Annie Mac is a busy woman, performing to sellout crowds from Iceland to Ibiza and hosting her eponymous Radio 1 music show every weekday at 7pm. Meanwhile, at home with her husband (producer and DJ Toddla T) she raises two young sons. In between helping people across the world cut loose, she still has time to sit down for a cuppa with fellow Radio 1 DJ, Clara Amfo. Here, in Refinery29’s first ever IGTV production, she answers 29 questions and shares some of her most interesting life lessons so far.
On her 16-year-old self
Annie’s first gig, when she was 16 and let out late for the first time, was to see Moloko. "I went with my friend and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Róisín Murphy [Moloko’s frontwoman] had a loudspeaker and prowled the stage like a panther, then curled up into a dog basket. She was just so free and fierce and Irish. I was like 'You, you are everything I aspire to be!'"
It’s not that Annie wanted to be in a band, she says, it was "just about being so comfortable in yourself". It was a real epiphany, especially since being 16 wasn’t great for her. "I had a happy upbringing… but there was just always an element when you’re 16 of self-loathing when it comes to your corporeal self, what you look at when you look in the mirror… just thinking I was fat and disgusting. I would like to tell myself right then: 'You’re beautiful.'"
Her resilience has built up over the years, in part thanks to Annie’s get-up-and-go, but also, in some weird way, thanks to Gladiator. Yep, the Russell Crowe movie. After being dumped "from a great height" in her 20s, she didn’t leave her flat for three days. "And Gladiator got me out, babe. He just got me out of the love trough. I was like f*** you I’m ready!'"
Real talk, though; she discovered something else during that time: "It’s hard when you get hurt like that because it shatters all your sense of self and self-esteem because all you do is see yourself through someone else’s eyes and it’s just about remembering to see yourself through your own eyes."
That’s not the only life lesson she’s learned along the way. After slogging it out as an assistant on the show she now presents, a chance opportunity at Glastonbury provided her big break, leading to her first Radio 1 show. This meant interviewing a lot of famous people. "It doesn’t matter who you are, how famous, how successful, how cool... everyone has insecurities. Everyone feels self-conscious or self-aware, everyone is in the same boat as you, just trying to get through the day..."
Take Swedish songwriter and pop star Robyn, who she interviewed earlier this month. "Her new song is a really emotional track, and she had tears in her eyes and she really felt everything that she was saying. She was just real and true and her authentic self and for an interviewer that’s the best possible scenario."
One of the biggest things Annie's learned, which her mate Nick Grimshaw told her, is "simple but profound". This is it: "Liking yourself… sometimes you forget in this day and age how difficult it can be. Remember how to like yourself and the significance of being able to do that, especially in the world of social media; there’s a difference between feeling yourself and liking yourself!"
She also wants other young women to follow her lead. "Young women still lack the self-esteem to go, 'Yeah I’m gonna do this because I feel like my ideas are big enough'. But you have to believe in yourself."
Annie also has something to say on parenthood, and combining work with being a mother. "Women have a tendency to take it all on and to expect silently that they have to take it all on. I’m so guilty of that, so is every working mum I know."
She reminds her oldest son, who is five, that she hates to leave him but it's got to be done. "When I leave him I don’t want to, I hate it. But when I’m there, I love it. And I always love doing what I do. It’s important for me to be a happy mammy!"
On her legacy
The interview ends with a spontaneous question: "What would you want your legacy to be?" Annie tells us she's careful not to think about her legacy too much; after all, she’s got the energy of someone who’s just getting started. Basically, she wants to be known as "someone who was genuine and real and loved music!" Sounds about right to us.
Who does she have to thank for all this when she reflects on her self-acceptance and love? "My mum and dad for letting me be free and encouraging me to do exactly what I wanted to do." For example, going to see a woman sing from the depths of a dog basket.
Check out the rest of Annie Mac's interview on Refinery29 UK's Instagram and make sure to tune in to her show every day at 7pm over on BBC Radio 1