Lorraine Pascale on rejection, the pity pool and making the mess your message
July 2, 2021. Series 4. Episode 26
Scouted at the age of just 16 – Lorraine Pascale was the first black model to appear on the cover of US Elle magazine. She featured in the 1998 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and was photographed by the late Corinne Day for The Face magazine with supermodel, Kate Moss. When the modelling career came to an end, she went on to new heights as a chef, an author and TV presenter, achieving success on both sides of the Atlantic.
But her early life was a far cry from her later triumphs. Fostered shortly after her birth, then raised by a woman in the grip of alcohol addiction, she was once more put into the care system, only to endure long years of pain and hardship. Lorraine speaks candidly about this time and how meeting her birth mother much later on, left her convinced that she was a complication she didn’t want, or need in her life.
Despite all of the childhood trauma, Lorraine is positive and demonstrates throughout why her no nonsense practical approach to problem solving has earned her the nickname of ‘Mrs Solution Focused’ amongst her friends.
Lorraine’s Crisis Cures:
1 – Exercise – that’s getting up and going to the gym. Getting on the treadmill and each day trying to beat the previous run. It gives you a great sense of achievement and gets the dopamine going.
2 – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Spring – I have it on repeat. I find it very powerful. Music is a great cure…
3 – Constant self-talk – Affirmations. I was dumped on the day my mum died – that’s a crisis. It was the only way I got through it. Things like, “You’re going to be okay, you’re great, you’ve got this…” – It sounds weird, but it really, really works.
Tact Fostering https://www.tactcare.org.uk/
Lorraine Pascale is an incredible woman – a bona fide force of nature. As an author, TV personality and former model it’s her ability to reinvent herself which means that she’s always looking forward, never back.
But as well as the successes, Lorraine has also known real despair. An early life spent in the damaging cycle of the care system as we discover has left its scars. Crisis has played a big part in her life – as she says, “The things in childhood I couldn’t control and in adulthood most of which I probably caused. Crisis felt like a great sense of familiarity and safety – because it was what I was used to”. Lorraine is another example of survivors who put their stories to work, taking ownership in a bid (as she puts it brilliantly), to “Make my mess the message”.
A firm believer in therapy she has a practical no nonsense view on what has worked and what hasn’t worked for her. Now studying for her PhD in psychology, Lorraine shares her moving and valuable story with me and what work she had to do to ensure she could as she says, “Get out of the pity pool, grab life by the horns and go for it”.
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
00:00:00.00 Intro music
00:00:19.04 Andy Coulson:
Hello and welcome to Crisis What Crisis? I’m Andy Coulson, former newspaper editor, Downing Street Director of Communications and one time inmate of HMP Belmarsh. Over the last six years I’ve put all of my experience, the good and the bad, to use as a strategic advisor to business leaders and I can tell you that the bad has been just as useful as the good. And that got me thinking that there are plenty of great podcasts out there where you can hear stories of success but there far fewer where you can benefit from the experiences of those whose lives have properly unravelled.
00:00:47.18 Andy Coulson:
So, on this podcast you’ll hear from the embattled and stoic, the shamed, courageous, ruined, damaged, unlucky and lucky survivors of crisis. All talking in the hope that they might serve as a useful guide to anyone facing down their own demons and challenges. Crisis What Crisis? is generously supported by Myndstream, a brilliant company who harness the power of music for personal wellbeing and improving human performance. Just search for Myndstream, that’s mind with a Y, on Spotify and you’ll find some great playlists.
00:01:20.22 Andy Coulson:
I’m thrilled to bits that my guest today is the amazing Lorraine Pascale, former model, TV cook and full time force of nature. A woman who has known incredible success in her life, the first black woman to appear on the cover of US Elle magazine, the best-selling author of countless cookery books and as the presenter of hits TV shows here and in America. But Lorraine is also someone who, in particular as a young girl, has known real despair. Given into care as a baby she was fostered, adopted and then heartbreakingly, handed back into the system again when her mum, struggling herself with addictions, couldn’t cope. These events left scars, of course, for Lorraine which have impacted her as an adult.
00:02:01.10 Andy Coulson:
As she says, crisis has been a big part of my life, the things in childhood I couldn’t control and in adulthood most of which I probably caused. Crisis felt like a great sense of familiarity and safety because it was what I was used to.’ But instead of giving into the demons Lorraine has put them to work. This podcast is the latest example of the Pascale mission to, as she puts it brilliantly, make my mess the message. Lorraine now studying for a psychology PhD has been through the therapy mill and has tried most of the techniques and processes on offer in the recovery space. And aside from a moving and really valuable story she also has a very practical and no nonsense view on what’s worked and what’s not worked for her. So loads of lessons here in this episode and I hope you enjoy it.
00:02:50.15 Andy Coulson:
Hi Lorraine, welcome to Crisis What Crisis, how are you today?
00:02:54.08 Lorraine Pascale:
I’m very good thank you, lovely to be here.
00:02:57.22 Andy Coulson:
Lorraine, if it’s right that you can divide most people, and it might not be, but if you can divide most people into two groups; life enhancers and life sappers, then you are without doubt in the former and most definitely not in the latter. I’d urge anyone listening to this to spend half an hour on your Instagram account. If I’m perfectly honest a lot of the self-improvement content you see on Instagram is, particularly for a middle-aged bloke like me, it’s a bit nauseating. But yours is, I don’t know, it’s just bloody cheerful and really useful. And it’s also a testament, I think, to your ability to reset from model to baker, TV presenter and now would-be doctor. You’ve just embarked on a psychology PhD and you’re also a life-coach. And as I say, all round life-enhancer. You’ve said, I think…
00:04:02.16 Lorraine Pascale:
Why, thank you.
