The inspiring young sports show anchor from Birmingham Samantha Johnson is making a big name on Turkish TV, but she says there’s no place like home – specially to get her hair done!
We all know that hair is a ‘girl thing’. Right? But how far would you go to make sure you were always looking your best? How about more than 3,200 miles… Now, before you say that’s a bit excessive for a cut and blow-dry, we must explain.
Samantha Johnson (Sam to family and friends) is an anchor and correspondent at an English language TV network in Istanbul, Turkey, and so always needs to look her best. Coming from Brum, she will only entrust her flowing locks to her lifelong hairdresser – also in Brum. So, Sam regularly makes the round trip from Turkey for her hair appointment in Birmingham. She also uses it as the opportunity to catch up on family and friends, too. Handy.
Sam moved to Turkey in November 2015 after she was offered the plum broadcasting job on TRT World’s daily Beyond The Game sports show. She’s been making a name for herself ever since with interviews of some of the world’s leading sportsmen and women as well as other general news pieces. She splits her time between presenting the show and reporting for it.
She says working and living in Istanbul – a city of 18 million people – combines her ideal job with a perfect lifestyle. “I wouldn’t change what I am doing for the world,” she says. “Although you never know what will happen in the year or two,” she adds. “It got a bit interesting here not so long ago at the time of the attempted government coup – my dad wanted me to move back to Birmingham – but it was all ok in the end.”
Sam loves her job because it is pretty much always what she has wanted to do since growing up in Sutton Coldfield and Aston. “Mum played volleyball for England Under-19s when she was in her teens and my dad played non-league football and is a total football nut,” she said. “I played a lot of sport – not very well – especially netball for various teams around Birmingham.”
Aged 16, Sam started media studies and through building up contacts ands sheer perseverance she managed to arrange to interview England footballer Jermaine Defoe for a magazine. His agent had the details of the top man at Sky Sports News and Sam determined to get to see him. “I kept calling him, I guess you could say I broke him down, and he eventually offered me a two-week trial and then a job.”
Working behind the camera as a researcher only served to whet Sam’s appetite to want to appear in front of camera. “Sky gave me three spots, but to be honest I just wasn’t ready for it and they rightly told me that I needed to go and get more experience. It was a confidence thing because I was very conscious of what people thought of me.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself and I second-guessed myself all the time. I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate myself and my life. I went freelance and did a lot of stuff, news and features, for Chelsea TV and Corals the bookmakers and got my confidence back.”
Then came Sam’s big break when a former colleague recommended her to TRT World. She had a Skype interview and got the job. “It was all a bit of a shock but I thought to myself ‘just go for it’. Three months later and I was living in Istanbul…”
Sam has covered a range of sports for the network and interviewed Olympians, Paralympians, basketball legends, Formula One and rally drivers, boxers, footballers and rugby and NFL players. Her exclusive interview with Premier League manager Claudio Ranieri had more than one million views online and received worldwide coverage on CNN, Fox Sports, MailOnline, the Telegraph and the Guardian.
Away from sport, she interviewed the governor of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin, on the attempted coup in Turkey. “I’ve anchored some great shows with great guests,” she said. “Interviewing the president of Turkish football champions Besiktas was a big deal, despite only being in the country for less than two years and not mastering the Turkish language the club trusted me enough to invite me into their circle.”
THE DATING GAME
Sam has earned accolades off-screen. She was named in the 2016 Football Black List – which recognises and celebrates influential figures in football – and has featured in the PowerList ‘Top 20 list of Britain’s Most Influential People Under 40’ for her achievements in the media.
She believes in giving back and inspiring the next generation and because of her knowledge and experience she has chaired, mentored and featured on panels at the Houses of Commons, Wembley Stadium and the Etihad Stadium, as well as countless universities and schools throughout the UK.
The inspiring young sports presenter is achieving all her goals in Turkey – although there is just one issue she hasn’t so far managed to work out. “The dating situation,” she confides. “It’s proving a bit difficult here, what with the different culture and language!” Ah well, you can’t have everything, Sam!