UTV's Ruth Gorman on why reporting from Euro 2016 will be a career highlight
UTV star gets a makeover ahead of European Championships
The stunning UTV star gets a Weekend magazine makeover as she prepares to cover the European Championships, and talks about her love of sport since childhood, the heroes she's met... and who would make her her ideal man.
As someone who has been passionate about sport since she was a young child, Ruth Gorman would be the first to admit that she has landed her dream job. Fresh from the Irish Open golf championship, the UTV sports presenter is heading out to the European football championships tomorrow to cover the Northern Ireland team.
Her feet will have barely touched home ground again when she hopes to be off to New York for boxing champ Carl Frampton's next fight.
Life is busy for the bubbly, single Co Down-born reporter and she wouldn't have it any other way.
This week before flying to France for the Euros, Ruth took time out from her busy schedule to enjoy a makeover by the Belfast Telegraph.
While having her hair and make-up done, she talked about her exciting career and her life growing up in Co Down.
Ruth describes herself as having been "both a tomboy and a girly girl" as a child and while her friends had posters of their pop idols on their bedroom walls she had her favourite football team.
She says: "I always loved sport and played whatever I could growing up. That's the one thing I really miss, actually playing sport. I couldn't report on it and play, as most of the times clash.
"I was a tomboy and a girly girl all in one; I loved my dolls as a kid but if you saw my bedroom, you would have thought it was a boy's room, with all the sports posters up.
"My friends had pictures of boybands on their walls - I had pictures of the Manchester United team. I even used to paint my face to watch them play on TV in my living room."
Sport was Ruth's favourite subject in school. She achieved good grades in her GCSEs and A levels, but her main passion was playing sport. "One of my proudest moments, still, is winning the sports shield in primary school as it was open for anyone to win, boys or girls," she says.
She decided in her teens she wanted to be a sports journalist and started to freelance while studying.
Thanks to the support of her parents she was able to cover local sports events around Northern Ireland even before she got her driving licence.
She says: "My mum was always interested in sport, more than my dad, actually. But I normally had sport on the TV, so we all watched it. My parents were so good at supporting me when I decided I wanted to get into sports journalism. I started when I was 17, reporting on local sport and at that stage was I just learning to drive. They drove me around the country every week so I could carry out my reports. "
She studied English and Media as a combined arts degree, continued her freelance work while she was at university, which meant working long hours every weekend and filing copy for newspapers from the university library during the week.
"The most valuable lesson I learnt was to get experience and to prove to people I was reliable. I never turned a job down if it was physically possible - I still don't actually," she admits. "I went in to UTV on work experience when I was 17 and continued to help out at weekends for the next couple of years. I worked for newspapers and radio as well and freelanced for a few years before getting the full-time post in UTV.
"My first day was one to remember. I was originally told I would be shadowing the sports correspondent, at the time Neil Brittain [who is now Head of Communications at the IFA]. But when I got in, I was told I had to go straight out to interview Rory McIlroy!
"I hadn't been nervous because I knew a lot of the staff from being in and out of the office over the years, but I started to get nervous when I heard that. I had interviewed Rory for the paper after his first professional win at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and he was lovely, but doing it on camera this time would be different."
Her job has given her access to many of Northern Ireland's sporting heroes and she has built up a wealth of career highlights, all of which she feels privileged to have been able to report on.
She has interviewed former Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll a number of times during his playing days for Ireland.
"Having watched Ireland rugby matches for years, he was a hero of mine. I was there for his last game for Ireland in Paris when they won the Six Nations, that was very really special," she says.
"Another real honour was being at the Open Championship to report on Rory McIlroy's win in 2014. That was the first Major his mum Rosie had been there to see him win, so it was a privilege to interview him there - especially with the emotion of the whole occasion.
"The interview I did with Northern Ireland captain Steve Davis on the night Northern Ireland qualified for the Euros was another one I'll never forget. Steve scored twice against Greece that night and got really emotional dedicating it to his late mum, who he described as 'his biggest fan' - she had loved watching him play at Windsor Park."
She also recalls interviewing Tyrone Howe, when he was playing for Ulster and Ireland: "His partner was with him and even though it was quite a long interview, she waited patiently for him.
"At the end of the interview, she came over to me and pointed out I had a label still attached to my jumper - not just any label, but a big red sale label. I went the same colour as it!
"I also feel very privileged to have been there when Carl Frampton won both his world titles, and when Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke won the Open Championship, the two Ryder Cup victories for Europe, and when Ireland won the Six Nations two years in a row, and when the British and Irish Lions won the tour of Australia in 2013."
The list goes on - she was on the spot when Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow to win the Champions League and most recently when Rory won the Irish Open for the first time.
