Laura Whitmore: I'm loving my rock chick MTV lifesyle
Laura Whitmore has found love with a rock ’n’ roller. She tells Barry Egan how The Coronas singer Danny O’Reilly ‘gets her’ — including her non-stop pottering.
Laura Whitmore told FHM magazine in September, 2011: “I don't like men who try too hard. If a guy looks in the mirror more than I do it's a bad sign. I like scruffy, but not smelly.” Her rock star boyfriend, lead singer of The Coronas and son of Mary Black, is presumably neither. He is getting his hair cut around the corner as we speak.
Laura read the paper as Danny O'Reilly, a Manchester United fan, watched his beloved team's game in the pub before she pitched into the Dublin hotel where we met, looking like a heyday Brigitte Bardot in quintessential rock chick mode: she is the girl from Bray, Co Wicklow, who became the biggest thing on MTV since sliced bread.
They are meeting Danny's parents for dinner later. She is wearing a watch he got her for Christmas. He asked, did she want a fancy-schmancy watch? She said no, she just wanted a cheap kid's watch with a funny face. So she got one from him, she says, one half of love's young dream. She has a love tattoo on her left wrist. She has just bought a flat in Islington in London and Danny has moved in with her.
“Don't tell my mum,” she laughs. “Actually, she knows.
“It's mad,” she laughs, “I go to London and meet an Irish man.”
She met Florence Welch from Florence & The Machine on the plane over from London recently. When Florence, who was on the cover of Vogue magazine last month, invited her to come to her band's sold-out show at the O2 Arena in Dublin that night, Laura had to politely decline.
“I have to go to my mum's retirement party tonight,” Laura told her.
The adorable — if quirky — Irish girl who in April 2008 beat some 3,000 other applicants on Pick Me MTV to win a MTV presenter job, loves to have fun. She is implacably not full of herself, despite being someone who spends her life jetting off around the world to interview the great and the glamorous of the music world for a television show watched by millions upon millions.
“When I first started the MTV job,” she says sipping her peppermint tea, “I didn't know whether people were laughing along with me or at me. Or maybe it is the Irish mannerisms. You get away with murder, I find, when you're Irish. It's the banter.”
When Laura first moved to London, she knew no one. “Now everyone is living in London. Pretty much the entire country of Ireland is over there. I didn't think about it: I was just so excited to be living in London and working for MTV.” Prior to that, Laura had lived near Glasnevin in Dublin when she was going to Dublin City University (DCU), where she studied journalism for four years. She also spent six months in Boston to do a semester “for free” she recalls.
“Some poor guy from Boston University had to pay about 25 grand to come over to DCU.”
Laura also worked at Newstalk (“it was a great experience”) in the south and before that East Coast Radio. “I covered live pig races in Arklow. I'd be like, ‘This is Laura Whitmore and the big pig didn't win, he was, er, too fat. Now back to the studio',” Laura — suddenly more Bridget Jones than Brigitte Bardot — laughs at the memory.
Because she is famous now, everyone seems to know Laura Whitmore's business. Her parents broke up when she was three years of age. She says she has no memory of them ever being together — therefore no memory of them breaking up. She laughs that she was raised in her mum's two-bed flat in Bray to the sound of the sea — “and,” she laughs, “also the sound of the DART [train] coming in and out, too.” Her mother, Carmel Whitmore, was a civil servant; her father, Sean McIvor, is a businessman.
“I think I got the best of both worlds because I had quality time with both,” she
says. “So I probably did better than a lot of my friends who didn't see as much of their parents.”
Did that — the break up — make her psychologically incapable of forming lasting romantic relationships?
“Oh my God! How deep are we going? Looking for a father figure!” she hoots with laughter unbridled. “No, because I always had a great relationship with him because I saw my dad every weekend.
“With my other friends, I doubt they saw their dad as much because he was working. So when I had my dad for a weekend, I had him. He would bring me to concerts where other people's dads weren't doing that back when they were younger.” So her mum wasn't embittered about men and her father wasn't cynical about women? I joke.
“No, not at all. It was quite a positive household. My mum has worked all her life. She retired yesterday. My mam worked for 41 years. She was a single working mother. I think I always had that mentality of you can do everything. You can have your kid. You can be a good mother. You can work. She was very independent.”
Asked if she wants to be a mother one day, she says: “Oh yeah, definitely, but not now. I'm still a kid right now. Well I'm not a kid. I'm 26,” Laura who was born on May 4, 1985, smiles. “But because I don't feel like I have a real job, I don't have much responsibility going on at the moment. I kind of live each day as it comes. I would definitely love kids one day ... when I grow up. You see, in my life I don't plan that much. I don't have a 10-year plan that I want to have this or that by this age.”
This is not strictly true.
The star of MTV tells me later that she had a list written when she was younger of Thirty Things To Do Before I'm Thirty. These things, she explains, involved “weird things” like Make Nice Chocolate Cake; Knit A Pair Of Socks. “It was not Have A House ...” says Laura, who has just bought a place.
