Melanie Cantor: Celeb agent turned author says “F**k It! Let’s Just Do It.”

Rather than stagnate in a career she’d fallen out of love with, 66-year-old celebrity publicist and agent Melanie Cantor threw caution to the wind in her fifties to become an author, and - after fielding film offers from Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake for her first novel - she’s now publishing her second, The F**k It! List. She talks to Sweet Pea.

melanie cantor

Melanie Cantor, former celeb agent turned author.

Born in 1958, Melanie Cantor grew up in North London. Her career started with a secretarial job at the Daily Express before switching to media PR, becoming the launch press officer for TV-am in 1982. From there, she set up her own PR firm with clients, including Michael Aspel and Lysette Anthony, before becoming a full-time agent for TV-am weathergirl Ulrika Johnson. In 1998, she established Take Three Management, taking on further celebrity clients before launching her writing career in 2010. Divorced, she has two sons, Alexander, 38 and 36-year-old Joseph, and she lives with her dog Mabel in Northwest London.

What does ageing mean to you?

Ageing doesn’t feel as threatening to me as it might have been to my parent’s generation.

From my perspective, I’ve completely embraced it. I enjoy the process of ageing because I feel that with it comes experience and wisdom.

My youth was great, but I’d never want to go back there, and the truth is I’m having the time of my life now.

I’m footloose and fancy-free. I’m my own mistress, and ageing has empowered me.

I might have moments where my aching back reminds me I’m ageing, but other than that, I don’t feel any different.

 

The F**k it list

Melanie's new book: The F**k It List

You’ll turn 67 in July, but how old do you feel?

I think I’ll probably stay in my 30s forever.

Have you always felt younger than your years?

No. When I was a press officer at TV-am, when I was about 25, I thought I was terribly mature, grown up, and old.

Now I look back, and with my own kids in their thirties, I realise I was still a kid. Today, I just embrace each decade as it comes.

Your energy and outlook are more vibrant and outgoing than most 66-year-olds. Do you deliberately hang out with younger people to maintain your youthful worldview?

I hang out with all age groups. I’ve never judged anybody by their physical age.

What’s important is what’s going on in their mind. It doesn’t matter how old they are. That’s how I judge people.

Melanie Cantor

Melanie Cantor. Photo credit: Instagram @Punk.Pensioner

Few people are brave enough to shift careers after the age of 50. Why did you take the leap?

I’ve always been a risk-taker. Not physically, I’d never do bungee jumping, but generally.

When I turned 50, I realised I just wasn’t passionate about being an agent anymore.

I felt like I’d done it, I’d lost the will, and I didn’t want to do it if I didn’t feel fully passionate about it anymore, as it would be unfair on the people I was representing. So, in 2007, I just gave it up.

I’d always wanted to write a novel, so I just went for it, but it wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of rejection.

My first novel, Fabulous Monsters, got turned down by 20 out of 21 publishing companies it was sent to before Harper Collins picked it up, but then it got rejected by them at the Sales & Marketing stage and later by Pan Macmillan, so it never saw the light of day.

I was left in the wilderness and suffered more rejections, but I love writing, so I persevered, and I started to get a better kind of rejection and then ultimately found success with my book Life and Other Happy Endings.

Eventually, it got picked up by Felicity Blunt after nine years of failure, and that feeling was unbelievable.

 

Your new book, The F**k! It List seems very much in tune with your proactive mindset…

I am a f**k it person. Absolutely. I’m definitely a ‘just do it,’ person, I really am. And being single helps.

Not to say that I want to spend the rest of my life alone, but it has liberated me, and I’ve learnt so much from being on my own.

What would your message be to people who have dreams as they get older but are reluctant to chase after them?

Know yourself. Know what you’re capable of.

Recognise and acknowledge that you are actually the person stopping yourself from doing the thing you really, really want to do.

If you’re aware of that, you might then be able to fix it and go, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ ‘I really, really want to write.’ ‘I really, really want to travel the world,’ Whatever it is, I am the person stopping myself.

Look at yourself and go, ‘Why am I stopping myself, and how can I move forward?’ That would be my advice.

 

Melanie Cantor

Melanie Cantor. Photo credit: Instagram @Punk.Pensioner

That positivity has reaped benefits for you in the past. What happened when you sat next to American actress Jessica Biel’s mother at a wedding in the Hamptons a few years back?

After the wedding, Jessica said to me, ‘Thank you so much for talking to my mother,’ and I had no awareness that me talking to her would reinforce her sense of self.

In the end, Jessica ended up optioning my first book, which was incredible. It didn’t go the distance and make it to the screen, but even getting that far was fantastic.

It’s almost karmic, though. If you put something positive into life, positive things tend to come back to you…

That’s definitely true, and the belief in that has helped me through the really difficult times.

I know this sounds corny, but the more authentic you are, even when in the dark hours, the more you will come through because you’ve been true to yourself. We all have to go through our own personal little tragedies in order to grow and move forward.

 

How are you feeling about the future at this point in your life?

I continue feeling excited about the future, excited about my family and I now have a granddaughter so that’s really special.

Before my granddaughter was born, I used to think, ‘if I died tomorrow, that would be fine because I have had the best life,’ but now I think, ‘I don’t want to die tomorrow, I want to see her grow up’.

I look forward to being a writer for as long as I can and to having special times with family and friends.

For me life is all about that. If you’re surrounded by good people, then you will come through even the darkest times because you have that support around you.

The F**k It! List is published by Penguin on May 9th.