Chatting with Plain Jane's Louise Roe

Louise Roe is not your average reality show host. Born in the UK but based in LA, Roe is extremely multi-talented—she's appeared on The City, she contributes to, she's been a guest judge on several British fashion reality shows, and she's hosted her fair share of them, too. This woman works. And now she's the host of the CW's Plain Jane, a makeover show that gives girls a new wardrobe and instills them with confidence and, for some reason, has completely won me over. I talked to the girl-crush-worthy Roe about her new hosting gig. I have to say, I don’t watch a lot of reality shows, but I like Plain Jane a lot! What drew you to host the show?
Louise Roe: Well, it’s that reaction exactly. It was different from every other reality show because it’s real, as ironic as that sounds. It’s got a heart to it, it’s got a huge sense of humor. They really allowed me to just have a laugh with the girls and I think that brought more out of them. They end up trusting me more. And the other main thing that makes it stand out is the romance element. At the beginning, each girl tells me who she has a massive crush on and it’s someone who is a major part of her life. It’s not just some dude that she met randomly. So I set them up a date, and he has no idea who it is. So I think that sets it apart from other makeover shows.

Do you think you were ever a plain Jane at one point in your life?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t think there’s a woman in the world who hasn’t been, even if it’s just for one evening. Whether it’s being rejected by a guy or having the worst hair day in the world or an absolute fashion nightmare, we’ve all been there and had that moment of, "Oh, I just want the ground to swallow me up!" This is what these girls are like every single day. It’s just very universally empathetic, I guess. We can all relate to these girls.

How do you select them? Do they seek you out?
Yeah, the production company put the word out and girls literally flooded in with their videos. So I watched a lot of those with the production company and we went through who we thought was right and selected them.

Is it difficult for the girls to let you have all the control, in terms of conquering their fears and going on the date?
That’s a really good question, and yes! In fact, Claire [from the Aug. 11 episode] was very stubborn. She was a very clever girl, a writer; I’m a writer too. So we have a lot in common, but I had to be quite strict with her because there were times when she just was a real control freak. They’re not used to letting go and being spontaneous and certainly not used to facing their biggest fear. Nobody is prepared for that.

What is it about the girls that makes them plain Janes?
I think "wallflower" is the one word that applies to them all. There’s a lack of confidence at the end of the day. It’s a lack of self belief. They could be sexy or sophisticated or successful or loud—whatever it is that makes people who shine and command the attention in a room, they lack all those qualities. But deep down they’ve got them, but they just aren’t confident enough to bring them out. That’s where I come in.

How do you prepare for each episode?
I learn a little bit about them from their videos. I watch and I think about where we should shop that might suit them and which hair and make-up person might be best. But it’s not massive amounts of preparation. It’s more about meeting them and getting a vibe for them and thinking on my feet... It’s quite organic.

I loved that you had Christen [from the pilot] conquer her fear of snails by reaching into a huge jar of them, but I thought it was pretty scary that you had Jona [from the Aug. 4 episode] skydive as a means of overcoming her fear of losing control. Is there a limit to what you have them do?
Not really... I tell them they're going to be pushed outside their comfort zones. This isn’t just a stroll through Bloomingdale's! So they know that much. Luckily, everybody went for it, everyone grabbed the opportunity with a bit of a nudge, and came out realizing why I’d made them do it. But you never know, there may be an episode down the line when it’s just too much for them. We’ll see, I guess. I do want to push them really far, because it’s got to have an impact.

The girls seem really relatable, more so than most reality show contestants, perhaps because they’re not seeking fame. What do you think makes them so real?
I don’t know why it is, but I’m really glad. It relates back to why I wanted to do this show. The last thing these girls want to do is be on TV, because they’re so shy. It’s a really grateful, refreshing break from these shows where men and women are just trying to seek fame and money and being plastic fantastic. That’s why I think the show’s doing well and is popular, because they’re such real girls and we all know them or might be like them. And the idea of going on the show is not something they really need to do, but they want the opportunity to change. It comes across as much better TV, I think.

Have you filmed an episode yet with a not-so-happy ending?
You have to watch and find out. I can’t give it away! [laughs]

Is there a back-up plan in case it doesn't work out with the girls' crushes?
Yes, there is. Can’t just leave them standing there! [laughs]

Will each episode always end with a date? Or are there episodes that don't revolve around unrequited love?
There is always a date. One question I’m being asked is, "Is it all about the guy?" And it’s really not. I don’t even meet the guy. Really, it’s all about the girl. It’s great if they get together, but I have a chat with them in the limo before the date and I say, “You know, what are you going to do if it doesn’t work out?” And my aim is that, by then, they’ve got this new sense of perspective and confidence, and most of the time they genuinely aren’t too fussed—you know, if it doesn’t work out, fine. They’ve got this new sense of confidence that means that it isn’t all about the guy.

What’s the deal with the buzzer? How did you come up with the idea for it and how do the girls feel about it?
It’s a brilliant gimmick, to be honest. It’s a comedy element. What’s a show without torture? Come on! It’s a part of the show where they really do have to learn a bit of a lesson and sometimes I do feel really mean doing it, but [laughs] I don’t know, it’s just a gimmick.

Do you think that you'll ever do an alternate version, like "Plain John"?
Definitely! In fact, a lot of people are asking about that and I think it would be an awesome series. I’ve love to do "Plain Joe" and "Plain Gay."

What is your favorite TV show?
I love Gossip Girl. I just love watching that show, for the fashion and the cute boys and all the drama and a dose of New York when I’ve been in LA too long.

You’ve referred to yourself as the girls' fairy godmother. Who is your fairy godmother?
I’ve got more of a wing girl, a stylist in LA called Anita. She is like my sister and partner-in-crime and somebody that I rely on a lot. I give her advice and she gives me advice. I think it’s nice to have a best friend like that.

You do so much, with writing and consulting and hosting. Which is your favorite?
Definitely the hosting, and honestly, I’m not just saying that because it's is what the interview is about. Plain Jane is the coolest job I’ve ever done. If I could do that for the next five years, sign me up! It’s all the bits of work that I love.

What's coming up on Wednesday's episode?
It’s about a girl called Lorelei. She was wicked, she was one of my favorites. Her episode is very emotional, and the guy is a dead ringer for Christian Slater, the crush is so hot! So he's definitely worth tuning in for.

Plain Jane airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.

Follow writer Stefanie Lee on Twitter: @StefAtTVDotCom

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Aug 17, 2010

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