TV presenter Lorraine Keane was eight when her sister Tori was born, and recalls being delighted at the new arrival. "I always got very excited when Mum announced that another baby was on the way, because I was maternal from a very young age," she recalls. "I was changing nappies when I was five. Tori was just my baby and I looked after her and brought her everywhere. I was mad about all my little sisters and thought they were my own. Even now, it hurts my heart when I think about the love I have for them."
"I'm still her little one today, even though I'm actually bigger than her now," laughs Tori. "Lorraine had posters of Madonna on her bedroom wall, growing up, and she was always so kind and great fun. She used to help Mum out the whole time, and it was always poor Lorraine who had the task of giving us bread soda baths if we had chickenpox, or washing our hair if we got nits at school. There would be a queue of us lined up outside the bathroom, and she'd be getting impatient by the end of it. She was also the one who did the birds-and-the-bees 'sex talk' with us when we were growing up."
Growing up in Rathfarnham, the glamorous, bubbly sisters come second and fifth of Eamonn and Nuala Keane's seven children. Though outnumbered, the girls' brother Jonathan has always been adored by his six sisters, Jennifer, Lorraine, Samantha, Victoria, Danielle and Rebecca.
Their dad Eamonn is a musician and a member of the enduring showband The Indians.
"Mum used to describe our house as Heuston station, and there was a really loving, relaxed family atmosphere at home," says Lorraine. "Our parents are outgoing and great fun socially, and we're all big talkers, so there was a lot of noise with everyone trying to get their point across and televisions and stereos on in different rooms. I joke that I became a television presenter because I just didn't get enough attention growing up. It was good training for going into the entertainment business though, and you develop a thicker skin when you're one of seven children, as you can't be sensitive. There is such fun and a great bond between all of us today, as we're all quite witty and a lot of slagging goes on when we get together."
Now that they're adults, the sisters appreciate the difficult task that their hard-working parents had in raising such a large family. Their marriage broke up after 23 years when Lorraine was 18, and their mum now has a partner called John, while their 70-year-old dad remarried recently, and his wife is called Annette. "The break-up was really difficult and I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but they made it as easy on us as possible," says Lorraine.
The sisters says that they did the usual bunking-off-school mischief when they were teenagers, but were generally well-behaved. Lorraine went to Senior College in Ballyfermot to study media, and got the job in AA Roadwatch that launched her media career. Within a week, she was doing the traffic reports on RTE Radio 1, and did a couple of TV programmes with RTE. She then moved to TV3 as an entertainment correspondent, eventually becoming the anchor for entertainment, fashion and beauty programme, Xpose. She met her musician husband, Peter Devlin, while interviewing him, and they were married in San Sebastian in 2003. They now have two daughters, Emelia, 11, and Romy, 8.
When Romy was two, Lorraine decided to leave TV3, as the hours were very long and involved travel and weekend work and lots of night events. She found it hard to manage that with two small children, but her decision to leave caused a lot of controversy and speculation.
"Children are small for such a short space of time, and you don't have them for someone else to rear them," she says. "People thought that I left TV3 because there was a big tantrum or fight or strop, as it was reported that I left in tears, but there wasn't any fight whatsoever. It was sad and quite shocking that some people wouldn't accept that I left because I wanted to be a full-time mum and enjoy my children. They were saying to me, 'But you have the best job in the world so why would you give it up?' but I also had two amazing babies, and I had missed out on quite a lot with them, especially on Romy.
"I found it really difficult to give up my job because I'm very ambitious and had worked bloody hard to get to where I was. I adored my colleagues at TV3 and still do, so yes, I was bawling crying leaving as it was really difficult driving out of that car park after 11 years, but I left carrying three enormous bouquets of flowers from every level of the company and all their good wishes. Then I got a book deal and it was reported that it was going to be a big tell-all book, which was very hurtful, as anyone who knows me knows that I would never do that."
