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By: Agatha White-Dowe
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With her charm, smarts, and raucous sense of humour, June Sarpong is one of the fastest rising stars in the UK and has become one of the most recognised female faces on television.

Much more than a pretty face, she is also an accomplished and articulate presenter, the kind who manages to be equally at home with political dignitaries - she interviewed Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, HRH Prince of Wales, Al Gore, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and celebrities like George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Bono, Beyonce Knowles, Kylie Minogue, and many others. She was integral to the success of the UK’schannel 4’s flagship morning programme T4 on Sunday which she co-hosted with stud muffin Steve Jones. Behind her bubbly personality is a mind that whirls with constant activity. Sarpong is one determined lady who will always succeed despite the odds.

With over nine years experience presenting a wide variety of television shows, June is a natural and has gained remarkable ease in front of the cameras. What sets her apart from the rest of the post-teen presenters is her confidence and ability to adapt to any given situation. Watching her on television makes one feel like you are having a chat with a good friend. Her friendly disposition, self-deprecating humour, honesty, infectious laughter and happy demeanour made her the nation’s sweetheart, well before Cheryl Cole (now Tweedy) got the label attached to her too.

Ms Sarpong was born one of four children—big brother Sam and sisters Becky and Tina—in Leytonstone East London on the 31st of May 1977 to Ghanaian parents. Her parents split up when she was seven, and her father relocated to Los Angeles with her brother. She attended Connaught School for Girls in East London and says that she was an all-around girl (hardly surprising). Everyone loved her; she could fit in with any group, both the cool kids and the nerds. Her popularity also extended to her teachers who saw her as an honest kid that would give a true account of events if ever there was trouble.

At age 15, before the start of her illustrious TV career, on her way to school in Leytonstone, she was hit by a car. June suffered a fractured and dislocated spine and was in and out of hospital for18 months. This experience had a profound effect on her. Once recovered, life took an extraordinary turn for Sarpong. The near death experience meant that life could not be taken for granted—this sister was on a mission. Despite objections from her family who held firm beliefs that education equates to success, June pursued a career in the media. She got inspired, created and seized opportunities in pursuit of her dreams and persevered despite all obstacles to achieve success.

Her hard work paid off, it was not long before she started work experience with London radio station Kiss FM and within months of working there, she was offered a full-time position. This led to another media stint with Arista Records where she shepherded ‘A’ list celebrity artists including Whitney Houston, Puff Daddy (PDiddy), Estelle, and others.

From Arista, she started presenting programmes for MTV; this included Dance Floor Chart, Weekend Edition, and Select. As the front-woman and celebrity interviewer for T4, there is barely anyone worth knowing that this diminutive dynamo has not interviewed. She is the only presenter of her generation that is in her comfort zone, interviewing members of the public, celebrities, as well as politicians. The only targets left on her hit list are Oprah Winfrey and the Pope.

She had intended going to university to study politics and English, but the job offer from Kiss FM got in the way. In 2005 she starred with the then Prime Minister (PM) Tony Blair in When Tony Met June, a T4 special which aired in January 2005. Sarpong’s squeaky clean image is one of the things that have made her a firm favourite in Westminster: she does not do drugs, smoke, or drink. The show gave her unprecedented access to the PM, and she spent two days with him. For the two days, she proved her intellectual weight, talking about everything from his favourite band to the situation in Palestine and Afghanistan. Her interest and knowledge in politics might have stemmed from her past relationship with Labour MP and former Arts Minister David Lammy, which spanned from 2001 to 2003.

Talking about politics was not enough for Ms Sarpong, just like Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame, June brought us Politics in the City—that’s right politics is now sexy folks. She felt that women were disenfranchised politically as it had been made a "boys only club", hence the reason she used the power of showbiz to get young women interested in politics and came up with a website that combines both showbiz and politics called politicsandthecity.com. Is there anything June Sarpong can't do? It doesn’t look like it.

June has proven to be an impressive role model and an icon to many women and, in particular, women of colour. She is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and campaigns for the Make Poverty History Movement. Her involvement in this campaign led to a trip to Ghana in 2005 where she filmed a documentary to raise awareness for the cause. In 2007, aged 30, she was one the youngest honourees to be awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for services to broadcasting and charity on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

A woman of many talents, Sarpong has also set up her own production company cheekily titled Lipgloss Productions. (Did we mention that she has a penchant for lip glosses? Sarpong has said in the past that she always has a handful in her handbag whenever she is out, so if you are listening cosmetics giants, this is one Diva who truly walks the talk. We want to hear the bells ringing with endorsement contracts.)

And listen up, boys, brush up your chat up lines because this Diva is unattached. From the lady’s own lips, she has stated that the next man that comes into her life has to be ‘The One”. She does not want a relationship that would last only a couple of years and fizzle out. She wants a husband and not a boyfriend, and ideally would love to start having kids in the next couple of years when she turns 35. Applicants should send their profiles to DivaScribe.

Currently residing in LA and being managed by the famous William Morris Agency, it is only a matter of time before her career skyrockets there too. This is a new era for her. We have nothing but respect for this African sister; she is definitely one of the few inspirational women out there doing something. Take a leaf out of her book and "do one thing everyday that scares you (Eleanor Roosevelt)." ds

 

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