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“I have not looked back since” - The Circle Winner Natalya Platonova on life in the Army

Corporal Natalya Platonova, winner of Channel 4’s ‘The Circle’, cuts a distinctive figure in camouflage and her bright scarlet Royal Military Police beret. 

For the girl born in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, who graduated with a degree in journalism from London City University and went on to organise Elton John’s wedding through a career in PR and event management, you may be forgiven for thinking that to embark on a career path as a Royal Military Policewoman is, well, a tad odd! But you soon begin to realise that there is nothing at all odd about Natalya.

As the winner of Channel 4’s ‘The Circle’, fame, fortune and lucrative TV contracts have come knocking on Natalya’s door – very loudly. But she prefers the prospects of adventure and camaraderie that a soldier’s life offers.

Natalya opens up about what made her want to join the Army, her experiences of competing in ‘The Circle’ and what the future may hold.

“I wanted a career that would allow me to get the discipline, the fulfilment, the excitement that I wanted from life. I saw structure and order in the military combined with a whole host of life experiences.." Corporal Natalya Platonova

Q. To go from the glamour of arranging events like Sir Elton John’s wedding to becoming a Royal Military Policewoman is quite a step, what drove you to join the Army?

“I wanted a career that would allow me to get the discipline, the fulfilment, the excitement that I wanted from life. I saw structure and order in the military combined with a whole host of life experiences. You can look at me and say you worked in an events company and you are doing the most amazing parties and events, but I wanted structure and I wanted adventure and I thought those two combined made up the British Army so I joined the Reserves; kind of like a ‘trial before you buy’. Throughout the whole process it was incredibly amazing. I went in as a soldier because I failed my board (officer selection), I could have retaken the board and gone in as an officer, but I was just so keen I didn’t want to wait another year.”

“I have not looked back since – I think it is so underrated in how people look at it. You get such a plethora of life experiences in the military and you can go on to do so much – you really are not pigeon-holed. There is the ability to transfer jobs, gain new qualifications; it’s not one single track there are so many careers paths and streams you can go down. If I ever get fed up with the Military Police or I want to look elsewhere there are so many options for me and they are all within the military. You can be whatever you want in the Army if you have that passion and drive.”

“I have seen more things than I would have if I had stayed a civilian. Even doing the show has still shown me the reality of reality TV. This (the Army) is job security and this is camaraderie, this is friendship, this is a life-long career choice and It looks after me.”

Q. Why did you choose to become a Military Policewoman?

“The highest score on the Barb Test (Army’s cognitive and aptitude test that assesses your suitability for roles within service) is for the Royal Military Police and I thought that would push me the most and it would be the most completely out of the norm for me and it would be the most completely out of the norm for me. I thought if I’m to join the military I might as well push the boat out and try something very different to what I’m used to. Also, it goes back to the discipline and structure – I felt Military Police, we uphold the law in a sense, and we police the troops. To me it was a combination of getting the highest Barb score and seeing myself walking around the garrison policing and being with these great police officers.”

Q. What happens when you go to arrest someone, and they say, ‘Hey didn’t you win on that TV show?’

“I don’t think that might happen, I don’t think that many people in the military have watched ‘The Circle’ and to be fair, my next job is military police engagement, so I won’t be doing any arresting for a few years. By the time I go back to that situation everyone will have forgotten about the show. Also, I look very different in uniform than I do in civilian street.”

"I chose to go in as a male soldier because in my mind if you see a male soldier you do not question him; I thought if they were me they might think ‘wait a minute’ you look a bit girly – are you really in the Army?"

