Plea: Sarah-Jane Crawford says our money should recognize the black Brits who helped society
Sarah-Jane Crawford would like to put the face of an iconic black Briton on banknotes if she was Secretary of the Treasury.
The former BBC Radio 1 DJ and Xtra Factor TV presenter reveals she struggled to make ends meet and didn’t always have enough money for food while trying to break into the TV industry in her twenties.
Now Sarah-Jane, 38, presents the UK Chart Show on Hits Radio every Sunday between 4pm and 7pm. She and her fiancé, football manager Brian Barry-Murphy, recently had a baby girl. She spoke to DONNA FERGUSON from her home in Greater Manchester.
What have your parents taught you about money?
Be careful with it as it does not grow on trees. Growing up, I was aware that money was not always readily available and that I would have to work hard to earn it.
My mother was a housewife and a mother who stayed at home. My dad had an office job, which I think was in sales, but he died when I was seven, so I don’t remember the details. My stepfather used to ride London buses and work for the council. We were a working-class family and money was tight. My parents always tried to make ends meet – there was never a surplus of money in the house, but there was always a lot of love.
I’m glad I don’t come from money. I now know a lot of people who grew up with an extraordinarily ridiculous amount of wealth and I wouldn’t necessarily say they are happy. I think there is something magical about creating your own success and wealth.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, when I was in my early twenties. I quit my graduate job in marketing to have my day off so I could audition for work on television. I lived in a shared house with mice in London, auditioned during the day and worked part-time at the Green Man pub on Edgware Road at night to pay my rent. It was a bit demoralizing. People came in and ordered a drink and sometimes they recognized me from the television – and I died inside.
I will never forget a day, run out of money, and wonder what I was going to eat for dinner. I went all over my kitchen looking for money to scrape together and managed to find 80 pence. I remember thinking, this is so depressing, I have no food. If you’re working class and don’t have rich parents to fund you, trying to find work on TV can be pretty pathetic. But I never gave up on my dream and continued to allow myself time to do TV work during the day, until it finally started to pay off. It took me a few years, but by the time I was 27, I was really making a lot of money as a TV presenter.
Have you ever received ridiculous money?
Yes, for voice overs. I did one for a computer game where I said five words and got paid £ 16,000. I was only there for 15 minutes.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
A designer handbag. It was a black and dark green patent leather bag and it cost me several thousand pounds. I bought it more than ten years ago on a trip to New York. I can’t even remember what brand it was, but remember feeling really excited that I could afford it.
Unfortunately at the time I had the mindset of wanting designer stuff. I’m a vegan now so I never buy luxury leather goods and don’t waste my money on expensive clothes. I don’t have the bag anymore – I think I sold it and donated the money to charity.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Buying a doer upstairs apartment at auction. I bought two as an investment, but ended up wasting thousands of pounds on one of them. I was too busy to supervise the builders, who turned out to be unreliable, but I kept throwing good money after bad.
I still have the property and it is rented out. But it hasn’t been as profitable as I would have liked and I probably paid thousands of pounds too much to renovate it.
The best money decision you’ve made?
Buying my property in Greenwich, South London. I bought a luxury two-bedroom condo near the Thames in 2015 and it immediately went down in value. It’s probably worth about 25 percent more than I’ve paid for it now.
I think if you invest in London for the long term, it will always work out. I see it as a pension fund.
Do you have any other properties?
Yes, along with two properties in the north and my former home in Greenwich, I have another flat in the south. That was the first house I bought. But I don’t own the house I live in, in Greater Manchester – it belongs to my fiancé.
Getting up the property ladder was always very important to me, although I didn’t manage until I was in my late twenties.
Have you ever made any other investments?
I got into Bitcoin when it was pretty cheap and made money with it. I didn’t get many coins though – wish I had.
I decided to invest because this guy I met in LA kept banging about Bitcoin on a night out five years ago. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. But afterwards I realized that I could have made a lot of money if I had invested then. So in 2017 I bought a few coins, just before the price went crazy – which turned out to be a good decision.
I have since sold them and made a lot of profit on my investment. I wish I had bought it when that crazy drunk guy in LA was talking about it in 2015.
What luxury are you treating yourself to?
Membership in Soho House, a private club. I like it because there are clubhouses in LA, New York and every major city I’ve visited. You can rock with your laptop and no one will bother you. But if you want to chat with people, there is always someone interesting to talk to. It’s very much my industry – there are always a lot of media people.
What would you do if you were chancellor?
I would like to put people of color on banknotes, because there are none. It would be a historic step to recognize the black icons that have contributed to British society.
Are you donating money to charity?
Yes, I regularly donate to ActionAid, an international charity for women and girls living in poverty. They try to end violence and poverty. I worked with them a bit and then decided to set up a standing order.
What is your main financial priority?
To become financially independent. I am working on creating more passive income streams for myself so that I don’t always have to show up to make money
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