In The Prime Time Of Her Life
Current affairs anchor – and Ireland's leading ‘yummy mummy’ according to the tabloids – MIRIAM O'CALLAGHAN talks about the challenges of raising eight children, her past marital woes and taking a pay cut at RTÉ.
Jason O'Toole, 10 Aug 2009
Miriam O’Callaghan is the most successful female television presenter in Ireland. Dubbed a ‘yummy mummy’ by the people who decide these things, and famously known for having eight children, she is enjoying one of her most successful stints in RTÉ, with her Saturday night chat show during the summer achieving impressive viewership figures. Her new RTÉ Radio 1 show on Saturday mornings has also been deemed a big hit since going on air earlier this month, for a 12-week stint.
However, the Dubliner – whose father was from Kerry and mother from Laois – admits that she feels slightly overexposed these days. And with good reason. When Pat Kenny dramatically resigned as presenter of the Late Late Show, Miriam emerged as the bookies’ favourite to replace him. O’Callaghan and the other leading candidates, Gerry Ryan and Ryan Turbidy, were thrust into the eye of a media storm while RTÉ went about selecting the new face of the Late Late.
As a result, Miriam is reluctant to carry out in-depth interviews at the moment – but decided to make an exception for Hot Press.
“I just worry sometimes about boring my viewers or my listeners. I never want them to think I’m a pain in the B-A-C-K-S-I-D-E. But after this I’ll just lie low. I’m going on my holidays soon, to Portugal and Killarney. So, I’ll be gone. I never want to be a pain (laughs).
“I really, really, really find it uncomfortable being interviewed,” she adds. “The first time I ever worked with my husband we went out for a meal together, and he started asking me questions about myself. Now, I hardly knew him. And, I started to cry.
“I think it’s because I don’t really like talking about myself, which is why I never look back at a programme, which is very unusual. And I don’t listen to myself on the radio. I could only come down into the kitchen on Saturday – because my mother was there listening to it – when my show was over because I really don’t want to hear myself.
“That’s probably still about being self-conscious. A bit of the old 16-year old in there. But I don’t mind questions being asked. I mean, you can say what you want in response to them. For a living, I ask personal questions. I can hardly turn around to somebody, then, and say, ‘How dare you ask me that question?’”
On with the show, then…
Jason O’Toole: Growing up, what type of character were you?
Miriam O’Callaghan: I am five-foot-ten-and-a-half. I was that height when I was 11, which makes you feel very self-conscious at quite a young age. So, I was very, very boring; very, very shy.
I read that you once described yourself as borderline anorexic.
Friends of mine look back now and say, ‘Oh my God!’ I was the same height as I am now and I was under seven stone. What my parents did was kind of not make a big issue of the fact that I watched everything I ate – and eventually it went away. So, it never became an issue. I was very, very thin. Young girls – I watch my own daughters now – are very self-conscious. You think you look ugly and that, ‘If I get thin I’ll look better!’ But now I just eat a lot! I think the older you get, being too thin is really bad. Anyway, I like my food. I don’t own a weighing scales. I haven’t owned one since I was 18.
You started college very young.
I went to university when I was 16. Mental! My mother was a national school teacher and when she became the principal she used to take us in, as a way of child-minding, I think. I started junior infants at three. I did law in UCD. Everyone else probably had a great time. I was too young. I think university is about who you meet, and socialising, but we didn’t do any of that. I was quite studious. I was always a swot. Isn’t that terrible?
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