Plea: Sarah-Jane Crawford says our money should acknowledge black Britons who have helped society
Sarah-Jane Crawford would like to put the face of an iconic black Briton on banknotes if she were Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The former BBC Radio 1 DJ and Xtra Factor TV presenter reveals she struggled to make ends meet and did not always have enough money for food while trying to break into the TV industry when in her 20s.
Now Sarah-Jane, 38, presents The UK Chart Show on Hits Radio every Sunday between 4pm and 7pm. She and her fiance, football manager Brian Barry-Murphy, recently had a baby girl. She spoke to DONNA FERGUSON from her home in Greater Manchester.
What did your parents teach you about money?
To be careful with it because it doesn’t grow on trees. I was aware, growing up, that money was not something that was always readily available and that I would have to work hard to earn it.
My mum was a housewife and stay-at-home mum. My dad had an office job, which I think was in sales, but he passed away when I was seven so I don’t remember the details. My stepfather used to drive London buses and works for the local council. We were a working-class family and money was tight. My parents were always trying 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 didn’t come from money. I know a lot of people now who grew up with an extremely 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 20s. I quit my graduate job in marketing to have my daytimes free so I could audition for work in television. I was living in a shared house with mice in London, auditioning during the day and working part-time in the Green Man pub on Edgware Road in the evening to pay my rent. It was a bit demoralising. People would come in and order a drink and sometimes they would recognise me off the telly – and I’d die inside.
I’ll never forget one day, having no money and wondering what I was going to eat for dinner. I went round my entire kitchen looking for money to scrape together and managed to find 80p. I remember thinking: this is so depressing, I’ve got no food. When you come from a working-class background and don’t have rich parents to bankroll you, trying to find work in TV can be quite soul-destroying. But I never gave up on my dream and kept allowing myself time during the day to do TV work until finally, it started to pay off. It took me a good few years but by the time I was 27, I was making really good money as a TV presenter.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, for voiceovers. 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 have bought for fun?
A designer handbag. It was a black and dark green patent leather bag and it cost me a few thousand pounds. I bought it on a trip to New York more than ten years ago. I can’t even recall which brand it was but remember feeling really excited I could afford it.
Unfortunately, I had a mentality back then of wanting designer things. I’m now a vegan, so I never buy luxury leather goods and don’t waste my money on expensive clothes. I no longer own the bag – I think I sold it and donated the money to charity.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Buying a doer-upper property 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 not to be trustworthy, but I kept throwing good money after bad.
I do still have the property and it’s rented out. But it’s not been as profitable as I would have liked it to be and I probably paid thousands of pounds too much to renovate it.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying my property in Greenwich, South London. I bought a two-bedroom luxury flat off plan, near the Thames, in 2015 and it instantly went up in value. It’s probably worth about 25 per cent more than I paid for it now.
I think when you invest in property long-term in London, it will always work out well. I see it as a pension fund.
Do you own any other property?
Yes, along with two properties up North and my former home in Greenwich, I own another flat down South. That was the first home I bought. But I don’t own the home I live in, in Greater Manchester – that one belongs to my fiance.
It was always really important to me to get on the property ladder, although I didn’t manage to do it until I was in my late 20s.
Have you ever made any other investments?
I got into Bitcoin when it was quite cheap, and made money from that. I didn’t get many coins though – I wish I had.
I decided to invest because this guy I met in LA kept banging on about Bitcoin on a night out five years ago. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. But afterwards, I realised I could have made a lot of money if I’d invested then. So in 2017, I bought a couple of coins, just before the price went mad – which turned out to be a good decision.
I’ve since sold them, and made a lot of profit on my investment. I just wish I’d bought when that crazy drunk guy in LA was going on about it, in 2015.
What is the one luxury you treat yourself to?
Membership of Soho House, a private member’s club. I like it because there are clubhouses in LA, New York and every major city I’ve visited. You can rock up with your laptop and no one is going to bother you. But if you do want to chat to people, there’s always someone interesting to talk to. It’s very much my industry – there are always lots of media people there.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I’d like to put people of colour on banknotes, because there aren’t any. It would be an historic move to acknowledge the black icons who have contributed to British society.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, I regularly donate to ActionAid, an international charity for women and girls living in poverty. They’re trying to end violence and poverty. I did some work with them and then decided to set up a standing order.
What is your number one financial priority?
To become financially independent. I’m working towards creating more passive income streams for myself, so I don’t have to always turn up to make money