Digital diva Stacey Dooley to headline Engage 2018

Amanda Crowley

‘Amazing.’

‘Absolutely brilliant.’

‘She epitomises youth culture – she just really gets digital.’ 

Those are how a few IABeers responded to my question, “Who’s Stacey Dooley?”

I hate to admit, but I had no idea who Stacey was when I first heard she’d be speaking at Engage. But in my defence, I moved to London from New York just under a year ago and I’m still playing a bit of cultural catch up.   

Engage is the IAB UK’s flagship event. In its 14th year, Engage is known for inspiring attendees, celebrating what’s great about digital and challenging conventions. Since everyone in the office seemed genuinely excited about her, I thought I should do my own investigation into what makes her ‘awesome.’ 

From what I understand, Stacey fell into her career early; at just 20-ish years old, she was a participant in Blood, Sweat and T-shirts, a documentary where half a dozen fashion-forward young adults spent time in India learning about the real cost of ‘fast fashion.’ Stacey worked 14 (or more) hours a day for the equivalent of just £1. In one episode, she visited a factory powered by child labour where she met a young boy whose family sent him there to live and work. She became visibly upset as she found out about the abuse he’s endured over the years. Her tears were so powerful, I found my eyes welling up too. 

Fast-forward nine years and she’s hosted more than 60 documentaries for BBC Three — that’s more than six per year. To put that into perspective, by my count, Sir David Attenborough has produced 113 documentaries over the span of his career from 1952-2018, averaging ‘just’ 1.7 per year. 

As I delved deeper into her binge-worthy documentaries, I came to realise that it’s her ability to emotionally connect with interviewees that sets her apart from her peers. She’s unapologetically compassionate and real; she asks the tough questions but never prods, and her inquisitive yet disarming manner is quite refreshing.  

Most recently I watched ‘Face to Face with Isis.’ In it, Stacey travels to Mosul with Shireen, a former Isis sex slave, and together they visited the site where she was held captive and spoke with a jailed Isis leader – to say it was jarring is an understatement.

Getting sucked into the ‘plot’ is the tell-tale sign of a great storyteller and Stacey’s ability to focus on an individual story allows the viewers to feel as if they’re right there on the journey with her. And speaking of stories, she’s also quite active on social media – especially Instagram. I started following her last week and what I like is that her personality really shines through in all her posts. Oh, and her dog. I’m currently obsessed with the pics of Bernie, her English bulldog.

I don’t know how she does it, but Stacey somehow found the time to write her first book, which just came out in February. What I do know is that I’m officially a fan and very much looking forward to hearing what she’ll talk about on the 7 June on stage at Engage.

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