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Anita Rani speaks out about the importance of diversity on TV

Showbiz | Published:

She says she thanks God she exists on the TV landscape.

Countryfile presenter Anita Rani has said she “thanks god she exists” as a northern, Asian woman on television.

The former Strictly Come Dancing star, who grew up in Bradford with her Sikh mother and Hindu father, has hosted the countryside programme since 2015 – and said it is crucial that people see diverse faces on the show.

Countryfile presenters Anita Rani, Ellie Harrison, John Craven, Adam Henson, Matt Baker and Tom Heap
Anita with Countyfile presenters Ellie Harrison, John Craven, Adam Henson, Matt Baker and Tom Heap (BBC)

She told the Press Association: “It’s not a burden at all (to represent a minority on television), I just think thank god I exist, it’s really important.

“And I’ve been around for a long time so I’ve earned my right to be here, I’m a telly baby – but here is the interesting thing about colour: I don’t see it. Only other people see it, but I’m very aware.

In 2003 as a presenter of the Smash Hits chart (Myung Jung Kim/PA)
In 2003 as a presenter of the Smash Hits chart (Myung Jung Kim/PA)

“Caitlin Moran said something that struck a chord with me, she talks a lot about being from this working class environment and she says ‘thank god I exist in this landscape’, someone has to, and I feel the same way.

“Everyone knows I don’t wear it, it’s not my banner, but absolutely I think it’s important that I’m visible.”

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Anita Rani with partner Gleb Savchenko pose for a photo during the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016
Anita Rani with her Strictly Come Dancing partner Gleb Savchenko (Joe Giddens/PA)

Rani added that she has seen improvement in diversity on television, saying: “I think it’s happening, I think it’s changing.

“You should only be there if you have a right to be there, I don’t think we should be shoe-horning people in, but as long as everybody is aware.

“For me it’s not even just a race thing, for me it’s a class thing. We need people from all walks of life.”

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(Doug Peters/PA)
(Doug Peters/PA)

Rani said her family spent a lot of time in the countryside when she was a child, but it was unusual to see other Asian faces.

“That is what my upbringing was, my dad was really passionate about getting us around the country.

“It was quite unusual for an Asian family when I was growing up, thankfully not so unusual now.

“I explored the whole of Britain but I don’t remember seeing many brown faces in the countryside growing up.

Anita Rani
(Peter Byrne/PA)

“But it’s definitely changed and absolutely it’s changing. I think there is a generation now that have been born here and live here and are as British as everyone else. But we used to play ‘spot the brown man’, absolutely.”

Rani will join the rest of the Countryfile presenters when Countryfile Live returns to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire from August 3 to August 6.

The Countryfile presenters
At Countryfile Live last year (Joe Giddens/PA)

The event – which features live arena shows, hands-on activities and animal displays – attracted 125,000 people last year.

Rani said her favourite part of the event is getting to spend time with fellow hosts Matt Baker, Ellie Harrison, John Craven, Adam Henson and Tom Heap.

She said: “I get to hang out with the other presenters, which happens hardly ever.

The presenters at Blenheim Palace (BBC)
The presenters at Blenheim Palace (BBC)

“It gets drunken! We just get to talk a bit about shop because we all work on the same programme, but never see each other. All the other presenters are really lovely and cool, I’m in good company.”

Full show information and tickets are available now from

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