Laura Whitmore: 'I've never touched drugs in my life, I'm a goody two-shoes'
Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Liadan Hynes
When the elevator door glides open onto the third floor at the Wright Venue, the first thing visible is the queen of MTV on a red-velvet seat-come-throne, giving it socks for the camera.
As if this wasn't enough Andy Warhol fabulousness on its own, Laura Whitmore is also wearing an ultra-camp, white faux-fur coat, over a jumper that, across its front, says, unapologetically, Lady Garden.
"You know what a lady garden is!" she stage-acts. "I'm not telling you!"
The last time I met the owner of the Lady Garden geansai was in April, 2012: she was going to her mother's retirement party in Dublin that night. "Well!" she says proudly of her mum, Carmel. "Since she retired, she's busier than ever. I was in the Philippines on a trip last week, and she came with me.
"And on the way back, we both got food poisoning in Manila on the last night. We spent the 15-hour flight vomiting. So we didn't really talk much on the way back!" she laughs.
This evening, in exotic Swords in Co Dublin, Laura can't contain her gob. She is, by turn, confessional, revealing, candid, open, and most importantly, authentic. You get the sense that Laura Whitmore is pretty much herself - not that version of herself that people expect or demand from her.
At 30 years of age, the beauty from Bray, Co Wicklow, doesn't care any more that the fashion police are watching, or what the public think of her. "I used to care too much what people thought," she says. "When you first start, and you're on TV and you're a girl, image would be important. What am I going to wear? That doesn't really matter any more. People are too busy thinking about themselves to think about you.
"I have always been interested in believing in yourself," Laura continues. "You have to believe in yourself to achieve it; fake it until you make it. It has worked for me. Like, I haven't got a clue what I'm doing half the time. Then I learned a long time ago: no one knows what they're doing. I'd be sitting there, interviewing big stars, and we're all out of our depth."
To illustrate this point of being out of her depth - and with a larger point about humanity - Laura, for whom, growing up, home was a two-bed flat in Bray, recounts a recent Ralph Lauren dinner at stately Althorp House in Northamptonshire. "It was at the Spencers's residence," she says. "It was completely out of my league. You know, where Diana grew up. Earl Spencer was hosting it with the Lauren family. So I'm sitting there, when Kitty Spencer, the Earl's daughter, says to me, 'Nice to meet you. I have to tell you something really embarrassing. You are my dad's crush'. I said, 'What?' And she said, 'My dad's favourite show is I'm A Celebrity . . .' I went - 'Jesus!'
"Then Earl Spencer came over, and said he loves the show. I felt such a fraud being there. I'm not fancy enough. You know - who am I? Actually, I'm just a person," she says, answering her own philosophical, and typically Laura-like, question.
Asked how she thinks people perceive her because she is on TV so much, Laura laughs and says, "I get people saying to me as a compliment, 'Oh, I thought you'd be really up yourself. But you're not at all'. And I'm like - 'Thanks! Thank you, but you thought I was!'"
Why would people think you're up yourself?
"I don't know. I suppose, from the outside, I go to nice events. I wear nice clothes. I'm on red carpets. Yeah, from the outside my life looks a lot more glamorous than it is, because of the things I do."
And from the inside?
"Inside," she answers, "is very normal."
That must be difficult when Laura Whitmore's private life can seem, at times, almost like public property - in particular, her high-profile split from Danny O'Reilly, lead singer with The Coronas, in late 2012.
"It's a bit shit," she says. "It's a bit shit.
"You could be on a first date - and it is awkward, and I'm a girl who is nervous and thinking, 'Do I like this boy?' - and suddenly someone gets a picture and they write about it. You're mortified, because you've just met someone. You're just a girl, at the end of the day," she says. "I suppose when you break up with someone, and it is written about, I mean. . . break-ups are shit and they are horrible and they are upsetting. You have to deal with that. Normally, it is not always right. I am quite surprised when anything written about me is ever right. I'm like, 'Ohhhh, they got that one right. Interesting'. But mostly it is inaccurate." She adds,"I'm going out with who now?"
What is the biggest howler about you in that context?
"That I've been going out with Niall Horan! Or that I lived with Bressie! Or that I went out with Eoghan McDermott! And all these people who are, like, my guy friends. It's hilarious."
So you didn't live with Bressie, then? I joke.
"Didn't live with Bressie," she laughs. "My two friends lived with Bressie in London, and I introduced them. He lived with them, and I think people got confused. What else? There have been people who I've gone out with who I haven't gone out with. They're my mates. What else? That's kind of it. At this stage, because I've got other friends who are in the media, and similar things have happened to them, I don't get bothered by it any more."
