When the UK first went into lockdown, Laura Whitmore was optimistic that the worst would be over by the time her birthday rolled around on May 4.
She was supposed to be going to see Engelbert Humperdinck live in concert with her boyfriend, the Scottish comedian Iain Stirling.
The couple had developed a fondness for the octogenarian crooner after seeing him perform in Reno while on a road trip across the United States last year.
"We said, 'Let's just go to see whoever is playing in Reno' and it was Engelbert Humperdinck," she recalls. "We were the youngest people there by about 50 years but it was one of the best gigs. He is kind of a bit like Elvis. He's in his eighties but he does all the pelvic thrusts."
When Stirling realised Humperdinck was performing in the London Palladium on Whitmore's birthday, he bought out a whole row for them and their pals. With the gig now postponed, Whitmore has resigned herself to the fact that the celebrations will be a lot more muted than she had once envisaged. "I think I might just listen to his back catalogue over and over again," she jokes.
It's a familiar story. All around the world, people's lives have been disrupted and turned upside down by lockdown. And Whitmore is no exception.
At the start of the year, the 34-year-old Bray native was commuting between the UK and South Africa to present Love Island. Not only that, but she was hosting her own Sunday morning show for BBC Radio 5 Live as well as her podcast series, Castaway. That's before you get to the red-carpet events, brand partnerships and more besides.
In the space of a few months, everything has changed. Whitmore now finds herself confined to her home in London, which she shares with Stirling and their dog, Mick. The pace is decidedly different to what she is used to but she is trying to look for the silver linings.
For instance, this is the most time she and Stirling have ever spent in the house together - "which is lovely". She has forged closer bonds with her neighbours and looks forward to seeing them on Thursday nights when they step outside to clap for NHS workers. She is enjoying things like cooking, painting, TikTok, playing with her dog and FaceTiming her mum.
But like most of us, she has her good days and her bad days.
"Some days you might feel like you've accomplished loads," she says. "You might have done the washing, cleaned the whole house, written half a book… Other days you might have just cooked yourself dinner, or ordered takeaway, or whatever it might be. I think it's just balancing that and listening to your body. I know there are some days where I am more motivated than other days. And that's alright."
A self-professed fidgeter, she is grateful to be kept busy at the moment. Her Sunday mornings are spent doing her BBC Radio 5 Live show from a makeshift studio in her house. She misses interacting with guests in the studio, but otherwise it has worked out smoothly. That said, broadcasting from home does come with its own workplace hazards.
"The first time I did the show from home, the BBC had sent the equipment over," she recalls. "In the middle of the recording, [my neighbour] started cutting the grass next door and you could kind of hear it because our room isn't fully soundproofed. I made a joke like, 'I don't think I've ever seen her cut the grass and the one time she cuts it!'"
Now it's fair to say Whitmore has gotten fully into the swing of things. She has even adapted her workplace uniform to suit her new surroundings.
"The first week I got up super early," she says. "I had all my scripting and my questions done. I got dressed and I showered and I sat down and I did it. Last weekend I was just in my pyjamas. I had all these ideas of like, 'I'm still going to make an effort for the show', and then last week I was like, 'Nah, nobody knows'."
Outside of the radio show, she is still recording and releasing episodes of her podcast series, Castaway. Billed as a podcast about podcasts, she interviews celebrities such as Niall Horan and Dermot O'Leary about their favourite podcasts, as well as their lives and careers. A sort of Desert Island Podcasts, if you will.
If ever there was a need for such a podcast, it's now.
"What I'm seeing online is people asking, 'Does anyone have any recommendations for a podcast?'" she says. "And I'm like, 'Yeah, that's what my podcast is about!' When it first came out, people were like, 'Why is she doing this?' But now it makes sense."
Additionally, she is working on what she describes only as a "big writing project". Whitmore has always enjoyed writing and studied journalism in DCU. In recent years, she has written articles for publications like Glamour, Huffington Post, Grazia and Hot Press. Last year, she wrote and starred in a short film called Sadhbh. She says that she sees writing and acting as an extension of her presenting work.
"It's all kind of the same," she says. "It's all storytelling, whether you're interviewing someone or your writing something or you're playing a part."
The entertainment industry isn't always receptive to those who dabble in different disciplines but Whitmore has been adamant about carving her own path.
"I remember once someone saying something to me about a well-known presenter who has been around for years. They were like, 'Oh you're doing this but that person would never do that.' I'm like, 'Yeah but I'm not that person.' In any job or in any situation we get compared a lot and we need to not do that because we're all individuals, aren't we?
"Sometimes people are like, 'Who would you like to be like?' And I'm like, 'Well, I'd like to be Laura Whitmore and just see how that goes'."
At the tail end of last year, Whitmore scored arguably her most high-profile gig to date when she was confirmed as the host of Love Island. (Her other half also narrates the series.) Coincidentally, Whitmore had played the host of a fictional Love Island-esque reality show called Love Chalet in the US miniseries adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral earlier that year.
"I remember when it was announced that I was doing Love Island, [actress] Nathalie Emmanuel, who was in Four Weddings and a Funeral, messaged me like, 'Well that's life imitating art!' It was mad."
Whitmore was brought on to the show to replace her friend Caroline Flack, who had presented the series for five years. Flack had agreed to stand down as host for the show's sixth series after being charged with assault in December and had given Whitmore her blessing. In February, she tragically died by suicide.
