Funny bone: Luisa Omielan says Bernie has even helped her to secure a Bafta Breakthrough award
The best money decision that comedian Luisa Omielan ever made was to spend £1,000 on a Bernese Mountain Dog called Bernie.
She says Bernie helped her win a Bafta award by joining her on stage and transforming her into one of the biggest stand-up hits of the decade. The standup comic – who shot to fame with hit show What Would Beyoncé Do? – tells Donna Ferguson she would increase the salary of every essential worker if she were made Chancellor.
The 39-year-old lives in a three-bedroom house in Birmingham and is on tour with her ‘Best Of’ show. Her Amazon Prime special, Politics For Bitches, is available to stream.
What did your parents teach you about money?
That a little can go a long way. My parents separated when I was five years old. After that, I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad, I grew up with my mum, so it was her who taught me about money.
She tried to show me that it’s good to save, but I ignored her because she never made me feel that we didn’t have much money. If I wanted to buy something she couldn’t afford, such as the Kickers shoes that everyone at school had, she would say no – I didn’t need them. I had no idea that what she was saying was framed by the fact she had no money.
She was a Polish immigrant who worked as a cashier at the clothes retailer Peacocks. She also went to night school to qualify to teach English as a foreign language. She had five kids to support – I was the middle child – so she worked day and night and was very careful with money.
She was an amazing woman. Sadly, she passed away from cancer five years ago.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
No, I’ve never felt that I have. Not the way I saw my mum struggle.
I studied comedy and performing arts at university, and after graduating I tried to get a job in acting or comedy. But I couldn’t get one. So I worked as a postwoman in the morning, in the stockroom of a high street chain in the afternoon and then, occasionally, in a bar of an evening. That allowed me to pay for my train fare to go to London on the nights I wasn’t working and get on the open mic circuit and perform for free. Just to get in front of people.
I did that for about eight years, during which time I also worked in a cafe, as a cleaner and an IT consultant – which was hilarious because I am useless at IT. I would just take any job I could and then move back home to live with my mum if I couldn’t afford my rent.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. During the pandemic, I was paid £10,000 for a voice-over for fabric softener Lenor that I had done two years before. They wanted to reuse it. I remember it was lockdown and I was in a mess. I was meant to go on tour and everything got cancelled. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the bills. Then I got an email saying: ‘Luisa, you’re due £10,000 because Lenor has decided to play your advert again.’ And I realised I had been working to the bone since my mum died and I could now just stop. It finally gave me time and space to process how my life had changed since she had died.
What was the best year of your financial life?
The past year. I have done a BBC Radio 4 series, Gaslit, Groomed And Ghosted, looking at women throughout history who have been denigrated and dismissed. I also did an Amazon special, Politics For Bitches.
I feel lucky that I’ve seen my earnings increase this year after two years of earning practically nothing.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
My Bernese Mountain Dog, Bernie. She cost £1,000. I bought her just after my mum passed away and she has singlehandedly saved my life.
When she was ten weeks old, I was doing a show and trying to make jokes. I was just dying on stage. I had to apologise and explain that my mother had just passed away and I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I remember the spotlight being so bright on me and feeling like I needed to go home.
Bernie then started crying, so my friend who was looking after her, let her come on stage with me. I started talking about how I had got Bernie and that allowed me to talk about my mum. It changed everything.
That show eventually became Politics For Bitches, which got turned into a TV series for the BBC, which I then got a Bafta Breakthrough award for. All thanks to Bernie.
She has also cost me a small fortune. Only the other week, I was worried she was eating too much. I took her to the vet, who charged me £300 to tell me she’s just greedy.
The best money decision you have made?
Getting Bernie, obviously. But the second best decision would have to be getting home insurance two weeks before my house in Birmingham got flooded and I made a claim for £40,000.
The flooding was a once-in-a-hundred-year occurrence. I’d moved in three weeks before and so all my stuff was in boxes on the ground floor.
It took the insurer eight months to pay out because they couldn’t believe I’d only been with them for two weeks and I was making such a large claim.
Do you save into a pension?
No. I always just thought that I’d be rich and famous and that would be my pension. And I’m still trying to be rich and famous – and I’m still hoping it will all work out.
Do you own any property?
Yes, my home. I bought a three-bedroom terrace house in Birmingham in 2017 for £300,000. I think it’s now worth more than £350,000.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would make all public transport free – and also make it free to park at your place of work. I would also give every essential worker – not just doctors, nurses and teachers, but postal workers, binmen and everyone else who kept the infrastructure of the country going during the pandemic – a seemingly ridiculous salary of £100,000 a year.
I think they would spend it and the money would go back into the economy rather than into a tax haven.
What is your number one financial priority?
To be financially secure and stable so that if I – or any member of my family – was ever unable to work, we would be fine. If any of us were ever to get very sick, I would like to be able to access immediate care and support – and for money not to be an issue or a stress.
Financial stress, when you are already dealing with a life-or-death situation, is horrible.
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