Wednesday 23 October 2019

Obituary: Magenta Devine

TV presenter best-known for her 'travel-with-attitude' series 'Rough Guide'

Brash: Magenta Devine
Brash: Magenta Devine

Magenta Devine, who has died after a short illness aged 61, was a television presenter who with her brash and opinionated presence, sardonic wit, husky voice and dramatic dress sense, was in the vanguard of the revolution that became known facetiously as "yoof TV".

She shot to fame on Network 7, the short-lived but seminal music and current affairs programme devised by Janet Street-Porter and Jane Hewland which ran for two series on Channel 4 in 1997-98, filmed in a former banana warehouse in Canary Wharf.

With her swaggering sense of style - she was rarely, if ever, seen without her dark glasses - she interviewed figures as varied as Dame Edna Everage and Johnny Rotten, and was the perfect fit for Network 7's brash mission statement, "news is entertainment, entertainment is news".

She moved on to front programmes like Rough Guide, which transferred Network 7's irreverence to the staid world of travel television, hitherto typified by Judith Chalmers and Wish You Were Here …?.

But Magenta Devine's career faltered as she struggled with drug addiction and depression, though she was able to put her problems behind her, and she became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.

She was born Kim Taylor on November 4, 1957 at Hemel Hempstead, north of London. Her father owned a model and toy shop in Aylesbury, while her mother had been a model.

She began her career in journalism with a column, 'On The Town With Magenta Devine', in the Aylesbury Roxette fanzine, which covered the local music scene, and took her professional name from the column.

A colleague on the magazine, Kris Needs, later editor of ZigZag and a rock biographer, recalled: "Magenta Devine was Aylesbury's most glamorous female at a time when most were dressed down in denim, sashaying to the bar of the Bell Hotel during Thursday folk nights in scanty, sparkling dresses, cigarette holder held elegantly aloft and hair dazzling with its latest colour."

She was taken on as an assistant to Tony Brainsby, the publicist for Queen, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake.

In the early 1980s - when she was a very visible figurehead of the New Romantics - she began a relationship with Tony James, who had been bassist for the punk band Generation X, and when he set up the "cyberpunk" band Sigue Sigue Sputnik, she became their publicist.

She moved into television, her first job being as a presenter on the BBC Wales pop programme Juice. After Network 7 she followed Janet Street-Porter to BBC Two to present DEF II, of which Rough Guide was a feature before it was spun off as a separate programme.

Billed as "travel with attitude", Rough Guide was stylistically indebted to MTV, and Magenta Devine was its centrepiece.

She also contributed to the current affairs series Reportage, presenting stories on subjects such as the acid house phenomenon. But in the 1990s she became addicted to heroin, and in 1992 entered rehab.

She got her career back on track and in 1998 was made a UN Goodwill Ambassador, leading a campaign highlighting rights for women.

She did voice overs for television commercials, and from 1999-2001 presented the ITV documentary series Young, Gifted and Broke. But in 2003 she was declared bankrupt, and in later years her television appearances became more sporadic.

Magenta Devine died on March 6. She is survived by her father, and by two sisters and a brother.

© Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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