00:04:02.24 Andy Coulson:
Well, you’re very welcome. You’ve said, in typical style for you, that your childhood, you were put into care as a baby, fostered, adopted and then for reasons that we’ll discuss, re-fostered. That that childhood has powered your professional life, in a way, that it gave you a drive that you might not have had otherwise. Is that, that’s how you see it, right?
00:04:27.17 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, I think when you go through bad times you’ve got two choices; you can either wallow in it or grieve a little bit about what it should have been, what you wish it was and then just get on with it. And that’s kind of been my philosophy, it’s always been like how can I make things better? So I’ve done a lot of grieving of my past. The childhood that I didn’t have and all of that but then there just comes a time when you’ve got to take off, get out of the pity pool and grab life by the horns and go for it.
00:05:04.23 Andy Coulson:
You made a brilliant documentary about your fostering experience. I think you can still find it online. There’s a moment in that documentary, Lorraine, where you meet the couple, John and Marion I think it was, who fostered you after you were put into care. This is not the couple who then adopted you, they fostered you for a while. And it’s an incredibly moving moment when this lady, who was in her early twenties when she fostered you, is then sat in her sitting room with you, you know, almost forty years later, and describes to you how she wanted to adopt you herself but decided, in fact, that another couple who as she puts it, she was working class, they were middle class, she decided that they might give you a better life.
00:05:53.20 Andy Coulson:
And you know, she’s sat there with tears streaming down her face and she describes the precise moment that she handed you into the arms of someone else. And you just see, you know, it’s a very sort of visceral example of how the sliding doors in our lives operate. And you’re crying in the clip too but you’re also self-contained. You’re kind of looking at it almost as an observer. So, what was in your mind at that moment?
00:06:30.00 Lorraine Pascale:
Well it was, the whole thing was very strange because doing that documentary they found all the paperwork about basically my whole childhood. So everything that I’d thought I’d imagined was there in black and white. So that almost great validation that you’re not going mad and thinking you’re overreacting. But that actual moment when I met her, it was, I got a great sense of calm and I got a huge amount of sadness and grief. As you say, the sliding doors, what could have been. You know, even though I love my parents who adopted me it wasn’t an easy ride and she saved my life.
00:07:12.07 Lorraine Pascale:
The foster parents saved my life because when I first went into care… I was born and I was with them for six months from six weeks old. And then after six months I went to my biological father’s and Marion, my foster mother, just wanted to check up on me, see how I was doing and she went to see me, which you were allowed to do more easily in those days, and I was, I’d lost loads of weight, I was crying all the time, I’d lost my hair, I wouldn’t stand up, I wouldn’t sit down. I was grossly underfed and so the social services came and did an emergency… they took me out of there and gave me back to Marion. So this is a woman that saved my life, it sounds really dramatic but…
00:08:03.05 Andy Coulson:
00:08:03.13 Lorraine Pascale:
…to me somebody who did that was incredible. And then I also had a lot of sadness for what could have been, you know, if I’d have stayed with her. Because now we’re amazing, I still call her my foster mother. We speak nearly every day but it took us about, I’d say, five years from that filming to not cry every time we spoke.
00:08:23.19 Andy Coulson:
Is that right? So you stayed in… it was another sliding door moment making the documentary and you found each other again. And now you’re incredibly close, I didn’t know that.
00:08:37.13 Lorraine Pascale:
We’re very close, yeah, she’s coming to my wedding. We’re very close, yeah.
00:08:42.06 Andy Coulson:
Wonderful. At one stage, Lorraine, I think you were seven, your adopted mum, Audrey, who was struggling with alcohol and depression handed you back into the system to be fostered again. I think she’d divorced by this stage from your adopted dad, Roger. And you’re there, in another foster home alone, and yet, one of the many amazing things about you is that you refuse to use the word abandoned. In fact, when you see that word and I think that word has been used in newspaper headlines, it makes you angry. Just explain that for me because if there’s a definition of abandoned that feels pretty accurate. But you don’t feel that way?
00:09:40.02 Lorraine Pascale:
Well, no, to me it’s being left on a park bench, that’s abandoned. Because they’ve left you with no one around, you might get eaten, taken, you know, you’re not in a safe place. So I think that if my mother took the time to speak to social services and you know, maybe rejected, I’d say. I felt rejected but I wasn’t abandoned because to me it’s like an abandon when you’re left in the middle of a forest in a cardboard box. And some people are left that way. And so I wouldn’t put that label on me because that’s not what I’ve experienced. Because that’s a very different experience, to be totally abandoned because it would appear then that they didn’t actually care at all if they’d just left you in the middle of nowhere.
00:10:26.22 Andy Coulson:
That’s interesting because you’re being very precise about the importance of using the right word when in crisis, if we’re going to use that thing that obviously is the theme of this podcast. Using the right word. What do you think about the word crisis, out of interest?
00:10:49.24 Lorraine Pascale:
Well, crisis has been a big part of my life and I’ve had many crises. In my childhood ones that I couldn’t control, in my adulthood most of which I probably caused, to be honest. And so crisis, to me, used to be a great sense of familiarity and almost safety because it’s something that I was used to. So being in the middle of a crisis, drama, it felt like, ah, it’s familiar, this is good. And I think that’s why I used to create them so frequently although I didn’t know this consciously at the time.
00:11:26.05 Andy Coulson:
How soon in your adulthood, as you put it, how soon did that start to sort of manifest itself if you like?
00:11:34.06 Lorraine Pascale:
00:11:37.02 Andy Coulson:
And how did it manifest itself?
00:11:39.05 Lorraine Pascale:
Just drama, arguing with my partner and then husband. Sort of very, almost, yeah, just drama. And then sometimes if life was very calm then I would create something. I remember my therapist used to say to me, ‘The thing is Lorraine, when life is going calm and well for you, sometimes you just throw in a hand grenade, a drama hand grenade and create a crisis.’
