AN aspiring broadcast journalist has made her mark in the television world with a news report about the dangers of skin whitening creams.
Monika Plaha has come a long way since, aged six, she wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter and is now the winner of this year’s Breaking Into News, thanks to her report.
It is an initiative run by ITV News and the Media Trust to identify top broadcast journalists of the future.
The 20-year-old, of Lillington Close, Leamington, was mentored over the last few weeks by ITV Central presenter Victoria Davies, who worked closely with her on the project.
The accolade will also see Monika spend a day with the team producing News at Ten.
Monika, who did her GCSEs at North Leamington School and her A-levels at Myton, feels strongly that Asian women are lured by a “fair skin culture” into using creams to lighten their skin, many which contain dangerous chemicals and harsh additives.
She said they can cause kidney failure, burning and scarring and although many are banned in the EU, they are sold in India and the internet.
Now in the third year of a communications, media and society course at Leicester University, she said: “I think it’s a shame that women think they have to whiten their skin because of cultural and historical reasons.”
And an advert she saw featuring a dark-skinned woman who was said to be without hope, a husband or a job until she lightened her skin made her angry, saying: “It was creating an image that if you are fair skinned you are successful.”
Monika also writes to editors of Asian lifestyle magazines questioning their use of light-skinned models, partly prompted by a work-experience stint at one when a picture editor was flitting through shots and complaining they were too dark.
“I felt a little uncomfortable because I was darker than them.”
She thanks her mum Resh for her love of TV news, saying: “Mum made me watch the news to improve our grammar and knowledge and understanding of the world.”
And Monika has nothing but praise for the help and encouragement given by Victoria Davies at Central and Mary Nightingale, Mark Austin and Alastair Stewart at News at Ten when she visited the studios.
“Working at ITV Central has been such an experience. Victoria was so helpful in showing me how to go about creating an item, writing a script and interviewing. My ambition is to present News at Ten – that would be the dream.”
Robin Elias, managing editor of ITV News, said: “The standard of entries was extremely high but in the end the judges were unanimous in their praise for Monika.”