The morning after the news of Flack's death broke, Whitmore delivered an impassioned tribute to her friend on her BBC Radio 5 Live show. Through tears, she spoke about her "vivacious" and "loving" friend and called out the "paparazzi and tabloids looking for a cheap sell" as well as the "trolls hiding behind a keyboard".
"Anyone who has ever compared one woman against another on Twitter, knocked someone because of their appearance, invaded someone else's privacy, who have made mean, unnecessary comments on an online forum - they need to look at themselves," she said.
She also called upon listeners to "be kind," a sentiment that was inspired by one of Caroline Flack's Instagram posts and has become part of her legacy. Afterwards, she played 'Angels' by Robbie Williams, a song that reminded her of her friend.
It was an extraordinary piece of radio; raw, righteous and real.
"I don't even really remember that weekend," says Whitmore now. "It is all a bit of a blur. My producer was like, 'Don't come in tomorrow, we'll get cover.' But I was just very angry. I don't think I could have done it if it was a week later."
She says she was "angry because I found out online" and "because of what people were saying online".
She wasn't only fuelled by anger, though. It was also important to her that she get to make a statement on her own terms.
"I guess I wanted to say it in my way," she says. "I knew that as soon as it happened that you were going to have people at your door following you around and wanting a quote from you. I was like, 'You're not going to get something from me. I'm going to do it my way and in my words.'"
Her statement went viral and was viewed over 15 million times on Facebook alone. Whitmore says she didn't pay too much attention to the reaction afterwards. Instead, she went home and took some much needed time out.
"I did that, I came home and I just wrapped myself up in cotton wool," she says. "For me, I needed an outlet and I needed some way of saying what I needed to say. Then I felt like I could just be with the people I needed to be with, eat ice cream, have a glass of wine, forget about the outside world and deal with things the way I needed to. I didn't really think of everyone else's reaction at the time."
She soon returned to work on Love Island. She is nothing but complimentary of the production and describes it as a "very safe place".
"I said to all the islanders at the final, 'Thank you so much.' There had been so much stuff going on with the paps, with Caroline and everything else... I hadn't planned on doing the show so I had to balance it with all my other work. I felt there was a lot going on. "But I'd come in and see their faces and they were all so smiley and happy. Their sass and everything... They really got me through everything. I think the fact that I got to go and do something that really gave me so much joy was really helpful."
Days after Flack died, Whitmore posted a video on Twitter showing a paparazzi photographer following her and Stirling around the airport in Cape Town. It was the week of the Love Island finale and it was the first time she had seen Stirling since Flack had passed away.
As they waited for the show's crew members to get through customs, the photographer trailed them and took photos at close range.
"I just got so angry because I had been on a long-haul flight and I hadn't seen my other half since we both lost someone we were very close to and he had come to the airport to meet me," she recalls.
She tried not to get upset lest she inadvertently create a photo op. "If I get upset, that's the picture," she explains. "He wants a picture of Laura and Iain crying."
Eventually, they asked him to stop taking photos. He refused. At that point, Stirling started filming him. In the video, the couple can be seen pleading with him to give them some privacy. It shed a light on what people in the public eye have to contend with.
"I think by showing it everyone got to see what happens on the other side," she says.
As someone with a background in journalism, Whitmore says she is regularly "flabbergasted" by what the media is allowed to get away with. "There is defamation of character all the time," she says. "I see headlines about myself and I'm like, 'When did I say that?'"
You can't hit back at every story, she says. It takes too much time, energy and money. A few years ago, however, she successfully took legal action against a media outlet for publishing a false story about her.
"It was a story which wasn't very nice and so untrue," she says. "We fought them... and we won the case and they had to pay our bills.
"At the time I didn't even make a big deal of it because everything had to be taken down. Just winning that... It took so much time and energy and I didn't want to do it publicly because once it was done and retracted, I didn't even want to deal with it again. It was such a horrible time when I was going through something really tough. Getting the email from a big online publication to say, 'We're sorry, we're wrong, we're paying your legal bills...' For me, that was such a victory."
As she has gotten more established in the industry, she says she has grown comfortable with calling out certain practices. When she was younger, she dealt with things like photographers taking photos up her skirt or camping outside her home and stayed silent.
"I look back on myself and I think, 'Why didn't I say anything then?' But I was probably a little scared and figured it was just the industry. I remember being in a flat by myself with loads of paps outside. I remember not wanting to leave my house. There was a group of eight men outside with cameras and I felt really ganged up on. It was a horrible feeling. I felt like I was trapped in my own house but I didn't say anything at the time because that's just what everyone dealt with. And now I look back and think, 'I will say something about it now.'"
Given her past experiences with the media, it is perhaps understandable that she is reluctant to address rumours that she is now engaged to Iain Stirling. In recent weeks, numerous UK outlets have reported the story but Whitmore politely declines to confirm it.
"With me and Iain, we've always kind of decided to not speak out," she explains.
"It's a really hard one to balance. I think when we did Love Island together, people were like, 'You did that together so your relationship is up for grabs and you can talk about it as much as you want.' We've always been careful to balance what we say and what we don't say. If we do ever decide to get married, we'll probably talk to our friends and family about that rather than anyone else."
For now, she is just looking ahead to better times post-lockdown.
"Humans, we're resilient creatures," she says. "We've been through a lot over the years and we always get through it. I was reading an article and it was talking about how after World War 1, the 1920s came and everyone went a little bit mad. And the same with World War II. Suddenly the 1950s and 1960s came along. I am looking forward to what comes after this time of us all being cooped up because I think it's going to be brilliant."