In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to Cool FM presenter Melissa Riddell (27), who also blogs about fashion, beauty and lifestyle on her Instagram page. She lives outside Portglenone with her family and has a boyfriend called Scott.
Q. Tell us about your childhood
A. I had a really wonderful childhood. I grew up in the countryside outside Portglenone where we still live now - with my mum and dad, my big sister Sharon and my two younger brothers, Mark and Robert.
Because we lived in the middle of nowhere, I feel like that was good for us as siblings. We were each other's best friends. We couldn't go out and play with people after school or anything because there's not really any houses around ours.
So, we grew up as a really close family and I think that's really nice. I hope to have that for my own children actually.
My dad, Ivan, is a farmer and my mum, Aileen, works for the civil service. We don't live on the farm though; it's about 200 metres down the road. It's where my dad's 'home house' is. I'm glad because at least there aren't any smelly cows around me!
Happy family: Melissa with her sister Sharon and brothers Mark and Robert when they were kids
I went to primary school in the countryside and there were only six people in my class - three boys and three girls. I feel like I grew up in a bubble and I was very naive, but I do think children should be able to keep their innocence, so I'm glad of that. Then I went to secondary school; I went to Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt. I loved drama, so I went on to study it at university in Liverpool.
I always wanted to be a presenter, but you can't really go and do a course on presenting. I loved the aspect of performance and I thought that would help me hone my skills and make me confident in front of an audience. There's definitely that sort of crossover between presenting and performing - you are in front of an audience, you have to speak well and clearly, and you have to have that confidence.
So that's what I did. I went from a really small village school to Magherafelt, which is still a small town compared to Belfast, but for me that was a big step going from six people in my year to one hundred!
Then onto the big city of Liverpool which I absolutely loved. I blossomed a little when I went there; I feel like I learnt so much more about the world. Northern Ireland is small, and in Liverpool I was able to meet so many more people who had different viewpoints. And I guess that's how I came to be who I am today.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. I'm most proud of my job at Cool FM. I think when you come from Northern Ireland, which is such a tiny part of the world, and you tell people you want to be a presenter, they're kind of like, "How are you going to do that?" because it doesn't often happen around here.
So, I always sort of thought nobody - aside from my family - really believed in me or thought it was going to happen.
On air: Melissa Riddell landed her dream job at Cool FM
However, I believe that hard work and determination pays off, and I've always thought this. Somebody has to do it - I don't see why it should be somebody else doing the job if I can and want to do it too! I'm really proud of that and I know my parents are too which makes me so happy. Of course there are loads of moments in my life where I've been proud, like when I graduated, but the thing I'm most proud of is where I get to work.
I made my dreams come true.
Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?
A. I know it's a cliche, but I don't really like to have regrets. There are things in my life that have happened, and I've thought, "I wish I'd have known and maybe I would have done something differently", but I really believe that everything happens for a reason.
I've went through things and at the time I just thought, "Why is this happening? This is so unfair" but now I can clearly see that particular path led me to where I am now. And where I am right now in my life is so happy and I'm so content - I have such a wonderful boyfriend and a wonderful family. I think that every step you take leads you to where you're meant to go, and sometimes you have to go through the bad to appreciate the good even more.
Q. Any phobias?
A. There's not really anything I'm actually afraid of. The common ones are spiders and heights, and I love heights, so it's definitely not that.
I always watch I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here! and I think THAT would be my worst nightmare - because as much as I'm not absolutely terrified of anything, if they were crawling all over me I'd probably be giving you a completely different answer!
Q. The temptation you cannot resist?
A. Anybody who knows me knows the answer to this, and it's Nutella. I just spoon it straight from the jar. I've tried to ration myself to one spoonful a day, so that's where we're at now.
A. I'm definitely a girl who really likes her things; I love clothes and I love shoes. I do enjoy material possessions, but to think about my most prized possession, I put myself in the scenario of, "If your house was burning down, what's the one thing you would grab?"
I think that I would be fine without everything as long as I had my family. Although my family are not possessions, they're the thing I couldn't live without - the material things are replaceable.
Q. The book that's most impacted your life?
A. I love books and I've read so many during lockdown. I love reading fiction and getting lost in a story, and when I get a book, I honestly can't put it down - but there's not just one book that has impacted my life.
What did impact my life - and probably not for the best because it gave me a lot of unrealistic expectations of how my life was going to turn out - were fairy tales.
I loved all fairy tales when I was younger like Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and all other Disney stories. They definitely had an impact on how I thought things were going to go. I was going to meet my prince and get married, but life really isn't like that.
Q. If you had the power or authority, what would you do?
A. I think there are loads of things that would be wonderful to change, political and prevalent, but I honestly don't think I would be educated enough in the subject to comment. So, to keep it simple, I would make Monday a part of the weekend. I really hate Mondays!
Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?
A. I'm not a person who gets angered easily, but I definitely don't like unnecessary rudeness. I think manners are so easily carried. I cannot stand being spoken to rudely and I cannot stand hearing someone else be spoken to that way either. It's so easy to just be polite, even if it's just the basics - you don't even have to be overly nice. But to be rude to someone? Ugh, I hate that!
