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Mirror Works: My CV - IDOL LIFE IS HARD GRAFT; Pop Idol judge Neil Fox on his life as a top DJ.

DJ Neil Fox presents Capital Radio's weekday drivetime show and the hit 40 UK chart rundown on Sundays.

Now he's back on our screens, judging more hopefuls in the second series of ITV's Pop Idol. Foxy, 42, and his wife Vicky - a shoe designer - have been married for four years. They live in London with their daughter Scarlet, two, and baby son, Jack. Here Neil tells YVONNE SWANN about his career moves.

TRAINING

I grew up in Thames Ditton, Surrey. I went to Kingston Grammar School, passed 13 O-Levels and 3 A-Levels and went to Bath University where I got a degree in business. At school I was attracted to the military. My brother went into the Army and is now a colonel. I was in the cadets and thought I might do a short service commission.

I got through the preliminaries but didn't take up the option. The Royal Engineers were going to sponsor me through university but, instead, I got an industrial sponsor who was not going to tie me down to any job afterwards.

I went to America as part of my degree and fell in love with the commercial radio over there. It was more exciting, better marketed and more fun. I realised that radio was where I wanted to be. I finished my degree and tried to find a way into broadcasting.

FIRST JOB

I worked for a company that made polythene bags. I dreamed of radio but, being sensible, I worked as a management trainee. I did it because my dad thought my ideas about radio were stupid. Also, it paid off my overdraft.

During that time I sent a tape to the local radio station - Radio Wyvern in Worcester - which was running a DJ contest. I became friends with one of the DJs and used to do some work on his show after my day job and at weekends. I did a couple of shows on my own then they asked me to go full time. I was there for 18 months.

I made a vow with my dad when I went to work in radio, which paid rubbish money. I told him: "I'm 24 and want to try this. If I'm not on a major station at 30, I'll quit." He was satisfied, knowing there was a plan. Luckily it happened much faster. Two years later I was on Capital.

MY CAREER

I went to Radio Luxembourg in 1987 and spent nine months there. Then Capital Radio offered me a job and I have been there ever since. It is a fabulous place to work. I love it.

My then boss at Capital, Richard Park, was very influential. He's still a friend. He offered me the job and encouraged me to be the best. In the 14 years he was my boss we had huge rows but that was because we're both strong people and had to express our ideas. Not many bosses care that much. He's a pro who gives constructive criticism.

MY LUCKY BREAK

A massive break for me was when I became a national broadcaster with the Pepsi Chart in 1993. Then, of course, came Pop Idol.

MY WORST JOB

I worked in a factory sweeping aluminium dust. It was a summer job when I was 16. I got pounds 35 a week - good money but hard earned.

THE FUTURE

I have a production company, which I run with my business partner Rory. We have sold options on three original ideas - an adventure game show, a travel entertainment show and a serious music quiz. We are working on radio ideas too.

MY ADVICE

Lots of people want to get into the media but when you ask them in what capacity they have no idea.

The entertainment business looks glamorous and I can't deny it is the most fantastic career but you have to work hard. Today, for example, I started at 4.30am.

It takes time and hard work to build a career. We live in a society where everyone wants everything now. But whatever job you want, you have to get as many qualifications as you can, do your apprenticeship and look to the long term.

CAPTION(S):

SCREEN TESTERS: Neil Fox, far right, with his fellow Pop Idol judges; ON AIR: DJ Neil Fox in the studio
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 9, 2003
Words:720
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