Andi Oliver became emotional while telling Dame Floella Benjamin the impact of seeing someone who looked like her on TV when she was growing up.
The broadcaster, who hosts Great British Menu, spoke to the former Play School presenter while they were both on the BBC programme Saturday Kitchen, when she stressed how much Dame Floella’s career meant to her as a child.
‘I just want to say that I noticed that you were on there and I noticed there were Black people on the screen and it meant everything to me,’ she said as she teared up.
‘I knew I was going to cry. It was a lot though, it was huge.’
She continued, speaking about her childhood in the 1960s as she said: ‘I was a little kid in Bury St Edmunds and nobody looked like me on TV – and then there was you.’
Trinidad-born Dame Floella, 73, presented Play School and Play Away from 1976 to 1988, where she became known for her dazzling smile and wore hair accessories such as blue beads.
Speaking about the significance of presenting that progamme during that time, Dame Floella recalled that she ‘used to be laughed at’ for wearing her hair in plaits and beads.
While she initially went into her audition for the show in a wig, she explained that taking it off ended up helping her get the job.
‘When I came for my audition I thought maybe the BBC isn’t ready for this so I put on this wig,’ she said.
‘I didn’t think I was impressing that much, so I said, “By the way I don’t really look like this you know.”’
She recollected that when she took her wig off and revealed her beads, she received a camera audition, ‘and the rest is history’.
After hearing that story, Andi said that she had a ‘silver beaded fringe’ because of Dame Floella’s blue beads.
‘I begged my mum and in the end she did it for me. I felt so glamorous,’ she said.
During the programme, Dame Floella also spoke about her role in ensuring more children saw themselves represented on screen.
When she first started on the show, all of the illustrations were of ‘white children with blonde hair and blue eyes’.
‘What I tried to do on the programme was to make children of all colours feel as though they were part of the programme, that they belonged,’ she said.
‘I think that’s why you saw diversity in children’s programmes started. Children’s programmes have always been at the forefront of change because people say children don’t see colour, and I said yes they do.
“They see colour but they embrace colour and they’re not afraid of differences so it has to start young because childhood lasts a lifetime and whatever you put into a child at that young age will stay with them forever.’
Saturday Kitchen next airs at 10am on Saturday on BBC One and is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.