The Live Wire... fashion stylist Angela Scanlon
Just over two years ago, Angela Scanlon was a fashion stylist with a dream of breaking into mainstream telly. Now, she's the personality behind a string of hit programmes on Irish TV, has a new job as a travel presenter and is making significant inroads into the BBC. She talks about the hard slog behind every break she's had, her need to push herself, and how she's made peace with making her home in London. Photography by Evan Doherty. Styling by Liadan Hynes
It's first thing Monday morning and Angela Scanlon, high heels and shades on, is striding along the Southbank in the sunshine - another busy London woman with somewhere to be.
Today, after our interview, which is over breakfast, she's up to the ITV offices for a meeting about future prospects, and then home to continue work on her masterplan to dominate the airwaves. She's just put in a run of 14-hour days as MC for London Fashion Weekend, the London Fashion Week live event. But there's no slacking - the day after we meet, an email comes in from her, not long after 5am. Angela, it seems, brings the obsessive dedication of an athlete to the task of building her career in telly.
And it's working. When I last met her, just two years ago, she was an established fashion stylist with a bit of presenting experience who was about to make a rather treacherous career side-step into authored documentaries. She could easily have teetered right off her platform heels and onto her face, but, by sheer force of personality, she pulled it off. Her first big TV project, Oi Ginger!, was a success - and almost entirely thanks to Angela's on-screen charisma. It was clear she'd studied well the tiger-ish, disarmingly direct presenting style that was launched and perfected by chummy personalities such as Davina McCall and Dawn O'Porter. But Angela brought something else, too: an edge and wit that was all her own.
She'd strategically created Oi Ginger! as her calling card, and it launched her into two busy years of a whole new career. Since then, she's made two original documentary series with RTE, including the well-received Full Frontal - a four-part investigative documentary series in which she interrogated contemporary sexual mores in Ireland, and further developed the matey-yet-challenging journalistic style she'd debuted on Oi Ginger!
She also started a regular gig presenting the RTE/BBC NI travel series Getaways. In the meantime, she moved to London with the intention of climbing the greasy pole there, too. And yes, that's also going well. She's making significant inroads into the live-entertainment department of the BBC. This year, she was digital host of The Voice UK, and also looked after their coverage of the T in the Park festival.
But it hasn't been any way near as easy at she's made it look. "When I first started coming over here for Fashion Week, I absolutely hated it," she says, widening her big grey-blue eyes. "And in my head I was really disappointed in myself, because I felt that it was a weakness that I couldn't conquer a city like this. I felt very uncomfortable all the time."
But where others might have retreated back into their comfort zone, for Angela, feeling a bit crap and out of place only made her push herself even harder. It is, she thinks, "a flaw in my character or something . . . that it was almost a challenge to me that I needed to get to a point where I didn't feel uncomfortable in London any more."
"If I feel intimidated by something, I go for it," she explains. "I think it's both a good thing and a bad thing. Things that make me feel really uncomfortable, I become quite obsessed by, until the discomfort leaves. I dare myself to do things that sometimes feel a little bit reckless."
Angela grew up in Meath, and comes from a family of self-starters, but it's not just that she's driven. There's more to it than that. Behind the bonhomie and banter and that big, raucous laugh that she uses to such good effect on screen, is some kind of rub, or psychic itch, that drives her relentlessly forward.
When I first met her she was, by her own description, already "going hell-for-leather" in pursuit of her goals. She told me then that she and her soon-to-be-husband Roy Horgan, a retail technology entrepreneur, planned to continue in that way for a year, get married, and then take some time to "take stock". So how's the 'taking stock' going? She bursts out laughing. "We're scheduling it in for next week," she says, looking back on the obvious naivety of that statement.
"In my mind, a year was a really long time . . . You kind of work very hard sowing the seeds, and I've started now - I'm in the position that I can turn things down that aren't quite right or I just don't have time for."
In any case, going hell-for-leather seems to be her default setting. "I think I've been operating at this level of intensity for quite a few years now," she says. "Even when I was styling and writing, I was always juggling multiple things, in multiple territories . . . I'm just used to it now. I don't know if that means I'm going to shrivel up and die in a corner in a year, but I think I'm better, actually, when I'm busy. When there's nothing on for a week, I become sloth-like. I'm horrendous. If there's a leaflet sitting on the counter to pick something up from the post office, it could be sitting there for six weeks."
She's aware that it might be useful, in the context of all that chasing and hustling, to start to make an effort to be, as she puts it, "in the moment, and all that malarky". So she has "downloaded an app". By which, she means she's recently joined a growing legion of subscribers to the Headspace meditation programme, in an effort to better take the reins of her day-to-day state of mind. "It's amazing," she says. "I think it makes a massive difference. Things that would have made me really freaked out or feel very anxious, don't kind of bother me in the same way."
