Ann Leslie, the doyenne of women reporters, was a star writer for the Daily Mail for over three decades and regularly appeared as a witty and forthright contributor to numerous television and radio programmes (including 'Question Time' and 'Any Questions'). She was created a Dame of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year's Honours List.
She reported from over seventy countries, sauntering confidently through wars and civil disorders (clad in full makeup and false eyelashes), and bringing back reports which have won her numerous awards. When the Media Society in 1997 gave her their Lifetime Achievement Award the citation noted that she was only the third person to receive the honour: ‘the two previous winners were Sir Alistair Cooke and Sir David Attenborough’. It praised her ‘special ability to give readers personality, style and substance in every article she writes.’
Leslie’s life was every bit as remarkable as her career. Born in north-west India, the strongest influence on her early life was her beloved Yah Mohammed, an illiterate Pashtun bearer, who saved her life during Partition. Her mother sent her to a distant hill-station boarding school at the age of four. After graduating from Oxford she began her career in Manchester in the Sixties on the Daily Express, where she was regarded with suspicion and even hostility for being both educated and female. A year later she moved to Fleet Street and was given a column headlined: ‘She’s young, she’s provocative, and she’s only 22.' She later specialised in show business: notable encounters followed involving stars like Steve McQueen, Georges Balanchine, David Niven, Tom Jones, John Cassavetes, James Mason, Marc Bolan and Salvador Dali. Despite knowing nothing about sport she developed a strong rapport with Pele and Mohammed Ali (especially after she hit him on the jaw to gain his attention).
In the Reuters/Press Gazette launch of the Newspaper Hall of Fame she was listed as one of the forty most influential journalists in the last forty years. In David Randall’s book The Great Reporters (celebrating the 13 greatest British and American journalists of all time), the author profiled Ann Leslie as ‘the most versatile reporter ever.'