I ask if it's difficult to move on from her relationship with Danny O'Reilly when, every time she does an interview - this one, in particular - she is asked about her relationship with Danny O'Reilly.
"No, but it's a bit weird, because I'm actually friends with Danny, shockingly. I actually got a text from him today. So, for me, there's no bad feeling with Danny. We went through a break-up - and it was . . . it's not easy.
"I don't like talking about things, as you know, with personal stuff, because it is no one else's business. That's what my friends are for. My friends can listen to me chat all day about someone that I like, or someone that I'm breaking up with.
"But I suppose, with Danny, especially because of who Danny is in Ireland, everyone is guessing - did we break up or didn't we break up? It was hard. It was hard if you are going out with someone new, and they put a picture up of who you used to go out with. And that is a bit weird and awkward.
"But if that's the worst thing that is ever going to happen to me, I can deal with it," she says, smiling.
"I'm very honest with people. They can write things about me, but they don't know what is going on behind the scenes. So . . ."
Given that you are very honest, you won't have a problem telling me about who you are going out with now . . .
"You probably know anyway!" she laughs. "I am seeing someone, but again I feel that's not what I need to talk about because, as I say, it is used and re-used and re-used. I went on a first date, and there were pictures taken," she says, referring to being papped in Ibiza with Rory Williams, scruff-bucket singer with Sunset Sons, in July. "It was during the summer. He is very nice."
In relation to her much-hyped recent change-of-job status with MTV, she says: "People were like, 'Oh, Laura's left MTV.' I never left MTV. I left MTV News [in February of this year]."
So that was blown out of proportion, like a lot of stuff in your life . . .
"Yeah. Everything is a bit dramatic!" she laughs. "So I'm still with MTV. I did loads of their festival coverage during the summer. I'm doing two shows next week" - one with Olly Murs and another with 5 Seconds of Summer.
"So," she continues, "I'm constantly working with MTV, but I used to do MTV News every day. Seven years, I think, is enough to do that. So I left that. But it was quite nice because they didn't want me to leave, and it was a nice position to be in. Our relationship is still really strong. It opens me out to do other things.
"And also, I'm 30. So I want to do lots of things.
"So I've done my new jewellery line," she says, referring to Laura Whitmore X Daisy, with UK jewellery brand Daisy London. "It's great fun. I walked in a fashion show this year. I'm doing lots of stuff I've never done before. Giving it a go. But I love broadcasting. I love live TV."
Laura is unusually reflective for someone so well-known (name any other Irish TV presenter who graces the pages of Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar as regularly and effortlessly as Laura Whitmore does).
This keen sense of self-awareness comes, you imagine, from her past and what she learned from it: her parents Carmel and Sean broke up, amicably, when she was three years of age. "My mum and dad are great mates. I am very lucky to have both in my life equally. Dad, I will stay with him tonight. I've got two lovely half-brothers who are my full brothers to me. One is turning 17 next week - and he is a proper grown-up - and the other one is 20."
Asked how she would characterise her childhood, Laura says she feels "very grateful now. When you're younger, you're like woe-is-me and everything is so dramatic."
In hindsight, Laura believes she was probably like any other girl, but "at the time I was shy and awkward and a nerd. I didn't know what a boy was until I was about 18. I wasn't in the cool group at all. We weren't cool, but we weren't nerdy enough to be picked on. So we were just in our own little bubble."
Laura was possibly in her own little bubble anyway, as she was an only child. "Yeah, my brothers didn't come around until I was older. And I didn't grow up living with them. So I used to think it was called 'lonely' child when I was little."
Joking apart, what was that like for you? "I was really lucky. I had two older cousins, Claire and Deirdre, who live in Gorey in Wexford, and I am very close to them. I spent every Christmas with them. They were kind of like my older sisters, in that I got their clothes. So I kind of felt they were my older sisters, in a way. I wish I had sisters to live with." Laura lived with her mum in the aforementioned two-bed flat in Bray (with the sound of the sea, and, she told me in 2012, "also the sound of the Dart coming in and out, too").
Your other friends had mums and dads living together. Did you ever wonder - why does my dad live there and my mum live here?
"You know what? Never, which is really weird. That would never cross my mind. If I ever thought that, I'd be like, Oohh, urgh, urgh! Mum and dad together!" Laura laughs now, over two decades later. "So, no, never. I have never thought that. Maybe for me it wasn't [important] - maybe it was for people who went through splits, and maybe their parents lived in their house [before and during the split]. But because I never experienced that, I was lucky in that I saw my dad every week. And on the day I saw him, he'd bring me to the Chinese or to McDonald's. It was a little treat day. So I was really lucky. I mean, other people's dads didn't do that for them."
