Anyone who saw her absolutely ginormous new walk-in wardrobe, and the racks and racks of designer clothes within, photographed on the pages of VIP magazine recently, would have assumed that Lorraine Keane leads a charmed life.
Indeed, when I met her as she prepared to launch Xpose Live, everything looked rosy. Her fragrant south Dublin existence seemed untouched in the midst of national financial chaos. Her job was a carnival of charming frivolities. And, of course, she has that beautiful family -- a picture-perfect set of handsome husband and two darling girls. She seemed, in fact, to be the ultimate Alpha Mommy. From the tasteful interior of her living room to her glossy hair and nails, Lorraine's life looked like a Sunday supplement dream.
It came as a bit of a shock, then, to discover just five days later that Lorraine had dramatically announced her departure, amidst misreported bad feeling, from the programme with which she has become synonymous.
That day, she seemed to have only minor concerns on her mind. There was a small crisis over an outbreak of spots, and she'd arrived having dashed into the Blackrock Clinic for some high-tech zapping on the way in to launch the show. It was a pain to have a outbreak in a week when she had in the diary a launch, her presenting day job and the TV Now Awards to host. But as she sat down, still looking fresh and pretty, despite being bashfully barefaced, it was difficult to feel too sorry for her.
Lorraine Keane built a career on her upbeat, energetic persona, which she keeps artfully balanced on the right side of syrupy. Though ersatz enthusiasm is a television-presenting staple, in Lorraine it seemed shot through with a convincingly grounded, earthy authenticity. Less than a week before leaving Xpose, however, little in her manner -- easy, professional, committed -- hinted at what was in store.
On the contrary, she was resoundingly positive. Her marriage was a dream. "There's nobody whose company I enjoy as much as Peter's. And whether I've got good news or bad news, he's the first person I want to call," she gushed.
Her kids, the light of her life. "It's like the way you used to feel on Christmas Eve," she said, "multiplied by a hundred. Multiplied by a thousand. It's this most incredible feeling to own these little people."
But just before I started to feel a little queasy, Lorraine had a way of jumping in with a graciously self-deprecating remark, or a wry witticism, and you couldn't help thinking that she had come by that charmed life by earning it.
One thing is for sure, Lorraine has always been a grafter. The Xpose schedule was relentless and the result was a level of juggling that would send many women barmy. Lorraine appeared to pull this off, alongside an impossibly picturesque kind of motherhood, without even breaking a sweat. "If only I could stop feeling guilty." she admitted, ruefully. "It's difficult leaving them as a mother" -- a comment that has taken on new weight in light of her unexpected resignation in order to "spend more time with my young family". Still, she also had claimed, "I'm the type of person -- I've always worked so hard, and I couldn't go from being that busy and being in demand with your schedule work-wise to staying at home and playing Peppa Pig all day, either."
She seemed grateful that she was able to sidestep the usual working-mother neurosis, thanks to the fact that her husband Peter works from home and spends a lot of the daytime there with the kids. He has a studio in their seafront house, in which he writes music and produces in the mornings, while the nanny Alma -- "she's been our nanny for five years now, so is part of the family" -- takes care of her younger daughter, Romy; and the elder, Emelia, goes to school. It seemed a perfectly reasonable, workable solution.
It's not that Peter's career -- solo and with The Devlins -- has been given less priority, necessarily. But Lorraine did acknowledge that hers has been more visible. "The band have been going for a long time and they are successful. But it's not so obvious. Their side of things is not. And it doesn't have to be. Whereas mine is."
Still, she insists, "He doesn't feel in any way threatened or competitive. He does his thing, and just gets on, and I do mine."
Since Lorraine's own parents divorced after 23 years of marriage, she has been hyper-conscious of the effort involved in nurturing a marriage.
"I've always said that we have to remain strong and in love and together for the girls, because we are their foundations, and if the foundations falter, well, then the building falls down," she said.
She has tried many times, without success, to get him involved. And what might otherwise have been seen as a flashpoint for tension between them, was repackaged by Lorraine as a light, humorous little anecdote. "The first time I did VIP with Peter when Emelia was born, I begged him and begged him and begged him and he flatly refused. And then I rang his Mom and I was like, 'Marie -- they've going to think that I've got this imaginary husband, and that I'm a single mom really and he doesn't exist.' But he still wouldn't. I tried everything. I tried begging. I tried the really nice approach. And then I tried the tantrum and the tears. None of it worked. Eventually, the night before, he said that he would get into one photograph. And he did -- but with a woolly hat and a scarf and a jacket. He looked like Benny from Crossroads."
All of this seemed to suggest an enthusiasm on her part for exposure and the attention for its own sake. And while she did admit that the attention is lovely, and being a celebrity is great when it gets you good tables in otherwise booked-out restaurants, she also talked, revealingly, about living out the weird contradiction of the village nature of fame in Ireland. Celebrities are household names, but don't have the exclusivity of extreme wealth and are always within arm's reach. As such, it's not always all it's cracked up to be.
"Even giving up your anonymity, which you do when you are on television. Like I have -- but I'm not paid accordingly," she said. "Maybe if I worked in RTE, but in TV3 the salaries just don't even compare and that's fine, because to me it's just a day job, and I get paid well enough and I'm very happy I can make a reasonably comfortable living and I don't want for much more. I've two healthy babies. But you do give up your anonymity, and yet I'm still in the queue for a Ryanair flight. I don't go first class. I'm in the priority queue, though!" she adds with a laugh. "And people are kind of pointing or whatever. And when I'm not working and I don't have a face on and I have to be me, people can say, 'Oh my God, the state of her. She's a dog in real life.' But I have to just get on with it."