Miquita Oliver is a low-key national treasure. For five years in the early-2000s, she and Simon Amstell turned a modest-looking music show – Popworld – into something hilarious and iconic, by saying what they wanted and embracing the surreal. One time, they interviewed a pop star from across a car park using megaphones, just so they could call the segment "Lemar from Afar". Genius.
Miquita's also known for hosting T4, helming a show on Radio 1 and being best mates with Lily Allen, but she’s kept a lower profile in recent years. In this VICE Interview, she discusses not only the fun times messing around with Amstell in front of a camera but an occasion during which the pair found themselves on holiday during a natural disaster.
VICE: If you were a wrestler, what song would you come in the ring to?
Miquita Oliver: Do you know what? I find real strength in Drake and I think it's because he's so gentle and confident in his delivery. It's like, he's not panicking and overselling himself or trying to lie. I would want that to come through when I enter the ring, so I'd pick anything by Drake to show my hidden strength.
What's the nicest thing you own?
I actually really like my plants. I've been banging on about getting plants for my flat for about eight years, but a few weeks ago I finally went down to Columbia Road flower market on a Sunday and bought four amazing plants for £50. And I have to say, every morning when I wake up and see them, I'm straight-up happy. It's not just that they exist, it's that I actually got it together to go and buy them instead of just chatting about it for another eight years.
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
It's so embarrassing but straight-up, it's Friends. I'm such a loser, but there's not a question you couldn't ask me. To be fair, I did have to throw to it for 10 years [on T4]. I had to watch it every week so I know the ins and outs of every episode. I couldn't say the same about Hollyoaks though. That's when I left the room.
Big question though: Who's the best Friends character?
Rachel. Because I feel like around season four, she really came into her own and Jennifer Aniston became a really great comedic actress. I think she's not given the props she deserves for her comic timing. There are some episodes around the Joshua era where she's just brilliant. The "Joshua era", what am I saying?!
What are you most proud of in your career?
Popworld. 100 percent. Because it was just an unexpected, wonderful, life-changing thing. For one, it gave me one of my best friends, Simon, who is someone I would never have met and fallen in love with unless we were asked to host a pop music show together. We just went through so much together and we were in charge of why it became such a success. When we first started I was just a kid, and they gave us these terrible scripts and this fucking awful set. It took about two months, but Simon and I were just like, "Shall we just say what we want? No one's watching anyway." I mean, it was on E4, which had only just launched, at the crack of dawn. So we realised what we wanted to do was something honest. It annoys me when people say it was a piss-take show, because it wasn't – it was an honest show and I think people are quite scared of honesty. I'm proud of how long we did it for, I'm proud that we left when we did, I'm proud of everything about Popworld. If I'm honest, I still see parts of what we did on Popworld in the way people present now. And I'm really proud of that too. Sometimes when I'm drunk I ask Simon to watch old Popworld clips with me and he's like, "No, of course not."
When was the last time you said no to something relating to your career?
Celebrity Big Brother, every single year. Do you know what, the reason I haven't worked loads and loads is because I got so lucky working on Popworld and T4. They were such unique pieces of telly, so I got really spoiled. So to go back into more "normal" telly was quite difficult for me because I was used to having so much control. And so, I decided what I want to do is write. Two things I've written are just about to come off the ground, and I have to say it's such a brilliant feeling when you're making something you really care about. I had a few years where I was like, "I'm fed up, I'm done." But now I'm really ready to be back on TV again. I miss it and I know I'm bloody good at it, so this is going to be a really exciting year for me.
What would be your last meal?
Shepherd's pie. My mum's a chef but she makes it too fancy. I want, like, Marks and Spencer's ready meal shepherd's pie. With peas. And red wine, I love red wine.
But doesn't it give you the worst hangover?
Oh my god, yes, but you know that lovely week between Christmas and New Year where you're genuinely allowed to just drink and eat all you want? I woke up on the 28th of December and was like, I have nothing to do, so I'm just going to trawl through BBC iPlayer and drink some wine. I'd been at this party at my mum's restaurant so I had a box of wine in. And I got through three bottles of red wine! It was like, wow, this is how much I can drink when I'm not taking care of my shit.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
I was in a tsunami with Simon Amstell.
When we did Popworld we spent a lot of Christmases together, because Simon's Jewish and his family don't celebrate Christmas. My family go in, so he used to come to my family and friends over Christmas. He came to Lily's once, he came to my aunt's house, he just jumped in on all our Christmases. One year, Simon and I decided that spending every day together filming a pop show still wasn't enough so we went to Thailand for two weeks and ended up in a tsunami. It was a fear like no other. Honestly, I don't even know how to describe something like that. But because I was with Simon, it just felt utterly ridiculous – like we were in a shitty scene that just wouldn't end. We had this terrible period where we thought each other had died because we got separated and both camps were told that whoever wasn't there had died. I had a good two hours where I was like, "Simon's dead, and I'm sitting on a hill with 30 people, waiting for the next wave to come." That was a real beast of a moment in my life.
What happened next?
We found each other and we just had to sit on this mountain for another eight hours scared that another wave would come and we would die. So the atmosphere was quite tense, and of course Simon had to make the worst jokes. I was like, "Simon, it's too soon, we still could die." There was a point where they started giving out bread, and I was like, "No, no, I'm not eating carbs." Simon was just like, "For fuck's sake, have some fucking bread!" But seriously, it was probably the most terrified I've ever been in my life.
How did you get away from the danger?
Well, the group of us on the mountain heard from this other island that there was another wave coming. So we had to take a risk and run down the mountain, get in cars and drive as quickly as possible off the island, basically. It was very surreal. I was majorly hungover because it was Boxing Day and Simon had dragged me out of my hut that morning to go the beach. And everyone who stayed in the huts died. I was bloody lucky.
Miquita Oliver is supporting the NHS #Date2Donate campaign to encourage people to give blood. Find out more here.