Tuesday 17 October 2017

What's it like to follow your parents' career path? Former 2fm DJ Jenny Huston tells us

Kaia Gerber is conquering the catwalk, just like mum Cindy Crawford did decades before. Is emulating a parent's career path a walk in the park - or a rockier road? Tanya Sweeney asks what it's like to join the 'family firm'

Ciara Considine pictured with her mum June at her mum's home in Malahide. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Ciara Considine pictured with her mum June at her mum's home in Malahide. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Fashion is all about the next and the now, but one look at the current catwalk and you’d be forgiven for thinking that style has stepped back in time.

Kaia Gerber (16), blessed with both the smouldering chocolate-brown stare and coltish limbs of her famous mother, Cindy Crawford, is a current object of fascination for the media.

Elsewhere, the sons of Jude Law, Pamela Anderson and P Diddy recently starred in a new advert for Dolce & Gabbana. Where once being tagged as someone’s child was a hindrance in the workplace, having the right surname now certainly helps grease the wheels to success.

But what really happens when you follow a parent into a career? Will you be forever looking over your shoulder, wondering if you measure up? Or will it be a leg-up from the get-go?

Dublin-based Jenny Huston took a circuitous route into jewellery design; a decade ago, she was one of 2FM’s leading broadcasting lights. However, she took redundancy from the station in 2012, and went home to her mum Jane, a goldsmith based in Kilkenny, to figure out her next move.

“I asked her to make a ring for me and she looked at me and said, ‘why don’t you design a collection? It’s not like you don’t know the business’. I was very happy in my job at 2FM and the opportunity to do something different hadn’t come up until that point. But then, I had nothing else going on so I thought, ‘why not?’ I grew up in a workshop and was offered change to find sapphires on the floor.”

Within a year, Jenny had launched her Edge Only collection, tailored for professionals who wanted high quality, less girly jewellery. Jane’s contact book, as well as access to her workshop and master models, helped Jenny to turn her first collection around. “When they realised I was working with high quality material and not doing costume jewellery, the trade supported me very quickly,” recalls Jenny. “In the first few months, there were rumblings that the collection was done by my mom. I thought that was really funny and I guess that’s the reason why I went to London first and got my first retail shop in Mayfair. No-one in London knew me and it was 100pc about the product.”

Like Jenny, Deirdre Sullivan went down a different career path before working at Kay’s Flower School alongside her sister Janette and mum Kay. After years of working in the beauty industry, she decided to return to the business that Kay set up in 1987.

“It’s a family business — you can’t employ someone as good as yourself,” notes Deirdre. “I don’t think there are any disadvantages to following your parents’ career path. Mam gave us this great ethic about giving great service to the students. When she comes into the classroom, she’s a bit of a tidy freak so I love it when she’s been here.” Despite retiring officially in 2011, old habits die somewhat hard for Kay. Yet she is thrilled that her daughters have expanded the business. “The pupils have outdone the teacher at this stage,” she jokes. “I can’t retire fully — sure I wouldn’t be let! But I’m so proud of them, and both Deirdre and Janette work brilliantly together.”

And it seems that the tradition could certainly live on with Deirdre’s nine-year-old daughter, Cara: “She’s already mad about flowers,” observes Deirdre. “She has it all figured out. My dad comes over to finish and clean up in the evenings, and Cara goes, ‘when Janette retires, me and you can work together, and granddad can come and cleanup’.”

Over in Portmarnock, meanwhile, seven-year-old Cadhla McAnally has expressed a desire to either follow her dad Aonghus Óg McAnally into the McAnally showbiz dynasty, or be a teacher like her mum Louise. This would make her a seventh generation teacher: Louise’s father Paddy taught in O’Connell School in Dublin, while his father taught Luke Kelly in school. Louise’s sister, Aoife, is also a teacher.

“If one of my kids said they wanted to teach, I like to think I’d be like my parents and neither strongly encourage nor discourage it,” says Louise.“I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I never stopped to think, ‘oh my dad is one’. In the school I work in, I had to apply for the job like everyone else,” she adds. “There’s this perception, especially in smaller country schools, that it’s not what you know but who you know, but that’s not necessarily been my experience.”

Adds Paddy: “We had (the family tree) traced back, and I think on the teaching side of things, the family goes back to famine times,” he recalls. “When I did my Leaving in 1968, my dad suggested that I go for the civil service. He didn’t push me, but I’d made my mind up.”

Singer-songwriter Ciara Sidine, meanwhile, is riding high after the release of her new album, but she is juggling life as a musician alongside her career in the publishing industry as a senior editor. Many of her recent press interviews refer to the ‘publishing dynasty’ she comes from: namely, her novelist mother June Considine and writer uncle Dermot Bolger.“I guess in a way, the writing side of it comes in the form of song-writing,” notes Ciara (Sidine is a stage name). “Maybe that’s how I’ve taken it into a new generation.” Yet not even having a mother and uncle in the business was of help when finding her first publishing job.

“The first job I got, at Wolf Hound Press, was advertised,” she recalls. “In the early 90s, there were no jobs in Dublin, so I was astounded when I got it after various interview processes.”

June, who also writes under the name Laura Elliot, wasn’t in the least bit surprised when Ciara followed her into publishing.

“Ciara was about six or seven when I started writing full time and when I showed her something I’d written, she was always very perceptive and pointed out things that could be developed,” she says. “She had a great experience growing up with a writer and seeing the highs and lows of the business.

“She’s seen me at different stages of my career so that insight has hopefully been of some use. I’m not in any way surprised that she became an editor, and of course I’m very, very proud.”

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