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Alice Levine talks My Dad Wrote A Porno, being “Lizzo happy” and dealing with imposter syndrome

The broadcaster, DJ and podcast personality sat down with Stylist to talk all things Alice Levine, from her favourite female artists to the feminist side of My Dad Wrote A Porno.

Alice Levine is busy these days. Between recording episodes of the world-famous podcast My Dad Wrote A Porno and co-hosting the weekend afternoon show on BBC Radio 1, the broadcaster is working on her next venture into documentaries (her first, Sleeping With The Far Right, aired on Channel 4 earlier this year) and preparing to host the Women in Music Awards for the 5th year running. But despite all this incredible, high-profile work, Levine’s perfect evening is a little more understated.

“I’m a bit of a home bug in all honesty. That’s not really a secret – I think most people that know me know that it takes quite a lot to tempt me out of my home. Basically, my perfect evening would involve food and drink and friends at mine,” Levine explains over the phone. “My favourite nights are when either I cook or a friend cooks and we just sit around and drink and eat. I know that sounds kind of boring, but that is my ideal night.”

Levine’s affinity for food is no secret – alongside her hugely successful supper club venture with fellow foodie and TV presenter Laura Jackson, her Instagram feed is peppered with shots of beautiful table settings and the occasional delectable spread. Her latest project saw her create a new aperitivo menu for the launch of Peroni’s new alcohol-free conquest, the Peroni Libera, featuring flavours from a crab salad to Italian bruschetta.

“We wanted something that would accompany the Peroni Libera rather than fight with it,” she explains of the process behind creating the menu. “It’s something that is going to be a perfect complement rather than a fight with those flavours because the Peroni Libera very crisp and citrusy so you kind of don’t want something that’s going to drown that out.” 

And while she doesn’t mind the occasional drink and night out (“that stuff is fun too”), Levine also enjoys an alcohol-free beverage. She’s not alone: according to a recent report, UK sales of low and alcohol-free beers jumped 28% in the last year. 

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“I think young people are drinking less because everyone seems really busy and are packing a lot into their days,” Levine speculates of the rise in popularity of alcohol-free options. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t operate particularly well on a hangover – some people are quite good at that and can soldier through, but I feel thoroughly sorry for myself when I’ve got a sore head the next day. I guess you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out either way – you don’t want to feel like you can’t do a good job or be present the day after a night out, but you also don’t want to drink something that isn’t delicious and makes you feel like you’re limiting yourself. I suppose that’s why people are reaching for things like the Peroni Libera.”

That balance – between having fun and getting the job done – seems to be something Levine is handling pretty well. She is cool, effortlessly funny and great to chat to: but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deal with her own issues. Imposter syndrome, she tells me, is something she is always trying to overcome. 

Alice Levine
Alice Levine at the launch of the Peroni Libera Terrazza at Selfridges, London.

“I’m a chronic over thinker and worrier,” she explains. “My job’s a bit made up as well – it’s not really one where you can tick a box on a form, and it’s not really a job that has a standard model for it or a standard measure for whether you’re good or bad. So from one day to the next I’m constantly thinking ‘oh I’m so shit at this’, then ‘oh no that was alright’ then ‘oh maybe I should do something else.’ I think most people feel that to a certain extent. 

“It’s so hard not to look at other people who you’re friends with or people who work in your field and go ‘well they just do it so well and they do it so effortlessly’. I look at Clara [Amfo] who I work with or Lauren Laverne and I think ‘oh my god they don’t worry about anything and look how brilliant they are,’ and of course they do, of course they have all the same anxieties as everybody else – but it is easy to convince yourself that it’s so easy for other people.”

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Stylist sat down with Levine to talk all things Alice: from the feminist side of Belinda Blinked to her favourite female artists, the broadcaster and DJ had a lot to say.

We’ve spoken about the rise in alcohol-free drinks and young people going sober – do you think Belinda (the central character of My Dad Wrote A Porno) could handle quitting alcohol?

“Oh my god, she doesn’t do anything in moderation does she! Sticking to anything, because she has an incredibly short attention span, would be tricky. I mean she is an international sales woman so I’m sure she’d appreciate the sales campaign and be impressed by the reach. But oh, I think she’d be awful. I mean they’re quite a boozy bunch; they go to the Pentra – that’s their drinking hole of choice which is near Heathrow – and I just think that she’d be sort of absent minded and drink some chardonnay out of somebody’s orifice and forget. So, no, I don’t think we could rely on her to be an alcohol-free mascot.”

Rocky has made some questionable food references throughout the Belinda Blinked books – what would you most like to teach him about food?

