Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon
"I thought I had been invited to such an illustrious event because I am good at my job. Putting clothes on is such a small part of my day"
I am a comedian. You may or may not find me funny, but the fact remains, that I am a comedian. This feels like a defensive start to a column but you will soon understand why.
Last year, I was nominated for a Bafta. Me. The quiet girl at school. The awkward girl at college. The funny woman at work. A Bafta. And in a genderless category too. Alongside the entertainment greats: Graham Norton, Alan Carr and Ant and Dec. It felt ridiculous but I was thrilled. I’ve been nominated for awards before (even won a couple) and it really is the best. If winning is chips and gravy then being nominated is still chips. Lovely, lovely chips.
On the run-up to the ceremony, plans were made. This here smashing magazine asked me to present an award, someone asked if I wanted my hair and make-up done, my fella took the night off to accompany me, my friend asked if she could come shopping with me for my dress.
Yes, yes, all of this, yes. My friend and I danced into John Lewis knowing that a) they have lots of mini shops in there, and b) I can fit it into most of them. Fancy expensive designer shops are out for me as I’m a size 18, sometimes 20, and I therefore do not count as a woman to them.
We knew which one was the right one as soon as I swished back the curtain and both my friend and I oohed. At the till, when asked, I told the lady it was for a wedding as I was too embarrassed to announce I was off to the Baftas.
On the day, my fella and I drove to London, parked, I had my hair and make-up done while he read his book nearby. We got changed into our glad rags in the toilets of the spa. I don’t have any interest in shoes so just popped my comfy black patent leather ones on. He helped me with my new necklace and off we went to the Baftas.
The red carpet is very intimidating, although I garnered a few laughs when I replied to the “Who are you wearing?” question with “John Lewis” and the “Where did you get your dress?” question with “The Trafford Centre”. I had a few awkward photos taken by the wall of paparazzi. Awkward as I’m not a model (I’m a comedian), have never learnt how to pose on a red carpet (I’m a comedian) and I have pretty low self-esteem.
My husband wasn’t asked who he was wearing, which disappointed him. Mainly because he was dying to tell ANYONE he was wearing an Asda tux. Not one of the cheap ones, as he likes to point out, it was £60. The ceremony itself was a wonder. Everywhere I looked were the best in the business. Writers I’d admired, actors I’d cried to, comedians who’d made me laugh so much I got a headache. Amazing people being applauded for being bloody good at their jobs.
I’d heard the phrase “knees knocking” before but didn’t know it was an actual thing until I presented the Radio Times Audience Award. It went OK, I don’t think I messed up and I went back to my seat. After the ceremony, we had a lovely meal (apart from one of the courses that had soil on it, intentionally) with the RT lot and then I bullied Stephen Mangan into introducing me to Matt LeBlanc. Night made, we went to the car to drive home.
In order not to dilly-dally, my husband did the first stint of driving while I got out of my dress at various traffic lights in central London. Driving clothes on, I checked my phone. Loads of friends and family had texted the expected “You were robbed”, which I wasn’t but they’re my friends and family so they’re supposed to think that. Then I went onto Twitter and it was like a pin to my excitable red balloon. Literally thousands of messages from people criticising my appearance. I was fat and ugly as per usual. My dress (the one that caused ooohs in a department store fitting room?) was destroyed by the masses. I looked like a nana, my dress was disgusting, was it made out of curtains, why was I wearing black shoes with it. I cried. I cried in the car.
And that wasn’t the end. The next day, I was in newspapers pilloried for what I was wearing. I was discussed and pulled apart on Lorraine.
I’m sorry. I thought I had been invited to such an illustrious event because I am good at my job. Putting clothes on is such a small part of my day. They may as well have been criticising me for brushing my teeth differently to them.
Yes, there were lovely messages from my fans between the hate but the hate was dominant and made me upset at first and then furious. Why does it matter so much what I was wearing? Why did no one ask my husband where he got his suit from? I felt wonderful in that dress. And surely that’s all that counts. I made a decision the following day that should I ever be invited to attend the Baftas again, I will wear the same dress. To make the point that it doesn’t matter what I wear; that’s not what I’m being judged on. With the added fun of answering the red-carpet question, “Where did you get your dress?” with “Oh, it’s just last year’s, pet”.
And so I was invited back to the Baftas. Nominated again, indeed. But sadly I am working that night. But if you have tickets to see my show in Buxton on 18 May, you may see me making my point anyway.
The Sarah Millican Television Programme – Best of Series 1 & 2 is available to buy on DVD at radiotimes.com/dvdshop