds an extra layer of stress. All of these things have taught me that it is not the failure itself that we fear, it is the embarrassment surrounding failure, the feelings of abandonment, and ultimately the death of our status. Once we learn how to reframe our perspective on this, we can harness our fear, and learn to walk alongside it rather than letting it imprison us.

What criteria do you consider when selecting brands to work with as a brand ambassador, and what values are important to you in those partnerships?

I only work with brands who genuinely and with integrity, reflect something I am interested in. This can be in beauty (I am a sucker for a new face cream), clothing (I love suits and trainers, they are my happy uniform), or travel (being on a quiet, calm beach is heaven, but I am obsessively fussy about the criteria that are needed to achieve perfect beach status, so I will happily put myself forward as a ‘Best In Beach Judge’!).

Finally, as a self-proclaimed quiz nerd, what’s your secret to being successful at games like “Beat The Intro,” and which game show experience stands out as your favourite?

Oh, I love a quiz! I have always loved ‘Beat The Intro’ because for some reason my brain can pick out random songs purely from the very first note, it’s like a have a huge file of tunes in my head that I never even think about until the quiz starts! I’ve been lucky enough to take part in most of the quiz shows on TV, and have won quite a few of them. I loved being on ‘House Of Games’ as I think Richard Osmond is lovely, but Catchphrase is my absolute favourite, I become ridiculously competitive when it’s on, even with the kids. When Catchphrase is on, the gloves are off!

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