It's important that she make the effort, because her restlessness, she reckons, comes at a price. "It's in my nature to be always moving to the next thing. So I sometimes come to end of the year and am like, 'OK, so next year - what's happening next year?' And I have taken no time whatsoever to enjoy what I've done in the previous year. I think that's something that I'm trying to force myself to do - to not always move the goalposts so that I'm consistently dissatisfied with my performance. Because it's a pretty shit place to be. It's great because it tends to drive you and move you and all that, but you kind of always feel like you're slightly underachieving."
One aspect of Angela's world that is decidedly more settled these days is her domestic life. Last year, she and Roy got married "in a forest, basically, underneath an enormous tree". Never one to shy away from an element of risk, they chose a wedding venue that "didn't allow for an indoor option in case of bad weather. Ridiculous! When I think back on it, I don't know how we did it," she says.
"My parents, his parents, were all completely freaked out about it. They were like, 'What's the Plan B?' And we were saying, 'There is no Plan B; don't worry about it, we have this.' Which must have been such a frustrating thing to hear from somebody. Who am I? God?"
It all worked out in the end, though. "Thankfully, we had literally the most beautiful weekend of the year, and it was amazing. There's one moment I remember," she says. "We'd hardly seen each other in the run-up to it, which was not ideal. And then, at one stage, this sunlight was coming through the trees, and it was dappled light on everybody, and it was honestly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. And we just looked at each other and were kind of just laughing, because it could have been so different. We are very lucky."
Marriage hasn't really changed things between them in any profound way, except that "there's maybe a bigger honesty, I guess. You're in it for the long haul; there's no dancing around each other any more. There's a real openness and honesty." As well as that, being married has reinforced her relationship with her in-laws. They must be pretty nice people, because she seems genuinely delighted to be linked to them officially now.
"I suppose you enter into another family in a more formal way, and that's been really special," she says. "You get two adoptive brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews that feel like your own. My parents and his parents get on really well, and go to football matches together. My dad's from Mayo, so it's usually quite a sad story for him. They're Cork and Tipp, so generally they have a better chance of having celebrations together."
In their early years together, she and Roy spent a lot of time apart, as she flitted between London and Dublin. But now married, they have finally set up home together in Hackney. "It's really only in the last year properly that this is home," she says. "It feels less overwhelming to have that kind of comfort." Being settled in one place makes things easier, no matter how homesick she gets. "I love Ireland more than anywhere in the world," she declares with feeling. Being in London is for her, a purely professional decision. "It feels at the moment like something I have to do, but I really miss home. It depends on the week, and I'm slightly vulnerable and a bit broken right now," she declares.
Though the laugh in her voice stops this from sounding too earnest, there is definitely a note of wistfulness there.
She was apprehensive at first about dragging Roy to London with her so that she could pursue her dreams, but luckily it seems to have worked out well for him too, both professionally and personally. "Actually, it has been amazing for him," she says. "He loves it and he's got lots of friends here. So he's taken to it like a duck to water." It was a relief because she felt "a level of responsibility for having been the driving force behind the move. It wasn't the two of us sitting at home, going, 'Let's go on an adventure'. It was very much driven by my work. He has been amazing in that he's gone with it, and thankfully it has worked out in a really positive way for him as well."
As for her, there are many exciting new ventures to come, starting with the imminent broadcast of a new series she has made for RTE2. Angela Scanlon's Close Encounters is a four-part series of in-depth celebrity interviews, for which she spent 24-hours non-stop with each of her subjects: Katie Hopkins, Jason Byrne, Dawn O'Porter and WWE wrestler Sheamus. The project was conceived with and made under the guidance of producer David Blake Knox, Scanlon's long-term collaborator, who produced the Ruby Wax Meets . . . series for the BBC with forthright American-born actress and comedienne Wax.
Angela is clearly proud of the results. "I loved the challenge about it," she says. "It's intense and you are talking about serious subjects, and my default is to make a joke and hide behind that. But you have to push through that. You're reading people and reacting to people and you are trying to be respectful, but at the same time you are kind of taking somebody apart and putting them back together again."
This show, more than any she's done before, "feels like a considerable step-up. And I'm completely exposed in it. I don't feel that way, but if you don't deliver, there's nothing to hide behind, which I think is good. Of all of the things that I've done, this feels like something we can build on and do more of."
'Angela Scanlon's Close Encounters' starts on Tuesday, at 10pm on RTE2
Folkster, 9 Eustace St, Temple Bar, D2,
tel: (01) 675-0917, or see folkster.com
Photographed by Evan Doherty
Styled by Liadan Hynes
Make-up by Christine Lucignano using Bobbi Brown cosmetics
Hair by Ross King, Davey Davey, 23 Drury St, D2, tel: (01) 611-1400, or see daveydavey.com
Photographed at Century City Arcade, Parnell St, D1, tel: (01) 872-4934
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