When Amanda de Cadenet launched The Conversation – a woman-only, non-promotional interview show – in America, an impressive role call of eminent names signed up to visit her plush LA home and chat candidly about everything from infidelity to drug addiction.
Part of this was down to de Cadenet’s illustrious social circle. With the help of Demi Moore, the programme’s executive producer, the pair called on old friends, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Jane Fonda, while also possessing the A List clout to secure guests such as Lady Gaga and Arianna Huffington, who they had never previously met.
“I called up well-known women and said, ‘Let’s use your voice for something other than free handbags,’” she explains. “I want you to come on the show and talk about the fact you’ve recovered from an eating disorder or breast cancer or that you had a miscarriage.’ Most of them said yes. They wanted to create media that is supportive of women.”
However, when it came to making the UK version of the show, it was a different story. The high profile British women that de Cadenet approached almost unanimously refused.
“We talk about very personal subjects,” she explains. “The English women wanted to be a part of the show but felt their lives would be made a living hell by journalists in this country if they talked about their drug addiction or miscarriage.
“They knew it would be taken out of context and really used against them, which I found very sad. Those stories aren’t going to get told now out of a fear of what tabloid journalism would do to them.”
There were three women, however, who remained undeterred. Caitlin Moran, Rita Ora and model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley all agreed to the interview and feature in a one-off UK special to air this evening on the new Lifetime satellite channel.
Preview clips show Huntington-Whiteley discussing the strict diet imposed on her as a young model (“They told me to eat one piece of sushi and smoke lots of cigarettes”) while Ora voices her disgust at the music industry’s sexualisation of female artists.
“Rosie, Rita and Caitlin are very brave,” says de Cadenet, “they did not hold back and their interviews are very candid.”
So how does de Cadenet encourage her guests to answer the sort of deeply personal questions they would normally dodge at all costs?
“I don’t make traditional television,” she explains. “I have a very skillful, all-female crew… I also get everybody off the set other than the people who have to be there… People said, ‘so you’re going to talk to Lady Gaga in your living room about her drug addiction? Yeah right Amanda, that will never work’. But it did.”
Another reason for her guests’ candor is de Cadenet’s ability to relate to the complex and often traumatic experiences they discuss.
The daughter of racing driver Alain de Cadenet, Amanda grew up in London, spending time in care following her parents’ divorce. At 19, she married Duran Duran’s John Taylor and began presenting Channel 4’s notorious magazine show The Word. But behind the fresh-faced, party girl persona, de Cadenet was locked in a battle with addiction that was relentlessly splashed across the tabloids.
Desperate to escape the limelight and stall her downward spiral, she decamped with Taylor and their young daughter to America and has lived there ever since (although she divorced Taylor in 1997), carving out a successful career as a photographer.
The result of her well-chronicled, turbulent youth is a determination on de Cadenet’s part that The Conversation should be a “solution-orientated” show that “accurately reports women’s lives” by discussing sensitive issues without exploiting them.
“I never interview anyone who’s in a crisis. There were people put forward [for the show] who were in the midst of crisis when I was shooting and I said, ‘No, I’m going to put you in touch with a good therapist. In a year’s time we’ll talk about it’. The goal of The Conversation is to share the solution. I don’t want to hear about the mess because we all know what that looks like. I want to know how you survived.”
See The Conversation at 8pm on Lifetime