June Sarpong reveals her gaslighting experience as a black woman on television

June Sarpong has opened up about her experience of being gaslit early on in her career.

June Sarpong smiling in photoshoot
Credit Getty Images
(Image credit: Photo by Massimiliano Donati/Awakening/Getty Images)

June Sarpong was one the UK’s most prominent television presenters in the 00s. She started out presenting T4 alongside Vernon Kay, Miquita Oliver and Steve Jones, her career has gone in a very different direction. Having stepped back from presenting, June is the author of two books on diversity and inclusion. 

Last year she was appointed the BBC’s first director of creative diversity. Now June has opened up about her experience of being gaslit as a black woman on TV.

What did June Sarpong go through?

Having gone from one of the most prominent faces on television to an author and campaigner, June recently suggested to Metro that her job in TV wasn’t as perfect as people might think. 

When speaking at this year’s Creative Coalition 2020 conference, she expressed her hope that people who have recently joined the TV industry don’t "necessarily need to go through the things I went through in my career".

She stated, “I understand firsthand what the problems are and who the problem is as well and where the barriers are to progress.” June later revealed, ‘I’ve been in rooms with commissioners where you’ve been gaslighted.’ 

The former television presenter went on to explain in more detail about the bias she encountered. 

“I’ve been up for jobs and, last minute, there’s been fear of whether or not a Black person can present a mainstream show,” she recalled. 

What does gaslighting mean?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that has gained more public awareness in recent years. It’s the term given to a situation where one person is trying to convince another that they’re wrong, even when they’re not.

Many people could be guilty of this to some degree, such as when we refuse to listen to another person’s point of view. 

However in it’s more extreme cases, gaslighting can be a very real and terrifying form of abuse

Relationship support organisation Relate states on its website that, ‘In certain situations, someone might deliberately gaslight their partner as a way of controlling them – a serious form of emotional abuse that is never acceptable.’

How has June Sarpong responded?

June reportedly went on to say that she didn’t believe the gaslighting and bias she experienced were “intentional”. However she mentioned that she thought these decisions could be made “out of fear”. 

She suggested that commissioners are worried that the audience won’t react well. June  added, “I know firsthand… that is not how the audience thinks, because I know how the audience responds to me.” 

What is June Sarpong’s book about?

In her two books, Diversify: Six Degrees of integration and The Power of Privilege June Sarpong directly addresses how everyone can help combat these issues.

In The Power of Privilege in particular, she explains how white people can challenge racism in our society.

June Sarpong, book

(Image credit: Amazon.co.uk)

According to Metro, June has mentioned how “sometimes the onus is put purely on people of colour, Black people”. However, she emphasised that this is a conversation everyone needs to have. June also addressed the “very specific role” that white people have to play in this. 

She ended with a significant statement that speaks to everyone. 

“It’s about examining white privilege and what that means – are you perpetuating it or actively being anti-racist to help dismantle it?”

Last month, BBC director-general Tim Davie said that he wants both ethnicity and disability representation of on-screen contributors to be monitored from now on. This is part of a new voluntary move for the broadcaster.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!