I was branded 'Lolita', told to remove my knickers during ‘dare’ & called 'old & ugly' while working on CBeebies | The Sun

IT’S supposed to be a scandal-free space where kids escape reality and enter a world of permanently-happy presenters, bold, bright studios and cutesy shows.

But Sarah-Jane Honeywell, a former CBeebies presenter, has told how there is a dark undercurrent afoot for female hosts working on kids’ TV.

The 49-year-old mum-of-two, who was sacked from her role at the BBC 12 years ago after posing topless in aid of a Peta campaign, has revealed how she was reduced to tears after being called “Lolita” and branded “old and ugly” by bosses during her career.

She also recalled one shocking incident when a male celebrity agent told her to remove her knickers during a game of ‘dare’.

"If women speak out, they're the problem," she told Fabulous. "I think with the MeToo movement it's nice now we can speak out, and I think more women are, but I also think they end up becoming the problem.”

It comes just days after reports that Holly Willoughby was allegedly told not to wear a bra when she was presenting on children's TV in the early stages of her career.



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According to a close friend of the 42-year-old This Morning host, a director thought that doing so would make her “more attractive” to viewers.

When it was pointed out that she was hosting programmes aimed at youngsters, the misogynist executive clapped back that “the shows weren’t actually for children".


While Holly hasn’t addressed the claims directly, Sarah-Jane has spoken exclusively to Fabulous and shared her experiences of what young female presenters were subjected to back in the day.

"During my stint on CBBC when I was in my 30s, I was told I had to share a dressing room with one of the male presenters with no other explanation," she explains.

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"It didn't feel right and although the person was really lovely, I wasn't comfortable getting changed in a room that was shared with a bloke.

"I told one of the male directors that I wanted to be in with the girls and it became such a big deal he would hardly speak to me, he was so angry."


Sarah-Jane, who has two children, Indiana, five, and nine-year-old Phoenix, with her Hollyoaks actor husband Ayden Callaghan, 41, went on to say how she was only given a dressing room when she "really kicked off about it".

She recalls: "Members of the crew gave me the silent treatment and I was made to feel like I was the problem.

"The director also never looked at me in the same way again.

"I remember feeling powerless. He never forgave me for that and just thought I was being 'starry'.”

The helpful feedback I received after the first block of filming? 'You look old and ugly and you need to cut your hair'

Sarah-Jane also recalls being sent out on location filming jobs, and while male presenters were provided with an entourage and a winnebago, she just had to strip off in random places.

She said: "I often had to get changed in places like a stable or in the back of a van because the job was very outdoorsy, but I think they just thought I had to get on with it."

She was also left to sort out her own hair and make-up – and ended up infuriating top bosses with the styles she chose.


Recalling one time she styled her blonde locks in bunches, she said: “I wanted to have my hair in interesting ‘dos to inspire the little girls who were watching.

"One particular day one of the heads of the BBC came down – and it was actually a woman – and told me I looked like Lolita.

"She said, 'We feel like you're going for a Lolita effect and we don't want you to wear your hair like that anymore'."

She was also left dumbfounded when, at the age of 36, she was dubbed “old and ugly”, by a top female boss.

She said: "We were filming outside and I was presenting in the snow.
"It was freezing but I had no one to do my make-up or make sure that I looked OK in a blizzard.

"The helpful feedback I received after the first block of filming? 'You look old and ugly and you need to cut your hair.' I'm not one for crying, but I really cried at that.”

Unlike Holly, who was reportedly told to go braless to sex-up her look, Sarah-Jane says she experienced the opposite.

"I was told to cover up," she says. "I was told, 'That's too flirtatious,' 'That's too provocative' or 'We don't like that outfit you're wearing.'

"I think bosses had a weird attitude towards female kids' TV presenters – that we're a bit like kids ourselves so they can tell us what to do."


Sarah-Jane recalls one shocking incident while out to dinner with a celebrity male agent.

She said: “I thought he was going to talk to me about my career but he just wanted to play ‘dare’. He asked me to go to the toilet and remove my knickers.

“I pretended I was too shy. I was actually really angry. But, and I’m ashamed to say this now, I didn’t want to annoy him and be blacklisted.”

Sarah-Jane, who has been sober for 22 years after developing a cocaine addiction in her 20s, says most of the misogynistic behaviour she received mainly came from women.

Members of the crew gave me the silent treatment and I was made to feel like I was the problem

"One female boss also told me I was too thin," she says. "I didn't say anything back because I'd been in an eating disorder clinic before I did kids' TV and I was really quite ill.

"I knew if I'd exposed any sort of mental illness at the time – I think it's different now – that it'd be really bad for me.

"I remember phoning one of my friends and being livid and thinking, 'Imagine saying that to someone who has an eating disorder?'

"I think if I had retaliated it'd come across nastily because I think if women do retaliate, they're seen as a diva or a bit bitchy, or mental, not as a human being who has feelings."

Sarah-Jane works for BBC Lincoln now and says they couldn't be nicer and are enthusiastic for her mischievousness and naughtiness.

However, she notes that if in kids' TV you look like her and behave like her and if you do have something to say, no one listens – and she believes that's probably the same for Holly as well.

She adds: "I don't think the industry has changed. If any time I was brave enough to speak up, I was just treated like I was the problem.

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Fabulous has contacted the BBC for comment.

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