[INTERVIEW] FENN O’MEALLY
Emerging Journalist, filmmaker, model (represented by Models 1) and presenter the very talented Fenn O’meally is a paramount creative for the next generation. Fenn is a self-confessed workaholic who is always on the go juggling multiple projects or travelling between London and New York. Showing passion from a young age she used to travel back and forth leaving at 5 am and returning home at 10 pm for her internship at ITV.
Now boasting mentors like Reggie Yates and Davina Mcall, Fenn is currently working her way to the top whilst grasping amazing opportunities on her journey such as recently becoming the London correspondent for Complex magazine.
In a world where most young professionals think they know it all, Fenn takes pride in seeking advice from mentors and always trying to learn a new skill every day. At the early stages of her career, Fenn worked for a production company just outside of London where she spent some her days in the editing suite learning how to edit. This then evolved into her finding a passion for filmmaking and doing brand work for brands like Nike and House of Holland.
Intrigued by Fenn’s work rate, I wanted to find out what her daily life was like and how she was balancing all her roles.
In your Instagram bio, it says Filmmaker, Model and Journalist. How do you find the time to balance everything, I can imagine it being so overwhelming?
I’m still learning and there isn’t really a time where I don’t work which is fine because I’ve realised with my career every day is precious, Every day you’re trying to better a skill or learn a new skill and balancing it all becomes a way of life and something that you adapt too.
Being a creative person myself what I struggle with the most is time management and fitting everything into one schedule, I think mastering that is important and it’s something I wanted to ask you because I know you’re a very busy person.
I think what helps is setting yourself deadlines. At first, it was really hard because time management was purely on my own terms and I was balancing working in a café and doing unpaid work for brands but now you have brands that pay and for example, Complex gives you deadlines so that really helps me having peoples expectations to meet really helps time management. But I think my weakness is the fact that I don’t often take time out, especially with friends and family. It’s so important to take time out and spend time with them, it makes me sad sometimes because I’m very much a workaholic but then you realise you haven’t seen your parents for two months and you should probably go see your parents because they are the reason that you are here.
Filmmaking, journalism and just being into TV and Fashion. Has that always been your passion growing up or was it something else to start with?
Do you know what, as a kid, I would watch Angelica Bell, I would watch Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates (who is now my mentor) on the tv and I would be like-I want to do what they’re doing. As a kid, I was doing a lot of athletics and I would compete at county. My dad had this massive dream of me being an Olympic athlete because he was in the Olympic trials and then it slowly became more of his dream than mine. I realised I was just kind of doing it. Although I love running and I run all the time I just didn’t have the hunger to compete but when it came to TV I was so desperate to find a way to get into TV and none of my family knew anyone. But I managed to get an internship at ITV when I was 15 and from there it kind of grew. I always wanted to be a presenter but then I realised its not actually presenting I want to do but more interviewing. I realised whether I’m in front or behind the camera if I can make someone open up or tell a story and feel I can relate to them that for me is special and why I started filmmaking.
I worked on escape to the country. I was working at this production company just outside of London and I would spend my days with these old men sat in the editing suite and they were just like super enthusiastic in teaching me how to edit and that’s how I learnt and started making my own films.
Credit: Models 1
It’s crazy how one thing can lead to another. When you got the opportunity to intern for ITV you probably didn’t see yourself editing and making films…
No, not at all, I think that when you have a goal it’s great but if you’re able to adapt and be appreciative of what you can learn throughout trying to achieve that goal rather than only focusing on one thing or one skill. Having tunnel vision is great but if you can appreciate the others things that go into what makes the end product, it’s such a valuable skill. I feel that editing and filmmaking bettered my presenting skills because I know whats going to work well. I know [having] an all round 360 understanding of what it is you’re contributing to is important.
Who inspired you growing up or is your current role model?
I have several, but when I started working in TV I met Davina Mcall and she’s always been an inspiration to me. Both Davina and Dermot who are both also my mentors. They are my inspirations because of the way they can relate to people. Dermot can walk into a room with 10 people not know anybody but leave the room with everybody’s name and story and it’s just amazing how he can make somebody feel that comfortable. My mum is also incredible. She had breast cancer about a year ago and didn’t tell me. I went home 3 months later and she had surgery and done everything without telling me and then went back work the following month. She’s just amazing. She gets through everything. My dad too. My dad has given me so much and I feel like my dad would make sure anything is possible for me. And my brother too, he’s a cool role model.[chuckles] Everybody’s a role model!
I see you frequently travel to America. What do you get up too out there and what’s it like being fortunate to travel for work?
So I’m extremely lucky, basically a year ago I went to the states just to interview people for my show at Radar Radio and for the past 3 years I would say I wanted to do something with Complex magazine. But anyway I was walking down Howard Street in Soho and these guys were filming so I just went over and introduced myself randomly and said I’m a filmmaker in London who do you guys film for and it turns out they were complex. So I sent them my showreel and they got back to me and asked me to come back for a screen test. So then I went back the following month and now I travel back and forth to film with them and we film in the UK as well. Then I was just in LA for Alexa Chung she had a launch party with Superga so I was filming that.
