Ahead of the release of her first book, TenEighty caught up with Carrie Hope Fletcher to talk about her career in musical theatre, boyfriends past and present, and all she knows now.
It is no secret that books are a huge part of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s life. Anyone who has watched her (pre-house-move) videos will know that they often feature an overflowing bookcase, and she’s shared a number of her favourites – including The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and David Nicholls’ One Day – on Twitter and YouTube. Now she’s made the leap from reader to writer, with the release of All I Know Now.
The part-memoir, part-advice guide covers everything from bullying and friendships to heartbreak and achieving childhood dreams. “I’ve got an almost unhealthy obsession with books,” says Carrie. “And I’ve always been massively into writing – when I was younger I knew that if performing didn’t work out that I was going to be a journalist or work in editing.”
It was because of this love for writing that Carrie never considered using a ghostwriter – “there was never any question; having a ghostwriter was never even thought about” – as some other YouTube books have. And while there’s no denying that YouTube is a big part of Carrie’s life, she hopes people don’t categorise it as ‘just another YouTube book’. “Technically it is, because it’s come off the back of a YouTube channel, but I hope people reading it realise it’s more than that,” she explains.
The book started life as her blog of the same name, which came about as a result of people asking for advice through social media. “I wanted to write the advice down so people could find it again and refer to it – I could also make sure it was succinct, and if I wanted to add to it later, I could go back and edit the post,” she says. “My sister-in-law read the blog and put me in touch with her agent and it all went from there!”
The agent, Hannah Ferguson, loved it, and asked Carrie to write a proposal of 20,000 words. After circulating for two months, there were two publishers who wanted to meet. Little, Brown made an offer, which was accepted, and now, 18 months later, the book is being released.
“You need to understand that people aren’t perfect – they’ll screw up at some point”
“You need to understand that people aren’t perfect – they’ll screw up at some point”
Carrie’s obvious excitement that she has a book coming out is only slightly tempered with worry. With the title of ‘honorary big sister’ comes big responsibility, which Carrie is only too aware of. “No one is perfect,” she says. “You need to hope that teenagers are savvy enough when choosing their role models that they pick people who have good morals and beliefs.
“But it’s also that balance of liking someone and respecting what they do. You need to understand that people aren’t perfect – they’ll screw up at some point – they’re still human beings.”
Carrie was definitely aware of this when she was writing. There’s one point in the book that mentions a time when she felt like she was turning into a bully. “I think the best thing you can do when you realise you’ve done something wrong is to own up to it, apologise and fix it the best you can,” she says.
(This is put into practice during our interview – when it was mentioned to Carrie that there was a line in the book that could be read as heteronormative, she took it on board, then emailed a few days later to say that it had been edited in a reprint. 10 points to Gryffindor.)
While Carrie hopes that her book will be well-received, she’s under no illusion that there may be negative feedback. But this is something she’s well-placed to receive, having had negative comments on Twitter and YouTube. “When I first got Twitter, I was only 15 or 16,” she says. “So if someone made a negative comment, it was the end of the world. When you’re young, it’s hard to handle someone online telling you that you’re fat or ugly. But now I’m older, I have more to worry about, I guess.
“I just bought a flat, I’ve got a mortgage and bills to pay. So someone telling me I’m fat on the internet isn’t my biggest problem! Back then, it was like a dagger to the heart, I’d think: ‘What do I do now because someone doesn’t like me?’, but now it’s like: ‘Oh shut up…’”
Aside from her age (time will do that), a lot has changed since Carrie first started posting YouTube videos. The biggest is that two years ago she landed the part for her dream role as Eponine in Les Misérables. (The story may have been around for 150 years, and the musical for 35, but don’t worry, there are no plot spoilers here!)
When we went to see Carrie perform, she received rapturous applause and a standing ovation, proving she is definitely a great fit for the role. In the interview, she talks us through the thought process behind her acting, and speaks with such kindness and care for her cast mates.
She tells us about the ongoing birthday list the team has – “when it’s someone’s birthday, they get a cake from the person whose birthday it was last”. Her castmates are also supportive of Carrie – she says that Celinde [Schoenmaker] is “really excited” to read her book. (Celinde is one of the people Carrie shares her dressing room with, and has appeared in some of her videos.)
So what’s next? Aside from the promised charity hair donation once her Les Mis commitments are complete in June, her options are vast. Currently she can’t say anything for certain, but she is busy auditioning for parts. “There are lots of auditions,” she tells us. “I want to stay in musicals, because I love them, but I’d also like to audition for TV and film.”
Carrie’s desire to be Elphaba in Wicked is well-known, as is her love for Doctor Who (Could you imagine Carrie as the Doctor’s companion? It’d be amazing). Carrie shares another role that she hopes to play one day: “I would love to play Paige Mahoney in The Bone Season. It’s being made into a movie: she’s got big blonde, curly hair; she’s Irish but had to lose her accent… It’s the best book ever,” she says. If we were casting for it, Carrie would totally get the part.
“I’ve made my peace with what happened – it sucks, but you just have to move on and get over it”
While she’s had a successful couple of years career-wise, Carrie’s personal life hasn’t been so easy, especially the very public, messy end to her relationship with Alex Day. Aside from the wider allegations against him, can Carrie forgive Alex for the way he treated her?
“No, I can’t,” she says firmly. “I’ve made my peace with what happened – it sucks, but you just have to move on and get over it. Otherwise I’d be sat here crying every day that he cheated on me with seven people, and I’d never trust anyone ever again. I’m over it, but there’s no way I can forgive [his behaviour].
