Reality TV can be a rough ride – getting mocked by judges, gossiped about in papers, slagged off on social media. Yet Portobello’s own reality celeb couple, Z & Saffire Stephens have always managed the highs and lows of the life with a smile on their faces, even taking a Simon Cowell slam down with good grace. But the trials of Britain’s Got Talent, Twin Towns and Coach Trip, were no preparation for what happened last month when a 240 page legal threat landed on their doormat threatening the one thing any TV star values most – their name. Russian-German DJ and Producer, Zedd (first UK hit Clarity, no.27 in 2012) was challenging our Scottish Zedd (who first called himself that in 2003/4) for rights to the name. A multi-millionaire threatens local couple for a name they’ve used for years. It called to mind McDonalds suing people called McDonald.
We caught up with Z and Saffire (aka Craig and Debbie) to talk the realities of reality TV and what happens when you get a wad of lawyer’s papers through the door…
Star of BGT, regular on reality TV, so take us back – why are you called Zedd?
It was Saffire who came up with it. She said that after a few drinks, I was always falling asleep – you know, “Zzzzzz”. That’s how it all got started.
And you’ve used it for a long time?
Since about 2003/2004. We used it in different bands. Then we did some radio presenting – local stations, internet stations, that sort of thing. In 2007 we applied to be on T4’s music show Homemade, hosted by Dave Berry. He put us on twice, and we were called Zedd and Saffire there. We did other bits and bobs, and in 2010, we were on Britain’s Got Talent…
When did you first find out there was another Zedd in showbusiness?
I first heard of him when he did that song Clarity [in 2012]. I liked it. I thought, “he’s got the same name as me!” But he’s nothing to do with me, so I’m not gonna bother him, he’s not gonna bother me. I even followed him on Twitter, to show appreciation of having the same name!
And then this legal document arrived?
Well, we had a US record deal for I Have Dreams. We were told [because of the name clash], “you have to take that down”, so we took it off iTunes. Then he sent this document, it’s 240-odd pages. He is claiming we are passing ourselves off as him, because he’s done songs as “Zedd and Selena Gomez” and “Zedd and Foxes” and he says that “Zedd and Saffire” is like that. But how can it be? We’ve been married 21 years!
How did it make you feel?
You feel like he’s disrespecting you. But he’s accused One Direction of stealing a song, and he’s sued Ryanair. It’s like schoolchild behaviour. But what can you do? If you don’t have the finances to fight the big boys, what can you do? It’s like a Rocky movie – fighting the big boys!
So what next?
We have dropped the “edd”. We’re ‘Z’ and Saffire. We should be teaching youngsters to trademark. Don’t go through what we went through!
What’s it like being a reality star? Do you get recognised?
After Britain’s Got Talent, we got recognised everywhere. We went to Ocean Terminal, and we were hounded by kids! People were hiding in Marks & Spencers and taking videos. We still get recognised from BGT, which is a real honour. People recognise us from all the things we have done, right up to Judge Rinder.
And do you have more shows in the pipeline?
We are going to be presenting on Essex TV, a new digital channel, which will be up and running in April. We are going to be doing a show about reality TV stars from the past, even going back as far as Stars In Their Eyes. We’ll be finding out what they are doing. Where are they now? Some may be singing, some may be on TV… It’ll be good fun. We’re also going to be on ITV, but we can’t say the name of the show!
We also want to do masterclasses for people who want to be in the media. People can meet us one-on-one, find out what goes on behind the scenes at BGT. If you want to be on TV, don’t just do it for yourself. You have to want people to enjoy what you do. And don’t be put off by judges. These people are scripted. Believe in yourself, and give it 110%!