Her list of personal sporting heroes is long and she has great respect for the people she interviews. She has become friends through her work with world boxing champ Carl Frampton and his wife Christine, who she greatly admires: "They are the same away from the cameras: what you see is what you get. They are lovely people, who put family first, and I love that they haven't changed a bit since I first met them. They are very grounded and don't get carried away with success.
"After each of Carl's fights, we've been in the dressing room to capture the celebrations," she says. "There are pictures of his kids and wife stuck to the wall, and the first thing Carl always asks is: 'where's Christine?' It's lovely to see how close they are as a family."
While on the surface it appears a glamorous lifestyle, having front row tickets to all the big sporting events and access to the stars, Ruth does work hard and appreciates all the opportunities her job brings.
She says: "I am a massive sports fan; I get to report on what I love, so I feel very privileged to go to some of the world's best sports events. When I'm there I don't take it for granted.
"A lot of hard work goes in. For the last five years, I've mostly travelled around on my own with a camera, tripod and laptop covering most stories on my own. Still, to have experienced these great sporting occasions has been amazing."
And while jetting around the globe to the top international sports events is all in a day's work for Ruth, she says some of the memorable experiences are of the people she meets in transit.
"I was en route to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand flying from Belfast to Heathrow and I was sitting beside this 70-year-old woman from Belfast and she was going for a girls' weekend. She told me her life story about being married to a US marine and how her daughter went on to become Miss World. The flight was the fastest hour of my life and I wished she could've been beside me on the long-haul flight to New Zeland. I always end up talking to the person beside me on the plane because I'm a people person."
Outside of work Ruth says it's all about spending what spare time she has with family or friends: "I love going to the cinema and am big into comedies - Will Ferrell is my hero - he is comedic genius. I do work a lot, so free time is very precious so simple things such as meeting someone for coffee, going for a run or sitting down to read a good book are the best ways for me to chill out.
"Sad as it sounds, I love reading sports autobiographies - the last one I read was Open by Andre Agassi."
Travelling is something of a busman's holiday for Ruth so she often retreats to Donegal or the north coast to Portrush or Portstewart to enjoy the scenic surroundings.
On her most recent overseas jaunt to America, though, work was not on the agenda: "I spent two weeks in Boston and New York so the first half of the break was seeing all the amazing sights, then it was off to Florida for a beach break. This gave me time to put my feet up and dive into a book. Often this is the only time I get to really enjoy reading. I'm a hard copy girl, too, though. I don't have a Kindle and have just never really got into that, I prefer a book - I love the feel of a book.
"I love music too and my iPad is also loaded up with everthing from Elvis to jazz and current pop tunes."
And those natural communication skills come into play when Ruth is working, when she manages to elicit the best from our home-grown sporting stars.
She says: "One thing about sports people from here is they don't forget where they've come from. Rory is one of the world's biggest sports stars and yet he is just a normal guy from Holywood, who will stop and ask you how you are when he sees you.
"And George Best was always someone I would have loved to have met. I hear stories from cameramen in work about what a normal guy he was and I've read about him. I did my dissertation on him at university. When the NI team were flying out from George Best City Airport this week, I did think it was a real shame we never got to see him at a major tournament.
"Pat Jennings told me recently that's his one regret for George. Now, I would love to interview David Beckham. I've always been a Beckham fan, from the first day I saw him in the Glory Glory Man United magazine, as a kid, and they said he was a star of the future. I followed his career on loan to Preston - I would check the internet for team line-ups to see if he was starting and so on! He seems like a really nice man and I'd love to get the chance to interview him some day."
Ruth is naturally excited about the Euros and will be staying near the training base in Lyon. The team is in a separate hotel but journalists will get to see them during regular media opportunities.
She says: "We'll be traveling to Nice, Lyon and Paris for the games. I've reported on Northern Ireland for over 10 years now so I've got to know a lot of the current squad. I was so pleased for them when they qualified after years of disappointment. I never thought I'd be going to a major tournament to report on Northern Ireland."
When she gets back from France she is looking forward to being bridesmaid for a close friend she went to school with and can't wait to dress up: "Sport takes up so much of my life, that it is nice to look forward to something away from work.
"I've really enjoyed the lovely makeover this week for the Belfast Telegraph from Keris Weir, who did my hair and gave me a few tap-in extensions, and Cathy Wallace, who did my make-up. I liked it so much; I'll be going back to them before the wedding!
"I'm not the type of girl who's dreamed of her wedding since childhood, and knows how many children she wants and by what age. I like to take life as it comes, so if it happens for me, that would be lovely. My ideal man would probably be someone like Ryan Reynolds, he's a funny guy and I love to have a laugh!"
Celebrity stylist Keris is a cut above in the world of hairdressing
The lovely Ruth Gorman’s make-over comes courtesy of Keris Weir of MG hair salon in Lurgan, a multi award-winning stylist best known for winning the E4 TV series, Great British Hairdresser.
“We gave Ruth a re-vamp for the Euros, just to freshen up her colour with soft lowlights and highlights,” says Keris.
“Ruth has always been quite fair and she wanted to tone down her colour, so we’ve gone for a nice soft blonde, rather than that iridescent silver that was in recently. It’s more of a warmer Californian blonde, like the Victoria Secrets models: sunny.”
Keris (35) also specialises in hair extensions and styles hairpieces for cancer patients from Craigavon hospital, helping them through the often distressing process of coping as their hair starts to grow back.
For Ruth’s make-over, Keris opted for subtle tape-in extensions.
“Ruth’s hair is fine but there’s a lot of it,” she explains. “Tape-in extensions are kinder to that sort of texture and they’re also perfect for anyone who has lost density from hormonal treatments and alopecia. There was no need to cut Ruth’s hair. All it needed was a bit of subtle enhancement.”
Named after a Welsh relative, Keris (35) lives with her baby daughter, Sienna, and her partner David Stewart (29), a Tayto Crisps sales representative. She qualified as a hairdresser in her early 20s and has taken part in contests all over the world, winning numerous titles including Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year and All Ireland Hairdresser of the Year three times. She is also a British Hairdressing Champion, British Bridal Champion, British Ladies Cut & Blow-dry Champion and Goldwell Master Colourist.
To perfect Ruth’s look for her coverage of the European championships, Keris collaborated with make-up artist Cathy Wallace.
“Ruth likes a strong eye and we used tobacco and rust colours. She’s quite nervous about make-up but she loved the look,” says Keris. “We kept her lips nude, which is on-trend for a day look; berry colours are in, but more for night. For her reporting, Ruth likes a demure, professional look, polished and groomed, to represent Northern Ireland well. Gone are the days of heavily tattooed eyebrows and big, big hair. It’s a more organic look now.”
Keris herself is a great ambassador for her country, as the winner of E4’s hugely popular reality show, Great British Hairdresser, in 2011.
A down-to-earth and inspiring woman, she battled alongside nine other high street hairdressers for the chance of a dream job with celebrity crimper James Brown, having her every move filmed for the high-rated TV series.
Based in London for the next three years before returning home to run the family salon in Lurgan alongside her brother Gerald (33), she worked as a session stylist, commissioned for television shows including The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, while also touring the world to work with supermodels including Kate Moss and Nicole Scherzinger.
A day at the office often meant styling models or celebrities for glossy magazine photo shoots for the likes of Vogue, Glamour, Harper Bazaar, Tatler, OK and Heat.
Among the big names Keris has worked with are A-listers Jennifer Lawrence, Terri Seymour, Anne Hathaway, The Saturdays, Alexandra Burke, Meg Matthews and Kimberly Stewart.
“Anne Hathaway has amazing thick hair,” she says. “Kate Moss has quite fine hair so we had pieces put in, to enhance it. I was quite impressed by all the celebrities I worked with. They all seemed quite intrigued by this country girl working in a backstreet salon!
“Admittedly it’s not very glam here in Union Street but I like to think the salon is a hidden treasure.”
Since returning to Lurgan three years ago, Keris launched her own workshop road show, touring Ireland to visit salons, training young stylists in modern methods of hair styling and cutting.
While her latest role working with cancer patients and those with alopecia is very different from anything she has done before, she says the rewards and sense of achievement are also like nothing else she has experienced.
“I have relaxed into it and enjoy it now,” says Keris. “It is very different from working with someone who has come into the salon for their usual wash, cut and blow-dry.
“I don’t think we realise how lucky we are to have our hair, even though most of us complain about having to get up and do our hair in the morning before we go to work.
“It is extremely sensitive because most patients are going through a very tough time and are anxious. But when they see the quality of the wigs and get a feel for the hair piece they usually start to relax.
“I feel very privileged to be doing this and when you see young children who have lost their hair, it is very humbling.
“Children, though, seem to be more resilient than adults and they have amazed me by how upbeat and positive they are. They are usually excited about getting their new hair, while it’s the poor parents who are holding the anxiety for them.
“It has opened my eyes about a whole new part of the industry going on under our noses and I am just happy to be part of it and to be able to help people through it. It is so rewarding to see the anxiety lifting off people when you have styled their hairpiece and they are happy with it.
“When you get it right, you can just see the weight lifting off people.”
MG Hair Boutique, 153e Union Street, Lurgan, tel: 028 3832 5543. You can see examples of Keris’s stunning work at her Facebook pages — Keris Weir or MG Hair Spa, Beauty and Personal Care