Finding herself through Vegetarianism
Karin Ridgers suffered from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem throughout her childhood and adolescence. Unexpectedly, however, she found the self-confidence that had always eluded her after deciding to go vegetarian in her early 20s. Since then, she has become a TV presenter and launched the UK’s first vegetarian TV channel.
“When I decided to become a vegetarian, I felt as though I stepped into the person I had always wanted to be. It was as though I finally realised who I really was and had the confidence to stand up and say, categorically, what I did and didn’t want. It was the turning point for me.”
A promise to herself
Throughout her time at school, shy Karin dreamed of becoming an actress or TV presenter. “I was the ugly, skinny girl next door. I remember asking my dad when I was five if you had to have blue eyes to be an actress because mine were brown. I spent my time at school feeling not good enough. When I walked out of the school gates on leaving day, I thought to myself “give me 10 years and I’ll come back as the confident person I’ve always wanted to be”. I had no idea how I was going to achieve this but it was a promise I made to myself.”
Despite Karin’s dreams of finding her inner confidence, however, when she left school she took the safe option and went into a career in personal banking. “Then, one day in my early 20s, I went to a Mind Body Spirit fair. Someone handed me a leaflet written by spiritual leader, The Supreme Master Ching Hai. It was all about vegetarianism. I stuck it in my bag, to be honest I wasn’t that interested. But, when I began reading it, I was absolutely hooked. It was the first time that I had heard meat being described as “flesh”. The leaflet talked about the fact that we have long intestines and described how the meat we eat can clog up inside us. From that moment on, I knew I didn’t want to eat meat any more.”
Her decision to become a vegetarian led not only to Karin feeling fitter and healthier, but also to feeling empowered to look at other aspects of her life as well.
“I considered my job and thought “why am I doing this?” All I ever wanted to do was act, so I decided to begin taking drama classes. I continued in my job to pay the bills but in my spare time I did courses at RADA and Sky TV. I started acting in anything I could. I used to go for auditions in my lunch break.”
Karin secured a number of small acting roles in films such as Kit, The Money Shot, Battle of the Sexes and Lazy Days Crazy Nights. At the same time, she approached local radio stations seeking out opportunities to speak on air. Within months Karin was appearing on Mayflower, Phoenix FM and Gateway FM. Since then, she has been interviewed more than 100 times on radio stations across the UK and Europe and is a regular presenter on Loud Women on BBC Radio Essex.
Encouraged by her success on local radio, next Karin approached TV production companies. She started small, appearing as a healthy living expert for Video Jug and on the Being Vegan programme for The Discovery Channel. Since then, she has presented and directed a pilot TV programme called Sort Your Life Out and done presenting work for various TV production companies, including Timeless Productions and TLC Video Productions. She has appeared on Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project with Alan Car and on The BBC’s Video Nation, Food of Love and Can’t Cook Won’t Cook. Throughout this time, Karin continued to work in her banking job to fund her burgeoning media career.
The School Reunion
By the age of 31, Karin felt sufficiently confident to face her former schoolmates again and she set about organising a school reunion. Unbeknown to her, Channel 5 was looking to make a reality TV show about a school reunion. The programme researchers got to hear about Karin’s planned reunion and contacted her to discuss the possibility of a TV programme. Karin suddenly found herself starring in one of the earliest reality TV shows in the UK.
“The School Reunion was an instant hit. It was Pick of the Day in virtually every newspaper. People were captivated by the story of the girl next door (me!) who became the confident person, starring on local TV and radio. The programme also followed the fortunes of my other classmates – how the bullies had turned out, what had become of the boy that everyone fancied…that sort of thing.
“I walked back into my old school for the reunion, accompanied by TV cameras, and realised that I had become the confident person that I had promised myself I would, one day, be. It was a great moment.”
Just a few months later, after 17 years, she finally quit her job in banking. “It was a very stressful time. I was grieving for the recent death of my grandmother and, on the other hand, I was still high from the success of the TV reality show. One day, my boss handed me a pile of papers to photocopy. She didn’t even say please. That was it, I quit my job the same day.”
A new career
Karin had nothing to go to when she left her banking job but she knew she didn’t want to jump back into employment. During her time with local radio stations, she had played an active role in promoting their work in the local press. Building on this experience, she founded her own PR consultancy, MAD Promotions. Her connections with the local newspaper paid off as they became one of her biggest clients within a few months of her launching her PR career. Since she launched her company, Karin has become a regular contributor to Vegetarian Living magazine, The Parents Guide and The Vegetarian Society.
Combining her two passions
Karin also began thinking about how she could combine her two passions – TV presenting and being a vegetarian. “There are around 5 million vegetarians in the UK and, at that time, there were no programmes that catered for them. I linked up with a superb producer and we made a pilot programme about vegetarianism. I pitched the idea to every major TV station in the UK but they all rejected it, saying it was too niche.”
Undaunted, Karin decided to set up her own online TV station for vegetarians, called VeggieVision TV. It was in the days before Youtube so there was nowhere to promote the film clips.
“I was several years ahead of the online technology, but I did it anyway. I wanted a TV channel that was all about vegetarianism – nothing preachy but lots of fun and interesting stuff. I launched the website with a few basic video clips.”
“VeggieVision has been going a few years now and there are hundreds of clips on there, including interviews with celebrities, recipes and advice. We are averaging around 1000 clips per day and hope, soon, to make the transition from online TV station to mainstream TV.”
Vegetarian Achievement Award of the Decade
Karin was recently nominated for the Vegetarian Achievement Award of the Decade, alongside Sir Paul McCartney. The award is run by Veg Fest UK and celebrates everything fun about veggie living. Veg Fest has three huge festivals each year – the biggest in Europe. The UK team for the Supreme Master Ching Hai, who first converted Karin to vegetarianism, have become PR clients and personal friends of Karin’s. Two years ago, the Supreme Master Ching Hai awarded Karin a Heroine Award for her work in promoting vegetarianism. She has also won awards from Viva! and SMTV for her work in spreading the word about vegetarianism.
It is all a far cry from the self-conscious schoolgirl who used to stand meekly by while people stole her sandwiches and ate them in front of her. Karin can truly say that vegetarianism changed her life…and in more ways than she would ever have anticipated.
Karin’s advice for anyone who is crippled by self-doubt and low self esteem is:
“Invest in yourself and do something you like every day. Don’t focus on what you don’t like – focus on what you do like about yourself. I always feel that if you are worried people are looking at you – well, they are not! They are too busy thinking about themselves and their own issues!
“Get into person development – read The Secret, The Law of Attraction, improve your health, your diet and get expert advice, too. Find a life coach that you could work with. Many offer a free consultation to see if they are the right match for you.”
“We are all a work in progress, enjoy life, be happy and do things you love – whether its work, relationships, exercise – focus on the positive and what you want. If you don’t know what you want then just ask yourself “What do I want?” the answer will come.”
© Uplifting Stories