00:12:06.00 Andy Coulson:
And your understanding of that now is what? What was going on there that, for you, kind of chaos and crisis went hand in hand with trying to find some form of security in your life? That those two things kind of had to be there.
00:12:29.20 Lorraine Pascale:
It’s more familiarity and it’s more like my nervous system was very used to always being on high alert, always being hyper-vigilant and so that was very familiar to me. And so when I wasn’t in that state it didn’t feel familiar. So I would create that.
00:12:49.10 Andy Coulson:
You’re a great believer in the physical impact of crisis?
00:12:55.07 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, because if you’re a child and you’ve had terrible things happen sometimes you don’t remember but your body remembers. Your body remembers and you might have, someone might say a word or you might smell or see something and suddenly you’re back in that whatever moment it is if you’ve had a lot of trauma and things like that. So yeah, there’s a thing about the body keeps the score.
00:13:14.21 Andy Coulson:
Great book, yeah.
00:13:15.20 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, it’s a great book. And I think that’s a really, moving forward in therapy, it’s really important to incorporate the body as well. But yeah, crisis to me, is strangely familiar and now I’ve learned that it’s not a good thing, consciously as well, and that calm is good.
00:13:34.14 Andy Coulson:
Yeah. But as I say, it has also provided a drive for you. Or it did provide a drive. How have you kind of reconciled that? How have you found the balance?
00:13:45.05 Lorraine Pascale:
I don’t know if it’s genetic or I don’t know if it’s… I don’t know… or something that I’ve just read and learned but for me, I knew on some level that it didn’t feel right. Even though it felt familiar that my life around me was chaotic. You know, relationships not working, me not feeling great, so I knew that something wasn’t right. And that’s when I did a lot of work on myself and continue to do so. Because I really, I didn’t want the crises that I created, I wanted to have as much calm and peace in my life as possible. So that’s what I kind of spent my life doing. And part of that is doing work that I enjoy.
00:14:27.14 Lorraine Pascale:
So part of that is having a purpose and good friends and you know I think some people say, ‘Oh you’ve done so well, even though you’ve been through X, Y, Z’ and I think, don’t think ‘even though’ I think it’s ‘because of’ if that makes sense? It’s not like oh wow, I’ve dragged myself up, I think it’s given me more drive and just the will to really want to make myself happy. And part of that is achieving, being a high achiever or whatever label they put on me, ambitious, whatever they call me.
00:15:01.16 Andy Coulson:
What is the right label?
00:15:04.18 Lorraine Pascale:
Ambitious in America is fantastic, right? You’re ambitious, like this, but here it’s a dirty word. It’s like, ‘oh she’s a bit ambitious isn’t she?’ So I’ll take ambitious, I’ll take a high achiever but the only person it’s to impress is myself because I love studying, I love improving, I love learning. So people can put whatever label they like on me.
00:15:27.01 Andy Coulson:
It’s important to understand, I think, before we move on from your childhood that there were some properly dark moments for you and I think, your older adopted brother. Your mum admitted hitting you both. At one stage she thought about pushing you under a bus. Again, we should explain that she was clearly very ill herself.
00:15:51.21 Lorraine Pascale:
00:15:54.00 Andy Coulson:
I mean, these were, you know, the word trauma also gets used, a bit like crisis, gets used pretty widely these days but I don’t think anyone would disagree that that deeply, deeply traumatic. Tell us how you begin to come to terms with that, with those elements, if you like. Because you are also someone, and this is the bit about your philosophy that I really love, is that you are not about blame at all or self-pity for that matter. When you’ve got, if I just use the example that I’ve just mentioned, you’ve got some cause to apportion blame, if I can put it that way.
00:16:48.14 Lorraine Pascale:
I think in the early days I was maybe angry and then blame, pointing the finger. But my mother was in AA and she was always very keen for me to go to Al-Anon which is for people who… and Alateen, for teenagers, for people who’ve grown up with alcoholic parents. And one of the first things you learn there is to keep the focus on yourself. So there’s things like, I mean, I didn’t actually go until I was about twenty-five and she’d been trying to make me go for years. But there’s things like they say, if you keep the finger out but eventually you need to turn the finger on yourself. So even though these people may have wronged you, done terrible things and that doesn’t take away from that, never will, however, now it’s yours, or my responsibility to make myself feel better because I’m not going to feel better by blaming other people all the time.
00:17:40.06 Lorraine Pascale:
So there it’s about accountability and realising that this is part of growing up that, okay, yeah there were… not particularly my parents, but if you had a horrible time, awful, this, that and the other, you grieve it, you go through it, you process it but then you have to come to terms with the fact that it’s your responsibility to sort it out now. So that’s kind of a big lesson as well as you get older, like going on at your parents, ‘well you did this, you did that’ yeah, I’m sure they did a lot not right you know. You know I’m sure I will do a lot not right but then there comes a point when you have to take responsibility for your own feelings and your own emotions and that’s really important.
00:18:16.17 Lorraine Pascale:
And that’s what Al-Anon really taught me that it’s up to me, yeah. And get out of the pity pool, it’s up to me to sort things out.
00:18:27.09 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, you’ve touched on it earlier but you’ve used the phrase that it’s about your biology not your biography, which I like a lot. But when you say that are you saying that there’s this kind of a bit of kind of genetic luck?
00:18:45.21 Lorraine Pascale:
00:18:46.17 Andy Coulson:
Or you can be genetically unlucky?
00:18:48.15 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, I mean…
00:18:49.20 Andy Coulson:
And so from your birth parents, you went back and spent time with your birth father, I think you met your birth mother much later…
00:18:58.08 Lorraine Pascale:
00:18:58.16 Andy Coulson:
…That you think that they actually provided you with some genetic resilience, do you think?