Without really knowing you ceased an opportunity with Complex and introduced yourself to the film crew. How important is that in your field just having the confidence to introduce yourself to people?
I think it’s so important. So incredibly important. But to me, that comes so naturally and I find it easy, I didn’t always understand how it was for other people [though]. For me, I’m just curious and I feel that being curious is a great gift because you learn to come out of your own bubble. I have friends who don’t find it so easy and it’s not a natural thing to do just to go up to somebody but it’s something that I’ve always done and I’ve realised it’s not easy but I’ll go up to anyone. It’s something that comes naturally to me.
What was it like getting to do the red carpet with Complex at the BRIT Awards?
That was so fun. I loved it! It wasn’t my first live event but was my first red carpet. It’s quick-fire interviews. You have to be on the ball 24/7. It’s a learning experience because in that short amount of time you have to connect with somebody and if you don’t you don’t get the best out of the interview so it’s a good learning experience.
I see you do quite a bit of work with House of Holland and get the chance to speak to a lot of strong ambitious women like yourself… What’s it like interviewing your peers and like-minded people?
That’s one of my favourite things to do because at the end of the day [they] are my friends and I’ve been in this bubble of having so many incredible friends and you kind of take it for granted. When your platforms your friends you learn so much about people you are constantly surrounded by. You’re constantly surrounded by their ambition, their drive, their want to work on the next thing and collaborate. There isn’t a tool more valuable/accessible in this industry than being able to collaborate with peers. I have some incredible friends and you don’t realise how well you’re all doing especially in London, it’s like you’re running this race. My friend Poppy (Poppy Ajudah) she’s killing it at the moment and we text each other to catch up and talk about everything like it’s just a walk in the park.
That leads to my next question. Does that give you extra drive? Seeing all of your peers in the industry doing well. Does that give you extra and push you to want to do better?
I think we all drive each other. What does give me the extra drive is knowing that I have done a job well and moving onto the next thing. Having friends that do well don’t really drive me like that because we are always celebrating each other. But the main thing that does gives me drive is making my client(s) happy and them being like-I love this.
Do you personally feel you had to overcome any obstacles being in today’s industry?
I’ve been so lucky in the fact that when I started working at the BBC on the One Show, I was working with the film crew and they were mainly men. They celebrated the fact that I wanted to learn and I wanted to do as much as I could and wanted to carry loads of heavy equipment. Me personally, I don’t feel that I have had any obstacles in my way but don’t get me wrong there have been times where people have said stuff. But I feel like I’ve benefitted from having the skills to always create quality so people can’t question my talent or why I’m here. I’m not just a presenter with a pretty face. I feel like we need more female role models in the industry to stop this obstacle.
Credit: Fenn O’meally Instagram
Do you have any advice for females who aspire to work in the same field? Looking back what advice would you give a younger you?
Dear Fenn, it’s going to take some time and you’re going to feel shit at times because you feel like you’re not achieving anything. Be open to trying new things, have a goal but be open to testing new things out and be patient. Really be patient and collaborate with others as much as you can because that’s how you learn so much and that’s how you’re introduced to new things. Definitely be aware that it takes a lot of time and persistence but just go for it! Also, I’d say don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t. Sometimes people make you feel small and sometimes you think that maybe I’m not made for this but actually you’re made for it. If you believe that you are made for it, there is enough room in this industry if you are made to do it you will get there. You just have to persist and be open to learning new skills.
I think this will help a lot of people
I mean-yeah. There are so many people that would ask you for advice and I remember growing up I would ask people for advice and sometimes you wouldn’t get it because you were seen as some what of a threat. And I think that now if anyone asked me for advice I would 100 percent give them advice. I check my DM’s and try to get back to everyone because the one thing is if they are going to make it there going to make it regardless. If I give them advice or not this advice is just going to help them for here and now. I like to reply to peoples messages because I know exactly how they felt. But when I really sit down and think about it, if they are going to make in this industry this little bit of advice that I’m giving them isn’t going to make or break whether they make it.
What achievement are you most proud of to date?
Do you know what, I think it’s the fact that I managed to be apart of Complex. But for me, it’s how it all came about. It’s both luck and achievement. It’s just an incredible combination of being at the right time at the right place. Also, the first time I filmed for House of Holland I was like to myself am I actually going to be able to do this. I think it’s the first time I really did a whole campaign by myself, absolutely nobody else doing it. Also, another one of my achievements is signing with my new agent SJ. She’s just amazing. She’s a role model as well. Definitely, one of the people who’ve inspired me already and she’s always said to treat people the way you want to be treated which is such a good piece of Mantra to go by.
You already kind of answered it but you can answer it again if you like, do you have any advice for the younger generation, filmmakers and journalists who may even feel a bit lost or anyone trying to get into similar roles like you in the industry?
Tell them they can DM and I’ll try to get back to them. I’d also say do what feels right in your gut and if you really want to do something, like if you’ve studied science but you’ve thought to yourself I really want to do filmmaking or I really want to do something creative then just do it because that satisfaction you feel when you start doing something that you are really interested in is like nothing else. And if you have the drive and the interest you will make a career out of it you just have to preserve! But do DM me if you feel like you have to DM me!
Interview by Jamaul Madden