“It doesn’t hurt [me] to talk about it; I’m very much over [him],” she says sincerely. “In June last year, I made a decision and told him: ‘Right, you need to get out of my life.’ I grilled him with questions for a month [before that] to understand things, then told him that he needed to not speak to me again.”
Carrie has spoken to Alex recently though, to get some of her things back. “I thought he would have put them in a box and sent it to me – surely he didn’t want them [at his house], but he had thrown them away. He did offer to replace it all, which I accepted – I wanted him to know that there were consequences to his stupid actions.”
We ask Carrie if she condones others watching Alex’s videos. “I’ve very much detached myself from people who want to watch them. Watch him if you like, but” – she sits up as if to do a news broadcast – “Carrie Hope Fletcher does not approve this message.”
Now she’s in a relationship with Pete Bucknall, and her happiness is palpable when she talks about him. “There are a lot of things in the book that have come from knowing Pete, and that I’ve learnt from being in a relationship with him.”
“I didn’t feel like there needed to be a big announcement that we’re together”
Up until recently, her relationship wasn’t explicit public knowledge, despite Pete’s regular involvement in her videos. This decision was a conscious one: “I didn’t feel like there needed to be a big announcement that we’re together.”
This seems partly because she doesn’t want to let her viewers down. “Lots of people watch YouTube as if it were their favourite TV programme rather than as though they’re watching real-life people,” Carrie observes. “So when audiences find out their favourite person is in a relationship, there’s no one writing that story and making sure they stay together forever with a happily ever after. That relationship might go completely wrong – then it feels like their favourite plot line of their TV show has come to an end.
“I feel like there’s a lesson to be learnt for people sharing their relationship online,” she continues. “You need to make sure the audience knows that it’s a real relationship, and it’s up to them what they do with it. While we get to swoon over their cute selfies, we have to realise that they’re real people and it might go wrong, especially if it’s shared when it’s still new.”
“I wouldn’t go around telling random people on the street personal things about myself”
While Carrie is happy to share most things about her life, up to a point, there are some things she won’t share online: “It’s not necessarily an internet thing, it’s a stranger thing. I wouldn’t go around telling random people on the street personal things about myself.”
For Carrie, YouTube has come with its fair share of problems, but one could argue that it has been one of the only constants in her life while her career has shaped itself and her relationship status has changed.
But even that constant has evolved since her first video: a cover of Paramore’s The Only Exception. “As more and more people have been watching, I’ve started talking about more things that would affect [my audience],” she says. “I’ve made more advice-based videos because I realised that I can use the reach I have to share my experiences – much like the book. I’ve learnt from them, so hopefully others will find them useful or interesting.”
All I Know Now reaffirms this on a bigger scale: there’s a section at the back, called Props, which is full of useful websites and phone numbers for teenagers who may need help. It also suggests Carrie is aware of her limits with regard to counselling her audience. As she told us when we took her to the ChildLine offices, her inbox is always overflowing, so it’s great that she has given readers of her book resources they can turn to.
With more than 565,000 YouTube subscribers and 359,000+ Twitter followers, there is no denying that Carrie is well-known, for both her life on the internet and her role in a West End musical. “I hate thinking of myself as famous,” she says. “They’ve just put me on the Les Mis 30th anniversary posters, so my face is around London. I cringe every time I see them.”
Last year, many prominent YouTubers addressed the issue of celebrity on YouTube, unanimously stating that they’re still people, too. It’s an issue that Carrie also struggles with, but she can see the practical reasons for some of the security measures that now need to be taken at the bigger events, like Summer In The City. “It’s hard as there’s a big security risk when there are so many people at an event. You want everyone to be as safe as possible,” she says.
“Everyone is equal at the heart of things, but when someone has a very big audience and lots of people look up to them, obviously lots of people will want to meet that person at a gathering,” she continues. “So there has to be a way to keep everyone safe.”
“Getting through those past experiences… just means I’m more prepared for the future.”
She explains that teenage Carrie would have been the same. “If My Chemical Romance had done a gathering, and you’d explained to me that I needed to wait three hours to meet Gerard Way, I would’ve been like, ‘What?! Why do I have to wait that long?! He’s just a person like I am’,” she laughs. “Trying to explain that to 14-year-old me who desperately wanted to meet Gerard Way would have been difficult.
“Everyone just seems a bit unsure of how to handle it and the best way to go about it because this kind of YouTube culture is a relatively new thing, and problems are arising all the time. It’s one of those things that if you go to a gathering as a viewer, you’ve just got to understand that there are lots of people who want to meet [popular YouTubers], and it might mean waiting around for a while. It’s a very difficult thing to organise and have everyone be happy with.”
As the interview comes to a close, we ask Carrie if she has any regrets. “Loads, yeah,” she states calmly. “I think I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.
“But I’m glad I do,” she says. “Getting through those past experiences, looking back and wishing I hadn’t done [certain things] – it just means I’m more prepared for the future. I feel like it’s part of the learning curve, the learning curve of life.”
And Carrie’s advice for the future is simple: “Be more confident and assertive; be more Gryffindor.”
Photos by Rebecca Need-Menear.
Want more Carrie Hope Fletcher?
Check out what happened when TenEighty took her, Gary C, Hannah Witton and George Long to the ChildLine offices. Carrie has also featured in a few of our Five of the Best columns. Check out our Five of the Best: Body Image, Five of the Best: Letters To Yourself or Five of the Best: Advice.
For exclusive photosets, follow TenEighty UK on Tumblr or look at the following:
- Carrie Hope Fletcher TenEighty 2015 Cover
- Carrie Hope Fletcher TenEighty 2015 cover shoot: Photo-set 01
- Carrie Hope Flectcher TenEighty 2015 cover shoot: Photo-set 02