StyleTails caught up with official voice of the London 2012 opening ceremony, the lovely Layla Anna-Lee to talk about that moment with the Queen, hot boys on bikes and finding her Mojo……her Japanese Spitz, that is.
Just when we thought that the entire nation was about to slip into “Post Olympic Depression” (that’s a real thing apparently?), the Paralympics have come along and saved the day. Yay! More yelling at the telly! After seven years of doubt and pre-emtive cringing, Great Britain was positively brimming with pride during Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony last month. One woman who can claim to have had the best seat in the house is Layla Anna-Lee. As a regular on Sky Sports and presenter of the Olympic beach volleyball in Trafalgar Square, the English Brazilian was chosen by Danny Boyle himself as the voice of the London 2012 opening ceremony. No pressure then. More than just a pretty face, (and a nice voice to match clearly), Layla is a that rare thing – a woman who knows her sports and appeals to female viewers. StyleTails caught up with her and her cycling partner Mojo.
You were picked by Danny Boyle to be the voice of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. That must have been amazing?
I think that will be the highlight of the rest of my life! It was completely incredible. I had originally been asked to present the beach volleyball at the Horse Guards Parade and the cycling, which was like landing the best job in world for me. When I got the call to say I had been picked to do the opening ceremony, I was completely over the moon. I ended up having to drop the cycling events because rehearsals clashed but it was worth it. In this business, things can be so flakey and you never really want to believe anything until you see it. I couldn’t believe it when it all came together.
The opening ceremony was full of surprises. Did you know what was going to happen?
No! They held loads of stuff back, to the point where I was about to start moaning that I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly. The secrecy had to be so strict because there were journalists outside the stadium waiting to hear what we would announce during rehearsals. I wasn’t given the full script until the actual day. I didn’t know that Mohammed Ali was involved until the morning of the ceremony. It freaked me out because I was in such awe of him that I was worried my voice would break from excitement when I announced him.
What were your favourite moments?
The rehearsals were totally surreal. Watching Paul McCartney and Rowan Atkinson perform in an empty stadium with just the crew around was really special. Also, being told the Queen was about to enter on the evening. We had the best seat in the house perched right above all the action and she was sat in a box right beside us. We slipped in there after she left to see what she was drinking. G&T of course!
How did you get into presenting?
I really wanted to be an actor and a dancer so I studied at Sylvia Young Theatre School. After doing a couple of presenting jobs, I discovered quite quickly that I was very good at talking non-stop for hours, so it was a natural progression for me. The sports thing was really me trying to fit my presenting around my hobbies and it’s just grown from there.
Have you always been into sports?
I’ve always been obsessed with cycling. You know the area of the South Bank where all the guys are skate boarding and on bikes? That was my idea of heaven. I had a major crush on guys on bikes so I guess I sort of ended up interested in sports because I wanted to impress boys when I was younger, but it grew into a full blown passion.
Is your brain jammed full of sports stats?
I knew a lot about BMX when I started out but road cycling was really new to me. I had to learn a lot about it. The biggest fans of the sport know a lot, but you have know even more than them. You have to be prepared to interview the winner of a race which will be one of hundreds of competitors and you won’t know who that will be right until the last minute. You’ve got to get your facts right otherwise you will end up looking like an idiot.
Sports presenting is still predominantly the domain of men. Do you think there’s room for women?
In the past female sports presenters have really only fallen into two categories; pretty blondes who just read from a script but knew nothing about sport or ex-sportswomen. I think Sky Sports were making a very conscious decision to attract more female viewers by using female presenters that women find watchable.
The Olympics has definitely raised the profile of women in sport. Why do you think we don’t see more female sports broadcast on the TV?
The women’s beach volleyball seemed to be a popular event. No seriously, I think the problem is that men definitely make up the majority of sporting audiences. We need more women to start watching and supporting women’s sports and we’ll start seeing more of it on television.
Are you super sporty yourself?
I’m still mad about cycling. I live out in the country in Cheshire so I go out on rides with Mojo all the time. I do play beach volleyball but pretty badly.
You’re half Brazilian half English. Who do you cheer for?
That’s a tough one. I pretty much cheer for Great Britain in everything except beach volleyball and football. I think it’s ok to cheer for Brazilian football because England does the same!
Rio has a tough act to follow in 2016. What do you think we can expect from the Games?
Thankfully Rio is such a different city to London so it will be totally incomparible. Just like we didn’t try to compete with Beijing, Rio will do it’s own thing. Brazil still has some ways to go and needs a lot of work, but they are getting there. I’m sure it will be a massive celebration of sport, music, dance and everything Brazilian.
Tell us about your dog Mojo?
Mojo is a Japanese Spitz. He’s five now which is still definitely a puppy. He’ll always be a puppy to me. I got Mojo with my ex-boyfriend. He had asthma so we had to get something close to hypoallergenic. I wanted a Maltese but he said he refused to walk a teeny dog so we compromised on a Japanese Spitz. I call him the “doggy daddy” because he still sees Mojo. He and his and his new girlfriend help out with him sometimes – it’s like a modern family! Mojo such a great dog – a proper buddy. We go on walks and rides together and I have a little trailer for him when he gets tired or we’re riding on the road. He loves it.
QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS – MOJO
Describe yourself in three words
Fluffy, awesome, a dude, attractive, smart, cunning, modest. Wait, I lost count.
Describe Layla in three words
Adventurous, brilliant doggie masseur and hard-work. She makes me tidy my own toys!
What’s your worst habit?
Theft. My mummy says I’m a criminal in disguise.
You do lots of running outdoors with Layla. What’s on your running soundtrack?
I’m very fussy with music, I don’t like it when my Aunty plays her guitar – I just leave the room. Sometimes she follows me to see if it is really her playing that annoys me and then I have to keep moving rooms. It’s very frustrating. I like indie/rock music mostly. I love Paramore, they have a doggy called Cowboy and he is my buddy. Eliza and the Bear are fab or Appelican Healy. One of the band members gave me a biscuit once, so I bought the album.
Did you get excited about the Olympics? What’s your favourite event?
I got to hear my mummy on the magic moving picture box during the Olympics and the whole situation was very confusing. Now I’m banned from watching because I get distressed and run around the house looking for her. The Brownlee Brothers played ball with me once – I can run faster than them! She also didn’t let me pee on the Sand at Horse Guards Parade – something about beach volleyball rules. I thought it was all a bit silly really.
You’re a Japanese Spitz. Do you cheer for Japan or Great Britain?
You can follow Layla’s thoughts on the Paralympic Games on the Huffington Post and she’ll also be back gracing screens for the football season.