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Marriage? Don’t make me cringe

It's two days before the Meteor Awards when we speak, and host, Amanda Byram, has no idea what she's going to wear. Neither does she seem fazed.

The TV presenter has been filming Strictly Come Dancing Live! in Belfast, and the demanding schedule has meant that dress fittings have been relegated to the bottom of the to-do list. She has eyed up a few options, though.

"My favourite so far is a vintage Ungaro dress, so I'm hoping that will work for the red carpet. I've also seen beautiful Diane von Furstenberg and Acne dresses."

The laidback approach to her attire for tonight is typical of Byram's attitude. Her down-to-earth nature belies the implicit glamour of her job title.

She has headed up top-rating US reality TV shows like Paradise Hotel and The Swan and British prime-time TV slots such as The Big Breakfast and, more recently, gameshow Total Wipeout. She even hosted Miss World to a viewing audience of nearly one billion people. But she has yet to adopt a diva front.

If anything, chatting to Byram is like catching up with an old friend. Our conversation is punctuated with throaty laughs and hilarious anecdotes.



Hysterical

"The unfortunate thing about me is that I forget I'm doing an interview," she confides. "Most people will say, 'I don't want to talk about that.' I think, 'Ah, Kate's me mate, so wait 'til she hears this: I was in America . . . ' Then I put the phone down and think, 'Oh s**t, what did I just say?'"

Her unerring honesty has led to some embarrassing press lately. Some interviews have suggested that she is dropping hints like lead balloons for her boyfriend, ex-rugby player Craig McMullen, to get down on bended knee.

"When they write stuff about me and Craig, such as 'she says she's getting married and she says she's having babies' that makes me cringe."

Celebrities over 30 (Amanda is 36) are often quizzed about their marital status, or lack thereof. And any answer is construed as a request for a ring. I prefer to hear her tales about the LA dating scene, which are hysterical.

She recalls one memorable date who admitted that he had Googled her extensively beforehand. "When we met he was sweating profusely. He kept going outside. I thought, 'Is he doing drugs? Something's really wrong here.' I asked him if he was alright and he said, 'I'm really sorry, I Googled you and I'm really intimidated.'

"Then he proceeded to talk about things I had said in interviews in the past, 'I hear you like this and I hear you think that.'"

The US conveyor-belt dating system was one of many reasons she decided to leave LA. She also became disenchanted with American TV standards where celebrity culture reigns and her presenting style had to be toned down.

"That's one of the reasons I missed Irish TV so much: you can be patronising and sarcastic, and you get away with it. I could get the cheeky stuff into Paradise Hotel, but in The Swan I had to dumb a lot of that sarcastic humour down."

While Byram is happy to be back on home soil, she says she'd like to see other Irish TV presenters making dents in international TV. "Irish presenters should get out there and start flying the flag." Though she is quick to add that her US invasion was not as easy as it might have looked.

"I was just really lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. Caroline Morahan is out in LA at the moment. She emailed me before she left and asked me for advice.

"Obviously I gave her everything I could, but I told her I didn't go out there saying, 'I'm just going to pop into an agent and see if I can get work.' If that's what you're thinking then don't because it's not that easy and there are thousands of girls trying to do that. It's a tough industry and I wouldn't wish going out there without a job on my worst enemy."

Byram has also relaxed about the pursuit of physical perfection, the idee fixe of LA inhabitants, since she came home.

"I've always wanted to look good for myself, she says. "I was one of those people who worked out when I was a teenager in the bedroom. Sometimes I was a little bit obsessed, so I never really wanted to succumb to that American idea of being perfect.

"The only thing that ever came up in all the time I was there was in the very beginning at Fox. They offered me the job [Paradise Hotel] and the producer pulled me aside and said the head of the network found my mole quite ugly and wanted to know if I would get it removed.



Paralysed

"I said, 'Well, if it's not a deal breaker, I'm sorry, it's my trademark and this is how it's going to be.'" Incidentally, a recent health scare led to her having the mole removed anyway. She's hoping it will grow back.

As for cosmetic surgery, she hasn't succumbed . . . yet. "The boob thing never interested me and I still haven't done the Botox, but someone did tell me on this tour that they had the most amazing Botox last week so I'm slightly tempted. But if anything will ever go wrong it'll probably happen to me and I'll be left paralysed on one side of my face!"

A large part of Byram's success is down to her not buying into her glossy media image or believing her own hype. Yes, she looks sensational but she'll tell you exactly how she achieves it.

"There's nothing different about me from anyone else," she says. "I think a lot of people get into this business with airs and graces thinking that they are a little bit better than other people.

"I just can't stress enough that you're not and you never will be, and unfortunately it's going to be to your detriment because people don't give a s**t about people who think they're better than others because someone else will do the job."


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