‘This industry was a horror story’: Melanie Sykes says she was ‘thrown under a bus’ by TV world and reveals ‘horrifying’ incident where a colleague stared up her skirt on set
Melanie Sykes has revealed that she felt like she was ‘thrown under the bus’ by the TV industry which she has described as ‘horror story’ in her candid new book.
In her autobiography Illuminated: Autism & All The Things I’ve Left Unsaid, the presenter, 52, – who fronted shows such as Today with Des and Mel and The Big Breakfast after rising to fame in the 90s – details her ‘horrifying’ experiences.
She has told how after a series of sexist and scary incidents – including one where a colleague stared up her skirt while filming – she had a breakdown.
Just before the breakdown she was diagnosed as autistic and decided to finally quit mainstream TV after appearing on Celebrity MasterChef in 2021.
Speaking to The Guardian about her autobiography she said: ‘I will no longer be tap-dancing for corporations who couldn’t give two hoots about my wellbeing. Mainstream TV just doesn’t interest me… I’m out of that game.’
Honest: Melanie Sykes has revealed that she felt like she was ‘thrown under the bus’ by the TV industry which she has describes as ‘horror story’ in her candid new book
Having her say: She has told how after a series of sexist and scary incidents – including one where a colleague stared up her skirt while filming – she had a breakdown (in 1998)
In her book she revealed one particularly distressing tale when she was taking part in a New Year’s Eve special but while she was filming, a colleague lay on the floor and stared up her skirt.
She told of the incident: ‘He thought it was funny. I was horrified and screamed. He got up and I threw a drink all over him. It was all caught on camera.’
Later she realised when the show aired that it had been edited it in such a way that they did not use the footage of him but instead just the part where she was ‘losing it’ so that she looked ‘crazy’.
In another tale she said that on the night she collected her Royal Television Society award in 2013 she kept being touched by a TV personality that wouldn’t leave her alone.
She claims he was grabbing her breasts and being a ‘complete pest’ which left her ‘feeling sick’.
Melanie also recounted being harassed by an older photographer when she was just 18 on a shoot in Africa.
She claims he ‘pressed himself against her in bed’ before eventually leaving her alone.
During all of these times she was dealing with undiagnosed autism and as a result drank too much to cope.
Candid: In her autobiography Illuminated: Autism & All The Things I’ve Left Unsaid, the presenter, 52, details her ‘horrifying’ experiences
Stars: She fronted shows such as Today with Des and Mel (pictured) and The Big Breakfast after rising to fame in the 90s
Tough: In one tale she said that on the night she collected her Royal Television Society award in 2013 she kept being touched by a TV personality that wouldn’t leave her alone
As an example of being ‘thrown under the bus’ she told how she had filmed a gameshow with TOWIE star Mark Wright that was then cancelled due to TV gambling rules.
But in the press release issued about the show being cancelled she claims that the the reason given was that her and had ‘failed to understand the concept of the game’ – which left her ‘fuming’.
She finally decided to quit TV after taking part in Celebrity MasterChef in 2021.
Speaking of her experiences in the industry in general she said: ‘Women that ask for certain boundaries can be misconstrued as difficult. Many men ask for what they want, which is great, but we should be allowed the same courtesy.
‘It is our right to equality. But if you challenge their status quo, you are considered a problem.’
She added that men don’t speak to other men the way they speak to women or they would be ‘punched in the nose’. adding that some men ‘save up’ their anger and anxiety and ‘unleash’ it on women.
In February Melanie revealed that she would be publishing a tell-all book discussing the challenges she’s faced since being diagnosed with autism at the age of 51.
The star shared her diagnosis in 2021, and said it’s been an ‘arduous road’ learning to ‘understand her neurodivergent mind and sensitivities,’ but hopes that by writing about them she can help others.
Melanie also told The Mirror that her book will touch on ‘fame, motherhood, self-medicating and trauma,’ as well as coming back from a ‘huge breakdown’ in the wake of her autism diagnosis.
