After being on our television – and now computer – screens for a decade, Stacey Dooley took to the Science Centre at Staffordshire University to share her story and words of wisdom with students and people from the community in a sold-out public lecture.
First appearing in Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts in 2007, Dooley was highlighted as being more than a reality star when she was visibly moved by what she saw in an Indian sweatshop, surrounded by child workers who were making garments for high street shops back in the UK.
From there on Dooley has had a career spanning more than 80 documentaries, ranging from teenage digital drug dealers in the UK to missing indigenous women in Canada, to girls fighting ISIS in Iraq.
Dooley has seen it all and been around the world – but this is the first time she has been to Stoke-on-Trent.
“It was very much accidental, very unorthodox,” Stacey Dooley said, talking about how she went from being a girl working in a perfume shop in Luton Airport to being one of six Brits sent to India to experience sweatshops that were supplying our high street shops.
“I stumbled across child labour. I was very naïve and I wasn’t particularly well travelled so everything was sincere and my reactions were genuine.
“I was coming face-to-face with inequality and acute poverty so it was tricky. At the time I was really gobsmacked.
“I was surprised that so many people were living a different life to me.
“I had always been very Western, and you go to these places and you see four, five-year olds working thirteen hours a day for a couple of quid so they can feed their families.
“I came home and started fundraising, raising awareness and slowly, slowly this career developed.”
Talking to 240 people in the Science Centre, she showed clips from a range of her documentaries, starting from her first foray on television, where she questioned a child labourer about his age.
“I think it’s important to show you how much I have developed,” Dooley joked to the audience.
With more than 60 documentaries made for BBC Three alone, she has become the face of BBC Three online, with her programme ‘Young Sex for Sale in Japan’ being the most watched documentary on iPlayer this year, proving to BBC executives that 16 – 35s can be engaged in current affairs.
The documentary looks at how some sections of Japanese society are sexualising children, whilst trying to understand why it is happening and the obsession with youth.
“We touched on lots of things that were very difficult to discuss but it did particularly well with ratings. You definitely wouldn’t get the same numbers watching on television than online.”
Travelling around the world and witnessing drug deals from Glasgow to Columbia and Peru, Dooley is never shy about asking questions which may seem obvious, and the hard-hitting ones in the face of danger.
She added: “You have to be passionate about the topics you are reporting on.”
And reporting about women around the world is her biggest passion.
“I’m certainly in a very privileged position now and to have the luxury to travel around the world just to open debate, start discussion and show people what the situation is.
“There’s an appetite for honest portrayal and you show them what’s going on and people come to their own conclusion, I love it!”
Some hard-hitting topics covered include sitting down face-to-face with a paedophile in Japan (and in her upcoming documentary based in Florida).
“I was having conversations with adults who try and tell me it’s right to be attracted to children and they should be able to act out on that if they so wish,” she reflects.
Even after travelling for her job, there is still much controversy and issues worth discussing at home.
One documentary filmed in her hometown of Luton led to backlash around the world as people thought she sympathised with the English Defence League after facing Islamic Extremists marching through the town.
But that’s not the only issue we face.
Speaking about Brexit and our future in the EU, she said: “There are so many forecasts predicting so many different things.
“I think some of the chat going on prior to Brexit was irresponsible quite frankly.
“I understand people are passionate and I accept people are completely entitled to their own opinions, even if they don’t sit close to my own, I think it’s a shame we have taken a step back in terms of hate crimes.
“I voted to remain, we lost and lots of people are saying we need another referendum but, actually, I disagree with them.
“You can’t call yourself a democrat and say you are for democracy but when it comes to it, and it doesn’t go your way, you know, we have made our bed and we have to lie in it, as devastating as that is.”
So is Theresa May up to the Brexit job?
“It’s a difficult job, whoever we have got,” Dooley adds.
“I think it was the wrong decision so really and truly I don’t know who I would be desperate to take us through because it is going to be such a rocky road.
“I struggle to see the positives, you know. Theresa May is our Prime Minister, she’s in charge and however much you fundamentally disagree with her and a lot of what she is about, you have to hope she is going to do her best.”
Young people have definitely stepped up their political game, according to Dooley, who thought it could only be necessary and a good thing that more and more young people are getting involved.
She said: “It’s harder for them to take the piss out of you and make it so you haven’t got a voice.
“I do feel that over the past three, four, five years being informed has come back into fashion in many respects.
“It’s all about understanding who the leaders are, what they represent and what they can do for you.”
Having started with nothing in the documentary industry to ten years having presented and created more than 80 of them, Dooley gave StaffsLive some words of advice for aspiring journalists out there.
“Be prepared to work extremely hard for a very long time before you get your break.
“Be prepared to work 15, 16 hours a day. Be prepared to drive up to Glasgow to meet a contributor who you might never end up filming!
“Make sure you find your own style, that you have your own unique selling point – I think that’s why I have been so fortunate to work consistently for ten years.
“We have seen a traditional kind of established journalism for a long time, but I think as long as you have got somebody who wants to be there and find the truth it works.
“There are days where it is so hard and tricky and so emotional you have to make lots of sacrifices and it’s not worth it if you’re not passionate!”
Passion is certainly something that Stacey Dooley does not hold back on, which sets her apart from other documentary makers.
She uses emotion to bond with her interviewees and this is shown in her documentaries.
Hopefully there will be many more to come.
(additional reporting by Dasha Smith)