From major Hollywood films to low-budget daytime television, stylist John Scott has done it all and lives to tell the tale. Many tales in fact! John has downed cocktails with Jackie Collins, spruced up Piece Brosnan, sparred with Eamonn Homes and cuddled Ewan McGregor but what he loves most is helping ordinary men and women see themselves in a whole new positive light through style.
A gilded life you may think but John is also brutally honest about the bad times in his professional career. It happens, even in the ‘glamorous’ world of TV and if you are putting yourself on-screen you have to be prepared to deal with the times when criticism threatens your confidence. In his own words, John Scott’s account of the ups and downs of a fashion expert on television:
What is the role of an on-screen stylist working in TV?
The main objective of the TV stylist is to inform the viewers not only of what has been happening on the catwalks but also what’s occurring in the high street too, but also not to make one feel awkward and feel the need to only wear what the fashion industry dictates that we should be wearing.
I think its important to show the viewers how they can look good and thereby feel good; by all means introduce them to colours or shapes they may not have tried in the past. It’s education but in a fun and enjoyable way.
I feel that the models should be as “normal” as possible…there is nothing more frightening or off putting than showing an on trend fashion statement on an pouting, size 6, 5 foot 10 model when we all know that Mrs Regular is nothing like that…also how does that demonstrate what it will look like on the viewer at home?
My perfect line up would be a size 12, a size 16, a petite (ie under 5 foot 3), one of ethnic origin and one with a problem shape… also they should not all be aged between 18 and 26. We want experience; we want life stories; we want inspiration to spur us on to see that we could look that fab too. We need to see pear shaped, apple shaped, post pregnancy shaped bodies to see what can really be done because if its done right then it can be incredible.
Price ranges all have to be taken into account…no good only showing high-end high street or designer clothes. Yes its all very well to be aspirational – after all we wouldn’t be so hooked on celebrity culture if we didn’t have that voyeuristic instinct – but we also have to remember not everyone has a spare wedge of cash to throw on a new outfit each week. We need to be able to show how one particular piece of clothing added to your wardrobe will enable you to change the look. I can’t bear it when a presenter says …”look the whole outfit for under £200”….it’s better to show the viewer what they can do with their existing clothes too. Remember the John Scott column of colour and the John Scott capsule wardrobe!
How did you get into the job?
I got into TV styling completely by accident…my real job up until then had been as a Costume Supervisor in the film industry. I was lucky enough to supervise such films as Interview with a Vampire, Notting Hill, Four Weddings & A Funeral, three James Bond films, Tomb Raider and the likes. It was after doing one of the Bond films that I was asked by the lovely Johnny McClune (TV producer) to go onto ITV’s LK Today to take part in a make over (of a man believe it or not) to make him look like James Bond 007…..and as an intro to the item I took along and talked through several of the costumes from the film – star of the film, Pierce Brosnan’s suits; Sophie Marceau’s ski wear and some of the special effect dresses worn by the Bond girls in the casino.
Soon after that I was asked to go onto a show up in Manchester called Granada Breeze Live Time presented by the lovely Karl Wilde and the even lovelier Becky Want. They would do 2 hours of live TV every day and each day had a different theme: Wednesdays was fashion and beauty so me, Nadine Baggott (from Hello magazine) and a variety of hairdressers would schlepp up to Manchester and do a variety of make overs, fashion items, beauty items and such like ….I used to love it…..and then came the call from the team at ‘This Morning’.
I was called in for a screen test (I think it helped that at the time my brother Dr Mike appeared on the daytime show once a month as the side kick of the regular on-screen GP Dr Chris Steele). I went for a screen test…everyone commented on how well it went…I left feeling exhilarated….if not a little upset that my Richard and Judy were stand-ins Tim and Ritchie the floor managers. Fab though they were they weren’t the icons of R and J. I was told I would hear within 3 weeks as to my fate……
Three weeks passed; 3 months passed and nothing… not a letter not a phone call nothing. After 6 months I thought I was obviously so bad at it that they couldn’t even bring themselves to let me down gently.
Nine months later to the day and I was in London prepping for yet another Bond film – I think I was awaiting the arrival of the gorgeous Michelle Yeoh for a costume fitting. I had just had a quick cuddle with an old mate that I had worked with a couple of times (prepare for a name dropping) yes me and the lovely Ewan Macgregor had shared a squeeze and a giggle when my phone rang… withheld number… I answered and a very perky voice said, “Hello my name is Katie Hutchinson and I am calling from This Morning and wondered whether you were free to do an item on catalogue shopping this Thursday…”
Well I almost dropped the phone.