Q. Who has most influenced you in life?
A. My parents have definitely shaped me into who I am today. They have always been my main support system and they still are. It is and always will be my main goal in life to make them proud.
Melissa met her boyfriend Scott through her love of MMA
Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?
A. First would be Hilary Duff, my childhood hero. I absolutely loved her and wanted to be just like her. She could sing, she could act, she could do anything. Disney stars often went off the rails, but Hilary Duff seems to be the one who always kept it together. Now she's married and has got a beautiful family. I'd love to sit down and talk to her; I think we could be friends.
Then, I'm going to cheat a little because my second guest is actually two - Ant and Dec. They're a package deal, though. I'd love to sit down with them because they're so funny, but also because they've won the NTA's Best Presenter award 19 years running. I could definitely pick up some tips from them.
My third guest would be Audrey Hepburn. She was so classy and elegant. She was stylish and opinionated. She seemed like a woman who wasn't afraid to be herself in a time where maybe it wasn't as easy to be like that. I would love to chat with her.
Q. The best piece of advice you ever received?
A. I love a good a quote. I post positive quotes and pieces of advice on my Instagram story every day. The best piece of advice I've ever received is the five-by-five rule: "If it's not going to matter in five years, don't spend more than five minutes being upset over it." And that's definitely something that is easier said than done, but I do think it's a good thing to live by.
Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?
A. I'm actually interested in MMA (mixed martial arts). It's partly due to my boyfriend Scott, who is an MMA fighter and I met him through Leah McCourt, a pro MMA fighter from Belfast.
I met Leah at a dinner, and she told me to come to her classes. At the time, I thought, "I couldn't go to her classes. I can't beat people up. This is ridiculous. I don't punch people!"
But it's not like that - the classes are completely non-contact and it's just so interesting.
I really enjoy the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu side of it and I wish I had been doing Jiu-Jitsu since I was four or five-years-old because it's so technical. It's like playing chess. You never really know what's going to happen next and you're always waiting for the next move. And it's an incredible workout as well.
Q. The poem that touches your heart?
A. There's a really short one by the poet Maya Angelou: "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." I just think it's lovely.
Q. The happiest moment of your life?
A. I've had many happy moments - when I graduated and when I bagged my job at Cool FM - but when I think of my truly happiest moments, they're just when I felt completely free.
I went to Morocco with my best friends and my sister and we climbed the Atlas Mountains. About halfway up there was a waterfall and we all decided to jump in and have a little swim around. I always remember my sister saying, "Melissa, I have never seen you so happy."
I love the water anyway, but I just felt completely free and truly, truly happy. There was nothing else going on at that moment; just a waterfall and all my friends were there. It was lovely. I also think a lot of my happiest moments are still ahead of me, which is a nice thought in itself.
Q. And the saddest?
A. I haven't experienced an awful lot of loss, but one of the saddest experiences of my life was three years ago when we lost my granny Minnie. She lived to 94 and she was such a huge part of my life. She was an incredible baker. She was just a typical granny. She always baked fresh soda and wheaten, and she made the most amazing birthday cakes. My birthday cakes until I was about 12 were always made by her and they were always the most delicious. I would get a princess one and the one my granny made, and the princess one was never eaten because granny's was the best.
She was such an incredible woman and I loved her so much.
Watching her deteriorate so quickly, now that I'm older and understand, was so sad. It was also so hard to watch my mum's heart break as she lost her mum.
Q. The one event that made a difference in your life?
A. Almost a year ago, we'd been to Bali and we were home for about three days when my sister, who is only 28, had a stroke - and it changed everything. She recovered incredibly well and if you met her now, you wouldn't know at all.
Close bond: Cool FM presenter Melissa Riddell with her sister Sharon who suffered a stoke last year
She was in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for three weeks and they were absolutely incredible; that stroke ward was amazing. My brother Mark is a doctor, in his second year of medicine, and he had worked on that stroke ward for four months. So, he knew everyone and he was able to explain so much to us. The doctors did so many tests and never really found out what caused Sharon's stroke, but they were able to tick off things that it definitely wasn't. So even though they couldn't find out what actually happened, they were able to say what it wasn't, so there's a comfort in that. They checked everything and they really don't think it will happen again. It seemed to be a freak accident.
But at one point we thought we were going to lose her and that has given our family so much perspective. We were a close family before anyway, but it's brought us together in a way that I don't think anything else could have. I feel like we're a lot more carefree.
My parents as well wouldn't even worry as much about things. When you experience something like that where you think you could lose someone, nothing else matters.
That's definitely changed my family, but for the better because we're even closer now.
Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you onward?
A. To make myself and my parents proud. I never like to be disappointed in myself and I don't want to have any "What ifs?" when I'm older.
Q. What's the philosophy you live by?
A. "Feel the fear and do it anyway." I love that. Years ago I would have let my fear of failure stop me from even trying, then someone said to me, "Well Melissa, if you don't try then you also fail."
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. I think when you're younger you want to change the world and to have made a huge impact and be remembered for that, but I think as I get older, I just want people to say, "She was really nice. She was happy and she was kind."
Melissa presents the late show on Cool FM from 10pm to 1am, with the iconic Cool Goes Quiet starting at 11pm. You can follow her on Instagram at @melissariddell