Without turning into Freud, can I ask what effect you think that had on you as a young woman?
"It didn't make me hate men forever, no!" she laughs.
Did you find it difficult to form lasting romantic relationships because you saw your parents being apart as 'normal'?
"Not at all. My parents went out for 12 years. So they had quite a long relationship, longer than most relationships.
"No, I suppose it probably made me realise that if you're not happy in something, you don't have to be in it."
She is about to jet off to host I'm A Celebrity . . . in Australia. She has a flat she calls home in London. She lives with her friend Conor McDonnell (a tres hip photographer, who also took the pictures for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding in Italy in 2014) and her four-legged friend, Mick. "But I am never home." When Laura is home, however, she is on the couch watching "random" movies on Netflix and episodes of Orange Is The New Black.
How would you manage prison?
"I wouldn't manage that prison, very well! Don't go there in the first place, is the aim."
Did you ever steal chocolate innocently as a kid? "No. I'm such a goody-two-shoes. That's the funny thing as well. People probably think I am this wild party girl. I'm not. I've never touched a drug in my life. I can tell you that right now. People probably think I do. That's not who I am. I like to go to bed early."
What was the lowest point in her life? She doesn't hesitate or self-edit. She comes straight out with it.
"My break-up. That was really, really hard. And I went through that massive break-up when I was doing live TV every day, on the other side of the world, in Australia. As I said, people could write about it, people could guess about it, and at the end of the day I was just a girl who was really hurt."
"But you know what?" she muses. "If you can do live TV in Australia during a break-up, there is nothing you can't do."
How was your mother through all this?
"My mum flew over.
"And I wasn't well," Laura adds, "only because of the stress of everything that was going on. I lost a lot of weight. My dad rang up and said: 'You're too skinny.' My dad saying I'm too skinny must mean I'm too skinny.
"Break-ups are hard," she continues, "but I couldn't even go out and get drunk with my girlfriends. The people that I work with are like my family to me. People don't know this, but when I did that year [of I'm A Celebrity . . .] we actually lost a member of staff - Denise. She had an aneurysm and she passed away during filming."
Can you still listen to The Coronas?
"Yeah. I can. The songs are mostly about me!" Laura says in doubtless reference to her ex's recent revelations. ("Danny O'Reilly reveals writing songs about ex Laura Whitmore was like therapy," to quote one media headline, on the foot of The Coronas' album, The Long Way, being released last November.)
"I'm only joking!" she laughs now, before instructing me to "Put that line in!"
Did Danny really write songs about you?
"I have no idea. You can ask him that."
In the not-too-distant past of May this year, Laura and Danny were written up in the tabloids as, variously, 'officially back together' and 'newly reunited', on the basis of some paparazzi pictures of them kissing on the grass in a park in London's Muswell Hill.
So, why don't you two just get back together? Does your mother ever say that to you?
"No, she doesn't," says Laura firmly. "We broke up for a reason. I broke up with him for a reason."
What was the reason you broke up?
"It is no one's business why we broke up."
Thirty minutes later, Laura Whitmore is wheeling her travel suitcase into the elevator. Characteristically, she is full of philosophical thoughts as she departs. Chief among them being that it's taken Laura Whitmore three decades to become the woman she wanted to be.
"This has been my favourite year," she tells me. "I feel quite content with where I am now and with what I'm doing now. You know who you are at 30."
And who are you?
"I'm Laura. Nice to meet you," she says as she gets into her brother Adam's car.
And with that, the very cool woman in the Lady Garden jumper is gone. Blonde on the run.
The Laura Whitmore X Daisy Collection is available from Loulerie, 14B Chatham St, D2, tel: (01) 672-4024, or see loulerie.com
Jewellery throughout, Laura Whitmore X Daisy, Loulerie
Brown Thomas, see brownthomas.com
American Apparel, 114-116 Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 670-6936
Photography by Kip Carroll
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Hair by Paul Davey, Davey Davey, 23 Drury St, D2, tel: (01) 611-1400, or see daveydavey.com
Make-up by Vivien Pomeroy, tel: (086) 840-3130, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographed at The Wright Venue, South Quarter, Airside Retail Park, Swords, Co Dublin, tel: (01) 890-0099 or see wrightvenue.ie
Sunday Indo Life Magazine