Tori has always been very creative and artistic, and after art college, she did a make-up artistry course and then joined Peter Mark and trained as a hairdresser. She worked part-time both at a hair salon and at TV3 in the hair and make-up room for years, which led to her doing regular hair slots on Ireland AM, which she still does today, 10 years later.
Tori married her husband, Robin Mooney, in Sorrento, three years ago. They live in Knocklyon and have two babies, Mason, 22 months, and Daisy, nine months. Robin was the Keanes' neighbour, growing up, and he works as a research scientist, based at Trinity College, for the European Space Agency. "I always joke that I'm a hairdresser and he's a rocket scientist," she says.
She combines motherhood with working as a freelance hair stylist, principally at weddings and shoots, and is in huge demand, much to Lorraine's chagrin - Tori is so popular that she isn't always available to tend to her big sister's tresses. She did look after Lorraine's hair and make-up for her wedding though, as she managed to escape bridesmaid duties. "I only had my best friend Ali, as I have so many sisters that I was afraid it would look like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding if they were all bridesmaids," laughs Lorraine.
Since she left TV3, Lorraine has enjoyed choosing projects that excite her, and is currently working for UTV Ireland on The Interview. Her first half-hour interview with musician Josh Groban aired recently, and there are more coming up. She is also excited about the Keane On Style evenings of fashion, beauty, tapas and wine that she will be putting together and hosting around the country. The first was a smash-hit, and the second will take place this Thursday in Monkstown. Several glam Keane sisters are also involved, as Tori will give hair demos, Danielle does hair extensions, and Becky is a make-up artist who is head of make-up at Dylan Bradshaw. The Keanedashians, we joke. There may be a kernel of truth in the suggestion that Lorraine moulded her little sisters into her very own glam squad. Grew her own crew, basically.
Lorraine describes herself as 'forensic' about fashion and grooming, and wants to pass on the tips she has accrued to women who want to make the most of themselves. She is keen to support independent Irish designers, and is looking forward to introducing those gems that she has discovered. There will be a fashion show, interviews with designers, and a talk by skincare expert Peggy Stringer. It sounds like a wonderful, fun-filled evening.
Lorraine and Tori's parents now have 15 grandchildren, of which Lorraine's daughter Emelia, 11, is the eldest. Naturally Lorraine dotes on Tori's beautiful babies and says that her sister is also a wonderful mother. "It was so weird seeing her pregnant though," she says, "I was like, 'My baby's having a baby, and the kid I used to babysit is the dad.' Tori is so good-humoured and always happy, patient and kind, and she and Robin have the same hands-on approach to their children that Peter and I have."
While Lorraine is a very loving and devoted mother, she thinks that tough love is very important when raising children. "I say to the girls, 'I'd love to say yes to you every time you ask for something, but if I did, you would end up being like Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka or Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie. How many friends does Nellie have? Do you really want to be like her when you grow up?' And they say, 'No Mum, it's OK.'
"It's an old-fashioned approach to parenting, but they know that they get brought places because they're well-behaved and good company. My mum brought us up like that too, because she never wanted people saying, "Oh no, here come the Keanes,' when they saw us coming."
"Lorraine's girls are so good-natured and polite and kind, and I would love to instil some of those qualities into my own children," adds Tori. "They're lovely girls who are not TV addicts or glued to tablets."
The training can begin early as Auntie Lorraine is due to mind the tots for five days shortly while Tori and Robin enjoy a well-earned break in Spain. It's a fair trade, as Tori recently minded Lorraine's beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Chip, and Slipper the Pomeranian puppy while she was abroad.
"I adore Tori's children," smiles Lorraine, in her element at the prospect of having two babies around the house again. "The girls are excited too and we can't wait for them to arrive."
Keane on Style takes place at Cafe du Journal, Monkstown, Co Dublin on Thursday at 7.30 pm. Tickets €40 and further dates on www.facebook.com/lorrainekeaneofficial
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