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Zoe Salmon: What really makes my blood boil

The Big Ask

Lady in red: former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon
Lady in red: former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon
Zoe Salmon
Zoe's mum Priscilla
Zoe with her brother and sisters and mum on holiday
Zoe presenting BBC children’s programme Blue Peter
Zoe with her dad Joe
Zoe with husband William Corrie
Zoe with her mum Priscilla
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to television personality and former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon (39) who lives in Newtownards with husband William Corrie.

Q: Tell us about your childhood.

A: We all grew up in Bangor and the family home is still there, which is nice. It's lovely going back there, especially at the weekend. I have a bit of an attachment to it because it holds all of our memories - possibly too many though. The other week I was there trying to find something and I came across all this stuff that any normal person would have thrown out. It's not that I'm a hoarder, I'm just overly sentimental.

I have two sisters, Lara (40) and Naomi (37), and a brother, Julian (36). We're all about a year apart in age, meaning that at one point my mum had four kids under the age of five, so she was certainly kept busy.

My dad Joe was a company director for a floor-covering distributor and wholesalers. My mum Priscilla was a full-time mummy right up until myself and my siblings had gone through all our schooling and university. She waited until we were all in our 20s before she went to South Eastern Regional College (SERC) and worked in an admin role for the hairdressing training department in Bangor. She got her HND in therapeutic scalp studies and she trained in trichology, she knew all this amazing stuff about hair.

That was her lifelong dream really - she always wanted to be a hairdresser, but she waited until we all got sorted first.

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Zoe's mum Priscilla

I would say I was interested in presenting from a young age. My mum used to bake a lot when I was a kid and I loved talking through everything as if I was presenting my own TV show. I was always a little bit of a chatterbox and it's all developed since then.

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When I won Miss Northern Ireland in 1999, I was doing bits and pieces for TV, nothing major, but it gave me an insight into what presenting would be like. I remember thinking, 'this would be so much fun to do'.

I think because I grew up doing amateur dramatics and tap dance and modern dance, I had always loved being on the stage. My thespian side combined with my love of chatting made me realise I would love to work in television one day.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: Qualifying as a lawyer. It's not just the five years at Queen's University, Belfast, it's all the hard work that I put in throughout school. You can't just decide at 18 that you want to be a lawyer, you have to have an educational background. I think from when I was about four years old, I was just really keen to learn. I loved learning and wanted to be the best I could be. I worked really hard for my 11-plus, my GCSEs and my A-Levels and now when I think about the letters behind my name (LLB CPLS) I don't just think of them as my law degree and exams, I think about all that hard work before it.

I remember we were driving by Queen's University when I was a child and I thought 'that's where all the clever people go, and I want to go there'. So, when I think about what I'm most proud of, I think of that little girl in the back of the car who used to drive by Queen's and think, 'I'm going to go there one day' - and she did.

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Zoe with her brother and sisters and mum on holiday

Q: The one regret you wish you could amend?

A: The way I look at life is that yes, there are disappointing things that happen that aren't the most positive, but I don't really have any regrets at all.

I only ever seem to regret the things I didn't do, but not the things I did do.

Even if I think about all the things I have done that maybe weren't that positive, I just think, 'look, that happened and it didn't work out, but it's a great story or a lesson well learned'.

I love the quote by Nelson Mandela: 'I never lose, I either win or learn.'

For me, it's just a case of if it didn't work out the way I wanted it to, it's not that I regret doing it, it's just 'okay, I didn't win from that situation, but what have I learnt from it?'

Q: Do you have any phobias?

A: I don't. I used to have a phobia of spiders. I remember as a teenager, I was brushing my teeth and I felt something at the side of my face - it was a massive spider. The way I reacted was so irrational, I screamed and cried, and it wasn't just for five minutes.

Recently, I've really changed my mind about spiders and now I kind of love them. The other week, I saw a spider with a baby spider, and I thought, 'Aw, that's like a little spider family'.

People are too quick to kill spiders or remove them from their home and they might be hurting them or breaking their little legs, so when I see a spider now, I just walk on by and leave it be. It makes me kind of sad now - I just think if you're killing them, you're breaking up a little spider family.

Q: The temptation you cannot resist?

A: I have such a sweet tooth, it's ridiculous. I honestly do not know what I would do without ice-cream or chocolate. My favourite ice-cream is Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and when it comes to chocolate I have just always loved Mars bars.

I have no willpower. If I had chocolate, biscuits or ice cream in the house, I could not go to bed without eating them. Thankfully my husband is on the same wavelength as me, so we just keep our treats for the weekend.

Q: Your number one prized possession?

A: My gold Blue Peter badge. They are so hard to get your hands on. I just love that a lot of my heroes and other amazing people have been rewarded one too - the Queen has one! I got awarded mine when I was leaving Blue Peter and I was really blown away.

Having been a presenter on the show for a few years, I was used to meeting incredible people and handing out these badges, so it was a real surprise to have been awarded one because it's not the norm. It was a real honour.

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Zoe presenting BBC children’s programme Blue Peter

Q: The book that's most impacted your life?

