Interview: Catriona Strachan, the face of M&S TV

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THIS isn’t just an online TV station – this is an M&S online TV station. And this isn’t just a TV presenter – this is an M&S online TV presenter who has beaten off competition from rivals around the country to win a coveted contract.

Catriona Strachan, 24, of Leith, will be the face of the retail giant’s online TV channel after winning a public vote and the backing of a panel of judges in an X Factor-style competition. Her first job will be to quiz celebrity stylist Kate Halfpenny on her famous clients and her top tips for the season ahead – as well as attend the final of X Factor, with two tickets included in her prize.

The Queen Margaret University graduate says she is “over the moon” to have won the £5000 contract and says the first half-hour after she was revealed as the winner was a complete blur. “I just remember tears coming down my face,” she says. “It was quite a surreal experience.”

The competition was launched in October, with thousands of TV hopefuls from around the country flooding the shopping chain with applications.

For Catriona it was the perfect opportunity. She grew up in a household where her mother, Fiona, was an avid M&S shopper and Catriona always wore M&S clothes, albeit hand-me-downs from her two older sisters, so she jumped at the chance.

Catriona says: “You had to submit a one-minute film about why you loved M&S. I went into Princes Street with a friend, it was all very last minute, we ran around the store picking up bits and pieces.” The film was then hastily edited and sent off – and within days Catriona was invited down to London as one of the 12 finalists.

There she was challenged to make another film, styling a male model and picking out a first-date meal from M&S’s food range. Catriona’s warm, bubbly manner was a hit with the public when the films were put up on the M&S website and won her a place in the final three.

“I realised as I was going through the different parts of the competition how much I wanted it,” she says. But the toughest part was to come, with the three finalists – the other two were Carl Loughlin-Ravenscroft from the Wirral and Shazin Nurse from London – facing a Dragon’s Den style grilling from a panel including the editor of The Sun’s TV buzz magazine, Steven Corbett and Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design and product direction at M&S, all lolling in leather armchairs with the contestants standing before them.

“I think we all thought the interview would be quite friendly and ‘do you really want this?’ sort of thing but we got in there and it was the hardest interview of my entire life. They really were quite mean,” Catriona laughs.

Still, all four judges voted unanimously for Catriona, describing her as “calm and confident”, “sweet” and “very honest and believable”.

Now Catriona, who does the travel reports for Radio Forth, is waiting to head to London for her first interview. She’ll spend five days filming for the channel and hopes the contract will be a stepping stone to bigger things.

“I’m hoping I’ll gain a huge amount of experience and some professional footage,” she says. “I’d like to work more for M&S but if that isn’t an option I want to pursue any other presenting careers. I am up for moving down to London. I have always wanted to get into TV presenting, it looks like really good fun, you get to meet some amazing people and visit some fascinating places and this is such an amazing opportunity.”

n Visit http://www.marksandspencer.com and click on the M&S TV links to see Catriona’s winning moment