Keane on change - Sheana Keane's period terraced house
During a recent web chat with her viewers, Sheana Keane of The Afternoon Show was asked if she could ever see herself on Fair City.
Her answer was fast and funny: "I'd love to play Bela Doyle's secret love-child," she bantered, obviously as far-fetched an answer as the glamorous co-anchor of The Afternoon Show could dream up. However, what many viewers don't know is that Sheana, who appears the less dramatic of the two presenters -- Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh is her co-star -- would probably love to act in the soap. After all, she did once consider becoming an actor, and when she decided to give up her established career as a psychologist and management consultant, she toyed with going on stage before eventually settling on a career in television.
From psychology, acting and TV are all about the human psyche, which is the link for Sheana; she's always been fascinated by people. A Northsider who now lives on the Southside, she studied for a primary degree, and then a masters in psychology in UCD. "It was the most natural thing in the world for me to do. I couldn't tell you why, but it was absolutely right. I did my MA in social and organisational psychology, which is the study of people working together. I studied what motivates people; positive psychology. It was in its infancy when I studied it in the early Nineties, but it's now a whole branch of psychology in its own right."
Certain and all as Sheana was that psychology was the right field of study for her, she was even more certain that Jonathan Forrest was the right man.
"We met when I was 18 in UCD," she recalls. "I shook his hand, went home and told my mother: 'Today I met the man I'm going to marry.' I can't understand it to this day. It wasn't a thunderbolt or lightning, just a clear understanding that this was it. It was always said he had no chance." Sheana laughs as she recalls her courtship, though the couple did go their separate ways during the long college holidays.
After college, they took different paths, but kept in touch; Johnno, as Sheana calls him, began building up what's now a very successful company called Cybercom, which employs 30 people, and recently won a big award for the best digital campaign for Powerade. Sheana lectured for a year in UCG in Galway before heading Stateside, having landed a green card. She settled in San Francisco, where she worked as a change-management consultant for three years.
When she came back to Ireland, she worked for the same company's Irish branch, before moving to another company to do a similar job.
"When companies go through huge changes -- for example, when they're looking for redundancies -- they draft in change-management consultants," Sheana explains, adding that: "Part of our role would be to manage the fear level as things changed; we would identify the key people, the influencers, as they are called, and get them on our side." However, after seven years in the field, she began to feel she needed a change of career. "I became a little disillusioned. I felt it was more manipulation than genuinely helping people," she says.
Many people would like to change careers; being a psychologist gave Sheana an advantage. "I read What Color is your Parachute? and did an exercise in it which was to write down 50 things I could do to make money. I got to 20. I then narrowed it down to my top 10, then my top three, of which one was acting," Sheana recalls.
She enrolled in the Gaiety School of Acting and did night classes, while continuing to work. "I decided I was not such a free spirit that I could become an actor. I felt I needed some security, so I decided TV was the way I wanted to go, and I did a television course," she says.
She gave up her job in February 2000 and gave herself a goal: if she wasn't earning her living working in TV by the following Christmas, she'd go back to her original career. Her first job was working on a film, as an assistant to the film director. She hated it. While the director was lovely, everyone else was horrible. "I didn't like the way people behaved towards each other. Talk about shit rolling downwards," she says.
Her next job, a researcher on Wanderlust, was a more positive experience. "Brendan Courtney, the presenter, has since been a mentor to me. He's a very good person -- as he goes up the ladder he pulls people up with him," Sheana says.
Wanderlust led to a job as a researcher on Open House, which then progressed to an on-air job as social reporter. "So, by September of that year, I was on telly," she says, still slightly bemused by her own good fortune. She's worked fulltime in TV, which she loves, ever since, and is currently on her fourth season of The Afternoon Show.
She also found time during the past very busy eight years to marry Jonathan, have two children, Isabelle, 4, and Arthur, 2, and renovate a lovely old house in Dublin 4, which the couple bought in April 2006. A villa-style, terraced period house originally comprising four rooms, the building had to be gutted and redesigned before they could finally move in, in April of 2007.
"I marvel that the architects, Neil Burke Kennedy and Briain Colgan of NBK Architects, made so much space out of so little," Sheana says.
With just 300-400sq ft of extra space, the architect created a superb new kitchen/family room, a new playroom/third bedroom, and the lovely Italian courtyard, which was designed by Eugene Higgins, The Afternoon Show's resident gardener.When it came to the kitchen, Sheana had a good idea of what she wanted. Her vision was of a New York loft, complemented by the period style of the house itself. "It's an old Victorian house, and I don't like denying that fact, and yet it's also in a city. And a kitchen has to be family oriented, where everything revolves around the range," she explains.
The result is a very unusual, modern yet cosy kitchen. There are two cream walls, a glass one, and one of brick. "The bricks are from the outhouse, it was my idea and the architect loved it," Sheana says. The underfloor heating is concealed by the engineered floor, which is made up of double-width, smoked-oak boards. "Everyone warned me against a wooden floor, I didn't care," she laughs.
The kitchen units are green, with one unit in aubergine for contrast. The worktops are grey sill stone and the kitchen table was bought in Environmental Furniture in the IFSC chq. "Everything I put in, I love. I love the table and that Britannia cooker. I wanted vintage posters, and I love them. In general, my husband and I defined the style of the house, and Johnno's sister Catherine, an interior designer, worked with us to pull it together with the right colours on walls, and brought us shopping. We were very lucky to have her, because we wouldn't have known where to start," Sheana explains.
She doesn't want a show house. A balance between work and family life is more important than perfection at home. TV presenting and The Afternoon Show help give her that balance. And she plans to stay at it for a while yet. "I feel I have another five or six careers left in me. I don't know what they are," she says, adding that: "I'll just let them unfold. That's what the whole area of positive psychology is about; living your life to the full."
Who knows? She may yet appear as Bela Doyle's secret love-child.
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