A: I would definitely say the Bible. From a very young age, I was taught about religion throughout school and Sunday school and I went on to study Religious Studies at GCSE level.

I think a lot of the morals, principles and the way I want to live my life stems from being taught things from the Bible.

Q: If you had the power or authority, what would you do?

A: If it was possible, I would love to travel back in time to spend more time with loved ones who aren't here anymore and also to relive incredible moments that at the time are so amazing that it's hard to take everything in. There are certain milestones in my life that I wish I could remember a little more clearly. I think the excitement of some events means they are harder to remember, which is why I really love photographs.

Q: What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A: Definitely violence. I absolutely hate unnecessary violence. I think it's one thing watching the news and being aware of violence that's happening around the world. I think it's good not to be ignorant, however, where I draw the line is when I walk into a friend's house and they're watching a show or movie that is just so violent. I hate all those action films and video games that are filled with excessive swearing, guns and unnecessary violence.

I think they sensationalise violence - that really makes my blood boil. I can't watch anything like that, so I just avoid them entirely. I think there is enough violence in the world without making it entertainment.

Q: Who has most influenced you in life?

A: My parents. They have both had such an influence on my life. They were always there when I was growing up and I know that sadly, that isn't always the case for a lot of children. Sometimes, a parent works away from home and isn't there a lot of the time. I was very lucky that my mum was there 24/7 and my dad only worked nine to five during the week, so he was there every evening to help us with our homework and tuck us in at night.

They were family people through and through - they spent all their time with us because we were their world.

I look up to my mum because she had the patience of a saint and such a good heart. I look up to my dad because he's so hard working and worked to provide for his family - I get my work ethic from him.

I feel like I was 100% supported by my parents.

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Zoe with her dad Joe

Q: Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?

A: I have been asked this question before and I mentioned people like the Queen and William Shakespeare, but it's changed now.

If I'm really being true to myself and if you could really grant me my wish, I would absolutely say I would love to have my mum back. I wish I had more time with her.

I would also invite my dad's dad, my Granda Salmon - he died when I was really young, and I have very few memories of him. I would love to get to know him as an adult.

I would have mum's mum there, my Granny Pennock, because again, she died when I was really young. I remember going to her funeral and I was so young that I had to sit in the car the whole time. I would love to get to know her, too.

I would love to sit down with them all because they are people who are part of my life, but I would have liked them to be part of my life for much longer.

Q: The best piece of advice you ever received?

A: My mum always used to say, 'the world is your oyster' and I love that. It's such a simple saying that everyone has heard.

I remember when I was 10 years old, a dance teacher told me I was too old to start learning how to tap dance - and that's just nonsense.

The world is your oyster at any point in your life.

If you have a passion or an ambition, just do it. You can do anything if you just set your mind to it - don't let anyone tell you that you can't.

How dare someone put limitations on your dreams.

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Zoe with her mum Priscilla

Q: The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A: I love calligraphy. I love handwritten notes and writing letters to people, and I think in this digital age it's not a common thing to do.

I love handwritten 'thank you' notes, and I love receiving them. I think I write more than I receive and I think it's just because people are much quicker to send a text these days.

Q: The poem that touches your heart?

A: My Granda Pennock was a poet and he wrote locally. He published a book called A Mixed Bag of Various Verse - a lot of his poems are biblical based because he was a devout Christian man, but some are about members of our family, too. I remember as a little girl being fascinated by the fact that my granda had published a book.

I thought he was famous, but really he was just a local poet. It probably wasn't a big deal, but to me it was massive. I love his poem 'A Boy's New Sister' which is actually about my cousin Lyndsay when his little sister Sarah-Jane was born.

Q: The happiest moment of your life?

A: When William asked me to marry him. I think there's something really special about the moment someone asks, 'Will you marry me?' A lot of people plan engagements now but, for me, I love surprises. Our engagement was so lovely because it was such a big surprise - we hadn't talked about marriage or rings. I couldn't believe that he had picked out a ring for me and it was perfect. It was a lovely double surprise.

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Zoe with husband William Corrie

Q: And the saddest moment of your life?

A: When my mum passed away far too soon. I had just got married in April 2016 and my mum passed away that September.

Q: The one event that made a difference in your life?

A: The day I got married changed everything. I then moved in with William, and I had never lived with a partner before.

It changed where I lived, who I lived with and how I worked. I was flying back and forth from here to London and I sold my London flat when I got married.

Even little things changed, like I moved from my gym in Bangor to a gym that my husband goes to. It changed Christmas as well - I spent every year with my family and now we alternate whose family house we go to each year.

Q: What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A: To be happy and healthy, mentally and physically. I think that's a great foundation for anything.

Q: What's the philosophy you live by?

A: Something my dad often says which is 'it could always be worse'.

When things go wrong in life, sometimes it's too easy to feel down about it but I think the quicker you realise that it's not the end of the world, the better.

So, always count your blessings and be grateful for what you have, because it could always be worse.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

A: At school, I was always called 'The Smiler' and I think it's nice that people thought that way about me.

I think when people think about me or hear my name, and they have a smile on their face, then that would be enough - just to be remembered with a smile.

 

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