Ever since my 100th post, some of you have been curious about my appearances on TV on the BBC, CNN, ABC (Australian) and Al-Jazeera All of these appearances are related to my work because currently I am one of the main spokesperson for the environmental conservation organization that I work for.
I am reasonably articulate and that is one reason that I have been given this role but it is actually very stressful for me as I am inherently and naturally an introvert. As such, I am very uncomfortable under the bright lights and camera. Reminding me that the interview is being filmed live and that millions may be watching is sufficient to set off a panic attack. Somehow, I have survived but the price for “fame” has been paid for through physical illness (nausea, cold sweat, heart palpitations etc) and mental anguish (extreme stress and occasional extreme embarrassment.
The very first interview was for local TV. It was live and took the form of the show’s host guiding the discussion on an environmental topic by asking his two guests specially selected questions to spur debate. The other guest and myself were chosen because we were expected to take opposing views on much of the subject. I was extremely nervous and I was also very intimidated by my opponent. She was a very famous public personality, a senior expert on the topic and a long-time veteran of doing TV talk shows. It was terrible. I stammered. I repeated myself. When I watched it later, I wondered why my voice was so high pitched.
However, the big slip-up was during the middle of a heated exchange, I said, “I am sorry but I have to disagree with…….”. Then my head began to seize up and the room felt like it was spinning round and there was just no way I could remember the name of this person. She was practically a household name in Malaysia but at that moment I just could not bring her name to surface. So I had to end my sentence like this, “…..I have to disagree with a…a…..your other guest.” I wish I could have buried my head in the sand.
My big breakthrough was during one of the bad episodes of haze from forest and peat swamp fires in Indonesia. Someone from Reuters, dropped in to my office, and just asked if he could ask a couple questions on the topic. I knew this guy and felt quite comfortable. The whole thing was over in just a few minutes. It was very impromptu.
To my surprise, the next few days, I heard from friends and relatives from around the world that they had seen me on BBC and CNN. It seems they picked up the footage from Reuters.
During the interview, I happened to recommend a course of action for the government. The following day, after my interview was broadcasted, the government decided to take that action. In truth, I am sure what I said had little to do with that decision which was probably made earlier but the timing was such that some people were impressed by my apparent authority and said so. It was my 15 seconds of media glory.
To counter that high, there were also lots of lows. On one occasion, I was asked to take part in a 20 minute interview. I spent half a day preparing and reading up on the topic and than braved a one hour traffic jam to go to their studio. Suffered through 15 minutes in their makeup section. However, just before I got on, they said they were running behind schedule and had to cut the interview to 5 minutes. I got on, answered one question and then they ended the segment with a short video. I was on for less than one minute. No apologies for the time wasted. That’s just how it works. Oh, and did I mention that they insist on putting makeup on your face. The face powder makes me sneeze and lipstick makes me sick. I think that’s why I always look ill on TV.
Now, despite all this fame, I can still walk the streets without being accosted by fanatical fans. I do not need to have decoy cars to avoid the paparazzi. Strangely, despite spending hours in practice, no one has ever asked me for an autograph. In fact, nothing much has changed except I think I might be getting gastric attacks more often!