00:19:05.14 Lorraine Pascale:
I don’t know if it was them or a distant grandparent or something like that but I absolutely have a fundamental belief that yeah, there’s a big part of… because obviously depression, anxiety, that’s got lots of its roots in your biology. But I’m definitely a big believer in that. And that can be affected, it can be passed down, like if your mother’s really anxious when she’s pregnant it can be passed down to you. So yeah, but I think there is a lottery, I think they say there’s a percentage of you that’s genetically happy and the rest you can actually change. But there’s definitely a percentage that is your genetics of how happy your baseline state is. I think about forty percent you can change or something.
00:19:49.10 Andy Coulson:
Wow, and you hold to that idea?
00:19:52.04 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, I mean, I’m sure it varies a bit. But you can’t change your genetics, necessarily but you can change your hormones, you can do things, you can work on your dopamine, you can make sure you have a routine, you can make sure you’re achieving. You can find a purpose, so you can do these things. Beat the biological system, that’s what I say.
00:20:13.12 Andy Coulson:
Brilliant. You met your birth mum, as I mentioned, but you didn’t want to develop a relationship with her. And this is such an interesting area, you know we’ve talked about it on this podcast previously with Lemn Sissay, I don’t know if you’ve read his book, amazing story. And Nicky Campbell as well who both of them have very different adoption stories. But both, like you, also very resilient individuals, but meeting once was enough for you, even though your relationship with your adopted mum was obviously for long periods very difficult? You weren’t searching for another answer, if you like? Or if you were you decided you weren’t going to find it there.
00:20:54.21 Lorraine Pascale:
No, because I know a lot of people think that if they’d been adopted, if they find their birth parents, you know, the missing piece of the jigsaw and they’ll be fulfilled. I never had that, I never thought that by finding them it was going to make any difference. And so I never really had the desire to. But I found my biological sister which I was very interested and I found my biological sister and she wanted me to meet my biological mother. And when I met her it was okay, you know, it was just like meeting a stranger at a bus stop. She wasn’t that… she didn’t really ask me any questions. There was no like touching, as in hugs or anything like that. And I just went away and I just thought, you know I don’t need anything else; I don’t need anything else in my life that might cause any problems. And if say, she…
00:21:47.22 Lorraine Pascale:
It’s almost a protection thing as well. Because say she said, ‘oh I don’t want to see her anymore’ I mean, I couldn’t take the double whammy being given away at birth and then meeting forty years later and then her saying I don’t want to see you again. So I’m definitely, if I’m honest, it was self-preservation as well. And also the thought, like my mother, she’s passed away now but she’s my mum and she’s the person that looked after me. And yeah, so I kind of, I just didn’t have the desire to find… it was nice to see what she looked like. That was really… I have always wanted to know what she looked like. And we look very similar, scarily similar.
00:22:24.20 Andy Coulson:
What was her attitude then, to that meeting? I mean, you came into her life, you were a very successful woman by that stage. You know, had she…? She obviously knew and followed from a distance what was happening in your life? She knew who you were and she knew what you were doing and was sort of standing from a long distance watching that.
00:22:47.15 Lorraine Pascale:
She was kind of very disconnected which I knew about. She’s quite disconnected so there was not really a warmth there at all. There’s just, there wasn’t any warmth there. It was really strange and after the meeting I actually called some helpline because I was a bit like freaked out. And they said it’s very common, people that give their children away by choice, kind of thing, that they are a bit, they seem a bit childish, a bit cut off as well. So I just thought, I’ll put it to bed and I didn’t really want to see her again. But the scary thing was, the two scary things…
00:23:24.15 Lorraine Pascale:
Well, we look very similar because when I wrote to my sister, when I found my biological sister she didn’t believe, she thought it was nonsense. And then she googled me because she didn’t know me and she saw we look the same, my mother and I look the same. And the other thing is my mother is known as the cake lady, she bakes the cakes in east London for everyone.
00:23:46.17 Andy Coulson:
Right, that’s astonishing, astonishing. That these little, these things suddenly kind of appear as a connection.
00:23:56.05 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, yeah, strange.
00:23:59.01 Andy Coulson:
Your life as model, very successful and you were a trailblazer for British black models. Scouted at sixteen, first cover of US Elle for a black model, Sports Illustrated but also a really competitive, tough world and resilience required there as well, right? Would you say that that’s where you first began to realise how resilient you are, how tough you are?
00:24:32.22 Lorraine Pascale:
I think yeah, and I think it also made me more resilient because you cannot have, I mean the number of rejections you can get in one day. And it’s not your work, it’s you. You’re too this, too that, too tall, back then they could say they don’t want any black girls in the show, you know, your shoulders are too wide, this and that, so. And sometimes it would be nine a day, so that makes you tough. It also can drive you mad, absolutely crazy.
00:24:58.01 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, yeah, so in many ways, you know, possibly one of the more difficult choices although I’m sure, you know, kind of exciting and rewarding in lots of ways. But also an incredibly difficult environment to put yourself in given the story that we’ve just heard. That you’re opening yourself up to that kind of scrutiny and judgment and you know all those things. I mean were you feeling that at the time or had the drive that we’ve described just taken over and was just powering you through all that?
00:25:32.02 Lorraine Pascale:
No, I think at that time I was enjoying it. It was a lot more fun as well. We had a lot more fun at work doing the shows and there was like a group of us that did all the shows, London, Paris, Milan. So there was kind a sense of belonging, a sense of family, a sense of community. It was just the bits in the middle that were difficult. But then the more well you did, the more successful you became there was a lot less of the rejection. So it was actually quite a comforting space as well. Now, I know it’s much harder. And you didn’t have to be quite so thin in those days either which was good.
00:26:10.16 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, you think it’s a lot tougher now?
00:26:12.19 Lorraine Pascale:
Yes, I think it’s much tougher now, there’s many more models, many more international models. I think it’s much, much tougher, definitely.