“I’d say that blue cheese fish mousse isn’t generally a crowd pleaser – that’s not one that’s gonna have people coming back for more. Also, not a sexy food – as a combination of flavours and scents – yeah, that’s not a good one. Also that people don’t tend to eat spaghetti out of vaginas? I mean yeah, it feels like a given, but sometimes you just have to spell it out for Rocky – he sometimes feels like he needs to talk about sex and food at the same time because he feels like that’s a trend or he feels like that’s what people do.

“I think my advice would be don’t overthink it too much – just stick to the well-trodden paths in that department.”

Alice Levine with her My Dad Wrote A Porno co-hosts Jamie Morton and James Cooper.
Alice Levine with her My Dad Wrote A Porno co-hosts Jamie Morton and James Cooper.

There’s something weirdly feminist about parts of Rocky’s books – does Belinda have the potential to become a feminist icon?

“Oh, that is a very real question – well, she’s very empowered, she’s very sex positive, she’s a career woman who calls the shots at her work place, and she also doesn’t really do anything that she doesn’t want to do – she’s very forthright in that regard. For somebody who doesn’t say very much at all for about three books, she’s very communicative about her wants and likes – I suppose in that sense she’s a very powerful character. I mean did Rocky intend her to be? Umm, unlikely – maybe he did, he has brought up a lot of daughters, maybe we’re underestimating him and he intended her to be a kind of 2019 feminist heroine.

“I think she’s great for all those reasons and actually, considering a 60-odd-year-old guy has written it and so much pornography is the male gaze, this is actually quite refreshing and it is, as sad as it is to say, it is kind of quite revolutionary to read about this woman who’s not embarrassed about her predilections and her desires. So not to give him too much credit but yeah, I think she’s super cool! She’s definitely problematic for other reasons – I mean she’s a bit daft – but yeah, I think there are some quite admirable traits there!”

Talking about podcasts, which ones do you listen to? Give us some recommendations.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love Dear Joan and Jericha – I’ve listened to them over and over again, and obviously it’s just come back too so that’s really exciting. I just had this flurry of messages the day series two was released from everybody saying ‘it’s back, it’s back!’ I’ve just loved Julia Davis forever and Vicki Pepperdine is just incredible, and as a podcast team we’ve admired them for a long time as well.

“I like My Favourite Murder which is two American hosts talking about just that, their favourite murders, which sounds really bleak but is just really funny. 

“You know what was brilliant? I listened to Sex, Power, Money by Sara Pascoe and that was great. Slow Burn too, there was a series of Slow Burn that was all about the Lewinsky/Bill Clinton scandal and that was such a good listen. I’m a bit of a re-listener as well, I go back and listen to stuff again.”

You’re hosting the Women In Music Awards later this month – could you tell us about some of your favourite female artists?

“So this is my fifth year of doing it and it’s one of my favourite things to do – it’s always such a good laugh! But yeah, an artist I’m loving at the moment is Georgia, she’s really brilliant and I get teased all the time by Dev (who I do the Radio 1 show with) because I basically just fangirl every time we get to play her. 

“He also teases me because I claim (obviously falsely) that I discovered Lizzo many years ago. We had her do a Maida Vale session for us about five or six years ago because I was very Lizzo happy at the time – she kind of went quiet for a while but then obviously she has just blown up in the last couple of years and I’m so happy and excited that she’s everywhere because she’s brilliant. I’m sure Lizzo would agree that that session she did for us completely transformed her life. I don’t want to put words in her mouth… but I’m going to say I changed her life.

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“I really enjoyed that Ella Mai EP – she also did that brilliant song What You Did with Mahalia, which I’ve just been playing loads. I love Tierra Whack, she did that song Wasteland but her album Whack World is really good too. And then Rosalía, she’s fantastic, and then Ms Banks I really like too – they’re all on a loop.”

Your documentary Sleeping With The Far Right was fascinating – do you have plans to make any more in 2020?

“There are some plans afoot, but I can’t say too much! I suppose the thing about that film was that it was about the far right, but it was actually also a film about identity and it is a portrait about a very fascinating – for want of a better word – guy. I think what I like is characters and that immersive experience, so whatever I do next will kind of combine those things. I don’t know exactly what that story is yet, but I think it will be something that combines those elements of an interesting person and an interesting story. 

“But also, I want the time to properly explore it, because you know, I lived with him for a week, and basically spent every hour of every day with him during that time, so you get a different experience that way. So something that combines those elements is what I’d like to do, but I haven’t necessarily got the story down yet.”

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Alice Levine recently collaborated with Peroni to celebrate the launch of their new alcohol-free beer, Peroni Libera. 

Images: Getty