This is my journey into the Den

This is my journey into the Den

Jasmine Wicks Stephens
A year ago I applied to be on Dragons' Den. I’d heard in passing lots of good things about the publicity that being on the show can bring brands. And as publicity is what I have built my career on, I can’t say my ears didn’t prick up with every mention. However, public speaking has always been my nemesis. I’ve been on A LOT of presentation training over the years, and whilst I’ve improved and generally just applied the ‘fake it til you make it’ approach, it’s not something that I would have ever thought about putting myself forward for, especially on such a huge platform. The idea of humiliating myself on national TV was (and still is) terrifying. I don’t know what changed...? Desperation? A last-ditch attempt at putting the brand on the map with minimum investment? It definitely wasn’t a quest for fame. And so a year ago, I jumped online and filled in the application form without pausing to angst over my answers, and hit send.

A while later, I heard back and then began a year long process of anxiety-inducing anticipation. From online chats with producers, to audition tapes and live interviews, the process took a few months to know if I was going to make it on the show. And when I say ‘make it on’, that is constantly caveated along the way, leaving you uncertain if you are ever actually going to see yourself on TV.

After a successful audition process, I got the call that I had a date to film in the Summer. This date then got moved and changed, and being someone who likes to be in control of situations, I can’t say I have enjoyed the whole level of uncertainty around being on the show. I revised every single day from the moment I started the audition process. Watched every show I could find, noting down the questions being asked, working out my answers, confirming numbers and memorising figures. Post it notes everywhere round the house, even making up songs to try and make sure the information stuck. But despite all the prep, by the time the day of filming came, the nerves were sky high.

We (my husband Dan and I) travelled up to Manchester the night before and went on a mission to see the Man City bus go through the town in celebration of them winning the league. We’re Arsenal fans, but when in Rome. The hotel we were put up in was basic and the room was boiling hot, and having rehearsed every available moment for so long, by that point I felt like getting out was best for my sanity. So, we watched the parade, got absolutely soaked as the rain poured and then headed for sushi. We went back to the hotel and I tried to get an early night, although didn’t sleep well at all, naturally. The next morning, I got up and was advised to arrive ready for filming, so did my hair and make-up myself and popped on my Isabel Marant dress (TV obviously requires a nice dress, plus it ideally needed to be Faace lilac and this was the best of what I could find at short notice). We arrived at the studio, five minutes down the road, at 10am.  

I didn’t go into the Den until 6pm. Eight hours of waiting. Sitting around, rehearsing in front of large audiences of crew (horrible!), setting up the props, filming snippets, being interviewed,  subtly being encouraged to say cringeworthy things that would help make for a better viewing. Also, I think they film more people than actually feature on the show, and I really, really didn’t want all this effort to come to nothing. So, I tried to give engaging and revealing answers, with the awareness that ultimately this is all about making good TV first and foremost.  

I entered the lift and hearing the kafuffle on the other side, patiently waited for the doors to open. I’m claustrophobic and hate being trapped inside places, and I was just about to call out to let them know that I was in fact finding being stuck in the lift quite unbearable and that they needed to let me out immediately, when the doors opened and I walked into the room to see the five faces that I’d seen so many times on the TV screen before, staring back at me. Kind eyes, but stern faces. Ready for the roasting to begin.

Am I looking forward to my episode airing in a weeks’ time? Absolutely not. In fact, I am bracing myself for nationwide humiliation.

Will it all be worth it? I’ll let you know…

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