A touch of Frostrup delights Dublin dames
Dazzling party girl turned respected broadcaster and earth mother, Mariella Frostrup talks to Madeleine Keane
'When I was in my 20s, I was wracked by insecurities. I thought I was too thin, my face wasn't symmetrical, I never had the right clothes. I was always the loudest in the room but I never really said anything. I was always the one the boys wanted to hang out with, but never the one they wanted to get married to."
It's surprising but comforting to hear Mariella Frostrup's candid confession.
A vibrant, articulate Norwegian who throughout her prolific career has combined dazzling looks with a keen, active mind, she is in town to deliver the keynote address at Look the Business, the high profile fashion event aimed at Ireland's leading professionals in law, finance, media and retail.
She reflects how "in the 80s when we entered the workplace, we had to dress in a more manly way, a hangover from the 70s when the feminists burned their bras and put on a pair of dungarees. I don't want a world ruled by men where women try to act like men.
"I want to live in a world where the yin and yang of masculinity and femininity make for a perfect balance and I think when it comes to clothes, one of the great tools we have is our ability to metamorphose, to be one thing in the morning, another in the evening, one thing in the meeting, another on the beach - and that is reflective of the multifarious roles women play in their daily lives."
And she should know. The journalist and broadcaster has metamorphosed from party girl to earth mother.
Home now is Somerset where she moved recently with her husband, human rights lawyer Jason McCue (they met on a charity trek in Nepal) and their children Molly (11) and Danny (10). She believes as we get older, "we have a compulsive pull back to our childhood" and she had the yearning to give her children the bucolic youth she enjoyed.
Frostrup was six when her parents moved to Ireland and she grew up in Kilmacanogue's Glencormac House - now home to Avoca Woollen Mills. They also lived in Cork and Connemara and she went to 10 schools in as many years.
When her parents split up, she went to live with her father, who had a drink problem and died at the age of 44.
This propelled Mariella to London's glitzy pr world: she cut her teeth doing publicity for Live Aid.
A brief marriage to a singer ended on her 21st birthday and she went on to build a thriving career in media as an art and film critic.
She judged the ManBooker (among others) and currently presents the review show Open Book on Radio 4.
Today, still stunning at nearly 53, she's calm about ageing.
"You look in the mirror and you think: who is that? And yet on the inside you're exactly the same...I feel more confident now than I did when my beautiful 22-year-old face looked in the mirror."
But would she agree that it's all in the head? Literally. In that what really matters, outside our relationships is the mind and what you do with your brain? "I think it's definitely the mind that's the important thing. And yet there are women who haven't forged a career and who are happy and balanced and women who are stressed and thrive on stimulation and busyness."
She's the latter, obviously: "If I don't have something to do, I really don't know what to do."
She's conscious though as an older mother of young children of minding herself. "I pack less into the day. As you get older, you get more pragmatic, more organised. At 50, you don't want the hangovers any more, or at least if you do they'd better be seriously worth it.
"You become more health conscious.. our life spans have increased dramatically: I could live for another four or five decades and if I am going to live that long I want it to be as healthily as possible...I don't want to be wheeled around by my kids."
Mariella is also a wise, compassionate agony aunt for The Observer and delivers great lines - 'no one can hear you scream in cyberspace'.
She laughs: "I was proud of that", but admits "I have a short fuse - I get impatient with people feeling sorry for themselves.
"I had a tricky childhood and I've also travelled a bit and seen the lives people lead - you do want to say 'get on with it'."