When people I’ve not met before hear I’m on the TV, they often ask ‘are you famous then?’. I’ve still never managed to work out the appropriate answer so just tend to say “only to the people who know who I am”.
Having become someone who is ‘known’ but not, thankfully, hit celeb status, I was thinking about the different levels I’ve been through… of course there are lots of inconsistencies and crossovers, but the pattern is roughly as follows.
• Level 1. At parties, people thinking they know who you are. This is the start point; you go to a friend’s party and a few people there, after its been explained what you do, say, “yeah, I think I’ve seen you”.
• Level 2. When out filming, some people know who you are. When you’re out with a TV camera, people always look to see if they know the reporter/presenter. Due to this, their mind’s recognition software is accessing the correct files, making it much easier to place you, so rather than “do we know each other?” you start to get “aren’t you the money guy” type thing.
• Level 3. People you interact with (waiters/shop assistants) recognize you. Those you’re talking with anyway occasionally ask “aren’t you the money guy?” and then slightly later on I got “aren’t you Martin Lewis” or even the occasional “thank you for saving me cash”.
• Level 4. Being stopped in the street. People may recognize you, but they rarely stop you in the street, especially if you’re with someone. Yet the next level is the occasional street based person saying hi. In the early days you see people looking and are never sure whether a. they recognize you or b. your flies are undone.
A certain critical mass is needed before a street stop becomes a more regular occurrence; this happens to me perhaps once or twice in a day if I’m out in London – though a little more if I’m outside London (probably because people are more willing to talk). And it’s about this point that people occasionally ask for autographs.
• Level 5. Public transport journeys become a clinic. I suspect this one doesn’t happen to actors/entertainment presenters. For me it’s mainly about the tube, and probably is because I’m a TV expert. When traveling, primarily during the day when it’s less crowded, people sometimes stop me and ask a quick money question. Generally I don’t mind, but sometimes when it happens four or five times and I’m desperately trying to read through papers for a deadline it’s a bit difficult, as saying no feels rude.
Unfortunatey this isn’t something I experience that much any more, as I travel on the tube much less, after a rather unpleasant experience I had one day. A middle aged, distressed woman came out of nowhere, grabbed me, pushed me up against the door and shrieked something like, “it’s you, the lord must’ve sent you to save my debts, you have to help me and my kids NOW, or I don’t know what I’ll do”. Of course she was desperate and wanted help, yet to be on the receiving end was unpleasant, off-putting and scary; I’m mildly clausterophobic and had to get off at the next stop.
• Level 6. There’s no more ‘it’s you’. This only happened to me for the first time recently, so I can only guess it’s the next stage. Normally when someone recognizes you they say either “it’s you isn’t it?” (the answer, of course is always… yes it’s me) or “aren’t you Martin Lewis?” or “are you the money man?”.
Yet recently the MSG and I went to the gym, whilst moving towards my locker I had the following conversation with the guy next to me….
Him (out of no where): “Got a good weekend planned?”
Me (politely as it’s a bit strange to talk to someone when about to change in the gym): “Not really I’ve got to work all day tomorrow”
Him: “Filming for a TV programme are you?”
And that was about it; it was only later I realized there’d been no “aren’t you?”
Thankfully I’m still a good way from being a household name; the frequency of all the above is still limited. I must admit I don’t think I really want to travel much further along the path. There are many negatives to being well known and it’s quite intrusive to your life to be out and have the feeling people may be watching you.
At the start of my career I quite liked the idea of being ‘famous’; yet the more I experience the less attractive it becomes. Of course, sometimes it’s great fun too. You get to have some influence and go to some good events, but the idea of a lack of anonymity and your entire life becoming public property isn’t particularly appealing.
The difficulty is the nature of my work, this site and the MoneySaving message means that continued success means spreading the word to more people, and that’s my passion. I’m still not completely sure I’ve reconciled the two in my head… something for me to ponder.