Carissa Walford is a host of the Channel [V] music channel on pay TV and she writes and produces her segments. In October she started hosting her own show, [V] Trending. The 27-year-old Sydneysider was a nominee for favourite personality at the 2013 Astra Awards. She spoke candidly to me about her biggest regrets, her dream job on Channel [V] and how she became the personality she is.
Being a Channel [V] presenter seems like a dream job but I’m sure there is a lot of work behind the scenes. Tell me a bit about it.
Yes, it’s definitely a one-man band … You’re not in front of the camera and just given a script. You don’t have autocue and it’s not this glamorous, easy kind of job. You really have to find your way in the media and work out what your voice is going to be, what are you going to be like, how are you going to be different to everyone else … But this job has been like going to uni for 4½ years and getting taught journalism, media and communications, because they teach you everything from scratch. It has been quite incredible, to be able to get paid and learn on the job.
How did you figure out “your voice” in front of the camera?
I didn’t say no to anything. At one point, I had this weird idea that you had to do something out there and crazy to get noticed and particularly with Channel [V] … I guess, it’s part of the Channel [V] brand because Yumi Stynes, she was notorious for doing some really crazy, outrageous interviews that would get her into trouble … So at the very beginning I tried to kiss one of the band members [from Bluejuice] in one of my interviews [laughs]. Now I just look at it as a learning curve.
Do you have any regrets?
Oh, look, that is a regret … I’m like, “Why? Why did I decide to do that?” It wasn’t a good look. It was really bad … It’s that weird pressure or feeling of, “Well, you’re going to be boring and you’re going to be bland” and you don’t want to be compared to the likes of Yumi Stynes – it’s a lot to live up to. But I kind of found my place. I was like 23 years old at the time … I guess, there’s a part of me that is like that, but it’s not all of me! [Laughs.] I definitely wanted to be seen as a credible presenter on the channel.
Did you already have extensive knowledge of music history or is that something you have to work on?
Well, I had a musical background. My dad is a singer. He has played in bands around Sydney for years and years. He worked with Marcia Hines, John Farnham and local musos that kind of all know each other in the industry. So I used to sing with my dad. I went to a performing arts school called Australian College of Entertainment, where Delta Goodrem and Bec Cartwright went. So I’ve always had that in my blood – music, in particular.
You used to perform and sing all around Australia – what was that like?
Yes … I did everything at one point. I was a cheerleader for the Sydney Kings. I was a Harlequin dance girl. I was singing. I was jack-of-all-trades, master of none at that point… So, I went to NIDA and did a full-time, one-year presenting course and then I went back and did an acting course. I was pretty determined.
Did you always know you wanted to be a presenter on Channel [V]?
Yes, I used to go on the website and look up all the presenter profiles. I was very determined to get to this point. My first kind of big job was on Fashion TV. So I started doing bits and pieces for them and then I got a job on Fuel TV, which I was on for quite some time as a Smokin’ Hottie. At the start, it was really cool. I was interviewing surfers on the beach and I was on a jet-ski in the water, chatting to them after each heat. And then, of course, it turned into this, “You’ve got to wear a bikini and be this hot [presenter]…”
Does confidence come naturally to you?
I feel like I have this I-don’t-really-give-a-shit attitude sometimes. I was a dancer, since I was four, so you’re getting changed in front of everyone. You’re running around in your little tighty-whities and I’ve always felt quite comfortable within myself and my body and having that kind of dancing background.
You were nominated for favourite personality at the 11th Astra Awards – what was that like?
I was just really excited to kind of just get recognised in the TV industry. It’s a hard job. Award ceremonies, you never know what way they’re going to go. Obviously I didn’t win but it was just really cool to kind of be acknowledged and you kind of feel like, “OK, maybe my hard work has paid off.”
Who has been your favourite interview on Channel [V]?
It’s really hard to pick between Chelsea Handler… She is one of my idols, more so in the fact that she just has gotten away with so much. This year, another great interview was with Cara Delevingne … She said that her biggest fan was Meryl Streep. So I thought, let’s do like a little skit from Devil Wears Prada … It’s just those moments where, “Oh my God, we’re doing something different.” Like no one has ever done that with her before. She really got into it and she didn’t want the interview to end … So, I guess, it’s those kind of moments where you do something risky and spontaneous that’s never been done before and the person you’re interviewing absolutely loves it and doesn’t want the interview to end.
Do you ever stay in contact with any of the people you interview?
A lot of the Australian musicians that we’re getting all the time like your Jessica Mauboys and your Peking Duk and Guy Sebastian and Delta Goodrem. I feel like they’re friends of the family. We’re all kind of in contact at some point.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I am the biggest hippie beach girl. I just love going to the beach and attempting to surf… [Also] I have a big beauty obsession. I love make-up. So I’ve had make-up with my friends. We do like make-up tutorials on the weekend and stuff. It’s really bizarre. I really love when my girlfriends come over and I’ll say, “OK, sit down. I’m going to do a make-up look. We’re going to film it and pretend we’re on a show,” as if I don’t work in television.
If you hadn’t gone down this career path, what would you have done?
Well, I was supposed to go to uni and be a high school dance and sports teacher… There was a moment there where I thought, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to secure a well-paying, constant, secure job in this industry.” … But I ended up not having to go. Look, I was never the studying type at school. I was always queen of drama class, head of the sport class, music class.
WE WENT TO Hotel Palisade, Millers Point
WE ATE Burrata and Basil salad; potato and zucchini salad.
WE DRANK ‘Dark and Stormy’ cocktails.
CARISSA WORE a Camilla and Marc dress
Photography by Daniel Munoz.