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The week:: I'm living my dream.


THE saying 'the best of both worlds' could have been invented for Satnam Rana.

It's not just that she she combines a career in both Midlands television and radio. She also manages to move easily between east and west, her Asian heritage and British home.

'I'm as happy wearing a sari to a church wedding as trousers to an Asian wedding,' she says.

But then Satnam, a Midlands Today newsreader and host of Radio WM's Midlands Masala, is highly accomplished.

She speaks four languages well - English, French, Hindi and Punjabi - as well as conversational Spanish. She can play Indian musical instruments, the harmonium and the dholki drums. She's competed in Latin American ballroom dancing and loves to salsa. She's even multi-skilled in her job - reporting, newsreading and making her own films - and she goes out with her own small camera, then edits the footage.

Then there's the three-hour radio show, Midlands Masala, she presents every Friday with Jay Patel, bringing Asian news and entertainment.

We meet when most people's working days are just getting going. She's bubbly and full of energy, despite having been up since 3.45am and in the BBC studio at Birmingham's Mailbox for five hours. And it's not as if she's nearly finished - she works 10-hour days.

Satnam talks about her job enthusiastically, saying 'I'm living my dream', but she's worked hard for it since the age of seven. That's when, growing up in Wolverhampton, she announced she wanted to be on TV.

'My mum clipped me round the ear and said 'Don't be so silly'. But they soon realised I was serious. I was a determined and boisterous kid, who dragged them along to drama classes.

'I was constantly writing off to programmes like Blue Peter and Why Don't You with ideas for programmes. I was really disappointed that I never got a Blue Peter badge.

'I remember ringing up a local BBC TV station when I was seven and asking them to arrange for Emu to come to my school.

'At the age of 10 I produced a newspaper and sold it for 10p a copy. When I hit my teens I did lots of work experience at local radio stations, and worked at a community radio station to record a newsletter for visually impaired students.'

She even chose Lancaster University to study history and French because it had its own radio station, for which she worked from her first day there.

On graduating she joined Radio Five Live as a reporter, then started as a trainee on Midlands Today four years ago. Satnam clearly remembers her first live broadcast.

'I was sent to Stoke-on-Trent to do a piece on foot-and-mouth disease. It was exhilarating and afterwards I was on such a high. I drove down to Wolverhampton with bottles of non-alcoholic bubbly for my teetotal parents and champagne for me.

'We celebrated again when I presented my first news bulletin just after Christmas. I'd shadowed Kay Alexander for a week beforehand, then it was my turn. I remember sitting in the studio, shaking so much that my hands were tapping on the desk.

'I had to go out and buy more clothes, because you have to think more about your appearance when you're presenting rather than reporting.

'You have to look neater and put on a bit more make-up. I wouldn't normally wear suits, but I also don't want to wear anything too fuddy-duddy because I'm still in my 20s.

'My biggest critics are my sisters, especially the youngest, Nimrita, who's 14. She doesn't let me get away with anything. She'll say 'Don't wear that top again'. She keeps my feet on the ground!

'She came round the other week and said 'My teacher wants your photo. He fancies you - it's so embarrassing!'.'

Satnam is ambitious and driven without being too pushy.

She's one of those people who is always on the go - if she's not working, she's going to salsa classes or learning Spanish.

'If I'm going to a new country, I like to try to speak the language,' she explains.

She speaks Punjabi at the family home in Wolverhampton, to which she often returns from the house in Birmingham she now shares with friends.

Her family and Asian background are clearly important to her, but she has successfully combined the worlds of east and west.

'I was the only Asian girl in my set at Smestow School in Wolverhampton, but it wasn't something I thought about. It made no difference.

'I think I've had a really successful upbringing in that way. I was never forbidden from doing anything. Mum and Dad trusted me and I was encouraged to be independent.

'I know some Asians lead something of a double life, but I am who I am all the time.

'I can be a bit outspoken for an Asian crowd, but I've managed to blend the two cultures.

'I like having fun at work. If there's a noise in the office, you can bet Satnam's around!

'And I like to party and dress up. That partly comes from working in a fancy-dress shop as a student.'

It also explains her being photographed at one 1980s-themed party looking like Tina Turner!

'I love to dance, even if it's just at home with my sisters,'she says.

'And I love entertaining, so I spend most of my money buying food and drink for other people.'


NAME: Satnam Rana

AGE: 28

FAMILY: Satnam is single 'but not averse to meeting someone'. Her parents are Daljit, a nurse at Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary, and Inderjit, who works for the Royal Mail. She has three younger sisters - Onka, 23, Amrita, 17, and 14 year-old Nimrita.

FANCY THAT: At 5ft 2in, Satnam has to sit on a cushion to read the news, otherwise she can't rest her hands on the desk properly.

AND ANOTHER THING: As a student, Satnam's holiday jobs included working as a legal secretary and as an interpreter during the huge 1998 Lions conference at Birmingham's NEC, where 25,000 delegates came from 180 countries. 'That was brilliant, just being paid to chat to a group of French women,'she says.


TOP TEAM: Satnam with Jay Patel, her co-host on news and entertainment radio show Midlands Masala NON-STOP: Satnam Rana works 10-hour days. Right, as Tina Turner with Sharuna Sagar as Siouxsie Sioux
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2005
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