Q. Let’s hear a little more about the show you were so successful in?

“It was basically a reality TV show where you go on and can choose to be anyone you want to be in the world. You create the perfect person in a sense; you can choose to be yourself or go in as a catfish (fake ID). I chose to go in as a male soldier because in my mind if you see a male soldier you do not question him; I thought if they were me they might think ‘wait a minute’ you look a bit girly – are you really in the Army? I wanted to break down those barriers – so behind this kind of perfect male soldier would be the driving force of me as a woman who’d make him so popular. So, he had the looks and the bravado, and I had the brains; the kind of brains behind the brawn and I thought if I went in as him no one would question it. You see a guy in kit and think that is normal and I believe you. If they see a woman in military uniform, I thought I’d spend my experience justifying my career and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to just go in there and see what it would feel like to be accepted in a sense. In the military I’m accepted, but in civilian life they still think why have you gone in as a girl? I wanted to break down those barriers because on the show I was very girly, I was very glamorous I swanned around in dresses. I showed on there that you can be a human and a professional soldier, they go hand-in-hand – you can be your authentic self and a soldier. To me it was like a social experiment in a way; because I’m surrounded by men 24/7 I wanted to see if I had the lingo – if I could be a male, and it worked, I won and I play a very good male apparently.

Of course, my Army training helped 100% it’s the discipline and it’s the commitment to the cause. I think that in there (in the show) you can get flustered and I had a cool head on the whole time and people watch me and I read some of the comments on Twitter: ‘She should go work for MI5 because she’s so chilled out about the whole process. That is because I learned to deal with my emotions quite well and I think the military has taught me to grow up first and I can contain myself a lot better. Things that people find quite stressful I find quite calm; I can keep my composure and level-headed. In the show there were so many things going on at once and I was very chilled out that’s definitely down to military training, because obviously if you’re on exercise you have a million tasks to do you have to learn to keep a cool head.”

Q. What have your mates in the Army thought about your success on the show?

“They all thought it was brilliant; all my Military Police friends watched it. They plastered my face on the walls at the RMP Headquarters in Southwick Park, just outside Portsmouth. They were chuffed to bits, but a lot of people in the Army did know what the show is. The target audience age range is a bit lower, so all my younger friends really enjoyed, and they had watched the previous seasons.”

Q. What are you going to do with the money you have won?

“I’ve given nearly one half to my family; I’ve also given some to charity. I am wanting to buy a house, so I want to be sensible and not going to spend it on something crazy. The thing I want to do most is buy a roof tent – one of those Latitude roof tents that you can attach to your car it’s like a pop out tent they re quite expensive and that is going to be my splurge! Then I’m going to buy a house and be quite boring.”

Q. Having won the show, you must have had other offers to do more TV and ‘celebrity’ type work?

“I have had a few agencies approach me with do you want to do ‘Hunted’, ‘SAS – Who Dares Wins’ as one of the moles who goes in and rats people out, ‘Celebs Go Dating’ stuff like that? I wouldn’t want to do reality TV like that again. If I was to do anything TV-wise it would be quite serious documentary, perhaps something that could work in tangent with the military, something to do with mental health, raising awareness of females – good stuff like that. Thankfully, ‘The Circle’ doesn’t fit into the standard realms of reality TV, it’s quite a clever concept. I want to step away from that and have a professional and mature career going forward. All the stuff I have done online has been for charity: Children with Cancer UK, I’ve donated anything I’ve earned. I have signed to an agency who deal with quite grown-up documentary makers and we’ll see if there is any way to go further in a way that promotes kind of what I do in a very organic and wholesome way, not a takeaway from my own integrity. To be fair, my main concern is to stay in the Army; I’m really excited to be moving to my next job.”

Q. Do you consider yourself a champion for women’s issues?

Obviously, I think every woman should be, but I am a feminist and I think that the military is wonderful in the sense that we have all the same perks as males; I don’t think many people know that which is quite mad. People think we get treated differently, but we don’t. I speak to my friends in civilian street and they don’t get paid as much as their male counterparts still. Women can be strong and can be powerful I don’t think there is a difference between us now. There are parts of me now that wants to join the infantry just to prove a point – look I can do it. I think I do not feel contained to my gender; I’m not a woman, I’m anything I want to be and I will always speak out for female equality.”