00:26:20.22 Andy Coulson:
You don’t talk much about, both in terms of the modelling but also interestingly, you know, you’re a black child with white adoptive parents growing up in sort of rural Oxfordshire and also, I suspect, well not suspect, obviously in the world of modelling, I mean there must have been, that must have been really tough from a racism perspective? I mean, how do you reflect on that, both in terms of your childhood but also those early days as a model?
00:26:50.07 Lorraine Pascale:
I think for me it’s… this is why I’m quite interested in the area of belonging because diversity and inclusion is obviously super-important. I’m a black woman who grew up with white family and so I’m kind of, sometimes I feel like I’m a bit of both if that makes sense? I’ve always tried to be philosophical about this issue because otherwise I think I would go a bit mad. You can get totally paranoid, why didn’t they ask me? Why didn’t they ask me that question? And why didn’t somebody give me this? Or why didn’t I get that job? Is it because I’m black or is it because they don’t think I’m very good? Maybe they think I’m rubbish. You know, so it’s very, very difficult, it’s very, very sensitive subject, very sensitive.
00:27:38.15 Lorraine Pascale:
Yes, it’s very hard being black, it’s very hard in many situations but it’s very hard for other people in a lot of other situations as well. But yeah, it is, it is, it was hard being a black model in the early nineties, it was very, very hard. You just didn’t get the jobs. And they just justified it by saying, ‘Well you know, in Germany it’s mostly pale, white skinned, so you’re not going to work very much over there. And in Japan there’s not much over there and… we don’t put black girls on the cover because there’s not many black people in the United Kingdom so we need to represent…’ you know, and off we go.
00:28:18.21 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, yeah. When you finish modelling you… well first of all you seem to spot that the time in modelling is up for you. You make that decision yourself. It seems to be a very deliberate and you’ve grabbed hold of it. And then you decide to retrain. And this is fascinating because you think about a bunch of different careers, potentially going, I think for a short period of time, from modelling to being a Skoda car mechanic, a car mechanic is understandable but Skoda! You decide to make that leap. At one point I think maybe it’s retraining as an interior designer. You also think about hypnotherapy, I think you worked with Paul McKenna for a while. What’s going on there that you are making these very unusual, kind of, career decisions. You are totally reinventing. And of course, in the end you settle on cookery, on baking and we’ll get into that in a second. But just tell me what’s in your mind at that stage? You’re a young mum, you’re thinking about the future and your daughter and her future, what’s going on in your mind?
00:29:38.20 Lorraine Pascale:
What’s going on in my mind is that modelling was a world where I couldn’t… I’d just got married and I didn’t want to be travelling all around the world and not having time with my daughter. So I wanted to find a career, A, that I could be at home more and B, that I was passionate about. So my father, he’s retired, he was a Spanish teacher and he was very passionate about his job. He loved his job, it gave him a great sense of fulfilment, meaning and purpose and I wanted to have that in my job too. So even though I did enjoy lots of the parts of modelling I really wanted to find, you know, that thing that made me tick as well as being at home.
00:30:23.05 Lorraine Pascale:
So that’s when I bought a book called What Colour Is Your Parachute? And I think I just read the end of each chapter rather than the whole book and I did the exercises and it was like write all the things that you love or like doing and then next to it write could be a career out of it. So from interiors to cars, a mechanic and cooking and that’s how… and then I would try, I’d do a day course or yeah, some introductory course or something, see if I liked it, then not like it, change until I did the…
00:30:57.10 Andy Coulson:
You did six months as a car mechanic, right?
00:31:00.07 Lorraine Pascale:
I did, yeah, but it was only like a couple of times a week so it took me like… .I think it was fine in the summer and then when it got cold sitting or lying on the floor in a cold garage in December, I thought, this is not for me. This is not for me.
00:31:17.12 Andy Coulson:
Tough choice Lorraine, it’s a tough choice.
00:31:20.14 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah but not for me. Driving down to Deale.
00:31:22.17 Andy Coulson:
00:31:24.12 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, just trial and error and then I did like a ten week cookery course at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, you know that kind of…
00:31:33.00 Andy Coulson:
And this is when the cooking, the baking sort of kicks in for you. And as you’ve just mentioned, maybe there’s something genetic there that’s kind of beginning to fire up.
00:31:46.08 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, so it was cooking and then I specialised in baking. But yeah, it must have been in there. I used to love baking at school as well, even though we only did it once a year.
00:31:54.07 Andy Coulson:
Yeah. So we really are fast forwarding now but a million cook books later, an awful lot of hit TV shows as well, incredible success. Again, at this stage do you think you’re still being powered by your past, to a degree?
00:32:20.07 Lorraine Pascale:
Or it’s genetics, maybe a mixture of both. So like, so I’m not doing TV so much anymore, I kind of retired from cooking because I began to think that it was almost like a world of modelling as well. So modelling you can’t really do what you want, you’re kind of like a human coat hanger and you get told what to wear and this and that. And then with cooking I thought, oh it’s my own, I can develop it, do what I want. But then I kind of found again, I’m being told what to cook, when to cook and it felt very familiar in a not great way to modelling. I wanted more autonomy. So I…
00:33:07.04 Andy Coulson:
From the outside, sorry to interrupt, from the outside it looked like you had fantastic autonomy. You know, you’re writing your cook books, you’re presenting your own TV show. You’re doing a whole load of stuff in that world around, also, by the way, at the time when cooking and baking is absolutely exploding as an area of interest for people on TV and elsewhere. But it is really interesting, you didn’t feel in control of it?
00:33:38.03 Lorraine Pascale:
First initially, yes, one hundred percent. So the first couple of books, yes. And I, the thing is it’s a shame because I love writing recipes for people, I love seeing what people cook. I love it when they put it on Instagram and I really enjoyed that process. But kind of as time went on and there were changes going on at production companies and TV stations and they were like, ‘Okay, we need you to do this kind of thing, we need you to do that kind of thing.’ And I just found myself falling out of love quite as much as I did before with what I was doing. And I felt like it’s really important to me, I forty-eight now but I would like to have more autonomy. And so I did the shows in America as well which is judging on a show which is like Bake Off but it’s more X-factor style. So I did that for a while which was really good fun. And then over lockdown I just thought, you know what, I really want to be at home more and I don’t want to be travelling and I think I will leave, hang up my baking apron and try something else.
