THE CIRCLE: INTERVIEW WITH SHABAZ (MEET THE PLAYERS)
OCCUPATION: Secondary school teacher
PLAYING AS: 23-year-old chemistry teacher Alice
What is it about the game that made you want to apply?
I thought it was such an interest concept. The minute I saw it, I knew I’d want to play this girl. I’ve been on social media for so long and this girl has always sort of been my competition. She’s the type of person that everybody hangs on her every word; everybody buys her merch; she gets millions of views. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to live in this type of person’s shoes and see what it’s like having the world treat me completely differently.
Have you watched the show before and did that give you any tips on how to play the game?
I’ve watched both seasons. It really gave me tips on what not to do and what to do. Everything from the profile photos you choose to how much or how little information you should reveal. I want to try playing the personality of Alice as authentically close to my own. She’ll be fun, sarcastic and flirty, which are all qualities I have. But there are sides of my personality I can also shed away too. I’m quite defensive, whereas I think Alice won’t be as defensive as me.
What is your STRATEGY to win show? Are there any specific tactics that you think will help you win?
I use the analogy of Daenarys from Game of Thrones. Gather some allies, build those strong connections, get to the top and then in the end burn it all down! I think I’ll want to play Alice’s personality as truthfully near to my own as I can. Interact and react to things the way I would. She’s just the vessel and the soul is entirely me. You are playing as Alice.
How does she differ from the person I am speaking to right now and why did you decided to play as someone else?
Her background and her upbringing is totally different to mine. I grew up in a small northern town with working class parents who came from abroad. Alice grew up as the quintessential middle-class white girl in an affluent southern area. I think she grew up quite privileged. She went on holidays every year, she did horse riding as a kid, she took violin lessons. Her later years, post 18, will be quite similar to mine: She went to uni where I went to uni; She travelled where I travelled; She’s a teacher and I’m a teacher.
What made you think Alice would be more popular than yourself?
Growing up, I never really saw people like me online. Alice has always been a role model to all types of people. I call her my “last girl” because she’s the girl that survives to the end of the horror film. She’s Sidney Prescott. She's that girl who goes on the journey from being the simple girl next door to crawling through the mud as a survivor. When I was growing up, and I’m sure it’s true for a lot of people of colour, this type of girl was the cool girl role model portrayed in the media and it didn’t make a difference to us. Whereas I think for white people, they wouldn’t have seen many role models from another race. Someone like Alice and I could both go online and talk about things like bullying and racism. We could both be saying the same core message, but she would be the one who gets more views because people instantly relate to Alice as a role model. People from all walks of life might relate to Alice straight away, whereas I think some people seeing me, Shabaz, could think “I don’t get his life. I don’t get his struggle” just because we aren’t similar.
Are you worried about any backlash you might get when you reveal that you are not the person you are saying you are?
I can’t see people being too mad – my personality will be very similar. I don't want to come across like I'm manipulating people. For me personally, it's a social experiment. I'm trying to see whether people do react differently. I also don’t want people to be angry that I’m being a girl – I understand the struggle of being a woman is much more than talking about makeup and her being popular online! It’s a game and I’m just me playing a character. As I say, Alice is just the vessel but I’m the soul.
Do you want to win? How far will you go to win?
100 percent, I want to win. Anyone who says they don’t want to win is a liar. Who doesn’t want to go on a gameshow to win? But the experience is also really important. It’s so different to anything I’ve ever done. I want to win based on my personality. I don't want to be master manipulator and don't want to be one of those people that is playing the game to mug other people off. We’re all playing a similar game in life. As a teacher, I’m playing a game. I want to appear one way or another for my bosses or my students to like me. I think everybody does that in life.
What would you do the prize money?
I haven’t even thought that far. I’d love to give a chunk to my parents just to clear any debts and let them relax, and then I’d probably go on holiday. I should probably save it to buy a house, so I might save some up to buy a fixer upper.
Any surprising facts or hidden talents that we should know about you?
I’m afraid of sloths, and crumpets. I’m afraid of anything with holes in it. I won’t even walk down the aisle in the supermarket where the crumpets are. If I need to buy bread, I’ll send someone else down that aisle to buy it for me.
The Circle continues tonight at 10pm on Channel 4 and All4.