She said: ‘Getting a late diagnosis and having to learn about and understand my neurodivergent mind and sensitivities has indeed unlocked my happiness but it’s been an arduous road.
‘Writing this book sometimes felt like I was performing open-heart surgery on myself but I knew how necessary it was. I can now put it out into the world unapologetically and confidently because sharing all the wisdom my life has given me makes it all worthwhile.
Mel added that ‘her story is one of honesty, resilience and growth in the face of challenge. By turns hard-hitting and joyful, it’s packed with surprise, hope and calls to action.’
She also said that she has wanted to write a book for some time, and her diagnosis ‘shone light across my entire life but took time to unpick.’
The beauty was diagnosed with autism in 2021, as her 18-year-old son Valentino has the same developmental disability.
Melanie has previously spoken openly about having autism, appearing on John Bishop’s podcast Three Little Words back in April.
During the podcast, Melanie said that she doesn’t see autism as a ‘disorder’ and told how it made ‘complete sense’ when she was diagnosed.
She began: ‘My youngest son has autism, and I’ve been diagnosed with it too. I’ve had to look at what it all means now, and it makes complete and utter sense.’
Comedian John then asked her if she had been diagnosed as a child, would she have felt limited in what she could do in her life in terms of forging a career in showbiz.
‘There’s no space for autistic people in this world,’ Melanie said, as she told John there wasn’t an ‘ideal’ profession that would suit someone on the spectrum.
‘This is another thing that I’m going to change,’ she explained. ‘Because there is no walks of life where it’s okay, people are still scratching their head about autistic people and what does it mean.
‘These people have got so much to offer the world, I do not see it as a disorder at all. It’s just a different wiring of you,’ the star added.
In September, Melanie opened up about bouncing back from a ‘huge breakdown’ and being more raw about her struggles as she noted that the world can feel ‘quite brutal’.
She also detailed her battle with receiving a prescription for medicinal Cannabis to help – admitting that it was ‘a long time coming’ after seeking advice from multiple GPs.
Chatting openly with her 303,000 Instagram followers, Melanie shared: ‘I wanted to come on and talk to you about my week this week.
‘Something incredible finally happened, I’ve been trying to get myself a prescription for medicinal Cannabis and I was finally able to get an appointment with a few GPs who agreed that medical Cannabis would help with unmasking my autism.
‘The more I unmask and start getting rid of my thick skin and being open with other people, I’ve become even more sensitive than I already am.
‘Therefore I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety. Some of you will know I’ve been in the process of coming back from a huge breakdown so I’m thrilled. It’s going to be a huge experiment and hopefully it works for me so let’s see.’
Continuing, the TV personality explained that she’s been taking shop bought CBD oil for a number of years – keeping an ‘SOS kit’ on her at all times with CBD products inside.
Touching on her struggle with agoraphobia, which is the fear of entering open or crowded places, leaving home, or being in places from which escape is difficult, Melanie shared that the SOS kit helps.
Horrible: In her book she revealed one particularly distressing tale when she was taking part in a New Year’s Eve special but while she was filming, a colleague lay on the floor and stared up her skirt
Back in the day: Melanie is pictured with Des O’Connor on their show in the 90s
Open: In February Melanie revealed that she would be publishing a tell-all book discussing the challenges she’s faced since being diagnosed with autism at the age of 51
‘I have been taking CBD oil for years, it’s really helped and there’s so many on the market. I’ve tried quite a few of them and I use one called ‘Canamis’.
‘When I became agoraphobic I made an SOS kit with a paper bag, tissues and my prayer beads so that I can do a meditation and a few Cannabis products.
‘I have to take CBD oil in conjunction to my new prescription so have the oil and also a CBD stress ball.
‘I’ll keep you updated on how my prescription is doing and how I’m doing – it’s really a whole new world hopefully for me, to be able to function in the world that feels really quite brutal for me. Oh my god it’s been a long time coming,’ Melanie concluded.
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