If her father gave her the bug for music by bringing her to concerts; her mother almost killed her daughter's love of music. “Don't get me started!” she laughs. “She used to drive my car, a silver Ford Ka, and change the station to Country Mix. I'd be like: ‘What are you doing? Put it back!'.” Laura recalls that she started driving when she was 17 in her mum's Toyota Corolla. When she was 21, she got the aforementioned Ford Ka. Laura was 22 going on 23 when she moved to London on her own.
“I remember after a year in London, I was at an MTV party and a friend saying to me that it was such a brave thing to do to come over to London by myself. I never thought it was a big deal. It was my dream. I am so independent,” she says. “It is just ridiculous. I am too independent for my own good.” I ask her did she get that sense of independence from her mother.
“Maybe it is because of her. The thing is, we're quite alike. You have these two women in the one household trying not to kill each other. Like, we're so close and we're so alike. It was always normal for me. I never went through a divorce or anything.”
You wouldn't stay with a man if you weren't happy just to be in a relationship?
“Oh God, no. I'd rather be happy by myself. And that probably comes from my mam. She's very happy. So am I.”
Clearly. Laura was perhaps less happy when she saw what the stylists at lads' magazine FHM tried to get her to wear for the cover last year. She laughs that she definitely wasn't going to wear what the girls on the cover of FHM usually wear: next to nothing. A bikini bottom you could floss your teeth with, she laughs. She kept her dignity and in the end she appeared looking rock-chick cool in actual clothes.
The interview was another story entirely. The beauty revealed — shock horror — that her preferred method of dying “is to be eaten by a shark in her sleep” and that she isn't a fan of threesomes.
They forgot to ask her about the jokey ad that ended up on Dublin’s City Channel, which she made when she was at DCU: it featured a naked young man and Ms Whitmore holding his Y-fronts bemusedly. She was mortified when the clip was dug up when she appeared on the Podge & Rodge Show in 2010. She was mortified, too, when she first started at MTV. “It was hilarious. It was kind of funny how out of my depth I was,” she remembers. She has long since developed into one of the station's foremost stars now — interviewing everyone from Robert Downey Jr to Coldplay.
She bemoans having to interview the entire band sometimes when it is obvious the mumbling-into-their-beards rest of the band would rather let the star of the band do all the talking. “Lead singer syndrome,” she laughs.
Tell me about the lead singer of The Coronas. “Nice link! I like the way you got into that ...” she says suddenly scratching her neck furiously with a newfound nervousness.
“I just find it really uncomfortable talking about myself. It's weird though. I mean, ‘Do you talk about him? Or maybe it's best not to talk about him?' I kind of like keeping that” — she says, meaning their relationship — “to myself. But I love talking about him. I have been with Danny over a year now. He has just moved over to London. The thing is, we are so busy that even though we are living together, we haven't really lived together yet. Because he has a gig and I'm off somewhere else. So we kind of figured at least when we have a day off or two we can be in the one place. It is cheaper than getting the flight back here all the time.”
She and dishy Danny have been an item since January 2011. She knew him for a year before that. She met him at a music festival in Texas she was covering for MTV. Nothing happened. No snogs. Nothing. She says she didn't even think, hold that for the future.
She says she wanted to concentrate on her career, on herself, on her independence and find who she was. Twelve months or so later, Danny invited her to The Killers show in Dublin. She thought it was as a friend; she brought some girlfriends with her. Halfway through the concert she asked him were they on a date. She said she thought he had a girlfriend. He answered in the negative and said that he had always fancied her. Two months later they were going steady.
Laura recalls being near Euston station in London when Danny rang to say he was doing a gig in Paris that night. She jumped on the Eurostar and went to Paris for the night to see him. She was back in work in MTV at 7am the next day. “My boss didn't even know I was out of the country,” chortles the MTV superstar, who last November also took over from Caroline Flack to present ITV2's series I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
“He's the same with me. He'll try to meet me wherever I am.”
It's called going out, I joke...
“Most girls go on a holiday once a year with their boyfriend,” she points out. Laura is lucky enough to be able to go away with him a bit more than that. “I went to see him in Dubai. He had two gigs out there. But I could only go for three days. So I flew for eight hours and then I didn't even get to see his gigs because I had to come back as I had a meeting I couldn't miss. I got three days!”
So what's your Danny like then? Her doe eyes get more doe-eyed.
“He just dropped me off. He's lovely, He's my best friend,” she says, “and he gets me.”
And what is there to get about you?
“He gets my funny little ... I'm a crazy little girl. He get my lifestyle and gets things that I do. He understands me. I'm quirky. I'm a fiddler. I'm a potterer. I'm always pottering. I can never sit still for a second, even if I'm in the house. I have to be pottering,” she coos before going off to do just that, perhaps.
And, of course, to pick Danny up from the hairdressers around the corner.