00:34:44.06 Andy Coulson:
Just before we move onto that decision, I mean, it was incredibly successful career. It had a… it wasn’t all up side though. You had a bakery didn’t you, at one point? I think in Covent Garden that didn’t work out as a business. I mean, not a crisis, although maybe you do, professionally, maybe you do look at that time. I’m interested in how you handled that really because you know, we had Mark Hix on the podcast who’s obviously had an empire of restaurants and whatnot across London and lost it all. How did you cope with that kind of time?
00:35:23.21 Lorraine Pascale:
I’d say it was very much a crisis. So first of all it was great and you know, new, getting all the staff. I was driving around and getting stuff from eBay because unfortunately lots of bakeries were struggling. So there was loads of stuff on eBay, setting it up. And I didn’t close the business because it wasn’t successful, I closed the business because I just couldn’t, I’m not… I can’t manage people. I love people but I don’t want to manage people, I’m not good at it. So it was a crisis, it was like a three AM email to everyone I know saying I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t. You know, when you’re working with fresh goods so much can go wrong. And if one thing goes wrong, the whole thing goes wrong.
00:36:07.20 Andy Coulson:
00:36:09.02 Lorraine Pascale:
And so it was too much, I’m just not cut from the cloth of being able to manage groups of people. So it was very much a crisis. And then someone else managed it for a year and a half with me which made it a lot easier and then I made the decision to close it down.
00:36:27.21 Andy Coulson:
Difficult because it was your baby.
00:36:30.07 Lorraine Pascale:
Do you know what, it was difficult because I felt, in a way, I was letting people down. Because I know people would come and they’d see my show and they’d love to come and see me in the bakery and we’d do pictures and I love meeting people and meeting people like that. So I really miss that. But it was just, for my mental health and my sanity that I thought it was the best idea. I’ve got to practice what I preach and you know, when it comes to a decision and you’re not sure, always put your mental health first. So that’s what I did.
00:36:58.21 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, but also it sounds like confronting what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. What you enjoy, what you don’t enjoy. That’s basic stuff but pretty important, right?
00:37:10.15 Lorraine Pascale:
00:37:11.17 Andy Coulson:
Also, again, just before we move on to the next phase of your career, you also, and we met around this time, you also had a really tough time on social media. You know, some properly unpleasant idiots on Twitter in particular. I remember us having conversations about that. And you would have been forgiven, easily, for giving up on social media because of the vile stuff that was going on. But you punched through, yet another demonstration of your resilience. How do you reflect on that now?
00:37:43.22 Lorraine Pascale:
Well the worst thing about that is when you’re having a bad time on social media it becomes like a… it goes in the newspaper and it’s like it’s magnified. And everyone’s talking about it and then… it was horrible. Like, you can pretend to be really tough and everything’s fine but it hurts. It’s just the same as someone coming up to you in the street and saying something horrible. But you do get thicker skin pretty quick. And also a lot of compassion for these people. So these people are at home and for what it must take to be horrible to someone that you don’t know, you’ve never met and just be a bully, they must have some really sad things, unfortunate things going on in their heads and their lives. So I do have a lot of compassion as well. I don’t like it; I probably don’t like them but I do like…
00:38:26.19 Andy Coulson:
Well, that is a very generous and very compassionate attitude to take. And that presumably then, is why you stuck with social media because you know I mentioned your Instagram account earlier which is just fantastic. But you just decided not to abandon, which a lot of people do, actually, when they find themselves in those circumstances, not to abandon it, not to leave it. And instead you just kind of embraced it and turned it into what you wanted it to be.
00:39:01.18 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, I love social media and I think that it’s a great place, it’s a great platform if you use it properly. So if anyone triggers me, if anyone says anything insulting, I just unfollow. The accounts I follow they like educate, inspire or encourage me. So I think it’s a really lovely, lovely place. It can be, I mean, Twitter’s a little bit darker, Twitter’s a bit dark. You know if Instagram’s flowers and fairies so I think Twitter’s like a dark nightclub or something.
00:39:32.24 Andy Coulson:
Twitter is the underworld.
00:39:35.01 Lorraine Pascale:
It’s the underworld. And so I’m not that prolific on Twitter because I think it’s just a place to kind of say quite negative stuff a lot of the time.
00:39:45.19 Andy Coulson:
00:39:47.17 Lorraine Pascale:
So not so much my thing.
00:39:49.09 Andy Coulson:
Let’s talk a little bit more then about your decision to move on from baking, from cooking. A lot of people wouldn’t have had that bravery, right? Although you felt that you didn’t have control it was also still, I assume, pretty lucrative, pretty comfortable place for you to stay. But you decided not to. And it’s again, it’s this kind of drive to reset if you like, or not to reset, actually, just to progress, that’s there again. Just try and give us a little bit more of a flavour of what’s driving you towards that. And if I can add another question to it because I know that you’ve tried and experienced therapy in a lot of its different forms, how important was that as well in the sort of decisions that you were making?
00:40:50.02 Lorraine Pascale:
I think it’s really important. Therapy’s been a huge part of my life because obviously I was kind of riddled with issues, rejection issues and all this kind of thing. And so I’ve always seen it at therapy as a really important thing. And I have sort of therapy for the deep and meaningful, you’re going over your childhood and that kind of thing. And then sometimes I’d have therapy which is more like a coaching thing. You know, like everyday problems, you’re not going really deep. And I think it’s not so unusual now for people to have more than one career, I guess it’s just that I’m in the public eye so it looks more obvious. So you can call them multi-hyphenate for multi-potentialite, whatever you want to call it but it’s part of growth. The people that we went out with sometimes when we were sixteen, I mean, some people yes but maybe we wouldn’t want to go out with them now.
