TV presenter Jean Johansson started her career after she won a nationwide search for a presenter. Her first TV appearance came when she was 18, presenting UKOOL, a magazine-style programme for CBBC. Having worked as a reporter on The One Show for BBC1 and as a presenter on Animal Park, also for BBC1, she is now on A Place in the Sun. Lynda Clark talked to her about her career, her interesting life and property experiences
Jean Johansson absolutely loves her work. Her enthusiasm, passion and excitement is very obvious when we sit down to chat. She has worked on some very high-profile programmes and now has her dream job as one of the presenters on A Place in the Sun for Channel 4. Jean grew up in Glasgow and was one of seven children, and had a very happy childhood. She said, “It was a big family but a happy family and I think it set me up well for dealing with people. At home you are always surrounded by your siblings and it helped me navigate different personalities and be totally non-judgemental. It was also very noisy and now I really don’t like silence. I am not good when it is very quiet and I don’t particularly feel comfortable in empty rooms or houses. We were very happy children and I couldn’t have wished for more.
“When I was at high school I joined a modelling agency in Glasgow and I had a great time working around the world and of course in London. I remember when I first came to London on a modelling assignment armed with my A-Z book. I had never been on the tube before and had to navigate around strange streets as I had seven castings in a day and they were all in different locations! Again, it was great grounding and a big learning curve which has stood me in good stead all my life.” Eventually she went to an open audition as BBC Scotland were looking for a presenter for a new magazine-style show, which was quite funky and edgy. “Open auditions are really good as it gives lots of people, who otherwise might never get spotted, the chance to see if they are good enough to get on a show. They don’t do them like that anymore, which I think is a great shame. I was so amazed that I got the job and it was the start of my TV presenting career. The show was called UKOOL and ran for a few series; it was great to work on.
“I then went to the Disney Channel, which was completely different and worked on a daily show called Studio Disney. It was such fun as I got to chat with pop bands, authors and sports personalities and it gave me the chance to travel too. We filmed reports from Paris, Australia and, of course, Los Angeles. I loved going to the Walt Disney studio in Burbank, California, as it was quite awe-inspiring to be where the wonderful animated films come from and where they are drawn and scribbled and turned into life. I also hosted the BAFTA award-winning Disney Channel Awards from the London Arena, which brings back some lovely memories.”
Jean is married to Jonatan Johansson who was a professional football player and coach. Due to him moving to Sweden to play for Malmo they relocated. “We were there for two years and it was a real culture shock. They have great summers but very dark, long winters and it was a complete change of lifestyle for me. I was used to going to lots of parties and premieres and suddenly my life was so different.
“When we came back I decided to do a postgraduate course in journalism as during the time we had been away, the industry and moved on and social media was just starting up. It was a really good course and I learned a great deal about blogging and writing for the press, and it gave me the opportunity to write my own things as well. It also gave me time to decide exactly what I wanted to do next. I got a job for Scottish TV in the newsroom and ended up presenting the weather. It was really hard work and very serious. There were deadlines, and obviously the weather has to be very accurate so I could never afford to make a mistake.
“The atmosphere was totally different to what I was used to as well, as the newsroom was a very different environment. It was such a great experience though and I am glad I had the opportunity to do it. I also became a mum and that was pretty incredible. My son is now eight and it can be hard work combining looking after him and working but it’s totally rewarding.”
She then became a reporter on the highly successful The One Show for BBC1. “That was another dream job and I enjoyed the fun, newsy, slightly quirky interviews I did with the public. It’s a really exciting show to work on and a super team as well. I also presented The Postcode Lottery, where I knocked on the doors of unsuspecting winners to give them a cheque for £30,000, which was their prize. It was totally life-changing for the winners and really ethical gambling as the money raised from the lottery went to charity.
After that, I was lucky enough to co-present Animal Park for BBC1. It was a week-long special programme celebrating 50 years of Longleat. I love being outdoors, so it was the perfect job, and we had to deal with everything from giraffes, lions and other wild animals to those that live on a farm. There were some dramas and moments, and it was very cold at times, but it was such a fantastic experience.
Jean then went to a screen test to be a presenter on A Place in the Sun, which ticked all her boxes – her love of travel and property. She landed the job and has been filming in southern Spain and the Canary Islands: “It’s so good to meet people who are very excited about changing their lives and seeing their journey to buying a home abroad. It’s also warm and sunny and everyone is always in a great mood!”
The first home that Jean bought was in 2000 in London’s East End. “It was very exciting and was just the shell of an old Chinese laundry. It was on two floors – the ground floor and basement – and my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and I did all the work ourselves. We even put up a glass wall between the bedroom and the bathroom and it turned out to be a really special space. We eventually rented it out and sold it in 2007.
“When we moved to Sweden we lived in a typically Scandinavian-style house, which was quite old-fashioned and very different to our home in London. The house was very light and had a really amazing kitchen. We lived there for two years and actually got married in Sweden. We now live in a small village just outside Glasgow, in a beautiful Edwardian house that dates back to 1915. The house is stunning and our son is very happy here and goes to the local school. It is also near the coast, which is great too. My husband is the new gardener and he is doing a fabulous job as the gardens are quite large and need a lot of work.”
Through her property experiences and work, Jean has some very sound advice for first time buyers. “The first piece of advice is to save, which is very important of course. Every time I have bought, I have gone with my initial instincts and if I ignored them I always made a big mistake. So, when you look at a property, look at everything and also ask questions. Is it close to the road which could be annoying? Are there signs of damp? Just do your research and walk round the streets and get to know the area so you have masses of information and knowledge before you decide to buy.”
Jean describes every job she has ever done as her “dream job” and she genuinely loves what she does. She has a great deal of admiration for people like Lorraine Kelly and Holly Willoughby and said, “I would love to take that next step and sit on the sofa! That REALLY would be a dream come true!” I think that Jean’s dream is well on the way to becoming reality.
Jean Johansson presents A Place in the Sun every weekday at 4pm on Channel 4