“Yes!” I squealed and proceeded to tell everyone that would listen of my news. Thursday morning arrived…no nerves… the very large Mercedes arrived to take me to the studios … no nerves… I went through the item with Katie and the fashion team … no nerves… got onto set no nerves… then in the middle of the live show there I am sitting in one of the famous brightly coloured tub chairs watching R and J finishing an item on adoption and the lights go up in the fashion corner. They walk over to me and introduce me and the item starts… no nerves… then half way through telling the viewers about a lovely kaftan from Littlewoods Judy reaches over and touches my arm as she comments on the item…..I freeze for what feels like hours and in my brain all I can think is … ‘FUUUUUUUUCK I am on the Richard and Judy show!’ I still look back at the video of that first show (my mum, god love her, taped my every appearance on the show …and that’s a lot of video tape over 10 years!) and even though I only falter for a matter of seconds I can see the panic running across my face at that moment.
The rest as they say is history!
You’ve worked with a number of celebrities. What are your most memorable moments with them?
Celebrities, Hollywood stars, TV icons I am so so so lucky to have worked and become friends with so many. I wouldn’t know where to start; the stories are endless… I feel several volumes of my memoires coming up.
I remember good, I remember bad and I remember too many things that I shouldn’t have even been privvy too. My one man show in the West End of London – An evening’s intercourse with John Scott – a while ago allowed me to regale the audience with tales of life on the set with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, all the way to having a colonic irrigation live on TV with the gorgeous Gloria Hunniford holding my hand.
I am so lucky to have been blessed with such a fabulous time… and friends still get shocked when we see people like Babs Windsor (she’s only 4 foot 11 you know and wears size 2 shoes…she gets them from Gina shoes) in Bond Street and she stops for a kiss and a goss…..or the fact that I get Xmas cards from the amazing Jackie Collins…
What skills do you need to be an expert on TV apart from knowing your subject?
Passion – passion for your subject matter and knowing it inside out. I understand why shows go for celebrity presenters as it draws in the viewers but you know what? It’s live TV and if you are working, say, with the legend that is Eammon Holmes and he throws you a curve ball or asks a tricky question you need to know your subject inside out…..its no good calling an epaulette a peplum and thinking you can get away with it.
You must also have honesty and integrity…the viewers are far more canny than you imagine. If they see honesty and humility they will warm to you and believe in you…any falseness they can see through immediately.
What do you find most rewarding about your TV work?
I love my job there is no two ways about it. I adore rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous I wont deny it BUT BUT BUT what’s best hands down every time is the good old fashioned makeover… real people real problems real lives and real bodies. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can dress a size 10 model with perfect proportions, but you give some so-called fashion experts a lady in her 40’s or 50’s with 4 kids, a mummy tummy, a real hatred of their own body – someone who puts their family first and has lost themselves – and then see what they can do.
With trust, a few simple tricks and the right clothes you can make that person feel a million dollars and can help boost their self-esteem into space. I’m not talking squeezing them into designer duds, I am talking high street affordable clothes and words of wisdom…and not just a make over for the day I mean a real road to Damascus moment…one that they will remember and maybe each morning may just think, ‘oh John told me this or John told me that….’. It’s so rewarding.
What has been your most challenging job in TV?
I love a challenge so no job has been too challenging for me. It’s not really worth doing if you can do it with your eyes shut. Sometimes its not the job it’s the support system – or what should be your support system – that lets you down. Throughout my time at ‘This Morning’ I was surrounded by a fabulous fashion team and I can’t fault any of them. Not that it was it was all plain sailing: I had lovely producers and researchers who would get stressed and shout a bit but we were all after the same final result; however what can take the wind from my sails is lack of positive support from the bosses.
If someone higher up the pyramid has no faith in you going into work each day can be a nightmare…it can make you lose all faith in yourself. I had the absolute pleasure and honour to work with one exec producer who I now think of as a good friend; we created the phenomenon of Beat the Stylist – a format that is now copied the world over. I was devastated when she left. Not mentioning any names but one of my subsequent bosses appeared to have no faith in me. As far as I was concerned they didn’t think I was up to the job and for the next two years all my confidence was drained from me; everything I did was criticised and it left me feeling useless. That, to me, has been my biggest challenge…but I have used it to my advantage. I know how low I felt at that time and would not want anyone to feel the way I felt then, so now I use it. If ever I feel a diva strop coming on (yes I know, hard to believe that little old me can have one or two of those…a day!) I remember back to how I felt and I deal with it differently; so in a way good came from that challenging situation.
Did you/do you use an agent and how do they help?
I have an agent but it doesn’t mean you can sit back and let them get on with it. You need to get out there yourself, make and maintain contacts, put yourself in front of producers and show off your work. I’ve managed to secure on-screen jobs purely on my own initiative.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to work as a stylist in TV?
Do your time as an apprentice, learn your craft, don’t do the job because you just want to be famous and trust no one!
Thank you, John. And if you fancy seeing more of the John Scott magic then check out his site:
…and if you want a laugh, then you have to spare a few minutes to watch this clip from some years back on This Morning. We decided to do a series on Past Life Regression with therapist Andrea Foulkes. We sent John along for a session and the result was very funny. If you are short on time you can start at around 2 minutes into this YouTube clip: