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'People thought women DJs were all about ladettes and wild times, but I was a tomboy'

DJ Edith Bowman, who curently presents a breakfast show on Virgin Radio, tells Gabrielle Fagan of the health regime she follows following diagnosis of a heart defect and reveals the songs that are special to her

By Gabrielle Fagan

Scottish DJ Edith Bowman (43), who first found fame in 2001 on MTV alongside Cat Deeley, and for 10 years hosted shows on BBC Radio One, currently presents a breakfast show on Virgin Radio.

She's married to Tom Smith, lead singer of indie rock band, Editors and the couple have two sons, Rudi (8) and Spike (4).

Due to a cardiac problem first diagnosed in 2004, she places high importance on her physical well-being but also concentrates on keeping her mind fit also.

She says: "When doctors discovered I had a treatable heart defect (a two-way valve rather than a three-way valve, which puts excessive strain on the organ), it meant I had to have my two boys by caesarean instead of natural births. I see a specialist once a year for a check-up and so far my heart hasn't deteriorated which is brilliant. I don't worry about it, because I know it's all under control.

"As a precaution, I also have a mammogram every two years because 10 years ago my mum had breast cancer.

"As well as running, hot yoga (bikram) and swimming, I practise mindfulness and meditation. I use an app, Quility, designed for parents, which helps me ground myself, feel calm, and take stock. I believe a happy me equals happy kids. It's not selfish to look after yourself."

Being in the public eye fans expect her to behave in a certain way, but Edith shuns the stereotypical DJ hard-living image.

"I've always tried to stay true to myself - years ago, everyone thought being a woman DJ was all about ladettes, rock stars and wild times. Actually, I was never wild and crazy - definitely never as wild as Zoe Ball and 'Coxy' (Sara Cox)! I was a tomboy more than anything, and just having fun. Qualities I value, and hope I demonstrate, are being loyal and honest.

"I still go to gigs and festivals, but nowadays take my boys when I can. Rudi was at his first festival, Glastonbury, when he was 10 days old! Mind you, it's quite 'wild' at our house on a Saturday evening when we have a family dance party with disco ball effect lights and Spike plays on his drums with drumsticks that glow in the dark!"

She may now be in her forties but for Edith age is simply a number and still approaches life in the same manner as when she was starting out in showbusiness.

"There's an obsession in this country about how old people are. I never think about being in forties because I feel younger than I did 10 years ago, and more comfortable, confident and at ease with myself as the years go by.

"I haven't changed either. I still find it difficult to live in the slow lane of life, always cram too much into my day, and I'm still starstruck when I meet my idols.

"I'd hate to become blase and cynical. Recently I met the cast of the Star Wars movie, Rogue One, and American actress Annette Bening - amazing experiences."

However, parenthood has brought its own dilemmas - particularly working mum's guilt. "I have working mum guilt all the time, but try not to beat myself up about it. For instance, I can't do the morning school runs because of my breakfast radio show, so I keep in touch by text to make sure everything's running smoothly."

She adds: "Juggling can be hard as Tom's busy performing or recording a lot of the time. But we share childcare with the help of a fabulous nanny. Tom's my rock, we're always looking out for one another, and we're a great team with the boys. I couldn't ask for a better dad for my kids - he makes them laugh like nobody else can."

While admitting to the odd twinge of guilt, her advice to other mums and dads is not to try to be the perfect parent.

"I'm an ambassador for the Fruit Shoot It's My Thing campaign, to champion children being free to find their passions and express their individuality. It doesn't surprise me at all that, according to their research, 80% of UK parents feel there's too much pressure for kids to live up to society's expectations, including academic achievements.

"I definitely feel a pressure to be the 'perfect' parent as it's all too easy nowadays to compare yourself to the 'perfect' families on social media. Luckily, my mum gave me the wisest piece of advice about bringing up kids, which was: 'It's all trial and error and you can only do your best'. That's so true. One minute, you think parenting can never get any better and the next minute, one of them is projectile vomiting all over your top! Every day there's something to make you laugh or surprise you - Rudi's just told us when he grows up he wants to be a TV wildlife presenter, a DNA scientist, a pilot or a guitarist! Who knew? We just try to encourage them as much as we can and not pressurise them. Parenting's unpredictable, brilliant and terrifying, but so fulfilling."

Edith recalls that her Scottish accent was seen as a barrier to a career in radio when she started out, but that only made her more determined to succeed.

She says: "When I started out, I was told constantly that no one with an accent like mine (she's from Fife, Scotland) would make it on to radio. I still have a folder of letters from companies, some of whom I've ended up working for, suggesting I tone down my accent or take elocution lessons.

"I love change and think it's healthy to do things which scare you and take you out of your comfort zone. After 10 years at the BBC, on Radio One, I'm having a brilliant time with my Virgin breakfast show where I try to be a 'mate in the mornings', offering a mix of music, interviews with showbusiness stars, and fun items. I'm as passionate about music and movies as I ever was and love every minute of my work and hope I show my sons that work is about doing what you love."

Edith Bowman is working with Fruit Shoot on the It's My Thing campaign, celebrating individuality and self-expression in children. Visit the FruitShootGB Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FruitShootGB) for tips and advice on how to nurture child creativity and individuality, as well as the chance to win prizes to help children discover the thing they are passionate about.

The soundtrack to Edith's life

1. Into My Arms by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: "We played that while our son, Rudi, was being born in hospital in 2008."

2. Any track by Icelandic band, Sigur Ros: "I love their music and one of their albums was the soundtrack for Spike's birth."

3. Coles Corner by Richard Hawley: "Tom and I didn't have a first dance at our wedding in 2013, instead we had a last dance, and this was perfect - it's so moody and romantic."

4. Roscoe by Midlake: "They're my favourite band and if I need a mood boost, I'll go for a long walk and listen to one of their albums on my headphones. This particular track reminds me of when Tom and I had just started going out. It was love at first sight for both of us."

5. Simply The Best by Tina Turner: "It totally makes me think of my mum, Eleanor, who does the best Tina Turner impersonation and will put on a show instantly in her kitchen. If someone asked her to go on TV's Lip Sync show, she'd definitely wipe the floor with any other competitors."

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