00:41:44.20 Lorraine Pascale:
And it’s the same with a job. The job we maybe wanted when we were twenty-five, maybe we don’t want it now at forty-eight. So I think it’s a natural part of one’s, of evolving to change. And if one can, I know it’s not easy, I know not everyone has the luxury, I do appreciate that, of just being able to hop jobs, I know it can be quite difficult.
00:42:05.06 Andy Coulson:
I don’t think it’s luxury, I don’t think it’s the luxury, it’s the bravery bit that I’m interested in. Because it’s not, it’s also quite, it’s courageous, right?
00:42:14.13 Lorraine Pascale:
00:42:15.10 Andy Coulson:
Well, because it was going well, it was, as I say, I’m sure, providing a lovely life and you know, you were very good at it. And although as you’ve explained, clearly you were unhappy with the levels of control that were being exerted because it’s TV and because even with books that can be very, as you say, very restrictive. It’s still a great success so it takes courage to say no, actually this is not for me, I’m going to have a go at something else.
00:42:45.03 Lorraine Pascale:
Maybe courage is some… maybe it appears to be courage but I think a lot of it is self-belief. And I don’t know if that was instilled a bit, in part, by my mother. So I was a bit strange, like I had this self-belief but then I was also really insecure and had rejection issues. So I have this self-belief that I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to. So I’ve always had that and so to me it’s just like, well, why wouldn’t I try this? You know, it’s more that. So I know Simon Sinek always talks about having a ‘why’ and I always talk about having a ‘why not?’ Why not give it a try, what’s the worst that can happen? Doesn’t work out and then try something else.
00:43:36.18 Andy Coulson:
Fantastic. So you decide to put all this experience to use, to kind of let it frame what you’re going to, what approach you’re going to take as a student. First as a masters, now, as I’ve mentioned PhD, Doctor Pascale obviously has an air of inevitability about it. But also as a coach, right? And a coach with this very specific approach, an approach that might be described, as I said earlier, as sort of stoic therapy. Put simply that, as we’ve already discussed, confront and deal and understand the things that happened to you but refuse to be held back by them. And that this idea of self-pity is pointless. Have I sort of captured the Pascale approach correctly?
00:44:25.23 Lorraine Pascale:
I think self-pity is part of the process but I think wallowing in it is not helpful. So we all have self-pity, that was one of the phases isn’t it? When something goes wrong, there’s a crisis, of course there’s a self-pity phase. You know you put your wellies on and you wade through that self-pity pool and you’re so upset, poor me. But then there comes a time when you have to go, okay, it’s time to get out of this now. And then maybe you go through a period of grief as in sadness or maybe anger, and then we come to right, action, let’s move on, let’s get on with it. But it’s definitely a process.
00:45:07.07 Andy Coulson:
Do you still have poor me days?
00:45:09.04 Lorraine Pascale:
Oh yeah, absolutely.
00:45:10.23 Andy Coulson:
00:45:12.20 Lorraine Pascale:
I’ll just sit and lie in bed and watch Netflix all day or something. Yeah, just watch Netflix, Real Housewives, watch some TV, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and you know, eat too much and then the next day I’m normally fine. But I allow those days, I allow those days of, I don’t know if it’s sadness or grief. But now… I used to kind of go deep, dig deep and ask all these questions, I used to do that. But now I don’t, I just kind of allow it, I’m not having a great day, I’m not feeling that great about myself so I’m no use to anyone apart from Netflix. And there we are.
00:45:53.22 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, I think that there is definitely a… Netflix numbers are definitely impacted by those days that we all have. I’m sure that that’s right. Where are you on blame? We touched on it earlier but I’d like to just kind of get into it in a bit more detail. Because there’s an awful lot of it around at the moment. If you wanted to look at politics you’d see it all over the papers and TV at the moment. But as I said, you’ve got cause to be angry but you’re not. You are about finding solutions without apportioning blame, is that right?
00:46:33.19 Lorraine Pascale:
I don’t think if you’re in the kind of blame space you’re feeling like you blame someone and you want to say something about it. It’s like what’s your end goal? Are you blaming because you think… if they’ve done something wrong fair enough then isn’t it better to have a conversation with that person or something to sort it out? But what do you want to achieve by continuing to blame? For me, for example, if I continue to blame my parents for making me have rejection issues or whatever, what am I going to get out of that? What’s my purpose, it’s not going to make me feel better. It doesn’t make you feel better. So what’s the purpose? So that’s why I don’t blame anymore. In this situation I’m like what is the point? I’m not gaining anything. There’s like that expression on blaming, you hold resentment when you keep the blame. Resentment’s very unhealthy.
00:47:22.10 Lorraine Pascale:
There’s a phrase and it’s ‘you can’t hold a man down without staying down with him’ and so there’s no point, all you do is harm yourself. So unless what is your end goal? Are you wanting to look better? Is it because you’re insecure? Is it because you want to pay them back? What is it? So once you sort that out maybe you can figure out another route to just not blame. So I’m just interested in what the end goal is and that’s when, that’s for me anyway, when I stop just blaming everyone. Because what’s the point? What do I want, an apology? What do I actually want?
00:47:55.20 Andy Coulson:
I think for some people the blame bit is about, you know, they use blame to either explain or excuse or sometimes it’s just pure retribution, right? That the retribution provides some solace. I mean, I, listen, I’m with you. I think blame is ultimately about as useful as ‘why me?’ I think they’re two sides of the same coin. But for you it’s, what I love about your approach to it is that a lot of it seems to be driven by well, what’s the point of it, what’s it actually going to deliver for me, practically, in my life going forward? How is it going to help me do the things that I want to do?
