auded as a modern day Oprah by The Huffington Post, Amanda de Cadenet has had a career in the spotlight that a person twice her age could look back on and be proud of. Starting her career extraordinarily early at the age of 15 hosting Channel 4’s cutting edge late night show The Word, her media image could not be more different now to what it was over two decades ago. From 90s party girl to poised presenter of her own female chat show series The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet, she now candidly interviews prominent women about serious issues that affect women’s lives day to day. With her open and warm manner, it is no surprise that while much of the American electorate could not imagine having a beer with Hillary Clinton, she has managed to coax the presidential candidate herself into curling up on her sofa and having a chat in The Conversation’s most high profile interview yet. This remarkable talent for putting women at ease is something she puts down to her own range of experiences in her life. “I’ve been institutionalised, married, divorced, had kids, got clean and survived violent relationships,” she told The Daily Mail. “I’ve been through enough darkness to know that not only can I survive, but I can live a happy, fulfilled life, and that’s very much the message I want to share with other women”.
Thrust into the media spotlight at such a vulnerable age, de Cadenet initially had more attention than she knew what to do with, which in retrospect she believes was extremely unhealthy and damaging. “I was sexualised from a young age and I didn’t really understand it. All I knew was that I was getting attention,” she told The Daily Mail. “I was an insecure young girl and it felt good to have attention, even though it was inappropriate.” It was this early experience of unrelenting media attention and constant attacks on her image and behaviour by a notoriously cruel tabloid culture that has shaped her views today on women, body image, and the type of media platform that she has created with her chat show. “I didn't believe there was an authentic platform for women that addressed the issues in their lives,” she has said an interview. “Everything was edited, cropped and restructured to not be truthful”. In contrast to this, de Cadenet has made The Conversation into a forward thinking feminist platform, unique in that one of the only televised chat shows that is an exclusively female space. “Some people would say having a feminist perspective is political,” she says, “but I don’t think it is. I think it’s just having a female perspective”.
In addition to her skill as a presenter, de Cadenet has also had to learn how to run the show as a business – something which, like many of her talents, was self-taught. “I’ve built The Conversation from the ground up with no business training,” she told Red Magazine. “Five years ago, I didn’t even know the difference between gross and net!” In light of this, the importance of de Cadenet’s frank and honest platform for successful women becomes more important than ever in providing role models for young women everywhere.
Created and produced with friend Demi Moore, the show’s inspiration came from the aforementioned desire to “create a show where women talked about the issues that were central to their lives”. In her bid to create this much dreamed of authentic uncorrupted platform for women, de Cadenet has met success that must have hardly seemed possible. Caitlin Moran, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few of the famous female bottoms to have graced her sofa – though her most impressive guest to date by far has got to be the presidential candidate herself, Hillary Clinton. “I have wanted to interview her for a very long time — probably like 15 years,” de Cadenet told The Hollywood Reporter. “She’s such a unique woman and she has a life and a life story that is so unusual. I didn’t know who she was. I know about her politics, but I didn’t know about her”.
In the interview de Cadenet displays her usual warmth and openness, speaking not of politics, but just seeking to get to know Hillary herself. It is this that makes her a unique interviewer – a lack of agenda or persistent plugging allows room for genuinely interesting and personal conversation to develop, something that potentially developed from her successful career as a photographer. Another skill that she had taught herself, de Cadenet is the youngest ever woman to shoot a cover of Vogue, and produced Rare Birds, a book of celebrity female portraits. This intimate experience as a photographer, creating stories and building relationships with the women she was photographing that helped lend her such a warm and compassionate demeanour as an interviewer today. It also becomes clear in these interviews how her experience of fame as a teenager has shaped her unwavering empathetic attitude. When asked the advice she would give to her 14 year old self by Vanity Fair (something which she also asks of everyone she interviews) de Cadenet tellingly revealed what her own answer would be. "You may think some terrible experience will be the end of you, but it could actually be the making of you," she said. "Something that at the time so awful—even if it derails you, at some point in your life will be a blessing."
Now living in LA happily married to her second husband Stokes guitarist Nick Salensi (who is, refreshingly, 8 years her junior) and the mother of twins, it is fair to say that Amanda de Cadenet has come a long way from her teen rebel beginnings. Now launching a new late night TV show with Gwyneth Paltrow and working on snagging an interview with Beyoncé (possibly the only person that could top Hillary Clinton), it is clear that she plans to continue her upwards career trajectory in a vastly male dominated industry, displaying an enviable work ethic that we as women should all take note of. “My dad was a race car driver,” she explains. “He did long distance racing, so he would race for 24 hours straight. He taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to. He taught me that if one thing doesn’t work that doesn’t mean you give up, it means you keep trying to find ways to make it work until the thing happens for you”.
Words by Scarlett White