In 1984 Jaci Stephen won the Catherine Pakenham Award for young female journalists; she’s also been shortlisted as Critic of the Year three times in the British Press Awards, and in 1999 was named Broadcasting Writer of the Year in the prestigious “What the Papers Say”, Awards.
Her talents have been recognised and employed by an impressive list of esteemed literary organisations, including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, The Express, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.
Jaci is also a familiar face on TV as her broadcasting and presenting work includes six years as Film and Television Critic on ITV’s This Morning.
Jaci’s most recent television work includes weekly appearances on the ITV1 Network daytime series, The Alan Titchmarsh Show.
Jaci’s talents don’t end at the tip of her pen, either; she’s an Equity member, a professional actor (as a teenager, she performed with the first National Youth Theatre of Wales), trained singer, award-winning public speaker and an ex-ballroom dancing champion.
In April 2009 Jaci relocated to Los Angeles, where she continues to write for the Daily Mail and features for numerous other newspapers and magazines.
Jaci writes an LA-based blog, which was published, in a shortened form (titled Way Out West) by the Independent newspaper in the UK. She’s also presented from Los Angeles for BBC Radio 2.
She has just completed a memoir, Broke – A Life of Small Change, and is working on a semi-autobiographical novel, The Movie in My Mind, about her experiences in Los Angeles.
She also has a sitcom in development with Ruth Jones’s Tidy Productions, based in Cardiff.
Here are a few things that make Jaci happy.
What’s your favourite book?
Sons and Lovers.
This was the book that introduced me to my favourite author, D H Lawrence.
Not only is it a great industrial novel and love story, it explores the power of emotional violence (on the part of women) vis a vis physical violence (as expressed by men).
Every tortured 18 year old should read it. As should every woman, who abuses men through psychological torture.
What is your favourite film?
E.T. is my favourite film.
I once crawled through many people’s legs to reach Spielberg to tell him E.T. was the greatest film of all time. “D’you know,” he replied, “I was thinking about that film last week, and I think you could well be right”.
It’s a film about love, friendship, loyalty, and the two biggies, separation and loss.
The final exchange between E.T. and Elliott (“Come” “Stay”) is one of the greatest pieces of movie dialogue that sums up one of the most complex aspects of the human condition – I want you to come with me; but I want you to stay with me. Both are impossible, which is where the heartache lies.
What’s your favorite little pleasure?
Hanging out on the sofa in an oversized T-shirt, eating home-made spaghetti Bolognese, drinking a glass of Rioja, and watching back to back Suits or Judge Alex on the telly.
Who has inspired you?
My parents inspired me and instilled in me strong morals and a work ethic that has been the key to everything I have done and achieved.
On the world stage, I admire Barack Obama.
On the eve of my 50th birthday, I stood crying in front of the TV, immensely proud that I was observing history in seeing a black man become President.
What one event has been the most memorable / most enjoyable in your life and why?
My 40th birthday party, in Soho House in London, was an overwhelming joy.
Surrounded by amazing family and friends (many of the latter have been in my life for over 30 years), I have never felt so loved and grateful.
Do you have a favourite quote?
My favourite quote is from my most loved artist, Sir Elton John, and is the title of a great song, “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore”.
The lyrics are about change and moving on.
I’ve always been someone who has clung to the past, often with resentment, and I have learned to move on to each new station in life. I don’t always buy the right ticket, but I get there in the end!
Is there anything you regularly do, that makes you feel good?
There is nothing more intensely powerful and heart-lifting than watching a sunset, sitting at the end of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica pier, drinking a frozen Margarita.
A moment of intense joy in the wonder of nature, tinged with sadness as the sun quickly pockets itself into the horizon, but filled with hope in the knowledge that it will rise again.
Is there something that’s happened to you, which at the time was seemingly negative but eventually turned out to be positive?
People tell lies. It’s human nature.
But four years ago, when I was at my most vulnerable, having lost a lucrative job on a national newspaper, hitting the menopause, and with my 50th birthday imminent and feeling on the scrapheap, somebody sent me a vile e-mail that was packed with lies.
I wanted to crawl into a hole, thinking I was the most unloved, horrible creature on the planet. I went into emotional meltdown, ran away to Los Angeles and did a screenwriting course.
And now I have a new life. The lies still hurt – pain never goes away. But you can diminish it by creating new, more positive memories.
On a less personal scale, when 9/11 happened, I asked myself, “What would be your one regret, if you had been on one of those planes and known that this was the end?” Mine was that I had never lived in Paris. The following week, I was on the Eurostar and living in the City of Light, where I stayed for seven wonderful years.
Follow your dreams. The worst that can happen is that you wake up. But there will always be another one.