00:48:48.18 Lorraine Pascale:
00:48:49.21 Andy Coulson:
That’s where you seem to kind of keep and root most of your ideas in this area.
00:48:56.10 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, I mean, if someone does something to my car I will blame them and they will need to give me money and get it sorted, it’s different. That’s being responsible. But it’s this continued blame. I think that’s a lot about insecurity in that. If they’re talking about relationships and that kind of thing, blaming people and holding on to the resentment I just don’t really see the point. For retribution is there another way that you can get retribution and are you actually going to get that from blaming people?
00:49:24.21 Andy Coulson:
And what’s it going to do for you anyway?
00:49:26.16 Lorraine Pascale:
How do you actually feel now? Now that you’ve told everyone X, Y, Z? Do you actually really feel better?
00:49:33.05 Andy Coulson:
00:49:33.10 Lorraine Pascale:
Or do you not?
00:49:34.09 Andy Coulson:
But you’re just practical this is what… it’s a practical approach. I think this is the mechanic in you coming out.
00:49:41.08 Lorraine Pascale:
Well, my nickname is Mrs Solution Focused.
00:49:50.02 Andy Coulson:
Very good. I think we need a catchier nickname if you don’t mind me saying so.
00:49:57.02 Lorraine Pascale:
You need to what?
00:49:57.21 Andy Coulson:
We need a catchier nickname.
00:50:02.01 Lorraine Pascale:
Solution focused all the way.
00:50:03.17 Andy Coulson:
Solution focused, very good. Look, we touched on lockdown but we haven’t really talked about it. I know it’s been difficult for you in a way because, of course, you’ve been separated from your daughter Ella, who I think lives in the States, very successful actress. But you’ve also got engaged.
00:50:18.22 Lorraine Pascale:
I have indeed, yeah.
00:50:20.17 Andy Coulson:
When’s the wedding?
00:50:22.20 Lorraine Pascale:
The end of June, all being well.
00:50:25.22 Andy Coulson:
Oh wow, so you’re in the midst of, along with everything else, you’re in the midst of organising a wedding?
00:50:31.19 Lorraine Pascale:
Well, we don’t know how many people it’s going to be because it’s, it’s X at the moment, it’s going to be X Y, we just don’t know. Is it going to be, is the 21st the day when we all hug and throw our masks to the wind?
00:50:45.08 Andy Coulson:
Or not, yeah. Well I hope it is and I hope it goes brilliantly and congratulations. And thanks so much for talking to me today. It’s been a brilliant conversation, at least from my perspective. Not least because this practical approach that you’ve got is exactly what we want this podcast to be, frankly. Is for people to end of take away, you know, these ideas and thoughts from people who’ve been through crisis. You’ve lived it and I think you’re just an unbelievable example of that, Lorraine, so thank you so much for talking to us. I am now going to ask you for your crisis cures. So these are three things that you lean on in those why me moments, perhaps. So you can’t have Netflix because you’ve already told us about that. And it can’t be another human being, I’m afraid, so what comes to mind?
00:51:40.07 Lorraine Pascale:
So one of my crisis cures is definitely exercise and it’s having that, getting up in the morning, going to the gym and getting on the treadmill. And each day trying to beat the previous thirty minute run. So even if you only do one point you just have to keep going, keep going up. And it gives you a great sense of achievement and gets the dopamine and everything going when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Definitely recommend exercise.
00:52:14.20 Andy Coulson:
00:52:16.05 Lorraine Pascale:
Yes, my favourite piece of music to listen to which I have on repeat is Vivaldi, The Four Seasons.
00:52:26.05 Andy Coulson:
00:52:26.11 Lorraine Pascale:
And it’s Spring.
00:52:29.12 Andy Coulson:
Wonderful that’s the… That’s very stirring.
00:52:34.06 Lorraine Pascale:
It is. So just have that on repeat, just keep listening, keep listening to it and I find that very powerful. Music is a great cure, brilliant cure. And the third one, it’s probably maybe a bit nauseating, you said earlier that you don’t like the self-improvement woo-woo stuff.
00:52:56.16 Andy Coulson:
I said I don’t like some of it.
00:52:58.14 Lorraine Pascale:
No, I take that back.
00:52:59.13 Andy Coulson:
I don’t like some of it.
00:53:00.08 Lorraine Pascale:
Yeah, some of it, which I totally agree with you, by the way. But to me, when I was in… I’ll tell you very briefly I was dumped on the day that my mum died and so the only way I got through that… I mean, that’s a crisis, I’d say that’s a crisis?
00:53:20.06 Andy Coulson:
That is, that definitely yeah…
00:53:22.17 Lorraine Pascale:
And so I used to say to myself, ‘you’re gonna be okay, you’re gonna be okay’. And I’d literally would repeat it a thousand times a day to get out of bed, ‘you’re going to bake a cake, you can do this’. So it’s constant self-talk, constant in the head, ‘you’re gonna be okay, you can do this, you’ve got this, you’re great’. And it really, really works, it really, really works. And sometimes even just to go to the shop because I just didn’t feel like I could. I said that over and over and over again. So it sounds weird, especially for us Brits but that positive self-talk, it’s not even positive, it’s like supportive.
00:54:00.11 Andy Coulson:
00:54:00.07 Lorraine Pascale:
It’s like to get going self-talk, it really worked. But it is non-stop, like a thousand times a day.
00:54:06.11 Andy Coulson:
Fantastic. Lorraine, thank you so much for giving us sometime today. Congratulations again, on the engagement, I hope the wedding goes brilliantly. And yeah, as I say, I just think this an incredibly useful chat for anyone who’s looking for that kind of practical, no nonsense, no pity approach to handling crisis. So thank you so much.
00:54:30.08 Lorraine Pascale:
Thank you it’s been wonderful.
00:54:55.00 End of transcription