Melanie Sykes on her autism diagnosis at 51 and being her own person

How does it feel to walk into a room and know that everyone already thinks they know all there is to know about you. That’s the position today’s guest, Melanie Sykes has found herself in repeatedly over the last thirty years.

After starting out modelling and then moving into TV and radio presenting, Melanie decided she’d well and truly had enough in her 40s, and stepped back from broadcasting to reclaim her own narrative. She launched her magazine Frank in 2016 and has now followed that up with a book, Illuminated: Autism and all the things I’ve left unsaid. In it she discusses the good, the bad and the often ugly of a life lived under the camera’s glare, and of being, as she puts it, "too young and too famous for comfort."

I met Melanie in a studio in North London to talk about discovering her creativity in her 40s, the relief of being diagnosed with autism and ADHD at 51 and what she learnt from her subsequent breakdown.

Melanie talks candidly about the way the media has portrayed her, being sapiosexual, taking a year out from sex, why it's rare to find a man of her own age with as much energy as her and she won’t be settling any time soon. As you’ll hear, after a lifetime in the male gaze, nobody’s telling Melanie’s story but her.

* You can buy all the books mentioned in this podcast at The Shift bookshop on, including Illuminated: Autism and all the things I've left unsaid by Melanie Sykes and the book that inspired this podcast, The Shift: how I lost and found myself after 40 - and you can too, by me.

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